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Locker Rooms and Lessons in Gender

When confusing media coverage makes it tough to understand gender issues, it's good to recall some basic principles.

There was another transgender firestorm recently, this time in San Diego. Media coverage of the event has been confusing, with ABC News and the San Diego Union Tribune presenting typical examples. Offering clarity, on the other hand, is Made this Way, by Trent Horn and Leila Miller, which offers a sensible approach to helping children (and adults!) grasp this issue and other tough moral questions of our age.

One day, I took some of the younger boys to get haircuts (yes, another lesson at the salon), and the stylist who took the boys’ names was clearly attempting to “transition” between the two sexes. This person was friendly and gave a great haircut. We did not say a word of judgment or derision, nor did we exchange glances that might have made this stylist uncomfortable, but simply went about our business as usual.

When we got in the car, a discussion ensued. “Was that a boy or a girl?” “I couldn’t tell at all!” “The name could’ve been for a boy or a girl.”

It can be unsettling not to recognize an adult person’s sex, because that identification is so primordial in our psyches. Writer Anthony Esolen once noted to me that a person’s sex is the first thing we notice and the last thing we remember. Think about it: you may not remember the name or hair color of the clerk that helped you at the mall, but you will remember if that person was a man or a woman.

My husband and I reinforced to the children that this stylist was a child of God with inherent dignity, and how confused and troubled a person must be to want to change or reject his nature. As we do when we encounter anyone in grave confusion or sin (including ourselves!), we reminded the children to pray for that person, and we reiterated what we have taught from the start—and what you must teach: we cannot change objective truth, including the good and right way that God made his world.

I cannot stress enough that parents must form a child in objective truth from the youngest years. We don’t get to determine what is true based on our feelings; rather, truth exists outside ourselves (God’s created order), and our job is to seek truth, to find it, and to conform our lives and our wills to it.

Teach your children that God made each of us a boy or a girl—and that’s something so beautiful, so purposeful, that it’s written into our physical being: “From before you were born, and even when you were just a microscopic embryo, science could already tell that you were a boy! God is such a thoughtful, masterful Creator!”

When National Geographic produced its “Gender Revolution” special issue in 2017, the boy on the cover (proclaimed a “girl”) was decked out in pink “girl” clothing and had long, pink hair. The “look” was stereotypical, cultural, superficial, and definitely not inherently representative of the female nature. Just like when Bruce Jenner donned long hair, nails, and a sexy lingerie teddy—stereotypical sex kitten attire—for his 2015 Vanity Fair shoot, it seemed more fetish than “female.”

What can you tell your children about these displays? Well, if your household is like mine, it’s easy to show that “nontraditional” roles and activities and colors and dress have nothing to do with being a boy or a girl.

In our house, for example, Daddy is the main cook. He also cleans, organizes, and occasionally dons pink dress shirts. Mommy often takes the reins when it’s time to assemble a cabinet, struggles in high heels, and loves football. These deviations from strict “gender roles” don’t change our essence as male or female. Dean is 100 percent man, and I love being a woman!

A young boy desiring painted nails or pink clothes “like a girl,” or a grown man donning a teddy, does not change him into a female. My six boys, when little, ranged from “all boy” to “Mom, I need more glitter, and watch me dance!” All of them are boys (or men now), and if they were tempted to think otherwise (as some little boys will be, especially given the messed-up cultural cues today), Dean and I gently reminded them, repeatedly if necessary, that they are male.

It’s never been a problem to redirect and even be firm at times, which is why it shatters my heart when some parents, in the name of “compassion,” encourage a delusion in their “feminine” sons or tomboy daughters. Some even seek out doctors to give their children puberty-blocking hormones, which could pave the way to “sex change” operations later in life.

We hear more and more cases of parents who help their children “transition,” even before the traditional age of reason, and even before the child can tie his own shoes. One famous case involves Thomas Lobel, an eleven-year-old boy who identifies as a girl named Tammy. His adoptive lesbian parents claim that Thomas has identified as a girl ever since he was three and say they worried about suicide risks if he didn’t use hormone-blockers to stave off puberty.

There should be protective alarm bells instinctively going off in our brains when we hear any adult say such novel and outrageous things!

These adults ignore the real mental health risks involved in trying to change a child’s sex. Johns Hopkins University professor Paul McHugh points to a thirty-year study in transgender-friendly Sweden that found that, ten years after having reassignment surgery, the mortality rate of transgender people was twentyfold higher than the non-transgender population.

McHugh also noted that in a tracking study of children who “reported transgender feelings” but received no medical intervention, between seventy and eighty percent of them lost those feelings. This debunks the idea that kids who show “gender-nonconforming” traits, or who imagine themselves as being the opposite sex, must be psychologically and medically steered toward being their “true self.”

Imagine how devastating it would be for a little boy or girl to have a growing, healthy body disrupted with hormones and eventually permanently mutilated (along with mind and spirit) because of the expression of a not-uncommon childish thought. Little kids who are still putting pencils up their noses and can’t decide what to have for breakfast should never be given the “freedom” to let a fantasy dictate what biology clearly contradicts. In what other area do we allow tiny children to create their own reality and dictate it to adults?

Also, so what if a young boy is more feminine in his play, fashion sense, or affect? So what if a girl wants short hair or girly clothes, and likes to eat bugs and fight? None of those things affects the truth of a person’s maleness or femaleness, as even “progressives” have been saying for decades (but who now seem to have amnesia!).

Many of us know little kids who believe they are cats or dogs—some for a very long time. As one mom said to me, “If we encouraged them to believe they were ponies, they would believe it.” The idea that a parent would feed this or any childish whimsy (like claims to be the opposite sex) is ludicrous. I’m with the Church and science on this, and I’d go so far as to say that to mess with a child’s mind, body, and spirit by pushing a denial of the child’s nature constitutes child abuse.

Instead of fueling fantasy, let’s teach truth through fables. One of the most effective tools for teaching children, one which we must bring back to popular use, is the telling and retelling of classic morality tales. In a world of “transgender” conditioning, I strongly encourage parents to read and reread “The Emperor’s New Clothes to their little ones, until it is known by heart. Unlike any other, this story uncannily reflects—and exposes as folly—our current acceptance of the “transgender” culture.

In the fable, the whole empire repeats and believes an obvious lie. Even the “smartest” adults, due to the power of suggestion and peer pressure, succumb to the madness. Ultimately, it’s a little child who is still innocent and clear-thinking enough to speak the plain-to-see truth. Your children will delight in the story while you inoculate them against the illogical thinking of our day.

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