The times, they are a-changin’.
It seems like it is becoming more and more common for children to be at odds with their biological gender. Or maybe we are just hearing about it much more often. In the not-too-distant past, there were a variety of options for a family to pursue including counseling and therapy. This was good and helpful, as it is commonly agreed that most children who experience gender dysphoria will ultimately come to identify with their biological gender. [Globe and Mail, American Psychiatric Association, ETFO] I think we can all agree that this is the best outcome for these kids.
In spite of this, the laws in Ontario have shifted once again with the passing of Bill 89, the “Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act,” putting at-risk children in a more precarious position than ever. It has been well documented that people who sustain a long-term struggle with their gender identity suffer from depression and suicidality at a rate much higher than the general population [Williams Institute]. They may also have other dismal outcomes such as a greatly heightened occurrence of HIV infection [Centre for Disease Control].
Without being able to consider any root causes for gender confusion (e.g., molestation or neglect), transitioning a child to their “felt” gender is now presented as the only acceptable, even legal, response. This completely disregards the likelihood that there may be a specific, resolvable reason why they “feel” that way! A reason that, if unresolved, will go on to cause serious issues throughout the life of the child affected.
This being said, what are the options today in Ontario for children who are struggling with gender dysphoria? Who can help?
Thanks to Bill 89, parents have their hands tied when it comes to advocating for their child to reconcile with their biological sex. If they do not support their child’s wish to transition to the opposite gender, they run the very real risk of having that child removed from their home by the Children’s Aid because this is now considered abuse. Minister of Child and Family Services Michael Coteau, who introduced Bill 89, said “I would consider that a form of abuse, when a child identifies one way and a caregiver is saying no, you need to do this differently… If it’s abuse, and if it’s within the definition, a child can be removed from that environment and placed into protection where the abuse stops.” [LifeSiteNews]
Doctors and psychologists can’t.
There are presently no legal options available to medical professionals except to support the transition of a child to their felt gender. Ontario’s Bill 77 , the “Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act 2015” made certain of this. It declared that if a child feels that his or her true gender is opposite to their physical gender, it is an offence for a medical or psychological practitioner to provide treatment that will help align that person’s felt gender to their physical gender, even if this is what he or she wants. These practitioners can only recommend gender transition as a solution, or they risk losing their medical licence.
Public school board policies are now such that a teacher cannot talk to a parent without the student’s explicit prior consent if a child expresses a desire to present as the opposite gender at school. Teachers must refer these children to their administration [see example]. Administrators refer the student to “appropriate confidential support,” for example, counselling; a sexual assault centre; Kids Help Phone; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered [LGBT] Youth Line. [Ontario Policy and Program memorandum 145]. The result is a child who unbeknownst to their parents may present as one gender at school and another at home.
At the moment, churches can.
In spite of the fact that most churches are not currently trained or prepared to help a family navigate these issues, they remain the final bastion of hope for these children – if a family is brave enough to seek this help. This means churches need to step up and get ready to answer hard questions like,
- What is your position on the best approach for children who are struggling with issues of gender?
- What advice would you give parents whose child has gender dysphoria?
- Who can you recommend in your community to help families (if your church is not equipped to do so directly)?
- How will you handle it if a child in our children’s or youth ministry says they wish to transition genders?
Churches – you need to become equipped to help families navigate these tough issues!
Blindly, immediately, allowing a child to transition socially (and possibly medically) to a felt gender, without first exploring root causes, is the height of neglect. Statistics and studies prove that this is essentially condemning a child to a lifetime of confusion, depression, and even suicidality among other horrific outcomes. And yet, this is exactly what our government has determined is going to be the only legal way to address the issue.
How have we gotten to the place as a society that there is only one approved solution to a very, very complex problem? How can we risk the very lives of our children to this cause?