The Gifts of Transgender People
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
The local PAC, “Ottawa Impact” which is currently trying to take over our school boards, has listed as one of their core values, “A boy is a boy. A girl is a girl.” On its face, this might seem to be an innocuous statement. But it is not. It carries with it an agenda. And it is, quite literally, deadly.
So, this week in Christian Mythbusters, I’d like to talk a little about gender identity, including from the perspective of the Christian faith.
The problem with claiming gender is as simple as a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl is that this seeks to erase the reality of any person who does not fit within the gender binary. It literally seeks to pretend that the trans community doesn’t exist—and thus only continues the marginalization and discrimination towards those who identify as anything other than cisgender (this is the term for those whose sense of gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth).
First, just from a scientific and realistic standpoint, the idea that “a boy is a boy, and a girl is a girl” ignores the reality of people who are intersex. That is, those who are born with ambiguous genitals, or genitals that do not clearly match their chromosomal gender identity due to a variety of scientifically identified conditions. Most scientists believe that somewhere between .02% or as many as 1.7% of births fall under this identification.
Yes, these adults (and children) are real. And to pretend they do not exist is to participate in the culture of stigmatization and discrimination that has led to the high rates of infanticide and abandonment these people experience within their own families.
Second, the true attack of this claim, I imagine, is not on the intersex community (I’m willing to allow that people may be ignorant and unaware of that scientific reality). Rather, it is directed at those who might have a clear biological gender externally but who cannot identify with that gender internally. This could be someone born as a boy who identifies as a girl, someone born as a girl who identifies as a boy, or someone who is nonbinary and does not identify as either male or female.
The Mayo Clinic (clearly not a secrete cabal of liberalism) even has a helpful article for parents entitled “Children and Gender Identity: Supporting Your Child.” In that article, the staff of the Mayo Clinic stress that it is common for children to go through periods of gender exploration when it comes to clothes and toys and even the roles they adopt in play. For some kids, however, as they get older this sense that they identify as a different gender persists. They encourage parents, “Listen to your children's feelings about gender identity. Talk to your child and ask questions without judgment.”
People can become aware and able to articulate their gender identity at any age. In a non-discriminatory environment, many adults who identify as transgender can point to an awareness of that reality as young as even seven years old. Some can identify it even younger. For others, they may live for years with a vague sense that they don’t really fit in and it’s not until later in life they realize it is because of their gender identity.
The reality of children and adolescents who don’t fall into the “boy/girl” categories of cisgender is an essentialreality for educators and school board members to recognize. The American Psychological Association advises “Parents of gender-nonconforming children may need to work with schools and other institutions to address their children’s particular needs and ensure their children’s safety.” Data from the National Institute of Health indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide—with rates of suicidality being highest among transgender youth.
As adults, these children will also face profound challenges. Most anti-discrimination laws do not protect transgender people from discrimination and so they are often discriminated against in housing, employment, healthcare, legal systems, along with their educational experience and their family of origin. In a recent study, about half of transgender participants reported they had experienced a transphobic hate crime at some point in their life. Half.
“A boy is a boy and a girl is a girl”—these are words that contribute to a culture that is literally killing trans people, literally killing trans kids. And ignorance cannot be an excuse anymore.
One more word on this question, before I close. And that is to the loss. Because there is a loss when people deny the reality of trans people. You miss how wonderful, beautiful, and strong these people are. In my work with the Lakeshore GSA Youth Group (http://sjegh.com/gsa), I’ve had the gift of meeting some kids in our schools who don’t identify as cisgender. They are smart, funny, and amazing.
And I think it’s good to be who God truly created you to be.
Thanks for being with me. To find out more about my parish, you can go to sjegh.com. Until next time, remember, protest like Jesus, love recklessly, and live your faith out in a community that accepts you but also challenges you to be better tomorrow than you are today.