At the Kitchen Table
Transgenderism is a big umbrella of a term, now covering many conditions and experiences. Thus, a parent or teacher of a teen standing under it needs a flowchart to get to the heart of what is really going on. When you are sitting bewildered at the kitchen table before your young’un declaring, “I am non-binary” or “this body is not who I am,” how do you interpret it? What is actually being said?
Your first response when so confronted is critical. Before understanding, the beginning note to sound as a parent is acceptance in love. Affirming your love is not an agreement with their interpretation of things. You are only properly prioritizing the relationship. But then you still need to figure out what is really going on beneath those words. There should be three boxes in your mind as you talk and listen and decide how to help:
A. The need to fit in
What powers the somewhat silly term, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” is a need to be cool with one’s peers. It is not really a gender dysphoria at all. If it has become fashionable in your neighborhood to go trans, your teen may not want to miss out. The solution to this is the same as it has always been from time immemorial in the battle for your child’s heart (Proverbs 1:8-10, 1:15, 4:10-19, 5:1-23, 6:20-24, 7:1-5, 23:15-17, 23:19-22, 23:26-27, 24:13-22, 28:7). Detoxing from social media helps a lot. And you should take this as a call to renew your bond with them. The quality of your relationship with them in the teen years will make the biggest difference in what happens next.
B. The Lurking Comorbidity
If it is not just a thirst for peer favor, then be open to more serious problems, possibly a mental health or personality disorder comorbidity. According to a 2003 American Journal of Psychology article, 61% of gender dysphoria patients were also diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders. And this is low, based on how they measured it. 25% of those who suffer from schizophrenia exhibit cross-gender desires. If this is your case, you must address your teen on multiple fronts: therapy, possibly medication, and spirituality, with the powerful truths of the gospel. Also, the New Testament teaches us that we should not dismiss demonic activity as a consideration.
C. The Body alienation
If your teen really does experience an intense body distress, it is likely due to an earlier trauma in life. Earlier trans feelings almost always dissipate. But genuine alienation from one’s body (which some eagerly exploit with the idea that it is the wrong body) usually arises from some experience that fuels the self-hatred. Here the teen needs help to reconcile with his body, to see it as the beautiful gift that God sees. Carefully revisiting the trauma, allowing the Holy Spirit to redefine it in Christ, will put the person on a different path.
If you are a parent, you are in a unique position to appreciate your teen’s gifting in the midst of this. Her sensitivity to these things can teach us about gender. And you are uniquely placed to present an alternate vision of what his future can look like. Our young people need that vision of how they can have a happy future, even feeling the feelings they feel.
This flowchart is admittedly broad, leaving out many details, but this frame can assist your exploration of what a trans-identifying teen means.
There are answers. There are solutions. And there is a way through it, without hormones or knives.