“It’s just a personal decision.” No it’s not.

In a study published by Cureus last month, and available on the NIH website (!), John J. Straub et. al. found that individuals who underwent gender-affirming surgery had a 12-fold higher suicide attempt risk than those who did not. The work is a lot better than much of the garbage out there.  It involved 56 United States healthcare organizations and over 90 million patients. It used a control group and stretched longitudinally to five years later. Five years is all right. From earlier research on suicide and hormonal treatment, “transitioning,” and surgery, we can surmise that if Dr. Straub extended the time period of the study, he would find the suicide risk to be even higher.

 

People tell me, over and over, that when a gender dysphoric person takes measures to imitate the complementary gender, it is a private decision. Certainly, one needs to seek relief for one’s ailing alienation. A person should have the right to make whatever changes he wants to his body. She should be able to present herself however she wishes since it is a personal decision that only concerns her. Other people are not involved.

 

Lia Thomas, Emma Weyant, Erica Sullivan and Brooke Forde pose with their medals after the race. Pic: Getty

This line of thinking ignores one simple fact. It is the Biblical principle (#3, if you are counting like I am) that Gender Matters in Relationship. So, seeking relief by going trans is never just a personal decision. It is not like choosing to eat vanilla rather than chocolate, or deciding to do yoga instead of running. It is a disruption of the many relationships, past, present, and future, that make up your life.

 

Collegiate swimming contests are not just personal. You can hear it in the disappointed women who cannot win against a guy swimmer. Spousal obligations are not just personal. Listen even to the lesbians whose partners are going trans—they struggle with the loss of their identities as lesbians. And the inevitable stresses on the trans person’s family shout out: This is not just personal.

 

Because our gender is never private. It is always about relationship. So it is about you and the world of people around you who know, work with, and love you. Our bodies are gifts to others we are called to love.

 

Even more so, increasing your chances of suicide by seeking relief in gender imitative surgery is not personal. I watch, as a pastor, those people impacted by a suicide. It is still a murder, albeit a pitiable one. It is not just spouses or children or parents of the deceased who pay. Some of them never recover from it. But also friends and colleagues who remain plagued with questions: what could I have done better for this person? Suicide devastates everyone nearby.

 

So, no, getting the surgery is not “just a personal decision.” We are way too connected for that.

 

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