Our times are certainly not boring when new situations seem to frequently come along that are not only unexpected but even surprising; when they are not shocking or disturbing! What we are looking at here is gender dysphoria as a serious condition, but also general confusion regarding thoughts, feelings, and issues around gender identity that often have nothing at all to do with dysphoric states or medical or psychiatric conditions.
It appears that human beings have always experienced confusion about many things, as well as different types of dysphoria, such as those relating to hormonal conditions or to emotional states or mood. Who would have guessed or predicted decades ago, though, that today some people would experience gender dysphoria or confusion regarding their gender?
We owe great sympathy, and all the understanding and compassion we can muster, to anyone who suffers from a genuine condition of dysphoria regarding their gender. Such a condition would have caused a person to suffer real symptoms in their mind, body, psyche (thoughts and emotions), heart, yes, and even in their soul, because we human beings are all together one complete and whole being, with every part connected to every other part. As a human person we breathe, feel, think, decide, act, and behave as one single living entity called human of the "Homo Sapiens Sapiens" kind.
A truly serious condition simply won't go away and will generally be diagnosed and confirmed by one or more competent medical and psychiatric doctors. It is not our intention here to discuss the merits of the various approaches or treatments available to those who suffer such conditions.
As a Christian, though, I would like to indicate our strong conviction that God our Creator never stops caring for us, loving us, watching over us, guiding us, or leading us, in every situation and under every condition in which we may find ourselves at any given time. God does have a plan and design for our collective and individual lives, and it is always for our welfare and not our woe.
Anyone can come to a personal knowledge and experience of the living God through faith, which is our capacity to accept on trust something as true that we cannot personally verify or prove to be true. We fly in planes on faith, trusting that there is a pilot flying the plane and further that he or she will fly us safely to our destination and land us safely there. We make hundreds of big or small acts of ordinary commonplace faith and trust every day; otherwise we would be unable to leave home.
The God in whom we believe is sovereign over all of his Creation, over the visible universe and all the invisible realm in his eternity. All power and authority are his, and all wisdom and love; so He doesn't need our counsel or opinion, nor does He need our consent or permission; even though most of the time He does wait for us to say yes, because what God seeks is a true relationship of love and not any kind of subservience. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Matthew 9:13
The woman said to her something along these lines. She completely understood the girl because when she was her age she felt exactly the same. Then she gave that experience a name: she said
"We call that being a "tomboy'. That's when a girl doesn't feel 'girly' like those other girls who look all sweet and pretty and gentle and love to get together in a circle with their dolls. I was more at ease hanging around with the boys and joining them in boys' games."Then she continued to tell the girl that being a human female, being a girl and later a woman, isn't only being one way or style or category of girl or woman, because there are many kinds or styles or ways of being a girl or a woman, and they're all okay, as long as you are doing the best to become the person you are meant to be, as long as you live as fully as you can - trying to decide, say, and do what is good, and trying to avoid deciding, saying, or doing what is bad or harmful.
Then she went on to talk to the little girl about what is really special and amazing about being a girl or a woman, that is, a female human being. You have within you all that you need in order to give life. If you get married, you and your husband can love each other and you, as a woman, can conceive a whole new human person within you, and carry that life within you like in a nest or cradle, and love that little life for 9 months until it is time to bring it into the world to live its own life by giving it birth. That is what our mom did for us and you, as a girl, have the capacity to do it yourself and give life to one or more children of your own.
The woman reported that the girl was so grateful to hear these things - because no one had ever said anything like that to her before - and she felt very relieved to hear that there was nothing wrong with her because she felt more comfortable hanging out with boys rather than with girls. She said that she was beginning to realize that she could calm down about her feelings and that it was possible to find ways to better understand how she felt.
For a boy to think he needs to be changed into a girl just because inside he "feels more like" a girl or for a girl to think she needs to be changed into a boy just because inside she "feels more like a boy is to treat ourselves, our lives, our beings as though we were just one more piece of technology. So if there's a "problem", the thinking goes, all we have to do is "fix it".
A car is a car is a car... and a computer is a computer is a computer... they and so many other things we find convenient are pieces of technology. They are what they are and they don't stop being what they are. A car doesn't become a PC and a PC doesn't go off flying into the stratosphere. When they break down, the problem has to be diagnosed and the solution has to be specific to the exact problem.
Unlike other living beings, we human beings have an incredible capacity for self-awareness and for self-understanding. More than that, we don't need to try to figure ourselves out only on our own, but we can learn a lot about ourselves from listening to the experience and acquired wisdom of others.
In addition to that, those who do believe in the Creator God can also benefit from what God has said to people in the past and what He has revealed to us about Himself and also about us, our life, our world, and what is happening in our lives and in our world.
- Our time in the womb - from conception to birth
- Our "second birth" - Baptism - when God gives us a share in the divine life of the Trinity
- Our initial stage of human development from birth to adulthood - around 18 years of age
- Adulthood - from around 18 to the end of our mortal life at the moment of death
- Our "first death" - the period, long or short, leading to the dying of our body
- The "second death" (Rev 21:8) to be avoided - where one chooses eternal rejection of God
- Eternal life - (Rev 21:1-7) - where the elect, the just, enter in with God after the trials of Earth
Here is a brief glimpse of the many complex developments that happen within each of us from birth until around 18 years of age, when, in our western culture, we approach the threshold of adulthood. In other cultures, the timing of this roughly 18-year process could vary a little, but keep in mind that much of these stages are natural developments that keep pace with our overall development in body, mind, psyche / heart, will, conscience, and soul.
- 0 - 1 year - the BODY IDENTITY - we learn to connect to the world through our skin - all over our body - and our mouth. We naturally develop an "organ mode" around our mouth, simply "preferring" one which remains our preference for life; which means we need to make an effort to use the "other mode" whenever it is needed. The two modes are : (1) active / captative or (2) passive / receptive. The active person spontaneously "goes out to get" what they want or need; while the passive person "simply waits for what they need to come to them". You can see how we need both in order to get by in life, but it is useful to know what our preference is; that way we know we need to make efforts to do it the other way.
- 1 - 2.5 years - IDENTITY of the DOER - A lot happens between the first year and the mysterious period around 2 and a half. We start to move around - crawling, moving on our bum, and in time we learn to walk - we learn to talk and communicate, we learn potty training, we learn how things are done in our family, we learn about rules and respecting others, but mostly, we learn to manipulate things and how do do things, not very well at first, but we can't get enough of trying to do things. Once again, we naturally develop a second "organ mode", only this time it is around our anal sphincter, that circular muscle that acts like a valve to keep in or to release the stool. Just like last time, we come to "prefer" one which will remain our preference for life. Once again, this means we need to make an effort to use the "other mode" whenever it is needed. The two modes are : (1) eliminative or (2) retentive. What is really fascinating is how this later develops and spreads to everything in our life: money, things, relationships... just about everything... so we would prefer to "hold onto" those things, or we would prefer to "let them go". For example, some people find it easy to spend money but hard to save, or vice versa, easy to save but hard to spend. You get the idea.
- 2.5 - 3 years - INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY - This is the truly fascinating and mysterious moment when we suddenly developed an awareness of being "me" and "I". The little boy or girl starts saying "Me do it." "I want to do it." It doesn't matter whether or not they can actually do it, because what is going on here is the emergence of an "I", a "Me", a unique individual who is now conscious of being an autonomous individual. That is why it is so precious for parents to realize that this is really a wonderful thing, though at times frustrating, when the little child flexes its "individuality power" to say "No." Parents have to find creative ways to continue to socialize their child, to "win their consent" to do what they need to do in order to be part of this family and in order to continue to learn the things they need to do and the behaviours they need to learn in order to function and develop well. By now, children develop a knack for asking "embarrassing" or difficult questions. Parents can be reassured simply by asking their child to say more about their question and what it is they really want to know. One simple example: "Where do I come from?" This may simply mean what country our family comes from due to a question put in kindergarten or at church, and may not be at all about sex.
- 3 - 6 years - PSYCHOSEXUAL IDENTITY (GENDER IDENTITY) - Reliable research which has been confirmed time and again in peer reviewed literature has mapped out what goes on during all of these six stages of human development. Current new "designer trends" are causing a lot of confusion around these developments, but mostly what people are talking about are "how they feel" or "how they think they feel" about themselves or about these things. What follows is what we can reliably understand about what is naturally going on at this stage of human development over a period of around 3 years. The child, who is now an autonomous person, an "I", begins to develop greater complexity and depth in their interior sense of who they are. They are now more capable (brain development) and more motivated (psyche) of more complex connections with the world around them. They notice for the first time (this is not really conscious, but rather subconscious, but nevertheless very real and powerful) that they have two parents, one each of two distinct genders or kinds (this is the optimal situation). So what happens is that the child develops a desire to "shine" in the eyes of their opposite gender parent, because it is the difference which attracts them, which would seem to make them more "complete". At the same time, they notice that the other parent is of their same gender, and sort of "in the way" - as in "2 is good but 3 is a crowd". The same gender parent becomes an enemy or competitor, which is the classic cause of nightmares. Psychotherapy has discovered that what helps parents quickly resolve the nightmares is for the same gender parent to bring the nightmare troubled child back to their own bed. That way, a greater connection and intimacy of friendship develops with the same gender parent and the "monster goes away". It is important for both parents to affirm the child to understand and embrace its own natural gender as it is inscribed in their body, that is, in accord with their genitals. When children below six years of age "explore" each other's body, nakedness, or intimate parts, it is more about curiosity and perhaps imitation of what they see in the adult world, but it cannot be about sex, which won't become a reality for them until puberty. It is a grave wrong for adults to meddle and intrude in the innocence of young children to impose on them their own adult sex ideologies. When little children are adversely affected or disturbed by the intimate behavior of adults - which they should not normally witness - then care must be taken to help them preserve their innocence. They will have plenty of time to examine these things once they are older and more capable. If by the age of 3 parents have not yet begun to help their children understand their emotions, then it would be high time to do this. It will be much easier for them to explore the complex issues around gender, sexuality, fertility, dating, marriage, chastity, and so on, if we begin by helping them to understand their own emotions, those of others, and all about friendship and civil relations in society.
- 6-12 years - PSYCHOSOCIAL IDENTITY - When life unfolds simply and naturally without undue interference of distortion from the environment or society, little boys congregate with other boys, and little girls with other girls. Yes, the "tomboy girls" will want to hang out with boys and the "girly boys" will want to hang out with girls, which simply indicates preferences of temperament, and is no indication of a rejection of their own gender as such. During these six years, boys and girls learn to relate to others of their gender and to accept many variations of preference and style or ways of being a boy or girl. They learn to cooperate, to lead, to follow, to contribute, to argue, to make up, and many other dimensions of human relations. They learn to share what they know, what they can do, and to learn from others. The sky is literally the limit. Regarding any kind of intimacy - whether emotional or sexual - children at this stage normally react with an emphatic "Yuck!" which is for them quite normal. They are no interested in those things. However, when children during this period are adversely affected or disturbed by the intimate behavior of adults - which they should not normally witness - then care must be taken to help them preserve their innocence. They will have plenty of time to examine these things once they are older and more capable. By the age of 6 is a very good and interesting time for parents to help their children understand their emotions, and what will help parents best is all the work they are willing to do to understand their own emotions as well as those of their spouse. It will be much easier for them to explore the complex issues around gender, sexuality, fertility, dating, marriage, chastity, all the new issues around social and gender "engineering" and so on, if we begin by helping them to understand their own emotions, those of others, and all about friendship and civil relations in society.
- 12-18 years - the IDENTITY OF SELF - These final six years are a time of great change, including the upheaval of puberty with all the changes that come about, a time of greater socializing, of socializing with members of the other gender - at first generally in groups and after a few years in smaller groups and, in time, in couples. This period is also a time that begins the integration of all the developments at the previous five stages of development into the beginnings of a cohesive sense of the SELF. All the work that parents will have done earlier to help their children understand their own emotions and those of others will now help these young adolescents to know themselves, to be at greater peace within themselves, to have a good sense of who they are and be able to withstand the undue and at times aggressive attitudes and influences of others, including the bullies. Children who have learned young that pain is as normal a part of life as pleasure are more likely to go through these difficult and challenging times with greater personal clarity, stability, and serenity. They will even attract their peers who will find them to be a source of strength and encouragement.
Perhaps by now you can begin to see the sheer complexity and fluidity in the development of the human person, and just how many years it actually takes (minimum of 18) to go through all the profound processes of emergence and development of the interior dimensions of a human being.
To go off drawing hasty conclusions and slapping "labels" (homosexual, lesbian, wrong gender, or any other such artificial category unrelated to the uniqueness of this individual at this particular point in their development) prematurely on young people who have not yet gone through their initial period of human development is to do them violence, and perhaps the worst form of violence at that.
God our Creator has such profound respect for us, for our unique individuality, for our free will, for our fragile sense of self; that He does not interfere or intrude rudely into our lives, but leaves us free to find our own way. We should have enough respect for others to try to treat them with the same respect and kindness with which God treats us.
Above all, we must resist all the "social engineers", all those people pushing ideologies of all sorts, trying to impose labels and categories on people that do violence to them by convincing them to abandon or ignore their great complexity, their great depth, their great fluidity as human beings on a journey of life-long development into the best person that we can possibly become....
Peace to you and your families....