The most recent Newsweek magazine (dated May 21, 2007) has a lengthy article concerning “transgendered” individuals — that is, individuals who believe themselves to be a different gender than the one they were “assigned” at birth. (While some of these individuals seek a sex-change operation, others do not.) I don’t want to make light of the situation individuals who suffer from these feelings find themselves in. While the matter is still being debated, I feel no need to argue whether or not there may be physical causes behind these feelings — I am no expert in such fields. While some cases are most certainly purely mental (and spiritual) issues and consequences of powerful influences in one’s youth, it is possible that there is a physiological/biochemical root at the basis of some of these circumstances. Physical causes have been suggested for all sorts of compulsions toward specific self-destructive and sinful behaviors, from alcoholism to predispositions toward violent behavior. For the last six thousand years, mankind has lived in a world that has rejected God, and it would probably be impossible for us to even begin to catalog the cumulative damage that has been done to the human species over the millennia due to the choices of our forebearers.
But physical cause or not, these people need help in the right direction, not in the way that leads to destruction. That’s why I bring this up. Our world is a vessel with fewer and fewer anchors dropped in the firm seabed of God’s truths and with virtually no sails turned to the direction of His purposes, and the “experts” that such world makes available seem ill-equipped to do more good than they do harm.
The case given in the Newsweek article that I think best illustrates that point is the one given at the very end. Read the last paragraph for yourself… (And don’t let the pronoun choice confuse you or distract you: the child under discussion, “M.,” is a girl.)
“For parents like Colleen Vincente, 44, following a child’s lead seems only natural. Her second child, M. (Vincente asked to use an initial to protect the child’s privacy), was born female. But as soon as she could talk, she insisted on wearing boy’s clothes. Though M. had plenty of dolls, she gravitated toward ‘the boy things’ and soon wanted to shave off all of her hair. ‘We went along with that,’ says Vincente. ‘We figured it was a phase.’ One day when she was 2½, M. overheard her parents talking her about using female pronouns. ‘He said, “No–I’m a him. You need to call me him”,’ Vincente recalls. ‘We were shocked.’ In his California preschool, M. continued to insist that he was a boy and decided to change his name. Vincente and her husband, John, consulted a therapist, who confirmed their instincts to let M. guide them. Now 9, M. lives as a boy and most people have no idea he was born otherwise. The most important thing is to realize this is who your child is,’ Vincente says. That’s a big step for a family, but it could be an even bigger one for the rest of the world.”
Wow. Where do you even begin with a paragraph like that?
I don’t want to imagine that this paragraph captures the entire story, and there could be missing details that would make the tale easier to swallow (or, for that matter, harder). But given what we have, I want to look at some key comments in this telling of such a tragic story that just poke me right in the eye (and the heart)…
“But as soon as she could talk, she insisted on wearing boy’s clothes… and soon wanted to shave off all of her hair.”
Well, I have four boys, myself, who have “insisted” on plenty of things, especially in their “preschool” days — and have done so with a passion and intensity that might surprise those who have never been parents: Not eating their vegetables. Sticking their fingers into the fan. Not taking their medicine. Hitting their big brother. Hitting their big brother some more. Cutting their own hair. Forgive me for putting it this way, but two-year-old kids are ignorant. Wonderfully cute, captivatingly charming, and horribly ignorant. They will insist on the stupidest things. They will want to play with the pile of broken glass they have just wandered upon and to join the dog in a meal of Alpo. Proverbs 22:15 tells us that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. They aren’t supposed to have it all figured out!
That’s our job. We’re the adults. We’re the parents. We’re the guides. We are the ones who tell them “this is the way, walk you in it” when they wander to the left or to the right (cf. Isaiah 30:21) and they desperately need guides who will do just that. So when confronted with a child’s “insisting” on something that is unhealthy or harmful for him or her, we are the ones who should have sufficient knowledge of Scripture and enough God-given common sense, as well as enough loving parental backbone, to say, “No.”
What guidance did little M. — apparently 2½-years-old or younger – receive when she insisted on wearing boys clothes and shaving off her hair?
“We went along with that,” says Vincente.
How much tragedy there is wrapped up in that tiny statement.
“We figured it was a phase.”
How many of us parents (including me) have excused our ignorance, laziness, or lack of proper, godly compassion for our children with such a statement? Not that our children don’t go through phases — they do. Yet, even if our children are going through a “phase,” how we handle that phase can be so vital to determining life after the phase is over! M.’s parents apparently chose a course action equivalent to no action, and the foolishness bound in that child’s heart began to run over. So we have M. at 2½ saying,
“No–I’m a him. You need to call me him.”
How this was handled can perhaps be inferred from life at preschool, where, “M. continued to insist [she] was a boy and decided to change [her] name.”
So, we’re in pre-school, and our three- or four-year-old decides to change her name. When did children get the right to do that?
Perhaps I am failing to give the Vincentes enough credit. While my doubt began with the statement that they decided to “[go] along with that” when their two-year-old “insisted” on wearing boys’ clothes and shaving her hair, and the article does say that their instincts were to allow the child to make the decisions — still, perhaps they struggled against those instincts for a number of years, wondering if, perhaps, what they were dealing with was an artifact of their own creation (or in which they at least had a hand) or a problem that needed correction. Yet, if so, the struggle didn’t seem to survive their visit with a therapist…
“…who confirmed their instincts to let M. guide them.”
The world must be completely upside down. What were this person’s qualifications? ( Don’t tell me – he or she was probably credentialed by “all the best schools”…) What kind of professional advisor would tell parents, “Well, I know you have the benefit of several decades of life experience, you possess rational, thinking, adult minds, and as adults you have the ability to project consequences into the far future so as to evaluate the wisdom of your choices; and I know that your three- or four-year-old child, assuming she is a normal three- or four-year-old child, probably doesn’t have enough sense to avoid the temptation to eat Elmer’s glue, to clean herself throughly after toileting, or even to consistently look both ways before crossing the street, and I know that she is utterly incapable of properly considering what consequences her choices might bring even a few days into the future, let alone the next seventy or eighty years. So, in my judgment you should let her make all the decisions. Really! Let her guide you. Ignore your experience and common sense and let her, in her childish ignorance, guide you. Just keep feeding her, cleaning her, grooming her — all the things she can’t do for herself (I mean, come on — she’s only in pre-school!). But leave all the life-altering decisions to her.”
When reading of this therapist’s “advice” I could not help but think, “O my people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).
I don’t know the size of the check M.’s parents wrote to the therapist that day, but it seems to me that the price they and M. will ultimately pay for that “advice” over the years to come will be terribly high.
Please don’t write and say that the issue isn’t choices and that it is a struggle to understand the girl’s “true identity.” At that age, much of her identity is being shaped by choices — hers and, more importantly, her parents’. And if there is some greater element that better justifies the parents’ horrific choices in this tale, then the Newsweek article did a poor job of illuminating them.
The last sentence is a kicker, in which the article’s author says of the Vincentes’ choice,
“That’s a big step for a family, but could be an even bigger one for the world.”
Forgive me if this is just my imagination, because I know statements like this technically may not be “approving” of the subject under discussion (after all, you could say that were Iran to begin production of nuclear missiles it would be a “big step for the world”). But as value-neutral as a statement like that may seem to those who parse their details, in articles of this nature they do not come across as such. This one comes across as approving of the Vincentes’ choices and as a subtle reprimand for the world — a comment that the world would be a much better place if we could all be so “noble.”
The world will, indeed, become a much better place one day, but not because of choices such as these. It will be a better place because a better way is coming — a way that truly is noble — and it will be brought by the One who once referred to Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Stories like that of M. only make me hope all the more that it comes soon.
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(P.S. I thought of one more thing I wanted to comment on. I find it interesting that many influenced by years of misguided social engineering want to convince us — against the findings of current research, by the way — that the major differences between males and females are due to sociological factors and not biological. Yet in this case, when a little girl avoids dolls and gravitates toward “boy things” during the first two years of life, it is taken as a sign of biological influence and not sociological. I suppose that the true influence must depend on which cause you are trying to peddle to the public at the time.)