This last class focused on gender identity issues. We discussed causes of gender identity concerns, the clinical presentation, and treatment options. Concerning treatment options, although the procedure has been practiced for about 10 years in the Netherlands (and about 4 years in the U.S.), we discussed the practice of “blocking puberty” at about age 10-12 so that a several years later (around age 16) a young person can decide whether to transition to their preferred gender identity. According to the NPR report on this topic, young people who have done this appear to be satisfied with the transition (100% in a study of young people in the Netherlands). This is not the only option, of course. Others accept their biological sex and gender identity. In the study (from the Portland Clinic) mentioned in the NPR report, most young people (80%) who had been part of programs to assist them in living in conformity to their biological sex were apparently satisfied with that decision as adults.
In any case, it is a very challenging issue for everyone involved. Parents of children or teens struggle with what to do. The child or teen is often confused by how others react (not to mention the experience of dysphoria itself). Clinicians, too, may struggle with the various options that are available. Treatment options raise a number of questions about theological anthropology and ethics, among other concerns.
We watched a couple of video clips from the Barbara Walters special on gender identity in childhood and adolescence, as well as a brief clip from Sy Rogers’ testimony (as someone who was scheduled for sex reassignment surgery before the procedure was abandoned at Johns Hopkins). As you might imagine, it was a good discussion of the challenges Christians may face in understanding the experience of transgender persons and providing services to gender dysphoric youth.