Transgender teens: New study 'no surprise,' says ethicist

NASHVILLE (BP) -- A medical journal's finding that the number of transgender teens may be three times greater than previously thought should not shock believers, says a Southern Baptist ethicist, but it should summon them to ministry.

iStock
"It should come as no surprise that more teens are identifying as transgender or gender-conforming," said Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and author of "God and the Transgender Debate."

"The question is whether that's the result of there being greater openness about self-disclosed gender identity conflicts, or whether impressionable teens are tempted to question gender norms as the culture around them encourages," Walker told Baptist Press in written comments.

According to a study published by the journal Pediatrics, 2.7 percent of nearly 81,000 Minnesota teenagers surveyed self-identified as "transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or unsure about [their] gender identity." Among girls, 3.6 percent self-identified as transgender of gender nonconforming (TGNC). The figure was 1.7 percent among boys.

Published in the March issue of Pediatrics, the study entailed University of Minnesota researchers analyzing a 2016 survey of 9th and 11th graders coordinated by the Minnesota state government. TGNC teens, the researchers found, "reported significantly poorer health" than their peers and should be screened "for health risks."

A tandem article in Pediatrics by University of Michigan transgender medicine specialist Daniel Shumer claimed the Minnesota team's conclusions support "recent findings that reveal that previous estimates of the size of the TGNC population have been underestimated by orders of magnitude."

A UCLA study released in 2017, for example, estimated .7 percent of U.S. teens ages 13-17 identify as transgender, CBS News reported.

Walker said the study published in Pediatrics "is not without its own problems," including its apparent assumption students "can discover a supposedly innate, fixed gender identity" even though the researchers also seemed to accept the "premise of gender fluidity."

Other studies show, Walker said, "that 80-95 percent of young persons who express a discordant gender identity end up resolving these conflicts naturally. But allowing, and in some cases, encouraging students to identify as transgender may encourage individuals to pursue 'transitioning' services despite the high likelihood that such conflicts might naturally resolve. The tragedy ... is that encouraging gender fluidity ends up becoming self-reinforcing."

The "worst conclusion" readers could draw from the study, Walker said, "is that questioning one's gender identity leads to personal fulfillment."

"No teenage girl can be a boy or vice versa," Walker said. "Anyone who says otherwise is relying on ideology, not biology, to make such a claim."

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Owen Strachan highlighted the absurdity of transgenderism-affirming logic by noting the analogous case of Joseph Roman, a Chicago man who in January countered charges he sexually assaulted two 6-year-olds and an 8-year-old by claiming he is "a 9-year-old trapped in an adult's body," according to the Chicago Tribune.

"Let me put it plainly: if a man can become a woman, then a 38-year-old can become a 9-year-old," Strachan wrote in a commentary published by Midwestern's Center for Public Theology, which he directs. "If you affirm the former, you must affirm the latter. And affirming these ideas means you are cut off from intellectual coherence.

"Our culture is not only opposed at present to the Gospel. It is opposed to the very concept of reality itself," Strachan wrote, adding, "Praise God, we are not left to trust in nonsense like this. If we do battle gender dysphoria, further, we are not left a prisoner of our internal sensations. The Word of God cuts through our confusion and our culture's ideology."

Walker concluded, "The church needs to do diligent and discerning work in ministering to those who express a genuine gender identity conflict" and distinguishing them "from those who are caught up in a cultural movement that encourages exploration. The church is going to find itself increasingly at odds with prevailing cultural attitudes on this matter."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP).
Download Story