No, Matt Walsh, Parents are Not Making Their Kids Trans

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So apparently right-wing Christianity learned its lesson from the complete pastoral debacle of the ex-gay movement. You know, the scapegoating of parents of gay kids, the insistence on treating homosexuality as a mental illness, the belief that same-sex attraction is transmitted like a disease and that you get the gayz through indoctrination. This time they’ve resolved to do better, to look for more responsible narratives, and to reach out in more positive ways to members of the trans community rather than relying on the same shame-and-blame techniques that caused such a train-wreck last time round.

Psych!

Of course they haven’t. Of course they are going to use exactly the same tired tactics: the hysteria (evil liberals are trying to turn your kid trans!), the finger-pointing (“parents are almost always at least partially to blame in these kinds of situations”), the pathologization (“It’s like a disease they contracted”).

Honestly, at this point I’m inclined to just head-desk myself into semi-consciousness, climb under the nearest bed and hide there until the eschaton.

Guys: this is exactly the same stupid crap that you tried last time. It is exactly what you said about gays forty years ago. These are the tropes that messed up a generation of gay Christians and drove them out of your churches – often along with their parents who eventually got sick of being told that they were evil, bad, abusive people who made their kids gay. These are the talking points that led to the rise and fall of the ex-gay movement and to the perception that the traditional Christian position on homosexuality is founded in nothing more than homophobia.

Why did it fail before, and why will it fail again? It’s called rash judgment. It’s when you make an uncharitable assumption about a person, or a group of people, without sufficient foundation. It’s condemned under the eighth commandment as an offense against truth. To say that “transgenderism” is “the scar that forms after years of psychological and spiritual abuse” is to accuse millions of parents of being abusive on the basis of literally no evidence apart from your own ideological prejudices. When you bear false witness against people, even if you think you are doing it in support of a biblical worldview, you oppose the One who came to witness to the truth.

The truth about a group of people, their parents and all of the other adults in their lives, cannot be accessed by sitting in your arm-chair and becoming enraged about one particular incident in one particular classroom which may or may not have led anyone to actually become gender confused. Being a little bit confused for one day is not gender dysphoria. When a five year old says, “Mom, I want to be a girl when I grow up!” and then forgets about it five minutes later and goes back to being a boy, this isn’t confusion, it’s just childhood. It’s not any different from when a kid says “I think I’ll be…a bunny rabbit!” When a kid learns about trans people and thinks “Does that mean I could turn into a boy?” that’s not trauma. It’s just the kind of question that kids ask.

So, reality check. I actually know trans people. In those cases that I’m familiar with where there is any possibility that childhood gender conditioning may have played a role in the development of a transgender identity, the conditioning in question has been aggressively cisgender: that is, the transwomen were pushed to be less “effeminate” and to do more masculine things, while the transmen were pushed to be more “feminine.”

In the life-stories of trans people that I know, parents, teachers and other authority figures almost invariably attempted to force them to gender conform. None of them were “encouraged” by their parents to be “gender confused” – quite the opposite. Indeed, the sense of alienation from one’s gender is often aggravated in response to exactly the kind of “good parenting” that Walsh and his ilk seem to think will safeguard kids against being trans.

Now, I do think that teaching kids about gender minorities at a younger age probably does lead to more gender experimentation in high-school – but the vast, vast majority of kids who gender-bend during adolescence present as cisgender by the time they’re through college. This kind of teenage experimentation generally involves temporary measures like cross-dressing or wearing make-up, which (given the range of forms that adolescent rebellion can take) is pretty harmless.

Real, long-term gender dysphoria on the other hand is not the result of trendy androgyny or liberal indoctrination. It’s causes are complex and largely unknown, though we have good reason to believe that there may be neurological, genetic or hormonal factors at play at least in some cases.

Trauma might also play a role, though not in the way that Walsh seems to think: rates of both childhood sexual victimization and combat trauma are high in trans populations and maybe it’s possible that in some cases people with severe PTSD adopt a cross-gender identity as a coping mechanism. Note, however, that this is real trauma, not the kind of manufactured ‘trauma’ that peppers the writing of professional fear-mongers.

Most importantly there is no evidence to support the sweeping accusations that Walsh makes against the parents of trans children. His article is not only inaccurate, badly researched, hysterical and ill-informed, it also violates the spirit of charity, pointing a finger at innocent people in order to score cheap points on an ideological battlefield.

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