Gender Dysphoria: Real or Imagined?

Gender Dysphoria: Real or Imagined? January 21, 2022

Sweden prides itself on being on the cutting edge of new expressions of sexuality. However, a recent report from the country’s Board of Health and Welfare stunned the nation when it revealed a 1,500% increase in gender dysphoria among Swedish girls aged 13-17. Progressive Swedes are now rethinking the Social-Democrat-led government laws enacted in 2018, reducing the age for state-funded sex reassignment medical procedures from age 18 to 15, removing all need for parental consent, and allowing pre-teens to change their legal gender.

Leading Swedish psychiatrists are calling this the country’s worst medical scandal. Radical surgeries such as double mastectomies were done on teens as young as 14 without parental consent or any counseling that might identify other reasons for teens’ unhappiness with their bodies.

Sweden is now dealing with the unintended consequences of increased suicides after reassignments. In addition, 32.4% of teen girls with gender dysphoria were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, 28.9% had depression, 19.4% had ADHD and 15.2% had autism. Yet there were few, if any, attempts to provide them with counseling for these other issues before allowing them to undergo gender reassignment.

From Sweden to America

America is also facing a crisis. U.S. Census studies show there are two million Americans self-identifying as transgender today, which is a 4,000% increase from the previous decade. Other studies report a doubling of gender dysphoria among five and six-year-olds in the past five years.

So, is it real or imagined? After studying this phenomenon, I agree the issue is very much real, but is the condition itself real or imagined? When approaching this topic, we must be sure to understand that God’s perfect design for gender and sexuality was set out for us in Genesis 2, but that we also live in a post-Genesis 3 world, where God’s intended order has been twisted.

Sin brought a curse upon creation, bringing deformities, handicaps and illnesses to us and our children. Our fallen nature drives us to pervert everything God designed for his glory and our happiness, including the gender wars.

I have searched through Scripture for some clarity on the issues of LGBTQ identity and found myself drawn to Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Matthew 19. Here, he references eunuchs who were either born sexually dysfunctional, shaped that way by others or who chose to make themselves that way. I believe that the thought process in Matthew 19 can also be applied to gender dysphoria today.

Those born with gender dysphoria

Because sin sometimes even affects the development of babies in the womb, there may be a need for sexual assignment surgery or hormonal repair for those born with characteristics of both sexes, typically referred to as hermaphrodites. Slightly more common, but still very rare, some boys are born with extremely low testosterone levels, and they may be encouraged to undergo gender reassignment in today’s climate, rather than less-radical hormonal treatments. Regardless, following the surgeries or treatments, they will still have XY male chromosomes in every cell of their body, and will never be females in reality.

Those made that way by others

Sexual dysfunction can also be caused by abuse, particularly during developmental years. Too many abused children and teens today want to be anything other than what they are; their self-loathing is palpable. How else do you explain the skyrocketing rise in teen suicides or increasing rates of teens who either identify as gay or desire gender reassignment?

Simply put, if you hate yourself or find your body to be unacceptable, wouldn’t there be a great attraction to come out of surgeries and hormonal protocols as a totally different person? Yet, those pushing gender dysphoria as “normal” and “healthy” fight any attempt to deal with the root psychological problems that make such radical and irreversible solutions so attractive.

Those who make themselves that way

I believe that most gender dysphoria is a product of the imagination. Neuroscience is clear: from the earliest moments after conception, a developing fetus does not have two conflicting sets of hormones and chromosomes which develop two distinct components of their physiology—one set for the brain and another for the body. There are documented instances of identical twins where one subsequently became transgender and the other didn’t. Yet the very same identical twins had anatomically identical brains. What that clearly means is the LGBTQ concept of the wrong gendered brain in the wrong body is without scientific evidence.

So, where does “the real me” reside in the person with gender dysphoria? It resides in their imagination. Though it sounds unkind to say so, it is, by every classical definition, a delusional construct that is promoted and aided by school curriculums, self-serving LGBTQ activists and progressive social engineers. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSMMD], the internationally-recognized standard for the diagnosing and treatment of mental illnesses, categorized gender dysphoria as a treatable mental disorder. Yet the transgender movement is putting pressure on the DSMMD to have this classification altered, with anti-conversion laws being passed to make it illegal to approach gender dysphoria as treatable.

Compare gender protocols to prison reform

Another example of societal craziness is encouraging adolescent children to embrace their gender dysphoria “imaginations” and begin the process of reassignment. Compare this to the enlightened progress made in prison reform. We no longer punish children as adults because we know that their underdeveloped brains will make rash momentary decisions without any thought to long-range consequences. They cannot be held to the same accountability as adults with fully-developed brains, so old laws that dealt with children in the same way as adults have been struck down.

Why don’t we apply the same standards to gender dysphoria? Scientists and sociologists agree gender identity is not fully complete until about age 19. During the developmental period, there may be many temporary identity crises. Some little boys dress up as little girls. Some twelve-year-old girls would rather be one of the guys. Affection for same-gender friends can be confused with sexual attraction. It takes kids time to sort through those feelings. That’s the point of childhood.

It’s dangerous to freeze-frame a kid’s feelings at a particular moment in their long-term development and set them on an irreversible path. We recognize a lack of full brain development when it comes to dealing with youthful crimes, why should it be any different when it comes to gender dysphoria?

Our answers to gender dysphoria are guided by both a Genesis 2 conviction and a post-Genesis 3 compassion. The reality is, the fall of humanity causes some gender dysphoria by birth, although those numbers are insignificantly small and should be treated with available medical technologies. But most who experience gender dysphoria are made that way by others or are making themselves that way.

We should have great empathy for the underlying causes that produce gender dysphoria, but our compassion doesn’t change our convictions regarding God’s created order. Ultimately, we can only love them as Jesus does. In fact, he is the only one who can change their thinking and empower them to experience the transformation that will heal them. If they never come to Jesus, or even to a realization of their delusional thinking, we should still love them and treat them with respect, without affirming or celebrating their unbiblical mindset.

About Dr. Robert Petterson
Dr. Robert “Bob” Petterson is an author, speaker, former pastor and founder of the Legacy Imperative, a ministry devoted to inspiring, mobilizing and equipping grandparents, parents and other advocates for Millennials and Generation Z to evangelize and disciple their loved ones who are far from the Christian faith. He has earned a Doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary and has served as East Coast president of Mastermedia International but considers his most vital role as that of grandfather. You can read more about the author here.

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