For the past ten to twenty years, so-called conversion therapy has been under fire and is now banned in more than a dozen states. The idea that one’s gender identity can be reoriented from same-sex to heterosexual through counseling is discredited by the American Psychological Association. Since these conversion therapy efforts are beginning to leave the news cycle, current efforts to provide hormone therapy for what is now called gender dysphoria are appearing and generating public debate.
I’m confused. We seem to have such a short memory. If a gay person wants to submit to counseling to encourage heterosexual preferences and behaviors, that is wrong and discredited. If a male wants to take cross-sex hormones to change their secondary physical characteristics and surgically change their body to become female, nothing is to be done to stand in their way.
As I understand what happens in the delivery room every day a doctor, nurse, midwife or parent looks between the legs of a crying, bloody mass of living cells and proclaims the gender to everyone’s excited response. In fact, viewing a sonogram months before the arrival can generate the same response. The announcement, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” is stated with loud proclamation and received by equally loud approval. The determination is easy and doesn’t require a medical, psychological or social expert to verify.
I realize gender identity and sexual preference are not the same thing. I also understand that in our quest for fulfillment, happiness, social acceptance and even corporate success, gender matters. Sexuality matters. Both possess advantages and challenges.
We are more than what is between our legs. We are more than our physical characteristics. Whomever is given the credibility to decide what will be the accepted characteristics for the next promotion (or friendship) millions will stand in line to attempt to conform. Need to be taller? Get lifts for the shoes. Need to be younger? Pluck the extra hair and color what remains. Need to be male? Get a sex change operation. Wait. Doesn’t all that conformance seem a little demeaning?
How we feel about ourselves isn’t determined by the reactions of the crowd around us. At least it shouldn’t be. Our self-image may be influenced by outsiders but the feelings come from within. The acceptance or approval or even the definition of what will be popular changes from year to year and even from month to month. Imagine spending a year to become something that is no longer valued after the investment of all that time and money? Why not just be who you are?
I am appalled by parents who spend thousands of dollars and months of effort to follow up on a four-year old’s comment that they would rather be the opposite sex. Since when have pre-schoolers been considered mature enough to make a life-altering decision about their entire futures? The reason children have parents (read that carefully) is because children need guidance. Babies are born helpless. They need immediate and constant care. The relationship will continue throughout life. Care becomes caring and then even reverses as children begin caring for their parents.
Let’s end the confusion with a lot more acceptance and a lot less judging. Maybe we could even try being more consistent in whether medical, social or legal intervention is desired.