NASHVILLE (BP) — The Obama administration’s directive regarding restroom use for transgender students at public schools and universities likely will harm children struggling with their gender identity and increase the number who become transgendered.
That’s the conclusion of two Southern Baptist psychologists who have treated adolescents with gender dysphoria — the condition of not feeling at home in one’s God-given body in terms of gender.
“The science alone — neuroscience and psychology — demonstrates that what was done the other day was a terrible, terrible thing for our children,” psychologist and neuroscientist Matthew Stanford told Baptist Press.
The Obama administration issued a May 13 directive to all public schools and universities stating transgender students should be permitted to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity rather than their biological sex. The directive was not legally binding but seemed to threaten loss of federal aid to schools that refuse to comply.
The administration, according to the directive, seeks to help schools “provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, including transgender students.”
Stanford, CEO of the Hope and Healing Center in Houston, said most children with gender dysphoria naturally accept their biological sex after passing through puberty due to increased maturity, positive social pressures and sometimes professional counseling. Obama’s directive strikes at a key aspect of the healing process by attempting to decrease or remove healthy social pressure for children to act according to their biological sex.
The administration “has preempted the process by which the majority of children go on not to live as transgendered individuals,” said Stanford, who served on Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page’s 2014-2015 Mental Health Advisory Council.
Obama’s Departments of Education and Justice, which issued the directive, are “saying we should treat these children as if they are transgender [and] we should begin to affirm that. And what’s going to happen is those numbers [of students to naturally outgrow gender dysphoria] are going to start to slip,” Stanford noted. “We’re going to have more and more children that move into adulthood as transgendered.”
Even most secularists and social liberals in the counseling profession agree gender dysphoria is bad and has negative effects, Stanford said.
Obama has “come up with a policy” under which there will be “higher levels of suicide,” “more psychological distress” and “more people unable to form appropriate relationships,” Stanford said, citing demonstrated effects of gender dysphoria.
Chuck Hannaford, a clinical psychologist in Germantown, Tenn., told BP that by calling more attention to transgenderism in public schools, the Obama administration may cause an increased number of children and adolescents to identify with the opposite sex.
“The old joke is when you take psychology courses in college, you begin to identify with every pathology you read about,” said Hannaford, president of HeartLife Professional Soul Care and a former member of Page’s Mental Health Advisory Council. Similarly, “now that we’ve made this transgender issue such a big deal,” children who have “had feelings or thoughts of same-sex attraction … are immediately going to begin to think, ‘Gosh, I wonder if I’m in that category'” of transgender.
“And they’re going to feel freer to experiment with that, which is a very detrimental process,” Hannaford said.
For teens struggling with gender dysphoria, a better policy than open restroom access is to provide a single-occupant restroom or changing facility, Hannaford said. Children and adolescents with gender dysphoria are “disgusted” with their own anatomy and do not want to be around peers of either gender in situations involving nudity, he said.
“Why would you want to expose [teens with gender dysphoria] into a public forum?” Hannaford said. “It would be much safer for the child to have their own restroom.”
Though media reports have pointed to some transgender adolescents who say they feel happy about Obama’s directive, Hannaford said the feelings of teenagers are a poor way to measure the wisdom of public policy.
“Kids by nature are going to over-identify with groups that make them feel valuable, that make them feel comfortable,” Hannaford said. A transgender teen who says the administration’s restroom directive makes him feel relieved “is not going to feel very relieved when he goes into a restroom and receives ridicule. It’s going to create problems. It just creates a dynamic that isn’t healthy. It doesn’t allow them to work through” their issues.
“On the surface,” Hannaford said, “it seems as though the administration is demonstrating concern for those suffering from gender dysphoria. In reality, it will only create more division, more negative attention to those suffering from gender dysphoria, and consequently it will produce more distress among those suffering and their families.
“Clinically, this is a really bad idea. There are better solutions for reducing stigma and providing support,” he said.
The views of Stanford and Hannaford align with a document released in March by the American College of Pediatricians, a socially conservative medical association distinct from the larger American Academy of Pediatrics. The document, titled “Gender Ideology Harms Children,” rejected “all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex.”
Citing the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” fifth edition, the document noted, “As many as 98% of gender confused boys and 88% of gender confused girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty.”
The College concluded, “Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs. This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will ‘choose’ a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”
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.