Rachel Mann is a vicar and writer in Manchester
How might Christians respond pastorally to the reality of children questioning their gender? ‘Gender dysphoria’ – commonly defined as the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological gender identity to be opposite to one’s biological sex – is very rare. However, Theroux’s documentary and the evidence of increasing referrals indicate that perceptions about trans people are changing. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I speak as a trans woman and a Church of England priest. I transitioned from male to female at 22, but I knew at four that I should’ve been a girl. Growing up, my sense of gender dysphoria was often overwhelming. I experienced alcohol and drug problems, and contemplated suicide on many occasions, primarily because I was too scared to come out.
My advice is simple. If a child (or anyone) questions their assigned gender, firstly, please take them seriously and try not to panic. It can be incredibly shocking for a parent or guardian to hear the truth of their child’s feelings. However, a person’s disclosure of gender discomfort is a profound and, I’d say, ‘holy’ thing. They’re disclosing something incredibly personal, and as with any personal disclosure, please tread carefully
Being trans is costly. Parents will want to protect their children from this cost. But denial is not a solution. Children are playful and, for many if not most, wanting to ‘play with gender’ will just be that: play. A boy wearing a dress is not necessarily a sign of gender dysphoria. However, be aware that for some – like me – a sense of profound distress about gender emerges very early.
Valuable support groups:
Mermaids (Support for under-18 trans people) mermaidsuk.org.uk
Sybils (Christian support group for trans people and their families): sybils.gndr.org.uk
Some Christians will be alarmed by the increase in referrals for childhood gender dysphoria. However, I’m glad that being trans is increasingly recognised as just part of being human, and our role as a loving, caring Church, has to be to treat trans people as beloved, sacred members of God’s kingdom.