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Every individual, no matter their struggles or identity, should be supported and loved where they’re at. But what does it mean to love and support someone? Ask yourself this question: which is more loving, a parent who gives their child sweets whenever they ask, or a parent who tells their child “no” to the sweets sometimes, even though it will perhaps hurt the child’s feelings? It should be obvious that parent in the second example was the one acting in love, even though the child would have preferred for their parent to respond by giving them sweets. I am not comparing transgender individuals to children here, but rather the analogy shows that the best way to love someone is not necessarily to do what they want or what makes them feel good. Truly supporting and loving someone means doing what is best for them, even when that’s difficult.
41% of transgender individuals attempt suicide. Perhaps you may think that this is due to discrimination, but even when an individual’s gender identity is never questioned, attempt of suicide rate is still 36% (source). Furthermore, other groups considered discriminated against, such as bullying victims or African Americans, do not exhibit anywhere near as high rates of attempt of suicide (source) (source). Even when individuals surgically transition their gender to match that in which they identify, they are still faced with unprecedentedly high rates of attempted suicide (source). This means that there is a problem, and those who struggle with their gender identity need help. Many people seem to think the solution is to affirm the gender identity that differs from their biological sex, but as we’ve seen from the statistics of those who surgically transitioned, that does not solve the problem. Other people seem to think the solution is to try to use behavioral modification to force the individual into no longer acting like a transgender, but that often makes the problem even worse.
So, what should our response be? Well, we should first and foremost remind the person that they are loved. They need to know that their value and identity is not based on their feelings, and their acceptance by others is not dependent on how they identify. Remember, who we are is not what we feel. When we rely on our feelings to tell us what is true, we end up believing all sorts of lies. Think of how many times in your own life you have felt worthless or as if you have no purpose. Just because you felt that way, didn’t mean it was true. If a person believes that they are what they feel, then when their feelings break down, their whole source of self-worth comes crumbling down too.
Now, I am not saying that transgenders’ feelings are not real; a transgender individual genuinely believes themselves to be born in the wrong body, and they did not choose to have that feeling. However, this does not mean that those feelings are correct. I have argued that gender is not distinct from sex and is grounded in biology HERE (not published yet).
Challenging the validity of the idea that one can be whatever gender they feel, is not the same as rejecting the transgender person. This is the key problem with the idea that we are what we feel; it causes people to feel as if we are not accepting them if we do not accept something they believe. Those of us who do not agree with affirming transgenderism, do not hate transgender people, on the contrary, we do so because we love them! There is an incredibly high rate of attempt of suicide among transgenders, and affirming their gender decision does not solve the problem, so why would we perpetuate something so strongly correlated to suicide? We do not tell an anorexic person that they are fat, even though they believe themselves to be. We do not tell them that, because it is false that they are fat, and affirming their belief is not the loving thing to do for them. We should hold that same standard to those who suffer from gender dysphoria; do not affirm something that is isn’t true, on the grounds that they believe it. It is easier and less confrontational to affirm someone’s beliefs about their gender, but doing what is easy is not doing what is loving and right. Treat everyone, no matter their gender identity, first and foremost as a fellow person who needs and deserves love and acceptance, but remember that accepting and loving a person is not the same as agreeing with everything they believe.