Catholic Values Column: Letting your child decide gender is not love


Recently there have been more and more cases where parents come out and tell the story of their child’s journey to find his or her “true gender.” Usually, they are in complete support of letting their child “find themselves” and choose its life, often at a very young age.

While most of these cases involve the child making statements of gender dysphoria, a medical condition where someone believes that they are the opposite gender, much of the supporting evidence is based on things like “my son enjoys wearing girl’s clothes and having long hair.” Letting a child decide on something like gender is not only destroying his identity as a child of God, but it is also perpetuating stereotypes for each gender.

Growing up in a Catholic family, like many students at Franciscan, it’s easy for me to see the backwards logic in letting children decide their gender. After reading many testimonials about children with gender dysphoria, specifically looking at their parent’s statements, it’s become easier for me to understand the argument of the other side.

The way the parents of these children view love is that love lets someone do whatever he wants as long as it makes him happy in the present. This informs their view that the gender dysphoria that their child is experiencing is the child’s expression of his true self. I believe that most of these parents are trying their best to love their children, but missing the mark on love.

The Catholic view of love, especially in terms of child-rearing, is helping people to achieve God’s plan for them even if that means telling them that something that makes them happy in the moment will hurt them in the long run.

The American College of Pediatrics says that procedures and drugs that suppress a child’s natural hormones helping him/her to live as the opposite gender “violates the long-standing ethical principle of ‘First do no harm.’” That transgender procedures are harmful is true even apart from Christian doctrine.

Of course, Catholic teaching tells us that gender isn’t a choice. Letting children decide their gender ruins their identity as children of God. If I have a daughter and let her believe that she is a boy placed in the wrong body, I will be telling her in no uncertain terms that her body is wrong for her; that she is a mistake. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children that they were made in the image and likeness of God and to correct them if they believe that they are a mistake.

While there are many parents who honestly want the best for their children and misguidedly let them live as the opposite gender, there is another side to the issue. It also carries political weight since the issue is especially hot right now. Saying that my son is becoming a girl is a way to use him as a political pawn. He becomes a twisted version of evidence supporting my case that gender is a choice. Sometimes, these cases are used to say that children who are “unaffected” by society know instinctually what they are. In either case, it is an extreme destruction and perversion of love.

Gender stereotypes also play a major part in the debate on gender dysphoria in children. As I said before, most calls on gender are made when the child states his or her belief that he or she is mentally another gender. These statements are usually supported by the child’s want to do things that are normally associated with the opposite gender. While it’s destructive enough to tell a child that he or she is another gender, it’s even worse to tell a child that his identity is based on his likes and dislikes.

Men and women both have roles in society that are important and create part of what it means to be man or woman. However, reducing manhood or womanhood to a list of should’s and shouldn’t’s is a perversion of what we were made to be. It most likely increases the number of gender dysphoria cases because children are told that they fit into society only in certain roles as a girl or boy. They are pressured to fit in, and when they don’t it can trigger an emotional reaction and feeling of being lost in society.

The belief that love that lets the other do whatever makes him happy is a perverted vision of love. True love enables the other to reach his full potential in God’s plan for his life. On the topic of gender, love is not letting a child choose to be what he was not created for.