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Transgender and Teenagers

November 16, 2022

In May 2014, TIME magazine ran a cover story headlined “The Transgender Tipping Point.” It was now no longer possible to ignore the trans movement.

Eight years later, it is no longer possible to ignore the irreversible damage being done to countless young people in the name of this false ideology. For years, concerns have been raised about the way that the Tavistock clinic in London has been giving out dangerous drugs to children and young people like candy. In July, after an independent report found it was not fit for purpose,[1] NHS England announced that it will be closed next year. The Times commented:

The damage done is immeasurable. No one knows how years of ideological dogma, inappropriate treatment, and a culpable failure to consider the overall mental welfare of the children treated by the Tavistock Clinic will affect the thousands referred to its Gender Identity Development Service.[2]

The closure of this clinic is good news. But across the Western world, increasing numbers of teenagers are experiencing gender confusion. What is going on? How should the church respond?

We ought to hold two fundamental principles in mind as we consider these questions. Whoever we are dealing with, whatever their age, we need to treat them with dignity, respect, and compassion. The biblical and Christian conviction is that every human being is made in the image of God. And, whoever we are dealing with, real compassion may not necessarily mean affirming what people claim about themselves. Proof of this comes from the rapidly increasing number of testimonies from detransitioners, those who have lived as the opposite sex, and may have undergone hormonal treatments and surgical procedures, but then regret their transition and go back to live as their biological sex.

The NHS Gender Identity Development Service works with children and young people in England.[3] It has seen an increase of more than 3,000 percent over the last decade in referrals for “gender dysphoria,” the feeling that you were born in the wrong body.[4] There were 77 referrals to the Gender Identity Development Service in 2009–10.[5] This number rose to 2,728 in 2019–20. Referrals have gone from being over half boys to nearly three quarters girls.[6] This trend has been noted across the Western world.

Trans Among the Young and Old

Some children profess to be unhappy in their biological sex at an early age. Studies have shown that in 80% or more of these children, this feeling resolves spontaneously as the child goes through puberty (if that process is not interrupted by hormonal treatments).[7] That is why, in the past, the advice was to discourage cross-sex dressing, kindly affirm the biological sex of the child, and let puberty take its course. This was known as “watchful waiting.”

Today, however, there is often pressure to affirm what children say about their gender identity and to allow what is called “social transition,” letting a child dress like the opposite sex, use a new name to fit their chosen identity, and so on. Then comes pressure to allow such children to take puberty blockers. These blockers remove nature’s own remedy for gender confusion and there are no long-term tests to indicate the safety of such interventions. Serious concerns exist around effects on bone density, brain development, and psychological development,[8] which is why some nations (Sweden,[9]  France,[10] Finland,[11]) and some states in America[12] have called for a halt to the prescription of puberty blockers (except for exceptional cases where they are deemed medically necessary).

Children with autistic traits sometimes seem likely, for complex reasons, to experience a measure of gender nonconformity. In recent years, activists have sometimes pushed such young people toward the idea that gender transition may help, which only compounds the difficulties such youngsters already experience.[13]

There are also some adults who suffer from a sense of being in the wrong body. Those who experience discontent with their biological sex and who live as someone of the opposite sex (transsexuals) are biologically completely normal. This is a different issue than those born with an “intersex” condition (extremely rare cases where there’s a physical anomaly, or some other issue with sexual development). Cases where genital anatomy is ambiguous affect fewer than 1 out of every 5,000 live births.[14]

Not all adult transsexuals endorse or promote the current, very politicised brand of gender ideology. Many are horrified at the way young people and children seem to be targeted by activists. Debbie Hayton, for example, is a man who has fathered three children. Debbie now lives as a woman but insists: “We can never change sex”[15] and says:

. . . transsexuals like me look in horror at what looks like a recruitment drive among the very young . . . Children are victims of this [gender] ideology, and they are being irredeemably harmed . . . we speak up because we care about children.[16]

Trans Targeting Teens

In recent years we have seen a rapidly increasing number of adolescents claiming to be trans, many of whom have no history of gender dysphoria before puberty. It is common today for whole friendship groups to want to transition together. Dr. Lisa Littman of Brown University has popularized the term “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD). Her pioneering research, which analyzes 256 parental reports about teens experiencing gender dysphoria, was published in 2018.[17]

Dr. Littman describes a phenomenon in teenagers (especially girls) who suddenly start presenting as transgender having experienced no previous gender dysphoria. They may be gripped by the feeling that they were born in the wrong body; they may also experience intense distress. Dr. Littman hypothesizes that this could be the result of a social contagion, where peers mutually influence one another toward a particular type of behaviour.[18] She found that, before identifying as transgender, many of them experienced:

  • A history of social anxiety, isolation, and difficulty forming friendships
  • A history of trauma
  • Friendships with others identifying as trans
  • An increase in social media use

Parents identified the influences on their youngsters as:

  • YouTube transition videos
  • Tumblr
  • A group of friends they knew in person and/or a community of people they met online

The social media site Reddit, for example, is brimming with anxious people crying out for advice from peers. They ask questions such as:

  • I’m confused about my gender
  • Trying to figure out if I’m trans or not
  • I honestly don’t know if I’m trans or not — any advice?
  • Apparently, I may be trans?
  • Do I have dysphoria?
  • Is it gender dysphoria? Can you help me? I don’t know if I really want to be a girl – I’m so confused . . .[19]

In response, such youngsters are told that even posing these questions indicates that they must be trans. They are then presented with loaded messaging:

  • The idea that, “If they didn’t transition immediately, they would never be happy.”
  • Instructions about what to say to a doctor “to convince them to provide hormones.”
  • The idea that, “They should use the ‘suicide narrative’ to convince parents.”
  • The idea that, “It is acceptable to lie to… a doctor or therapist in order to get hormones faster.”[20]

Commonly experienced adolescent anxieties are used as evidence that a young person is “truly transgender.” For example, the “Transgender Teen Survival Guide” seen on Tumblr claims that the following can all be signs of dysphoria:

  • A sense of misalignment, disconnect, or estrangement from your own emotions.
  • A seeming pointlessness to your life, and no sense of any real meaning or ultimate purpose.
  • Wishing you could be normal.[21]

But as wisdom understands, these are common experiences for anyone going through teenage years.

So today, large numbers of teens who have had no previous history of gender confusion, suddenly, often due to social media influence or peer group example, identify as trans.

Trans Activists

Alongside peer group pressure, gender ideology is being promoted by voluntary organizations, charities,[22] online influencers, and sometimes in schools as well. One LGBT group tells young people:

. . . everyone has a gender identity. This is the gender that someone feels they are. This might be the same as the gender they were given as a baby, but it might not. They might feel like they are a different gender, or they might not feel like a boy or a girl.

Note the emphasis on feeling rather than truth. In a therapeutic culture, personal feeling all too often trumps everything else.[23] It is dangerous to tell children they must always trust their feelings. Maturity involves learning not to trust our feelings when there is no evidence to support them.[24]

Many children and young people are being told that:

  • Your sex is assigned at birth, it is not innate or biological.
  • You can choose your gender identity.
  • If you have a girl body but like making things and fixing things you may really be a boy trapped in the wrong body.
  • If you have a boy body but like pretty things you may really be a girl trapped in the wrong body.

This false ideology is being backed up with fictional stories. Picture books at primary school, even nursery-level, introduce this idea.[25] Gender ideology has made its way into schools through “guidance,” sometimes sent out by campaigning organizations that suggest schools must affirm children and young people in whatever gender identity they claim. Some schools provide identity-affirmative counselling to pupils behind their parents’ backs based on such “guidance.” Teachers, parents, governors, and counsellors who have doubts are often afraid to challenge it.

Another factor is teenage insecurity. Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters[26] is a journalist’s inquiry into the surge in gender dysphoria among teen girls. In this book, Abigail Shrier explains that many teens struggle with insecurity and awkwardness. Today, many are encouraged to interpret these natural feelings as symptoms of gender dysphoria, and then they are undergoing irreversible damage in the pursuit of resolving these feelings.

Adolescents after puberty will commonly demand cross-sex hormones: testosterone for girls, estrogen and progesterone for boys. These hormones serve to cement them in their chosen cross-sex identity. Girls will often seek to conceal their breasts by using a binder, a highly elasticated tube which compresses the breasts. While worn, these restrict breathing so much  that it can make physical activity difficult. The inability to take a deep breath to cough can lead to build-up of fluid in the lungs, which can become infected. Persistent use of binders can even result in rib fractures.[27] After puberty, some may go on to demand surgical modification. For girls, a mastectomy, or for boys, prosthetic breasts. Facial cosmetic surgery may be used, particularly for boys. Fewer go as far as surgery to the genitals to try to create the appearance of the opposite sex, but such treatments will usually involve infertility and reduced sexual function, and these surgeries are becoming increasingly normalized.

Amid all this, it is tragic that children and young people are often robbed of proper diagnosis and treatment of other serious underlying mental health conditions. Such conditions are not resolved by transition. One study commissioned by the Tavistock Clinic found that transitioning made them worse.[28] The results of that study were not made public.

How Should We Respond?

The church must be at the forefront of a response to this devastating trend with biblical and reasonable wisdom. The following are some suggestions:

  1. Teach children and young people the truth about the human body. We should respect the wondrous complementarity of male and female bodies. The resources produced by the British organization Lovewise,[29] for example, can be used to teach children about this in an age-appropriate way.
  2. Resist exaggerated stereotypes. Children and young people are all individuals. We should encourage and nurture all their various aptitudes and gifts, while shepherding them into biblical notions of manhood and womanhood.
  3. Understand the false claims of gender ideology. Gender ideology has no objective or scientific basis. Youngsters need to understand the truth before they get swept into online influencer communities. I explain more in my book, Gender Ideology: What Do Christians Need to Know?, which is written at a level suitable for discussing with teens.[30]

In addition to teaching youngsters the truth about gender ideology, we should also encourage them to treat others kindly, no matter what they believe. Bullying is always wrong! The flip side is that they should not be forced to agree with the beliefs or actions of others. Disagreement is not hatred. Their own conscientious or religious convictions should be respected.

  1. Find out what is being taught in schools. Many schools are going far beyond what they are legally required to teach on these issues.[31] Ask questions. Get involved. Be aware that there are support groups of parents, professionals, and others who are concerned about the false claims of gender ideology. Some non-Christian networks include Genspect (,Transgender Trend (, and 4th Wave Now (
  2. Protect children and teens from unrestricted internet access. Caring parents would never open the door of their home to violent predators, but they may not realize that social media exposes their children and teens to those who may be influencing them towards potentially life-changing damaging procedures.
  3. Be aware of the signs that a child or young person is getting caught up in the “trans-trend.” There may be changes in clothing or hairstyle towards the opposite sex. Boys may try to “tuck” or hide their genitals; girls may try to “bind” their breasts. Youngsters may experiment with different names, they may ask to visit a “gender specialist,” and some may try to obtain hormones over the internet.
  4. Find out if they are distressed because of other underlying issues. Are they suffering depression, anxiety, or eating disorders? Are there social or learning difficulties? Are there difficulties with relationships? Is there a pattern of alcohol or drug use?
  5. Remain measured and calm. Do not overreact. Use open-ended questions to try to find out when these feelings began to occur. Remember that adolescents often experience rapidly shifting ideas and emotions. Do not “over-empathize,” which could reinforce an idea that might pass over.
  6. Do not be pressured into calling the child or young person by an opposite sex name or “preferred gendered pronouns.” Remember that in the majority of cases, someone grows out of gender confusion post-puberty. Be kind, but firm. Some who have undergone sex reassignment, and later regretted it, testify that when others gave in to pressure to call them by their preferred name and pronouns, this reinforced what they later regret. Do not be intimidated. Too many parents are pushed into going along with the lie. Many are blackmailed by false and inflated statistics about suicides, which are routinely repeated.[32] Remember that transition does not address what are often serious underlying comorbid problems. Such problems do not go away, indeed, they are often made worse.[33]
  7. Be cautious about who you look to for “professional” help. Many psychologists and psychiatrists may be far too hasty in advocating transition. “Gender therapists” and “gender specialists” will probably be committed to gender ideology. Try to find a mental health professional who is competent to address underlying issues without jumping to the conclusion that all will be fixed by transition.


Too many children and teens are being swept along by the fictitious theory of gender ideology. They are being influenced and deceived by activists and online influencers. Many are turned against their own bodies. Many are turned against their own parents, the people who (usually) care for them most in this world.

Too many parents and professionals have been swept along into allowing children and teens to be used as human guinea pigs in a vast, untested medical experiment. In an age when there is fury about animal experimentation, it is remarkable that some do not blink at the idea of sterilising and mutilating healthy young people. But for children and young people who transition, there is lasting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual harm. Many may be robbed of their prospects of motherhood or fatherhood.

In what other area would we allow children below the age of consent the freedom to make life changing decisions? In what other medical field is self-diagnosis the only ground for prescription of medication or referral to radical surgery?

Future generations will look back and marvel at the wholesale abuse of children performed in the name of a false ideology. Many people know in their hearts that this is wrong, but they are terrified of the consequences of taking a stand.

We must tell the truth. We must refuse to tell lies.

Dr. Sharon James works as Social Policy Analyst for The Christian Institute, UK. She has written many books, including her latest, Gender Ideology: What do Christians Need to Know? For more information about her ministry, visit

[1] The Christian Institute, “NHS England to Close the Trans-affirming Gender Clinic Mired in Controversy,” July, 2022, NHS England to close the trans-affirming gender clinic mired in controversy – The Christian Institute,

[2] The Christian Institute, “Ditched NHS Gender Clinic Caused Immeasurable Harm to Children,” August 4, 2022, ‘Ditched NHS gender clinic caused immeasurable harm to children’ – The Christian Institute.

[3] As mentioned above, this clinic is due to close in 2023.

[4] The Christian Institute, ”The Transgender Craze”, September, 2020, ttps://

[5] National Health Service (NHS), “Gender Identity Development Service Referrals in 2019-2020,”, (accessed October 1, 2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Richard Byng, et al. (2019), “Written submission to Women and Equalities Select Committee,” (accessed October 1, 2022).

[8] Transgender Trend, “Puberty Blockers,, (accessed October 1, 2022).

[9] Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine, “Sweden’s Karolinska Ends All Use of Puberty Blockers and Cross-Sex Hormones for Minors Outside of Clinical Studies,” May 5, 2021/February, 2022.

[10] Wesley J Smith, “France’s Academy of Medicine Urges ‘Great Medical Caution’ in Blocking Puberty,” National Review, April 6, 2022,

[11] Wesley J Smith, “Finns Turn against Puberty Blockers for Gender Dysphoria,” National Review, July 25, 2021,

[12]Kim Chandler, “Alabama Bill Seeks to Ban Hormone Treatments for Trans Youth,” AP News, February 24, 2022,  t

[13] Elise Ehrhard, ‘The Transgender Movement targets Autistic Children’, Crisis Magazine, December 12, 2016,

[14] Leonard Sax, “How Common is Intersex? A Response to Anne Fausto-Sterling,” The Journal of Sex Research, Vol. 39, No. 3 (August 2002), 175.

[15] Debbie Hayton, “Transition is not the solution: A Personal Testimony,” FET Bulletin, 182, Summer 2021, 4,

[16] Debbie Hayton, “The Madness of Radical Trans Activism,” May 24, 2021,

(accessed October 5, 2022).

[17]   Lisa Littman,” Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria,” PLoS ONE, 13(8), 16 August 2018; see also Lisa Littman, “Correction: Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria”, PLoS ONE, 14(3), 19 March 2019.

[18] The Christian Institute, “Social Contagion”, September, 2020,; “The Transgender Craze”, September, 2020,

[19] Anon, “How Do I Know That I’m Trans?”,, (accessed October 1, 2022).

[20] Littman, op.cit.

[21] Zinnia Jones, “‘That was Dysphoria?’ 8 Signs and Symptoms of Indirect Gender Dysphoria,” The Orbit, September 10, 2013,

[22] The charity childline says on its website: “Your gender identity isn’t always the same as the gender you were given at birth”, (accessed October 1, 2022). The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children website says: “. . . some people may identify as a boy or a girl, while others may find neither of these terms feel right for them, and identify as neither or somewhere in the middle.” (accessed October 1, 2022).

[23] Sharon James, “It’s All About Me!”, Foundations, Spring 2021, “It’s All About Me!” – Ministry In A Therapeutic Culture – News stories – Affinity.

[24] Donna M, “I Act; Therefore I Am. Dear Trans Kids: Stop Feeling and Start Thinking,” New Discourses, June 2, 2021,

[25] For example, Ollie Pike, “Jamie: A Transgender Cinderella Story, (accessed October 1, 2022).

[26] Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters (Washington: Regnery, 2020).

[27] Hugh McLean, “Health Consequences of Chest Binding,” FTM Procedures, December 18, 2014,

[28] Heather Brunskell-Evans, Michele Moore, eds, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019), 46.

[29] Lovewise, (accessed October 1, 2022).

[30] Sharon James, Gender Ideology: What do Christians Need to Know? (Fearn: Christian Focus Publications, 2019). This book has also been translated into German, Italian, Spanish and Romanian.

[31] “Groomed: How Schools Sexualise Your Children”, June 29, 2022,

[32] Kathleen Stock, K, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism (London: Fleet, 2021), 223–229. False statistics are also put out with regard to hate crimes and murders.  

[33] As mentioned earlier, one study, hidden away by the Tavistock Clinic, showed that mental health outcomes for youngsters were worse, not better, after transition. Brunskell-Evans, Moore, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People, 46.

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