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Friday 5: Jeff Johnston

Focus on the Family has five priorities: Sharing Christ, strengthening marriages, equipping parents, advocating for children and engaging the culture. That fifth priority — engaging the culture — is what CitizenLink is all about, and we do that in a variety of ways. 

In the latest of a several-part series, Gender Issues Analyst Jeff Johnston talks with us about transgenderism and gender identity issues, their link to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and what we can expect to see in the future depending on the results of next Tuesday’s election.

CitizenLink: What is transgenderism? 

Jeff Johnston: “Transgender” is an umbrella term that covers a lot of issues and a lot of different types of people. It includes people who cross-dress. It would include children who are struggling with Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is where you don’t feel good about your body and want to become the other sex. Transgenderism includes people who live as the opposite sex all the time, and those who move beyond dress and makeup to having hormone injections and sexual reassignment surgery. It can also include people who feel androgynous — maybe expressing both genders alternately.

CL: Let’s talk a little bit more about GID and how to treat it. California recently banned sexual-orientation change effort counseling for minors, and New Jersey and Pennsylvania have introduced similar legislation. What are some of the dangers imposed on children when states ban this type of therapy?

 JJ: GID is a label usually given to children who believe they are the opposite sex or want to become the opposite sex, but it is a term that can be used for adults, too. A child with GID believes he or she was born into the wrong body. There are other psychological issues that come with it. It manifests itself in that they want to play the games of the opposite sex and be the opposite sex. Usually they create an exaggerated version of being a boy or a girl. And they will talk about themselves with the sex they want to be.

Gender Identity Disorder is treatable. There are therapists who work with kids to help them accept the body they were born into and to embrace it as a good thing. This kind of therapy helps children to stop hating their bodies and to embrace their gender. If untreated, a lot of the boys with severe GID will not grow up to be transgender, but many will grow up to be gay-identified. Some of the girls that have GID will grow up and have same-sex attraction, too. If that California law goes into effect, you won’t be allowed to treat these kids for their same-sex attractions or help them identify as the sex they were really born into. Imagine the psychological upheaval of hating yourself so much that you want to be the opposite sex, and having the envy and the desire to be something that you’re not. There is psychological distress associated with this, too. There are kids who need help, and help is readily available. 

CL: What might be some of the contributing factors for children and adults suffering from transgenderism and/or same-sex attractions?

JJ: Sexual abuse is three times more common among men who have sex with men than in the general male population. In the transgender community, sexual abuse seems to be even more common than in the male homosexual community. Sometimes it’s related to issues in the home, like violence. This isn’t something that people grow into in a healthy way. There is trauma involved in producing these disorders.

There’s also a whole movement to support this gender confusion in order to encourage the promotion of gender minorities. There are books written for children and (transgender) summer camps. There are a lot of TV specials about this now. Some very young children are being given puberty-blocking hormones so their bodies won’t change as they grow in order to let them decide if they want to stay on this track. If so, they are given opposite-sex hormones, and then some get surgery later on to try to turn their body into the opposite sex. These kids need help. They need healing and growth and renewed thinking — a renewed mind and spiritual help, rather than affirmation of the disorder. 

CL: Should sexual minority groups receive special protections under the law?

JJ: These groups who view themselves as sexual minorities are fighting in city after city and state after state for special recognition, even though the result includes laws allowing, for instance, males who dress as females in order to utilize public restrooms and locker rooms dedicated to women. As Christians, of course, we’d say it’s not healthy to encourage or promote recognition of a group based on their behaviors or based on something that’s problematic psychologically. That’s not the same as recognizing people because of their religion or the color of their skin, or things like this. At the same time we want Christians to reach out with love and treat people with respect. That has always been our goal. 

CL: Depending on who wins the election next week, what kinds of policies might we see over the next few years that concern gender identity issues? 

 JJ: We’ve already seen a huge amount of support from the Obama administration for blurring gender distinctions and for giving special recognition to individuals based on their sexual behavior or identification. For example, the Department of Justice has refused to provide legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that defines marriage, for federal purposes, as what it’s always been — between a man and a woman. They support policies that recognize “gender identity” as a special right, and we’ve seen the confusion and cost of those policies when they are pushed at the state and local levels. And the administration is pushing these issues at the United Nations and in other countries. The administration also published a long list of steps they’ve taken to push this agenda. 

On the other hand, both Gov. Mitt Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan have stated their support for marriage between a man and a woman, and they are not pushing for special status, more government regulation or more spending based on gender identity or sexual behavior. They both support DOMA and a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage and family need support; they do not need to be redefined. I think they recognize that kids need and deserve a mom and a dad, that kids do best in that environment and that the two sexes aren’t interchangeable. It’s a totally different worldview than that of the current administration.

Learn more about the Obama administration’s record [1] on LGBT issues.

Read “ ‘Transgenderism’ and the Deconstruction of Gender.” [2]

Read “What about Transgenderism?” [3]

Read “When John Wants to be ‘Jane.’ ” [4]