The Man Who Would Be Queen – Chapters 1 & 2

Several commenters have mentioned and quoted from Michael Bailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen.
Click this link to read the first two chapters of the book.
The Man Who Would Be Queen is published by Joseph Henry Press.
Would be Queen
PS – Much has gotten in the way of the second part of Danielle’s remarks on gender identity issues, but they are coming soon…

60 Minutes Science of Sexual Orientation: An update from the mother of twins


Recently, I posted a link to a NPR broadcast outlining two approaches to treating children who are gender non-conforming in their play and activity preferences. In light of that broadcast and the controversies surrounding these different approaches, I provide an update from Danielle, the mother of twin boys first featured in a 60 Minutes broadcast originally aired on March 12, 2006. The segment, titled Science and Sexual Orientation, was by any measure a provocative program. The producer answered numerous questions about the show on the CBS website and many blogs, including this one, provided commentary. I still use the clip in some of my classes to illustrate a variety of issues regarding how the media interprets sexual orientation research.
One of the most interesting aspects of the show was Leslie Stahl’s interview with twin 9-year-old boys, Adam and Jared. Recently, the mother of the twins, Danielle, wrote researcher Michael Bailey with an update regarding her son, Adam. Dr. Bailey and Danielle allowed me to share the note on the blog. She does not preach or lecture but rather reports on her experience. First, to set the stage, I want to reproduce an excerpt of the 60 Minutes segment introducing Adam and Jared:

The bedrooms of 9-year-old twins Adam and Jared couldn’t be more different. Jared’s room is decked out with camouflage, airplanes, and military toys, while Adam’s room sports a pastel canopy, stuffed animals, and white horses.
When Stahl came for a visit, Jared was eager to show her his G.I. Joe collection. “I have ones that say like Marine and SWAT. And then that’s where I keep all the guns for ’em,” he explained.
Adam was also proud to show off his toys. “This is one of my dolls. Bratz baby,” he said.
Adam wears pinkish-purple nail polish, adorned with stars and diamonds.
Asked if he went to school like that, Adam says, “Uh-huh. I just showed them my nails, and they were like, ‘Why did you do that?'”
Adam’s behavior is called childhood gender nonconformity, meaning a child whose interests and behaviors are more typical of the opposite sex. Research shows that kids with extreme gender nonconformity usually grow up to be gay.
Danielle, Adam and Jared’s mom, says she began to notice this difference in Adam when he was about 18 months old and began asking for a Barbie doll. Jared, meanwhile, was asking for fire trucks.
Not that much has changed. Jared’s favorite game now is Battlefield 2, Special Forces. As for Adam, he says, “It’s called Neopets: The Darkest Faerie.”
Asked how he would describe himself to a stranger, Jared says, “I’m a kid who likes G.I. Joes and games and TV.”
“I would say like a girl,” Adam replied to the same question. When asked why he thinks that is, Adam shrugged.

In this email, Danielle reveals that at one time Adam thought he would like to be a girl. In fact, she considered puberty delaying drugs to allow Adam more time to reflect about his gender identity. At one point, he wanted to be a girl and bear a child via his own body.
With this update, Danielle discloses that Adam is not as definite about wanting to transition as he once was. She reports that he has adopted a male identification, albeit a somewhat unconventional one. Here is her update:

Adam has changed since we did the 60 Minutes show. He is the same yet different. From the research done a gazillon years ago about children like him- he’s basically following the guidelines as they were told to me. One day I would love to get my hands on the actual research papers! Anyway, he turns 12 on [recently]. He still shows a preference for society labeled “girl” items, yet he no longer states he wants to change his body into a girl. He no longer talks about having a baby from his actual body or wanting to know when he will start to grow his breasts. I think most of these changes are due to society (school peers) and his awareness of the actual facts of life. His favorite color is now purple instead of pink and he still prefers to buy “girl” tennis shoes. He dreams of becoming an actor/model and being a professional chef. As I stated, from what I know of this past research, he’s reaching the age where he’s blending in with his peers. I expect the next two years of Middle School to be difficult ones. Then he goes into High School where differences are just a way of life. I’m thinking he may actually find out who he is some time towards the end of High School. Again it follows what I know of this mysterious research paper.
I belong to several email groups with other families that have children like Adam. I don’t participate much because I’m not sure if most of them are following the right path with their children. I often wonder “if” I had told Adam that “yes” he could be a girl when he became old enough would he have stayed on that track of thought? However, at the urging of his therapist, I told him I understood he was a girl yet he was really a boy and couldn’t be a girl. A lot of the parents are allowing their children to grow long hair, dress 100 % as a girl, and go to school with a girl name and girl clothing. Therefore they are totally embracing their child in the opposite sex role. The children are living that role and that life style. So have I done my son an injustice by telling him that he has a boy’s body and even if he wants to be a girl during school hours he had to be the boy as his body was made? Then again, I have allowed him to wear just about anything he was comfortable wearing.
It’s a dilemma that I don’t think we will know the end of until this generation of children grows up. What happens if some of these children that have male bodies but are living life as a girl all through grade school finally reach an age where they decide they really don’t want to have a sex change and be a physical girl? Then what will the ramifications be on that child because of the parents’ actions?
It’s not like my child has Down syndrome and I can go to the library and check out 100s of books to get guidance on how to raise him. There just isn’t much out there for parents who face raising a child like my Adam. I have so many questions about parenting him and very little answers. So I go with my gut and wonder daily if I have made the wrong decision or if these other parents are making the wrong decision. Then again, what may be the wrong decision for one child in this situation may be the right decision for the other. Ah, what a world we live in! Fifty years ago we wouldn’t even be having these types of conversations or email groups.
I have to share something about Adam. I have often wondered how these other kids are developing compared to Adam. Many in the groups have started hormone therapy to stop puberty in the kids. That way the kids have more time to mature and make the final decision about the course of their lives. For the boys they won’t develop the deeper voice and the Adam’s apple and male characteristics. If they decide to transition the theory is that it will be easier without these developments. I made an appointment for Adam to have some baseline tests done. I was seriously thinking about doing the hormone therapy for him to give him more time too. However, much to my surprise he was ready deep into puberty. The doctor said we could still proceed with it but I really couldn’t expect to have undone what was already there. He was developing much earlier than expected. Now his twin, Jared, still hasn’t started into puberty. So, my question is – with boys that follow gender non-conformity – do they start developing earlier than their peers? I realize we won’t have the answer for many, many more years to come.

First of all, I am grateful to Danielle and Dr. Bailey for permission to reproduce this communication. Second, I think it is important for clinicians and advocates alike to reflect on what we can learn from this experience. As far as I can determine from available research, most boys who want to be girls later become men who don’t want to become women. Using the new paradigm with Adam may have altered his future in ways that could have added significant complication to his life.
Given that this email was sent to Dr. Bailey, I asked him for commentary.

Danielle is an admirable and unusual mother. She went to great lengths to protect Adam and to show him that she loved him regardless of his gender-related behavior and self-concept. She let Adam express his femininity (e.g., fill his room with “girls'” toys), while providing him with honest feedback about the likely results of his choices, outside their home. She also hesitated–in my view sensibly so–from encouraging Adam to begin a gender transition during childhood. I have met Adam, and I have read Danielle’s updates. I would be surprised at this point if Adam decides to change his sex. He seems a happy boy, and I expect he will become a happy young gay man.
I wonder, with Danielle, about the implications for gender-atypical children whose parents take the other, emerging, approach: allowing children to change their genders preliminary to biological sex changes in adolescence. Children like Adam start showing their behavior early (Adam at 18 months). All evidence we have suggests that only a minority (20% or fewer) of boys like Adam become women eventually. But if parents let boys become girls at childhood, will this drive up the probability? It seems highly plausible that it would. Sex reassignment is not minor medical intervention. It involves major surgery and lifelong hormonal treatments. All other things being equal, sex reassignment is something to be avoided. Of course, not all other things are equal. If a 6 year old boy wants to be a girl, it will cause him more short-term pain to refuse than to acquiesce. The costs and benefits are hard to estimate, and Danielle has been frustrated in her search for data-supported answers. It would be a fitting reward to her admirable example if people could set aside their differences (and the government could uncharacteristically support research on a controversial topic relate to sex), and begin to collect and share requisite data.
Danielle and Adam should remind us that even if treated liberally, gender-atypical children will not necessarily choose sex reassignment. Indeed, perhaps the most liberal goal of all is to allow gender-atypical children to be comfortable in their own (non surgically altered) skin. By all appearances, that is what Danielle has accomplished.

Since this email, I have corresponded more with Danielle. She has added some additional detail which I will report tomorrow. Specifically, she describes how she has responded to Adam when he has expressed questions about transitioning.

Pregnant man

I figured I didn’t need any other title for this story. The story is now the number 2 topic of search on Yahoo.

A reader wondered why I had not posted this and the answer is mainly time limitations. This post is a drive-by as it is. While I guess Beatie’s experience is a first, given the attention surrounding the prenancy, it will not be the last I suspect.

At present, I just do not have words. So help me out…

Christianity Today on “The Transgender Moment”

Christianity Today has an article (The Transgender Moment) and sidebar (Walking a Fine Line) (apparently these are in the print and online editions) quoting me and many others regarding transgender issues. Some have contacted me to ask if I was quoted correctly, feeling perhaps that my comments were inconsistent with my views expressed elsewhere. Here are my comments from “The Transgender Moment:”

Whether mentioned in Scripture or not, the transgender movement clashes with traditional Christian theology that teaches the only God-given expression of human sexuality is between a man and woman who are married.

“Transgender impulses are strong, but they don’t match up with the Christian sexual ethic,” says Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. “Desires must be brought into alignment with biblical teachings, but it will be inconvenient and distressful.”

Throckmorton, past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, says he has advised transgendered people who are in absolute agony over their state. Typically, such individuals are desperately in search of hope and acceptance, he says. It may be uncomfortable to tell transgendered individuals that their desires don’t align with the Bible, Throckmorton says, but pastors must do so. “Even if science does determine differentiation in the brain at birth,” Throckmorton says, “even if there are prenatal influences, we can’t set aside teachings of the Bible because of research findings.”

While I don’t remember saying these exact things, I think the biggest problem in order to understand my views on this topic is the absence of the context for these remarks. I do remember saying in my interview with John Kennedy that each situation was different and that each person experiencing gender conflict should consult with medical specialists, psychological professionals, and clergy. Some people may come to the conclusion that the Scriptures are silent on what they should do about their feelings. However, for those who do come to the conclusion that various options are not permitted by Christian teaching, the conflict can be agonizing. For those people, bringing desires into alignment with the teaching they believe to be correct is difficult but these individuals may come to see it as their calling to live out. In this article, I am speaking as if this context has already been set. 

In practice, I believe mental health professionals should take the same perspective regarding transgender issues as I have advised with sexual orientation in the sexual identity framework – the client sets the value direction. Pastors, however, are more likely and indeed are called upon to interpret doctrine and the relevance of doctrine for action. I do not think research findings supporting an innate source of gender identity conflict is likely to sway pastoral advice much, in the same way that finding an innate source of homosexual attractions is unlikely to change traditional views.

Perhaps the quote that I feel the most troubled by is this one: “Transgender impulses are strong, but they don’t match up with the Christian sexual ethic.” I don’t remember saying it that way but if I did, I would certainly say it differently now. As I see it, impulses are not of the same moral significance as behavior, especially chosen behavior. I do not see sexual or gender inclinations as being chosen. What one does may or may not match up with a Christian sexual ethic, but I do not view feelings in the same manner. In any case, I want to emphasize that persons who experience gender identity conflicts should reach out and seek advice from medical and mental health professionals, as well as their spiritual advisors. 

Now I suspect for some this will not be a sufficient reaction to this article. I invite readers to discuss the issues raised in the article. I invite clergy and transgender advocates to comment and offer rationale for their views. Some think I need educated; so educate me.  

 

Advocacy group set to sue Montgomery County, MD over transgender bill

With the passage of the transgendered recognition bill in Montgomery County, MD yesterday, a public interest law firm, Advocates for Faith and Freedom is prepared to sue the county on behalf of PFOX, a church and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of MD. One specific concern is the lack of exemption for religious groups and organizations. Would religious groups be required to accommodate conduct or dress they ordinarily would prohibit?

The AFF legal analysis and letter to the Montgomery County, MD board is here.

No word when the suit might be filed.

Montgomery County passes transgendered bill

The Washington Post in reporting that the Montgomery County Council passed the transgendered bill 8-0 yesterday. 

According to the Post article, the locker room provision was removed prior to yesterday’s vote.

Late last week, in response to the outcry and concerns from some fellow council colleagues, Trachtenberg agreed to pull an amendment to the bill that would have specified restrooms and locker rooms as public accommodations in which an individual could choose a room based on the gender identity that the person “publicly and exclusively expressed.”

Taking out the proposed amendment, according to the county attorney’s office and council staff, would allow employers to maintain “current gender-based restrictions” on such public facilities.

I suspect a referendum might be in the offing. It would take 20,000 signatures to get a repeal on the ballot.