Guest commentary: Let's help confused kids make healthy life choices

Guest commentary: Let's help confused kids make healthy life choices

By Joe Gerber

Whenever an issue becomes "political," it has nearly always already moved beyond responsible, reasonable conversation to the fever pitch of sound bites, talking heads, and "us versus them." The heart of the issue is often forgotten or ignored.

For example, in all of the political posturing and shouting about transgenderism and school restrooms, several questions have been left noticeably unaddressed: "Who are these transgendered students, what exactly is their struggle, and what is the most helpful and loving thing that we can do for them?"

Unfortunately, the answer to these questions often gets obscured by political biases and agendas. The truth of the matter is that child and family psychologists have done quite a bit of research on transgenderism in youths, and the results are troubling to say the least.

For starters, transgenderism can often be traced back to what psychiatrists call gender dysphoria (formerly known as gender identity disorder), which is the emotional stress caused by the failure to identify with one's biological sex. While gender dysphoria is not considered a mental illness in the psychological literature, it is considered an objective condition of gender/sex misalignment.

Objective misalignment is not a good thing. It's painful, unhealthy and needs intervention to produce a healthy result.

Contrary to President Obama's directive, the socially and emotionally painful confusion felt by children with gender dysphoria is not something to exacerbate by forcing the child to publicly declare himself or herself transgendered and act accordingly by using the restroom facilities of the opposite sex. In that case, not only is the child wrestling with his or her own internal misalignment, but they are also now forced externally into all sorts of awkward and potentially dangerous situations.

Given this reality, it is obvious that the loving and helpful thing to do in these cases is to as quickly as possible help the confused child gain a healthy view of their biological sex so that their sex and gender are rightly aligned. What our students need today is not more "hands off" autonomy when it comes to these incredibly important issues but guidance, support and positive, clinically sound intervention to help them make healthy life choices — including aligning their gender and biological sex into an integrated whole.

But can't this gender/sex alignment happen more easily via sexual reassignment surgery (SRS)? Why go through all the difficult emotional, psychological and even spiritual work of helping these youth rightly align their gender and sex when surgery can solve the problem? After all, if you can't change the gender you identify with, why not surgically manipulate your biological sex?

There are several reasons. First of all, sex replacement surgery has been inconclusive at best in improving overall well-being of transgendered individuals. In a 2015 study reported from Boston, 180 transsexual youths who had undergone SRS had a twofold to threefold increased risk of psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, self-harm, and both inpatient and outpatient mental health treatment compared to a control group of youths.

Other studies have similar findings. Not exactly stellar results. Indeed, even if the research is inconclusive that SRS is the sole cause of post-SRS pathology, if it's even plausible that SRS is at the root of these pathologies, it ought to give us long pause about recommending this as a solution for children.

Dr. Paul McHugh, one of the foremost experts in gender confusion in youths and former chair of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital, writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2014 summed it up nicely when he said, "In fact, gender dysphoria — the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex — belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder. Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction," Well said.

The point here is this: We owe it to our nation's students to be proactive in helping them make healthy choices about aligning their gender-identification and biological sex. SRS is a risky option. Going along with students' confusion is not a good option.

The best option is to pursue clinically sound interventions and therapies that help children self-identify with their biological sex. Changing the gender icons on bathroom stalls and ignoring sensible school policies that require biological boys to use the boy's restroom and biological girls to use the girl's restroom is a significant step backward.

We can do much better. For the kids' sake.

Joe Gerber, who lives in Mahomet, has more than 15 years of experience working with organizations serving vulnerable and at-risk youths both in the United States and internationally.

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Fridayschild wrote on September 18, 2016 at 3:09 pm

This opinion piece starts out benignly enough, with the exception of the tilte. Young trans children (or any age for that matter) are not confused about anything, with possibly the exception of why they are not allowed to live who they feel their authentic lives are.

First off, young children do not have gender surgery, nor are they given hormone treatment. This is not necessary until they reach puberty, and even then are only prescribed puberty blocking hormones which give them an opportunity to be sure of their cross-gender feelings without going through body changes which are dificult to reverse later. Ending blocking hormones and allowing puberty to procede is not harmful in any way. Secondly, NO CHILD undergoes surgery. It is required they have had years of therapy, necessary hormone therapy and have a reached an age where it is a certainty their  cross-gender perception of themselves is actual before any other action takes place to affirm their gender sel-perception.

Third, regret of surgery for gender change is no higher than regret for any other surgery. The fact that there may remain a higher than average incidence of suicidal ideation, and attempts is due to misunderstanding by society at large, including the misinformation shown in this opinion letter.

Joe Gerber prensents himself as some kind of expert in the field of gender therapy and theory, but in actuality has a religious agenda attached to his opinion.Maybe Mr. Gerber should stick to preaching whatever his brand of faith is, and leave medical decisions to medical professionals.

Commonsenseman wrote on September 25, 2016 at 8:09 am

they do give kids hormone thereapy, I saw it on i am jazz a tv show about a kid, and Jazz was geting hormones

Mr Dreamy wrote on September 19, 2016 at 8:09 am

The best option is to pursue clinically sound interventions and therapies that help children self-identify with their biological sex.


That is illegal in many states, Illinois included.

Fridayschild wrote on September 19, 2016 at 11:09 am

Mr Dreamy wrote:

"The best option is to pursue clinically sound interventions and therapies that help children self-identify with their biological sex.

That is illegal in many states, Illinois included."

There is a reason it has been made illegal. It does not work, and in most cases is ultimately harmful. There are numerous scientific, peer-reviewed studies which prove this. It is akin to attempting to convince someone they don't have have cancer, instead of treating the cancer with appropriate medically proven treatment. 

Tariq Khan wrote on September 19, 2016 at 4:09 pm

This article is wrong-headed and harmful. The author works for a Christian missionary organization and has absolutely no expertise to be writing on such matters. It is irresponsible and dishonest of the News-Gazette to identify the author as some kind of child welfare expert, without being upfront about the fact that his ideas are informed not by solid research, but by religious ideology. The author does not work for a group that advocates for the interests of LGBTQ youth, but rather he works for a right-wing Christian organization called Loving Shepherd Ministries which has an anti-LGBTQ agenda. I would say I expected better from the News Gazette, but sadly, I did not expect better. 

Thom Schnarre wrote on September 19, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Mr. Gerber's assertion that a transgender child can be "guided" to accept his or her biological gender is both mind-numbingly naive and medically inaccurate.  He fails to acknowledge his affiliation with "ministries" which seems insecure at best and willfully misleading at worst.  There's a harmful agenda here which should be monitored by a responsible publication like the News Gazette.

The APA recommends a therapeutic approach to addressing gender disphoria.  Other treatements are recommended after therapeutic observations.  To pretend that children with gender disphoria can be lead back to accepting their biology as their identity demonstrates a lack of basic understand of this condition.  The vague implication of this guest columnist is what the Church has offered alternative sexual and gender orientations for far too long.  The process belittles and humiliates an individual into not acknowledging their identity.   It "teaches" normative behavior at the expense of mental health.  It is medically unsound, psychologically damaging, and in 2016 laws protect us from these abuses.  It is clear that Mr. Gerber has never interacted with a trans individual in any meaningful way.  It's also clear that his advice is misleading and harmful to parents and families of these individuals.  What is unclear is why the News Gazette gave these dated and out of touch views a forum.

TinYtIm wrote on September 20, 2016 at 4:09 am

This is a horrible article and it's even more horrible that you would publish it. Shame on Friday the NG. Conversion therapy is illegal for a reason. Also, the author has clearly never had a real interaction with anyone different than himself for... ever in his life it seems. Sad. Sad. Sad. And dumb.

7lw7 wrote on September 20, 2016 at 4:09 pm

It says a lot about a newspaper when the comments section is more accurate and informative than the article.

Champaignman42o wrote on September 21, 2016 at 9:09 pm

How on earth does something like this get past the editors. Wow NG you officially crossed over to right wing propaganda trash news. 

morality over relativity wrote on September 22, 2016 at 12:09 pm

Any parent with any common sense at all will guide their children in the way they should go.    If God makes a child a boy then that child is in fact and truth a boy.   If God makes a child a girl then that child is in fact and truth a girl.    It is the ultimate slap in God's face to think that somehow we know better than Him when it comes to our gender identity.........whatever He has made us is what He intends for us to be.    If a child somehow gets confused about this then a good parent will gently redirect the child back towards what God has already created that child to be..........period.     This is the most loving and responsible thing that a parent could do.    To believe that a child can figure this stuff out without the guidance of a parent is ridiculous at best.    Why in the world did God allow us to be parents in the first place?     To give glory to Jesus Christ our Savior and to raise God fearing children!!!      You can watch a free movie on to see exactly how Christians love all the LBGTQ community and because of that love we cannot be silent........

cgirl wrote on September 22, 2016 at 4:09 pm

Except god doesn't make anyone anything. If God exists, she gave us free will.

Also, no one else should be able to decide someone else's self identity. That goes against both the idea of self and identity.

rsp wrote on September 22, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Why in the world did God allow us to be parents in the first place?

I really don't think it was to over-rule His creation, do you? He made the kids that way, who the heck are we to try and make them something they can't be? Kids are dying because parents can't accept the way that God made them. We are supposed to love them and send them out into the world.

morality over relativity wrote on September 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm

The Bible tells us very clearly that in the beginning God made them male and female.   He did not make any mistakes in that.    He has made us exactly what sex He intended for us to be.    It is not "over - ruling His creation to tell our children exactly what God says in His word about these issues.    The best way anyone could love their child is to tell them GOD'S TRUTH!!     No matter what political correctness or society says, I know that obeying God's word, turning away from everything that He says is sinful, and trusting in His Son Jesus Christ to wash away our sins is the one and only way to Heaven.........every other way leads to hell.    Therefore to encourage a child to commit sin against God by telling God that He somehow got their gender wrong and that we as humans somehow know more than God would be the most UNLOVING thing that a God fearing parent could ever do.    He is the Creator and the Judge of the universe so we would do good to pay heed to His ways and not this world's twisted thinking on matters with such eternal implications.

cgirl wrote on September 23, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Which god? You've got to be more specific: it's not like there's only one set of gods...

morality over relativity wrote on September 24, 2016 at 12:09 pm

I felt like I was very specific in both of my previous comments, but I don't mind restating it here..........Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior!!


As for there being other sets of gods, they can't all be right.   Jesus Christ stated very clearly that He alone is "the way, the truth, and the life"........... and I choose to believe what He says.


If you are truly interested in seeing what I believe I offered two websites in the previous comments which I don't mind restating them here for you......   (this is a free movie you can watch online)     (this is a quick test which will ultimately show why I am so passionate about what I believe-----heaven or hell is at stake for each and every individual on this planet........including you)

Thanks for listening!!

cgirl wrote on September 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm

So, by your own admission, your god isn't my god.  Hence you should not be able to set laws based on your religious beliefs, while ignoring my own.

Since I don't believe in hell, your proofs doesn't mean anything to me.

morality over relativity wrote on September 24, 2016 at 10:09 pm

I believe my God could become your God and that He wants to be your God.   I am sad that He isn't yet........


As to "setting laws based on religious belief" ---- I don't ever recall mentioning anything about that -------   I am merely suggesting that parents handle questions from their children with just some regular old fashioned common sense (see previous comments above)


As to the comment that you don't believe in hell -----  What if a person tells you or me that He/She doesn't believe in gravity ------  their belief alone doesn't get rid of the fact that gravity exists ------  therefore, if they were about to jump off of a building either you or I would hopefully try to convince them with everything that we are to not do it because there will be serious consequences ---------- In the same way, I am trying to convince you and any others that will listen that hell is real and that we are all going to have to stand before God when we die and give account for what we did with our lives.     Please keep in mind my motivation --- if I am wrong I have nothing to lose, but if you are wrong you have everything to lose (your eternal soul, for which I happen to care deeply about).     May God bless you and I hope you have an excellent night!!