Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gender Identity Disorder in Children: Nature or Nurture?

The American Psychiatric Association calls it gender identity disorder in children.  Those in the GayBiLes (GBL, er LGBT, er LGBTQ, er LGBTQIA... Isn't anyone concerned they are running out of letters for this group?) calls it transgender identity.  But, whatever you choose to call it, the recent disclosure that the parents of a 6-year-old boy are suing their Colorado school for not letting him use the girls restroom has created a lot of controversy.

Some say the child suffers from a real medical condition.  Critics blame the parents, saying they've bordered on outright abuse by allowing their child to indulge their every fantasy.  Like so many things, everyone has their own opinion on the subject.  But, what does science have to say about it?  Is transgender identity a real medical condition?

According to Jack Drescher, a NY psychiatrist who specializes in transgender identity, there is very little scientific evidence to support indulging a child's desire to live life as the opposite sex.[1]   Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a Tronto child psychologist says that gender identity disorder in children is a phase most outgrow. [2]  Edgardo Menvielle, who counsels children suffering from gender identity disorder at Children’s National Medical Center in DC, estimates that more than 80% of transgender kids end up identifying back with their biological gender. [2]

With virtually no scientific evidence in existence to support transgender identity, we can only be left with a psychological cause.  Yet, parents of these kids are turning more and more to medical solutions to this problem, typically giving their children hormone therapy or in more extreme cases, surgery.

Dr. Zucker conducted a study of 109 boy ranging in ages 3 to 12 who are suffering from gender identity disorder.  By age 20, only 12% of study participants wanted to continue identifying as female [3].  Had the other 88% of the children had parents who indulged their early childhood desires by utilizing hormone therapy or worse, they would have irreparably damaged their child's welfare.

Perhaps there is something we can learn about transgender identity disorder by examining another disorder, transracial identity.

Transracial identity, much like transgender identity, occurs when the subject self-identifies with a race other than their own.  In one case a middle-aged black man discovered after taking a DNA to learn about his heritage that he wasn't black.  As he discovered to his utter shock, he was 100% native American.  He had lived his entire life believing he was black, his parents did the same.  They chose to live in predominantly black communities and were just as involved in black culture as any biological black person.

What this story tells us is that the mans racial identity was not something that was a genetic disorder, but a socialization issue.  Nurture versus nature.  He was raised to be black, he was never instructed otherwise, and as such he "became" black.  Can the same be said of children suffering from transgender identity disorder?  The alarmingly high number of children that end up reverting back to the normal, biological identification of their own gender suggests that is likely the case.

If the parents of the little 6-year-old boy in Colorado prevail in their lawsuit, one can only wonder when transracial identity sufferers will begin suing cities, states, and universities over affirmative action controversies  like the one that recently occurred in Austin, Texas.

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