How Can I Help My Teen with Gender Identity Issues?


teen gender identity issues lg

I won’t lie. I have 2 teen daughters struggling with gender identity. One doesn’t take a hard stance and seems to be OK with taking a wait-and-see approach. But my oldest is constantly labeling herself non-binary and frequently changing the pronouns she wants to be called. So how can I help my teen with gender identity issues?

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Parents can help teens with gender identity issues by listening, loving them unconditionally, but providing them the facts about gender which they likely aren’t hearing on social media or from friends. Parents should not blindly accept a change of gender, but also shouldn’t force them to be a certain way.

But it’s not really nearly that simple.

So in this article, we’ll look at the facts surrounding true gender dysphoria. And we’ll see how that differs from what’s really going on with today’s youth, which to me, seem obsessed with labels about both gender and sexual orientation.

And we’ll talk about some proven do’s and don’ts regarding what to do if this is happening in your house.

Think your daughter’s confusion is a sign of a bigger problem?

While gender confusion and self-discovery are common for teens, sometimes it’s something more and they may need professional help to work through this challenging time.

Luckily the folks over at TeenCounseling work with thousands of kids just like yours and mine.

Get matched with licensed therapists who specialize in working with teens. Let them know of the issues and signs you’re seeing. Once you approve, you connect them with your child for online therapy they can access right on a smartphone or computer.

And, of course, they’ll let you know if they sense anything serious.

CLICK HERE to check out TeenCounseling and see if it might be worth considering for your family’s peace of mind!

Is it normal for teens to struggle with gender identity?

It is becoming more and more popular and common for tweens and teens to obsess with gender labels and switch gender identities or pronouns. That doesn’t mean it’s normal, but it has become commonplace.

My teen daughters have dozens of friends and acquaintances collectively.

And I bet that easily 60% of them (all girls) now claim to be one of the following:

  • Gender fluid (they feel free to identify as one gender or the other at will)
  • Non-binary (they believe they are neither 100% one gender nor the other)
  • Agender (they don’t identify as any gender)
  • Cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender of their birth)
  • Demigender (only partially identify with one particular gender)

And a host of other made-up terms.

If I sound frustrated, it’s because I am. Gender isn’t something we choose. It’s something we are born with. And I don’t care if a man wants to love another man or a woman, or the same for women. But I don’t just get to wake up one day, switch my pronouns to they/them, and call myself gender fluid on a whim.

I’m a guy. And nothing I say will change that.

Can non-binary be a phase?

Non-binary is a made-up term and has been discredited by the man who first claimed to be non-binary. So it is most definitely a phase and a trend that is not rooted in any real science or medical issue and can very much be a phase.

The danger, of course, is that the longer a teen (or adult) holds on to an image, the more likely it is to stick.

As they say, “fake it, ’till you make it”. And if you do something long enough, eventually you’ll believe it and won’t know the difference.

I had an interesting discussion the other day with my oldest daughter.

She was criticizing a woman named Oli London who identifies as “nonbinary Korean”. This woman even went so far as to have plastic surgery to make her look Korean. But she was born in England and is not of Korean ancestry.

My daughter was criticizing her claiming that “you can’t just decide you want to be a different race than what you were born”. I, of course, reminded her that really wasn’t all that different than deciding to be a different gender than what you were born.

I didn’t sway her with my logic, but it did give her something to think about.

Of course, going back a few years, we also had the case of Rachel Dolezal, the ex-NAACP leader who was white but “identified” as black.

They even created the term “transracial” to describe her.

In short, we are all born a certain way, and while we can empathize with a culture, race, gender that is different from our own, and even move to an area to indoctrinate ourselves with that cultural aspect, we don’t get to just switch from what we were born just because we feel like it.

Like Lady Gaga says we were “born this way”.

So who invented the term non-binary?

James Shupe was the first person to use the term non-binary. He was physically and sexually abused as a child and first came out as trans in 2013, then non-binary in 2016. However, by 2019 he reverted to being male and has since called the term non-binary “psychologically harmful legal fiction.”

So non-binary was a term made up by a guy who was sexually abused and very confused.

It’s not a real term used by science or medicine. Shupe claims he was experiencing psychosis when he opted for the term non-binary and later felt he was pushed and encouraged by therapists who were too concerned about political correctness and LGTBQ backlash if they didn’t 100% support his psychotic views.

So make no mistake. The guy who made up the term is very much opposed to the concept. And we, as caring parents, should be too. Read his whole story, in his own words, here.

That doesn’t mean we can’t love our kids, even if they do identify as non-binary.

But we can still love them and support them and disagree with them. And as parents, as always, it’s our job to educate them.

They may not agree with us. And they may even get mad or think we’re somehow bigoted (which we are not) for not buying into a made-up term that has since been disowned by the guy who created it.

But we can’t just hide our heads in the sand out of political correctness either.

What does it mean if my daughter is non-binary?

A daughter who is non-binary believes she is neither 100% male or female. Technically it is part of the larger category of transgendered, although there are many trans people and non-binary people who reject that.

So it may mean that she sometimes dresses like a boy (not unlike what we called tomboys when I was a kid).

But other times, like my oldest daughter, she may wear fake eyelashes and tons of makeup. So it’s really all over the place. She may also reject the pronouns of her and she, favoring instead they/them.

Of course, some non-binary kids want hormones to chemically alter their feelings about their birth gender.

As parents, it’s critical that we avoid doing that. Once they turn 18, they’re free to pursue that. But really up until the age of 25, their brains are still very much developing, and it’s tragic to alter their natural development prior to that with chemicals or surgery.

But some misguided parents still persist in doing that.

Why are there so many labels now for gender and sexual orientation?

Tweens and teens are obsessed with labels for gender and sexual orientation. Essentially, they are coming up with labels for every possible variation that can be thought of, as it’s a way of feeling a part of something rather than feeling alone and isolated with the normal teenage hormonal confusion.

But in the days and years following 2020 and the lockdowns, it is also a way of controlling something when so much about our kid’s lives were totally out of their control.

I already covered some of the possible gender terms above kids these days are using. But again, those are:

  • Gender fluid (they feel free to identify as one gender or the other at will)
  • Non-binary (they believe they are neither 100% one gender nor the other)
  • Agender (they don’t identify as any gender)
  • Cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender of their birth)
  • Demigender (only partially identify with one particular gender)

And here are some of the sexual orientation terms also being thrown around:

  • Asexual (not being sexually attracted to anyone of any gender)
  • Bisexual (being attracted to both men and women)
  • Gay (men who are attracted only to other men)
  • Lesbian (women who are attracted only to other women)
  • Pansexual (kind of like bisexual, but they don’t believe there are just 2 genders)
  • Questioning (those who are undecided about their sexuality)

It’s enough to make your head spin!

Of course, when I was a kid there were men and women and gays, lesbians, and straights. That’s it. 5 terms. I didn’t know about trans back then, although certainly true gender dysphoria and hermaphrodites were around.

But the only excuse for how many labels there are today and how much the media and social media, in particular, is pushing this agenda is the obvious goal of destroying the so-called nuclear family.

That puts us as caring parents, in a crucial position. And we can’t just sit back and hope for the best.

Can gender confusion be a phase?

Gender confusion can be a phase unless it is a case of true gender dysphoria or hermaphroditism. The media, social media, and peer pressure at school all have an impact on teens’ ability to see themselves and their own views on gender and sexuality.

So it can very much be a phase they will grow out of.

But as I said above, there’s also the issue of doing it for so long they don’t know how to go back without disappointing their friend group or feeling like a phony.

So we as parents have a crucial role.

We have to support them and love them unconditionally. But we also owe them to always be honest with them and to tell the truth. Just like when they were 4 and we worked with them on reading and spelling, we still have to educate them.

They just talk back more now. But we can’t stop just because it gets difficult or unpopular.

How many people have gender dysphoria?

Approximately 1.7 million people on Earth have gender dysphoria. For men, that is 1 person out of every 3,800 people, and for women, that is 1 person out of every 5,200 people.

(source)

It’s also worth noting that that same study showed a 20% increase between 1980 and 2015.

But what it does mean, given most of us know maybe 100 people, is that no one reading this should know more than 1 person with a true gender identity issue.

And yet among my daughter’s friends, I can count a dozen probably.

That tells me that something else is going on aside from true gender dysphoria. It’s also interesting that the study showed a 20% increase from 1980. That’s not in total numbers which would make sense as the overall population increases.

No, that’s a 20% increase in the percentage of people who have it.

So why is it increasing rapidly? Well, as with autism rates, we don’t have a clear answer. We just have questions and conspiracy theories.

But what is true and undisputed is that our exposure to EDCs (Endocrine-disrupting chemicals) has risen significantly.

And a study published by US National Library of Medicine showed that “high-level fetal exposures to known EDCs . . . is associated with gender-related effects”. 

They go on to note that:

“These chemicals mimic hormones, and can disrupt differentiation and development in a wide variety of ways, by duplicating, exaggerating, blocking, or altering hormonal responses.”

And those exposed to “pesticides including DDT and DDEβ€”have been shown to have been β€œfeminized.””

For me, as someone who worked for 20+ years for Whole Foods Market and is naturally skeptical against chemicals and pesticides, this isn’t surprising.

But I bet it is for many of you. And remember, that study is published on a US government website; not some backwoods conspiracy nut’s website.

So what are EDC’s?

According to hormone.org, “Some EDCs act like “hormone mimics” and trick our body into thinking that they are hormones, while other EDCs block natural hormones from doing their job.”

Common places to find it which make their way into households every day include:

  • DDT (pesticide banned worldwide in 2004)
  • Glyphosate (sprayed on non-organic wheat)
  • Atrazine (sprayed on non-organic corn)
  • BPA (used in plastic wrap and plastic bottles)
  • Perfluorochemicals (used in microwave popcorn bags)
  • Triclosan (used in some toothpaste and anti-bacterial soap)
  • Phthalates (used in body care products and sunscreen

So as you can see, many of us use these products every day.

But what is the role, if any, these products and our increasing use of them, have on the fact that our teens are now more and more obsessed with gender labels, changing genders, and altering their natural biological existence?

Again, questions but no real answers. But good food for thought.

Is gender dysphoria the same as gender confusion?

No. Gender dysphoria is not the same as gender confusion. Gender dysphoria refers to a medical condition where someone was truly born in the biological body of the opposite gender from what they truly feel. Gender confusion can come about from peer pressure and social media pressure and can change.

So in short, someone with true gender dysphoria may feel from a very young age that they were supposed to be the opposite gender. And while they may self-medicate in adulthood to numb their pain, they don’t ever stop feeling that way.

And many, but not all, will take hormones and/or seek surgical treatments to transition to the gender they believe themselves to be.

Gender confusion, which is what is affecting many teens and tweens right now is more about wanting to fit in, not wanting to be ostracized, and buying into an agenda being pushed by the media and social media.

And while not all will grow out of this “phase”, many will.

Final thoughts

Ultimately I love my daughters no matter what they want to be called.

And no label or pronoun is going to change that. That being said, they are girls. And unless someone was born a hermaphrodite (where portions of both sex organs are present at birth), gender is not actually fluid and you are either a boy or a girl.

If someone wants to call themselves the other, hey; it’s a free country. 

But that doesn’t change reality. And I think when we as parents and the media try and alter that reality for the sake of political correctness, we’re really doing our kids a huge disservice.

We can hold to what we know is true and love our kids unconditionally at the same time. Remember, unconditional love doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they believe.

Think your daughter’s confusion is a sign of a bigger problem?

While gender confusion and self-discovery are common for teens, sometimes it’s something more and they may need professional help to work through this challenging time.

Luckily the folks over at TeenCounseling work with thousands of kids just like yours and mine.

Get matched with licensed therapists who specialize in working with teens. Let them know of the issues and signs you’re seeing. Once you approve, you connect them with your child for online therapy they can access right on a smartphone or computer.

And, of course, they’ll let you know if they sense anything serious.

CLICK HERE to check out TeenCounseling and see if it might be worth considering for your family’s peace of mind!

 


Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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