Pastoral Resources on Transgender Issues

The latest issue of Affinity's Social Issues Bulletin is out now. It is free to download, as are all previous editions. One of the articles, by Carys Moseley, looks at what help is still available for people with gender confusion problems, despite official attempts to close down such provision:

As the incidence of diagnosis of gender dysphoria and other gender identity disorders, and of people declaring themselves to be “transgendered” in some way, has risen, the matter of pastoral care for these issues has become more pressing. In this brief article I shall outline what Christian resources are available. I shall then explain the situation in the United Kingdom, which is that there isn’t at present a Christian ministry explicitly devoted to these problems, partly due to the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK. Pastors and lay Christians alike need to understand the effect that this has had, given that the Memorandum could be weaponised by government stooges to target churches that do offer pastoral help.

Pastoral resources for transgender problems 

In the USA there is a very good Christian ministry for people battling with gender confusion and their relatives called Help 4 Families (http://www.help4families.com). Help 4 Families is run by Denise Shick, who is the daughter of a now-deceased male-to-female transgender father. It offers support groups in the USA but also online, prayer support, webinars and events. Denise Shick has authored several books of personal testimonies and pastoral advice and support aimed at healing and restoration of those afflicted by gender confusion. Her family-based approach is excellent as it takes into consideration the fact that some family members may also start to be tempted to identify as members of the opposite sex if one person “comes out” as transgendered. Help 4 Families is part of the ex-LGBT ministries organisation Restored Hope Network. It has good links with churches and Christian para-church organisations as well as professional therapists, counsellors and psychiatrists.

As gender dysphoria has historically been classified as a psychiatric disorder, ideally churches should try to work with competent mental health professionals to help a sufferer. However, as transgender campaigners are increasingly persuading governments to depathologise gender dysphoria (despite still demanding that taxes for healthcare pay for sex-change/gender reassignment surgery and cross-sex hormones), professionals are either staying silent or have to work secretly or outside mainstream organisations.

The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (http://www.iftcc.org) has therapists and counsellors in different countries who are willing to help those with gender confusion and who wish to be helped to live as members of their biological sex.

Those who find themselves in a situation of pastoral care for a person struggling with gender confusion should acquaint themselves with the literature on the subject in Christian ethics, as well as older publications in psychiatry and psychotherapy.[1] The reason for the latter is that by now very little clinical research on crucial questions such as causes and comorbidities of gender dysphoria and related gender identity disorders is being conducted in the United Kingdom. The most accessible, comprehensive overview for psychotherapy and psychiatry is the work of the French psychotherapist Colette Chiland, which has been translated into English.[2] She refused to refer patients for sex-change surgery and cross-sex hormones, as it was clear to her that their problems were psychological. She deals with the problems of both adults and children. Her bibliography is also standard, and she gives a thorough assessment of the different debates that have taken place among mental health professionals over time. Other psychotherapists tending not to favour physical treatments who have written insightful contributions can also be found still in print.[3]

On psychotherapy for children and adolescents, still the main resource for helping them to live as members of their sex is the work of Kenneth J. Zucker and Susan J. Bradley, formerly from the gender identity clinic for children and adolescents in Toronto, Canada.[4] However, as with the works previously mentioned, these are now dated and won’t refer to the recent phenomenon of people wanting to “transition” without having surgery (i.e. only use cross-sex hormones, or focus more on cross-dressing and insisting that everybody use their preferred cross-gender persona pronouns), nor will they be dealing with the trend for “non-binary” identification, where people refuse to be known as members of their sex or the opposite sex.

Moral shortcomings of secular resources

The most conspicuous contemporary trend is that of the increase in girls being referred to gender identity clinics due to gender confusion. A whole new feminist movement has sprung up to criticise and oppose this trend.[5] Whilst much of its literature is serious in its attempt to be rigorously scientific and to uncover the psychological and social assumptions made by the transgender movement, it is important that Christians also not take on all of its work uncritically either. For example, it has very little to say about the fact that there has also been a rise in boys being referred to gender identity clinics, and what it has to say is often unwise, e.g. suggesting that boys cross-dressing is harmless fun, when in reality it is not, and cross-dressing is clearly prohibited for both sexes in the Bible (Deuteronomy 22; 1 Corinthians 11).

The other problematic aspect of feminist criticism is that it tends to assume that many, perhaps most, teenagers referred to gender identity clinics are same-sex attracted underneath. Feminist and other secular critics of gender reassignment for teenagers tend to assume that the transgender movement is targeting teenagers who would otherwise “come out” as gay or lesbian, and thus accuses the transgender movement of homophobia. I have provided a critical rebuttal of this claim in my discussion of Lisa Littman’s research on so-called “Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria” in the UK and USA.[6] First, the available data does not enable the categorical claim that most teenagers are going down the transgender path to validate same-sex attraction. The samples involved are snowball samples of parents reporting on behalf of teenage children, not representative samples from gender identity clinics or Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Second, the obvious question then is why would a teenager with same-sex attraction also be referred to a gender identity clinic? I have shown how, in the same sample, most parents had affirmative views towards same-sex marriage and would have brought their children up likewise, so there is no good reason to think that these children would be trying to avoid “coming out” to avoid parental disapproval of homosexuality. What is however possible is that some teenagers simply feel uneasy with their own same-sex attraction because it is at odds with the natural form of the human body, but given that all mental health professionals in the UK have been prohibited from offering therapy to diminish unwanted same-sex attraction, they have no way of being heard by either their parents or physicians.

The effect of the prohibition on “conversion therapy” in the United Kingdom

This brings us to the need for Christians supporting those with gender confusion and working towards healing to get to grips with the prohibition on so-called “conversion therapy” imposed upon all the mental health organisations in the United Kingdom. There is a need to assess the principles behind the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the United Kingdom along with the claims made by the government in its push to ban such therapy. The second version of the Memorandum was published in October 2017 and added “gender identity” to same-sex sexual attraction.

Professional judgment and personal preferences denied 

The Memorandum defines conversion therapy as:

… an umbrella term for a therapeutic approach, or any model or individual viewpoint that demonstrates an assumption that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.

This means that a therapist or counsellor who is a member of any of the mental health professional bodies who have signed this Memorandum must not offer a client help to dissolve or deconstruct a transgendered self-identity in favour of helping a client develop an identity more fitting with their sex, such as a man ceasing to identify as a woman and developing his identity as a man, and similarly for a woman.

Professionals are not even allowed to hold that some gender identities are preferable to others. This amounts to thought-control of mental health professionals, something that completely undermines the whole ethos of modern mental healthcare, and which is more akin to the abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union. It is especially damaging to psychiatrists, who are required to have medical training initially, as it forces them to ignore the radical and unhealthy disassociation from the body that is central to gender dysphoria. Perhaps this is why the Royal College of Psychiatrists did not sign this second version of the Memorandum.

If the client disagrees with the therapist, who is right? Clients are being denied the right to access treatment that helps them pursue and realise their own personal life goals, such as resolving gender confusion successfully and aiming to develop identity in a manner fitting with their sex as opposed to being contrary to it.

Transgender activism central to government aim of “ending conversion therapy” 

A group called Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility met with officials from the Government Equalities Office in July 2019 and have published notes from that meeting which can be accessed at http://www.pcsr.org.uk/report-arising-from-meeting-with-equalities-office-july-2019/.

The PCSR expressed concern that the government’s LGBT Panel, which is currently concerning itself with supporting “research” to try to aid its aim to “end conversion therapy in the UK”, has no therapists or counsellors on it. (There isn’t a single psychiatrist either.) No comment has been made by the GEO about this, but it does reflect very badly on it. To make things worse, journalists have noted that the Panel is largely made up of transgender rights activists and allies. This confirms what the Memorandum of Understanding already exhibits, namely an ideological undermining of serious and responsible mental healthcare.

The notes also reveal that the Government Equalities Office is targeting children in the care system, teenagers and the elderly in its efforts. Here is what is recorded, paraphrasing the Government Equalities Office officials:

The Equalities Office are collecting data to build an evidence base so that they can signpost or help build solutions: Who’s doing it, why, who does it impact, how are elderly people, younger people and people in social care impacted, what services exist to refer people who have been impacted by CT?

This is important because carers and social workers as well as counsellors in schools would therefore be key targets. Why would the LGBT Panel be particularly concerned about elderly people and young people in the social care system? The answer is that transgender activists have realised that care workers are not favourably disposed to transgender ideology, and that people with dementia are reverting naturally to identifying as members of their sex. As for young people in the social care system, this “concern” is far more sinister and needs to be probed relentlessly. The admittedly inadequate data that there is on the children referred to the GIDS since its inception in 1989, shows that they were three times more likely to have come from broken homes.

Help to be free of gender confusion has gone underground

As readers can see, this article is not written or structured in a normal fashion. There is no one Christian ministry in the UK that is focussed exclusively on helping people to be free of gender confusion, because this kind of work has been taken underground. The reason is obvious – the climate of calling anything critical of transgender or LGBT philosophies as “hateful” and “harmful”. We already know that churches and faith-based organisations are being targeted by the GEO on this issue. Now we also know that the caring professions more broadly are being targeted. This puts Christian work with children, young people and the elderly at particular risk. Those in ministry must therefore work hard to understand the social, policy and legal climate and how it is impacting mental healthcare, free speech and religious freedom. This is essential in order to figure out who can be of help, and in which setting. Those with pastoral responsibilities and vocations need to realise that an unknown number of very vulnerable people with varying degrees of gender confusion who need help are being seriously let down by this “conversion therapy” ban, along with their families.

What is needed is people who have the courage to break out of the silence that has befallen society and develop good pastoral resources for people who are living in the UK today.

Carys Moseley is a policy researcher for Christian Concern and also works part-time as Church and Society Liaison Officer for the Presbyterian Church of Wales.

(This article was originally published in the Affinity Social Issues Bulletin for February 2020. The whole edition can be found at www.affinity.org.uk)



[1] Oliver O’Donovan, Transsexualism: Issues and Argument, Cambridge: Grove Booklets, 1982; Evangelical Alliance, Transsexuality, London: Evangelical Alliance, 2000. Lisa Nolland et al, The New Normal: The Transgender Agenda, London: Wilberforce Publications, 2018; Sharon James, Gender Ideology: What do Christians need to know, Fearn: Christian Focus Publications, 2019; The Christian Institute, Transsexualism, http://www.christian.org.uk /resource/transsexualism-briefing.
[2] Colette Chiland, Transsexualism: Illusion and Reality, London: Continuum, 2003.
[3] Giovanna Ambrosio (ed.), Transvestism, Transsexualism in the Psychoanalytic Dimension, London: Karnach Books, 2009. One of the authors in this collection is Estella V. Welldon, who used to work as a therapist with young adults with gender identity problems at the Portman Clinic in London. Az Hakeem used to run group therapy for people who regretted undergoing sex-change surgery at the Portman Clinic. He writes about this in Az Hakeem, “Trans-sexuality: A case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’”, in David Morgan and Stanley Ruszczynski (eds.), Lectures on Violence, Perversion and Delinquency, London: Karnach Books, 2007. He described how colleagues who worked with violent sex offenders could not cope with hearing him talk about his own clients who now regretted having undergone castration and other forms of mutilation of healthy body parts in pursuit of their transsexual fantasies.
[4] Kenneth J. Zucker and Susan J. Bradley, Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents, New York: The Guildford Press, 1995.
[5] The main secular feminist resource to help parents and teenagers is http://www.transgendertrend.org.
[6] https://christianconcern.com/comment/what-might-cause-rapid-onset-gender-dysphoria/


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