The Montesano City Council recently voted to pass a transgender policy allowing children to use the bathroom of their preferred gender rather than their biological gender. The Montesano School Superintendent, who supported the policy, sent a video to the school board members featuring a deaf, transgender child the hope of encouraging them to support the new policy. The video can be found below. Caleb Backholm is a member of the Montesano School Board and wrote this response to the Superintendent. Caleb Backholm is also the brother of FPIW executive director Joseph Backholm.
Thanks for sending this out. I did find it to be an interesting story. It raises several points that we discussed and I debated whether to respond or not. But obviously, I have decided to go ahead and send you my thoughts. This story lays out a couple of interesting points though that serve to illustrate why I voted against the measure.
The first reason though isn’t addressed in the video, that boys and girls are different and should be treated differently when appropriate. Allowing a child to self-identify their gender will create an unsafe environment in the bathrooms and locker rooms. I am very strongly opposed to my children sharing a locker room with members of the opposite sex. Beyond that, this policy will threaten the viability of girl’s sports. Many girls will be forced out of sports for competitive reasons if we fail to properly discriminate based on gender.
The second reason though runs deeper and is of an even greater concern to me.
At the beginning of the story, the girl asks the question, “Why did God make me like this?” The question isn’t answered in the video, but there were two distinct problems that she had. One, she was deaf, and two, her mind and body were incongruent in regards to her gender. Part of why this particular story is so interesting is that the parents tried to solve the two problems in opposite ways, as I’ll describe.
The answer to the question she asked, is that God didn’t make her like that. She wasn’t designed to be deaf. She was human, with ears, and was designed to hear. We live in a world of decay and sometimes we don’t work as designed. So here we see the parents made efforts to restore her to the way she was designed to function. The cochlear implants enabled her to hear and that was wonderful.
But she had another problem. She wanted to be a boy rather than a girl. Set aside the issue that 5 years old is far too young to try to make a determination like that. There is almost no functional, practical difference between a boy and a girl at five, and this girl had no idea what they were. Sure, boys tend to be more rambunctious and girls tend to play with dolls more, but the significant, relevant differences between the sexes don’t show up until during and after puberty.
Be that at is it may, the parents made efforts again to fix a problem — this issue of her body being one gender and her mind the other. Here the problem I have with this issue starts to emerge. The video gives the impression that the reason they did this is that they wanted the child to be happy. That seems good on the surface, but it’s not a good goal. Seeking happiness is unwise, but seems to be the only concern of the parents. I think even getting the hearing aids was probably done with wrong motives, so that the child would be happy. But that’s not good reasoning. The reason to get hearing aids should be to do what you were designed to do – hear, in this case. It would certainly make her happier, at least at first, but that is a pleasant side affect, not the goal.
If happiness is the goal, most children would choose to not go to school. They would be happier at home playing, at least for now. If happiness is the goal, drug addicts will use drugs. It makes them happier when they are high. Some people are happier when they lose weight and slip into anorexia. But we are not designed to function with drugs in our systems, or dangerously underweight, so we should seek to abandon that desire.
In this story, the parents try to match body and mind, which they rightly recognized were out of sync. The problem is they chose to change the wrong one, which was a major error on their part. How can I be so sure it was the wrong one? It’s a valid question.
We have to go back to design for the answer. Our sex was not designed to change. In fact it cannot be. We can alter our appearance, but we can’t change our gender. Do what they may, they will never change her chromosomes to XY. She will never father a child. It doesn’t happen. We have literally billions of examples of this without an exception that I know of.
Our minds, on the other hand, were very much designed to change. They change constantly. In fact, the entire point of education, is to change and mold minds. Kids have little knowledge and even less practical application skills of their knowledge, i.e. wisdom. That’s why they go to school – to literally change their minds, so that they don’t stay in the ineffective condition that they are in at that age.
The parents in this story have done a significant disservice to this child in failing to teach her how to properly change her mind. How to master her thoughts rather than be mastered by them. She will encounter many, many more struggles in life and will need a firm foundation to rely on in decision making. That foundation is the question, “How am I designed?” not, “What will make me happy?”.
I feel bad for kids (and adults) that struggle in this area of gender identity. But I also feel bad for those with eating disorders and drug addictions. It can be a very hard struggle. That doesn’t mean I would ever council them that, “This is who you are, accept it.” If the science tells us I am operating outside of my design, I need to change something.
This skill of mastering our emotions and mind is among the most critical that a human can learn. That is the primary reason I so strongly disagreed with this transgender policy. We are in the education business, and we are sending the exact wrong message to our students, that “If it makes you happy, do it.” The truth is, if we function outside our design, we will be less effective in life. As adults, we know we will all forever have countless thoughts, struggles and temptations to try to pull us away from where we should be. Laziness, greed, drugs, anger, violence, selfishness, etc. Some are more detrimental than others, but the list is almost endless and it lasts our entire lifetime. We have to know how to resist and master them, not be run by them. It’s not easy I admit, but it is important.
There’s a prayer or saying that goes something to the effect of, “God, help me to change what I can change, accept what I can’t change, and give me the wisdom to know the difference.” On this point, the parents, and the school board, got it completely backwards. We cannot change our sex, but we can change our minds. And in many cases in life, we should.
In short, I don’t want my kids to seek to be happy. Or to be unhappy. My want, is that they discover what they were designed for and flourish. I think this policy doesn’t send that message.
So this was a pretty long reply. But I think it’s an important subject, and besides, you started it. 🙂 Talk to you soon and hope you have a good weekend.
The video he was responding to can be found here.