Opinion: Adolescence and gender


Published: 06-07-2023 6:00 AM

Richard Bircher lives in Lebanon.

Picture two persons, one attired in a dress, elevated heels, jewelry and facial makeup, topped off with thick, lustrous, shoulder-blade length hair. The other has short cropped hair, wears but a tee shirt and underwear beneath bib overalls, with Converse High-Tops sneakered to their feet. So which one is the woman? And which isn’t? In actuality, both are women and both aren’t, even though, in this case, both are female.

Whereas male and female genitalia are graphically distinct and operationally specialized at maturity, being clearly one or the other, the word gender has a wide contemporary openness attached. Even the genetic phenomenon called Guevedoces, where the baby is born with an apparent vagina then develops a penis and testes at puberty, is genetically encoded male at birth, therefore negating the tossed-around concept of the existence of a third sex.

Aside from a very, very small number of these hybrid youth, the sex of an individual is concise. Where the variable to the equation enters is the term “gender” defined as, “the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex.”

Historically, gender has been utilized as a generalized perception of males and females. A perception that assists individuals and societies as to how they visualize, relate, and approach one another. The key, determining factor hinging overwhelmingly on the individual’s physiological sex markers (naked), which is then traditionally denoted (clothed) by appropriately related clothing, body shape, and size, top of head hair, facial hair, gait, bodily adornment, vocal qualities, etc.

Once gender marking enters the scene, the adverb, typically, takes precedence, for typically easily and smoothly transitions to, stereotypically. Do girls necessarily act “girly” and boys “boyish?” Certainly not. Though girls have long since had a valuable social advantage in that they could legitimately be seen as “tomboys,” without societal reprimand. A generosity not extended to boys under reverse, though comparable circumstances.

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Consider Caitlyn Jenner. She chose to create a somewhat stereotypical model of the attractive, sensual, feminine ideal, a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe, coupled with her natural, male-like traits. A somewhat idealized recombination of the sexes, without the interference of conventional, uniform gender specifications. Seemingly, both physical and societal realities are now in sync.

Is the once emotionally conflicted inner void now at peace? That’s really not an issue, since Caitlyn’s transformation was undertaken by an intelligent, mature, worldly adult. A decision legitimately exclusive to Caitlyn.

Now that the novelty, the jokes, and worldwide attention have largely subsided, Caitlyn’s evolution can proceed with less of a lightning rod attraction, which certainly creates both false negatives and false positives from outside analysis.

Presently we have a remarkable phenomenon in all our communities, of adolescents entering the realm of gender transitioning. Hormone therapy, hormone blockers, and surgical procedures are now frequently available to minors, as well as adults like Caitlyn Jenner. For adults, parents especially, to promote skirts over boxer shorts, facial hair over eye makeup, football quarterback over ballerina (and vice versa), is essentially irrelevant. They are gender-associated stereotypes, easily jumping from one phase, one fad to another. Neither firmly attest to either the gender or sex of an individual. However, to afflict the actual body of a minor child does appear not merely abnormally invasive, but highly risky, regardless of the child’s earnest, though conflicted and untested desires, fostering an impression of working against one’s body’s essential nature, rather than in corroboration.

Certainly, data abounds on the topic, both pro and con. The assessment I felt best illustrated this extraordinary situation, promoted a cautionary and maturity-seeking, realistic approach. Dr. Riittakerttu Kaltiala, chief psychiatrist at Tampere University, Finland’s largest pediatric gender clinic, stated, “Four out of five children will grow out of gender confusion, and it is purposeful disinformation to suggest that minors medically transition due to increased risk of suicide.” (Helsingin Sanoma newspaper)

Adolescents are adolescents, rife with emotional overflow, confusion, and way short on life intellect and adult coping skills, which can only arrive with time-sensitive gradients of experiences and an ever-evolving maturity. To physically transform a child’s body with the specious intent of healing what may well be a painful emotional longing, is unreasonably speculative, and teeming with consequences that may well exacerbate an idealized illusion of everything they are not, and simply can not be, while negating a naturalistic and worthy body image largely tied to self-acceptance. We shouldn’t equate personal dissatisfaction and unextended social compassion with a need for medical transitioning.

Adolescence is not an alien medical condition requiring treatment. Emotional support is certainly in order. So too is the time required to align oneself with the slow process of maturation and self-realization, not to be unweighted.

To prematurely anchor a child to an opposing stereotype, wishing upon an unreasonable level of precociousness being present, exposes the adolescent to a theater of further instability, possibly obtaining an undesired state of liberation, much in contrast to the original intent.