A seismic shift has taken place in teen culture in just fifteen years. Before 2007, gender dysphoria was so rare among girls that there was no extant scientific literature on teen girls having gender identity disorders. None. In the last fifteen years over three hundred gender clinics have opened in America. In the UK, from 2010-2020, the Tavistock gender clinic saw a 4,400 percent increase in teen girls presenting for gender transformation treatment.
Eva, the mother of a 12-year-old Christian girl was at a church luncheon when she received an email from her daughter, Grace, declaring, “Mom and Dad, I need to tell you I’m not actually a girl. My pronouns are they/them.” Eva hadn’t seen this coming for several reasons. First, a few months before, Grace had shared on social media her belief that God created people male and female. She seemed to be resisting peer pressure. Second, Eva knew that kids who identify as trans usually have numerous comorbidities, and trouble fitting in, which Grace did not. The third reason Eva was blind-sided was that she and her husband were naïve about the impact that social media was having on her daughter’s generation, Gen Z.
Here is what the data show:
- In the generation born between 1965 and 1980 (Gen X) one in twenty identifies as LGBTQ+.
- In the next generation, born from 1981 to 1996 (Millennials), one in ten identifies as LGBTQ+.
- In the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings born, between 1997 and 2013, one in five identifies as LGBTQ+.
- In addition, forty percent of millennials and Gen Z identify as religious; so, this explosion is not limited to just secular kids.[i]
These numbers constitute an unprecedented transformation of teen culture in the last fifteen years.
Another study of Gen Z, this one conducted by Dr. Allison McFarland of Bethel College, may give some valuable clues to understand why Gen Z teens and young adults are so attracted to the LGBTQ+ message.
In Dr. McFarland’s lectures on Gen Z, she identifies the highest values of those who comprise this age group. At the top of the list is authenticity. Let’s consider the characteristics of the largely pubescent girls who come out as trans. They don’t fit their own or their parents’ stereotype of femininity; they are not girly girls. They don’t fit in with the cheerleaders and homecoming princesses. They don’t like their developing curves, feeling extremely uncomfortable with their body’s transition to womanhood. These pubescent girls coming out as trans are fleeing womanhood, more than they are pursuing manhood. They don’t start lifting weights. If they have tats, they are likely to be butterflies or flowers.
As the first generation to grow up with screens always in front of them, Gen Z teens have been exposed to more forms of broken sexuality than any generation in history. No wonder so many girls want nothing to do with becoming sexually attractive to a male. Very simply these girls don’t want to become women. So, the most authentic thing they can do, in their minds, is to admit all of this and join other girls who feel the same way by coming out as trans.
McFarland points out that the second highest value of Gen Z is finding a place where everyone is welcome. Think about the appeal of the LGBTQ+ community to a group of teens for whom acceptance is the highest value. In the LGBTQ+ world, everyone is welcome. Even Grace, who had posted that God made people male or female, was welcomed with open arms to her school’s Gender and Sexualities Alliance club. Acceptance is the club’s highest value. Nobody bullies the socially awkward there. Nobody tells them same-sex attraction is wrong. Nobody says homosexual sex is a sin. Nobody tells trans kids that transgender identity is a delusion. Approval of every form of sexuality is the highest value of the LGBTQ+ movement. What teen does not crave unconditional acceptance, and a non-judgmental place to belong?
This correspondence between the highest two values of Gen Z members and what the LGBTQ+ community offers is taking place in the midst of another, unprecedented, historic phenomenon—the explosion of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria among teen girls. ROGD (coined by Dr. Lisa Littman) is a sudden, dramatic spike in transgender identification among teen girls who had no childhood history of gender dysphoria at all.
Dr. Littman conducted extensive research with 256 families in which a child had come out as transgender. Two patterns stood out. First, she discovered that transgender identification was sharply clustered in friend groups revealing that it spread through social contagion. “Parents describe that the onset of gender dysphoria seemed to occur in the context of belonging to a peer group where one, multiple, or even all the friends have become gender-dysphoric and transgender-identified during the same timeframe.”
The second pattern that she identified was that the clear majority (65 percent) of the adolescent girls who had discovered transgender identity in adolescence—“out of the blue”—had done so after a period of prolonged social media immersion. This pattern was also confirmed by the parents. “Parents also report that their children exhibited an increase in social media/Internet use prior to disclosure of transgender identity.”
A seismic shift has taken place in teen culture in just fifteen years. Before 2007, gender dysphoria was so rare among girls that there was no extant scientific literature on teen girls having gender identity disorders. None. In the last fifteen years over three hundred gender clinics have opened in America. In the UK, from 2010-2020, the Tavistock gender clinic saw a 4,400 percent increase in teen girls presenting for gender transformation treatment. Thousands of our children are being urged down the path that begins with taking puberty blocking drugs such as Lupron, which is used to chemically castrate sex offenders and has never been approved by the FDA for use with teens to arrest puberty. Ninety-nine percent of those who begin taking puberty blockers go on to take cross gender hormones, which causes sterility one hundred percent of the time. Many go on to permanently disfigure themselves through “top” or “bottom” surgery.
The impact of the LGBTQ+ destructive, fractured worldview of sexual personhood is so recent it is only just beginning to be felt. Yet its impact on the mental health of our children is palpable. The Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey of High School Students released these statistics in 2021:
- Those experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness: heterosexual students 35%, LGBTQ+ students 69%
- Those seriously considering suicide: heterosexual students 15%, LGBTQ+ students 45%,
- Actual suicide attempts: heterosexual students 6%, LGBTQ+ students 22%.
Three Ways to Empower Our Children to Safely Weather the Storm
- We must get equipped ourselves: This cultural typhoon is not going away any time soon. Our children need us to become equipped to help them weather it, without drowning. Gender theory has already caused many kids raised in Christian homes to abandon their faith, in addition to destroying their bodies.
Here is a list of PCA-friendly resources available to enable parents and church leaders to get equipped for this leadership responsibility.
- Anchoring Your Child to God’s Truth in a Gender-Confused Culture, published by the PCA Committee for Discipleship Ministries—seeks to equip parents to conduct a preemptive strike against gender theory, by helping parents guide their kids to celebrate God’s perfect gender design of them as male or female.
- Shattered Dreams, New Hope: First Aid for Parents Whose Son or Daughter Has Embraced an LGBTQ+ Identityis an excellent resource from Harvest USA, begun out of Tenth Pres, Philadelphia. It is written for Christian parents whose child identifies as LGBTQ+ and does not desire to live in accordance with God’s Word. It is based upon the CCEF’s counseling model. This parents’ curriculum is available as a FREE digital download at harvestusa.org.
- A Biblical Response to Gender Confusion and Transgenderism: Seminar Presented to Potomac Presbytery. After some presbytery members used my book, Our Daughters and the Transgender Craze with their teens, Potomac Presbytery asked me to lead this seminar this past March. Afterwards the brothers urged me to make this material available on video for the whole denomination, which we have done. The free videos are Understanding Gender Theory and Its Origin, Understanding Today’s Transgender Craze, Countering Radical Gender Ideology, and a video for teens to watch with their parents or youth leaders, Biblical Worldview of Sexuality.
- Gospel Coalition article, Transformation of a Transgender Teen, by Sarah Zylstra. This article tells the true story of Grace, mentioned at the beginning of this article and what her parents did to win her back to Christ and the biblical worldview of gender and sexuality.
- We must speak into the culture. Proverbs 18:17 gives a clear picture of what is happening in gender discussions around the country: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” To the ears of many, gender theory, when it is first heard seems inclusive, loving, fair, and right because no one comes and examines it. Who will be the salt to retard the culture’s decaying ideas about gender if Christians don’t speak up? Who will shed the light of truth about children being pushed down a destructive path of gender transition if Christians don’t sound the alarm? In some states, twelve-year-olds are allowed, without parental consent, to make medical decisions that permanently mutilate their bodies while at the same time, science is increasingly insisting that the adolescent brain is not fully formed until age twenty-five.
Urgency about this matter, however, must not lead to a combative attitude towards those in the LGBTQ+ community or those advocating for gender theory. They are not the enemy; they are held captive by the enemy, the Evil One. Here are the words of a Christian speaking at a public meeting to a school board that was being influenced by gender theory—an example that we ought NOT to follow:
“You are all child abusers. You prey upon impressionable children and then indoctrinate them into your insane ideological cult—a cult which holds many fanatical views but none so deranged as the idea that boys are girls and girls are boys….You are poison. You are predators. I can see why you try to stop us from speaking. You know that your ideas are indefensible. You silence the other side because you have no argument. You can only hide under your beds like gutless cowards hoping we shut up and go away.”
In sharp contrast to such hostility, Scripture says, “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Prov. 16:21), and “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips” (Prov. 16:23). One of the best ways to be polite, strategic, and winsome is to use questions. Here are some attempts at a wiser approach.
Example #1: So you’re having a conversation with someone and they tell you that sex is not a fixed part of a person’s identity, but something that is merely assigned at birth. They go on to say that since sex is assigned at birth, it can be reassigned later if the persons discovers that a mistake was made. What would you say?
First, A person’s sex is acknowledged, not assigned. There are many things doctors learn about a baby when it is born like height, weight, and blood type. Those things aren’t assigned, they are acknowledged. Other things are assigned at birth, like a name. Babies are assigned names exclusively on the preferences of the parents. Changing a name before, during, or after birth has no real impact on the person because it is not a biological part of their identity. So if we know that some things are acknowledged and some things are assigned, what category does a baby’s sex fall into? Is it more like getting a name from your parents or more like learning your blood type from the doctor? I think the answer to that is pretty clear.
Which leads to the second point, Sex is determined by our reproductive system. In most cases, humans are born with two chromosomes, either XX or XY. Those chromosomes lead to the creation of reproductive organs, which create sex hormones, which in turn create genitalia and secondary sex characteristics, like body hair, bone structure, or an Adam’s apple. Within our species, there are only two reproductive systems, male and female. While they clearly matter for reproduction, that’s not the only reason they matter.
Men and women differ in how their brains operate, how they solve problems, what diseases they are susceptible to, and so much more. “But some people are intersex!” you say. This is all true.
Which leads to the third point. Disorders of sexual development don’t create new categories of sex. Not every person’s reproductive system develops neatly along a male or female path, but that does not mean they are not male or female. Some people are born without limbs, others are born blind. Disorders of sexual development are not evidence of a new sex category any more than disorders of the cardiac or respiratory systems are evidence of new kinds of hearts or lungs. A baby born with ambiguous genitalia is not evidence of a new sex within the human species. How do we know this? Because the disorders of sexual development do not create a new chromosome, a new sex hormone, or a new type of genitalia. They have not replaced the need for male or female nor have they found a new way to reproduce. They are simply evidence that sometimes our bodies don’t develop or function as designed.
But let’s be honest, we’re all evidence if that in our own way aren’t we? The truth is, neither science, nor logic support the idea that sex is assigned at birth. So next time someone tells you it is, here are the three things to remember.
- A person’s sex is acknowledged, not assigned. It’s much more like blood type than a name.
- Sex is determined by our reproductive system, not our feelings.
- Disorders of sexual development don’t prove that there are many different sexes. They just prove that we’re imperfect; which we all kind of knew anyway.
You’re having a conversation with a teenager. He says, “Gender is not a fixed part of a person’s identity, but something that is merely assigned at birth.”
What makes you say that?
That is what my social studies teacher said.
So, use your imagination. Picture the birthing room right after a baby comes out. The doctor cries out, “it’s a boy.” What makes the doctor say that?
I guess the doctor looks at the baby’s privates.
Right, so did they arbitrarily “assign” it’s gender or “observe” its gender?
I guess they observed it.
So, is gender “arbitrarily assigned at birth” or is it a biological reality “discovered at birth?”
You’ve got me.
Example # 2: Someone says, “Transgender athletes should be able to participate on whatever sports teams they choose. Girls’ sports should be open to anyone who says they are female.”
May I ask a question?
Do you know why men’s and women’s athletic competitions have long been separate?
Guess how much more muscle mass the average man has than a woman?
Thirty-six percent. Men’s bones are thicker and denser. Conversely, women have lower lung volume and lower airflow capacity because they have smaller lungs and airway diameter.
Okay I’ll accept your generalizations.
Did you know that the International Olympic Committee has a geneticist from UCLA to consult about male and female differences?
No, I didn’t know that?
His name is Eric Villian, and he says the differences in male and female bodies make a ten to twelve percent difference in male and female athletic performance. So, if a male who claims to be trans, is allowed to compete against women, who is being treated unfairly?
- We must start fighting for our children in prayer. I realize that there are currently millions of different, vital, prayer efforts requiring the church’s attention for the kingdom of Christ to go forward. Yet, at this cultural moment, can we ignore what is happening to the children of our land inside and outside the church? I’m reminded of Jesus view of the importance of children. Matthew recounts,
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea…See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven (18:5ff).
Although my ministry’s primary focus is men’s ministry, we are sponsoring a five-month intentional prayer campaign until Easter 2024 entitled, Protect Our Children from Gender Confusion. We would love to have as many prayer warriors as possible join this effort. It is doubtful that much progress will be made by today’s church to combat gender theory’s spread without using spiritual weapons. “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:4-5).
At this cultural moment the perfect storm’s winds are howling furiously. Our precious children can’t weather this typhoon alone.
Dr. Gary Yagel served over ten years as the Committee for Discipleship Ministries’ Men’s Ministry Consultant. He is the author of Anchoring Your Child to God’s Truth in a Gender-Confused Culture published by CDM and the follow up booklet, Our Daughters and the Transgender Craze also available in the PCA bookstore. He is currently the executive director of Forging Bonds of Brotherhood and producer of the weekly podcast, Mission Focused Men for Christ.
 Sarah Zylstra, “Transformation of a Transgender Teen,” The Gospel Coalition, July 6, 2022.
 See notes from Dr. McFarland lecture, https://calvaryheadmaster.wordpress.com/2023/01/17/trying-to-reach-gen-z/.
 Abigail Shrier, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, (Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C.) p.25.
 Ibid p. 38.
 Data taken from “Youth Risk Data Survey 2011-2021,” Published by US Government CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/YRBS_Data-Summary-Trends_Report2023_508.pdf, p. 60-67.