As a Rabbi in Southern California, I have been confronted recently all too often with tweens and teenagers wanting to become a different sex. Clearly, a lot of this has to do with the push for gender modification from the media and other sources, including and especially schoolteachers who seem to think their agenda on this issue is more important than the wishes of the parents, let alone the children themselves.
But while this external push to lose gender identity is being thrust upon our children, it seems that an inordinate percentage of these children are actually accepting this notion of becoming “gender fluid.” While the political reasons have been explored elsewhere, in working with youngsters over the last number of years, it has become clear to me that we, as parents and teachers, must understand the deeper issues that are actually happening to young people dealing with gender issues. Only then can we confront this challenge to our youths in a loving, healthy and successful way.
There has always been an extremely small percentage of people who have gender dysphoria, formerly called Gender Identity Disorder (GID). According to DSM-5 (the 2013 official diagnostic tool of the American Psychiatric Assoc.), approximately 1/100 of one percent of the population experiences this condition. In many tribal cultures, this rarity has always been recognized and honored. Often the person with this condition is trained to be the shaman or medicine person for the tribe as they are considered special and with more potential conscious spirituality, as true gender dysphoria is and has always been extremely rare.
But while the statistics are that less than one person in 10,000 has this condition, the media, politicians, and agenda-driven elite would have us think that at least five percent of young people are actually transgender (according to a June 2022 Pew Research Study). This is a disparity of a factor of 500. Seemingly, there are 500 more times transgender individuals now than only a few years ago.
According to a recent UCLA report, transgender identification currently is 130 times the statistics as understood in the official DSM-5 of 9 years ago, less than the media would have us believe but still a significant increase. These disparate statistics point to one of two explanations: either individuals were previously underreporting their gender issues by a factor of 500, or recently people have suddenly started accepting and self-identifying as transgender. Given the political agenda to maximize this self-identification, we must look at why teenagers and tweens have suddenly started embracing this new self-perception foisted upon them.
I found the answer to this question through dialogues with young people exploring their gender identity and seeing a consistent pattern. After exploring this pattern more deeply, I believe that we all need to have a greater understanding so that we can help those young people who are dealing with gender issues and being externally pressured into true gender confusion.
The primary challenge is that Western society in the 21st century has conflated three different aspects of individual identity into one and has resolved these three issues with one purported solution: changing gender identity.
There are three aspects of identity that are related but should never be conflated: sex, sexuality and energy. While they are tangential to each other, they are distinct and separate. Their conflation is causing the gender identity issues, and only through re-separating them can we begin to help young people navigate their journey of self-exploration in a healthy way.
Sex is, simply put, a person’s plumbing and DNA. All cultures throughout history recognize this truth, with the rare exception of hermaphrodites or intersex, a segment of the population (currently estimated at 0.02 percent, or 2:10,000) that are born with both male and female physical characteristics. But other than this rare exception (whose percentage is nearly the same as the DSM-5 statistic of true gender dysphoria), a person is born to either the male or female sex. It is in the physical body and in the DNA.
While elective surgery may be able to change the physical characteristics, the DNA cannot be changed. Despite whatever hormone blockers, drugs or surgery, on a purely genetic level, the sex remains the same throughout our lives as the x and y chromosomes cannot be altered. All science agrees that our genetic identity is the same throughout our life as it was at birth, as the x and y chromosomes cannot be changed.
Will Thomas views himself as a female swimmer named Lea. But when we do not conflate the issues of sex, sexuality, and energy, it is clear that he is a male from a strictly sex and genetic perspective. God gives us our sex, and despite how someone may try, that definition is immutable since the genetics cannot be changed.
The next aspect that is currently combined inappropriately with sex is sexuality. A person may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual or any combination thereof. And our sexuality may change throughout our lives for a variety of reasons. We may be attracted to men, women, both, or neither, and that sexual self-identification can change over time. But this sexual preference is not the same as sex. While there are many arguments over sexuality being based in nature, nurture or a combination, it is clear that sexual preferences can change over a person’s life.
It is the third aspect of “energy” that has been entirely lost in Western culture. And it is this aspect that may be playing the largest role in teenagers experiencing gender confusion.
Feminine energy is classically understood throughout all cultures as energy that receives and transforms. In Chinese medicine and philosophy, it is called Yin, as opposed to male energy being referred to as Yang. Male, or Yang, is the energy that goes outwards. An easy analogy is to look at different techniques of hunting. A spider personifies feminine energy when it creates a web and draws in its prey. Conversely, a wolf hunts with male energy as it seeks out its prey in the wild.
It is this issue of energy that, by being conflated with sex, is causing so many young people to become confused. A young man who finds that he is full of feminine energy is now being encouraged to view his sex as female when it is only that he expresses feminine energy. Or a tomboy who has lots of yang energy is encouraged to view herself as a boy and change her sex self-identification. This is a travesty, and when we separate the three issues, it is easy to see how their conflation causes confusion.
We all manifest male and female energy at times, but that doesn’t mean our sex changes with our energy. All wolves hunt with male energy by going outward, but we do not call a female wolf a “he.” Nor do we call a male spider, who spins a web and hunts with yin energy, a “she.” Energy does not define or transcend gender in any part of the physical world. Yet through the conflation of sex and energy, our youngsters are being encouraged to do just that: reassign their physical sex through drugs, attitudes and even surgery to match their energy and/or sexuality.
It is this inappropriate combining of these three disparate aspects that is leading children to accept gender reassignment. And in doing so, it is causing pain and wounds that will be felt for a lifetime.
We must all be willing to spend personal time honestly exploring the separation of these aspects of sex, sexuality, and energy as opposed to conflating them together. And we must have the courage and care to lovingly separate these concepts in nonjudgmental dialogues with young people who are feeling pressured into drugs or surgery to change their gender.
A boy with a lot of feminine energy doesn’t need to transition to a girl so he can become comfortable with himself, and a girl who is a tomboy shouldn’t feel that she needs to change her sex in order to embrace her yang energy. It is up to each of us to help these young people understand the multiplicity of concepts that are simultaneously interacting with and within them. We need to help these youths explore their own understanding of the separation of sex, sexuality, and energy rather than go down a destructive path of sex modification through hormone blockers or even surgery at a young age. (It is an irony ignored by sex change advocates that so many teenage tomboys ultimately become well-balanced, beautiful, strong, healthy adult women.)
This is the understanding that we need to explore with our children. We need to explain to them that although these three aspects of sex, sexuality and energy are related and tangential to each other, they should not be conflated. This is the dialogue that we all need to have with teenagers who are considering altering their bodies to match their sexuality or energy.
Teenage years are tough and always have been. Hormones are raging and confusing; the brain is developing at a rapid rate; society is starting to place pressures on the teenager; and the young person is filled with identity confusion as they are no longer a child but not yet an adult. Teenagers are incredibly vulnerable, and it is a travesty that political activists are using them as pawns.
We must always be especially gentle with teenagers going through this identity crisis. They may eventually be the one in ten thousand who really are experiencing gender dysphoria. They are vulnerable and confused. Everything in their life is changing, and they are desperately seeking a sense of constancy, stability, and self-identification. But we can be gentle while still teaching them about these three disparate aspects and guide them not to conflate them together and go down a gender modification process prematurely and unnecessarily.
This is not only our privilege to do; it is our responsibility. We must bless those younger generations by passionately combating the political agenda of sex change through thoughtful and supportive education.
In Judaism, we say “l’dor v’dor”: “From generation to generation,” we must teach truth and wisdom. May we all have the courage to lovingly teach the next generations about the differences between physical sex, sexuality, and energy. In so doing, may we heal and hopefully prevent the many wounds that young people are experiencing as they progress down a road of self-awareness.
Rabbi Michael Barclay is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Ner Simcha and the author of Sacred Relationships: Biblical Wisdom for Deepening Our Lives Together. He can be reached directly at [email protected] This article was originally published in American Thinker Magazine, www.AmericanThinker.com.