The recent decision by an Australian Family Court to allow a 13-year-old girl to undergo a sex change solely because of psychiatric issues has tongues wagging.
This is what we have been told: "Alex" is a ward of the state. She was raised by her father, who, according to media sources, died when she was six years old. She says she wants to be a boy. The Court believes her, and has cleared the way for Alex to begin hormone therapy in preparation for surgery once she's no longer a minor.While some applaud this ruling as "progressive," others, ethicists and church leaders among them, are outspoken in their denunciation of it. (According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Prime Minister John Howard managed, "I guess I share the reaction of a lot of Australians: is this the sort of thing a court should be doing? That is my reaction," when pressed for one.) The problem, they point out, is a mental, not a physical one, and psychiatric help should be the first recourse. As one prominent ethicist told ABC Radio, "To do it to a 13-year-old who is still in formation, whose body is still forming, whose sense of identity is still forming, it's just irresponsible."Still, it comes across as so much chatter-today's scintillating headline, a victory or scandal, depending on your angle of approach.Somewhere, I am sure, voices cry out for the soul of this child-for the disintegration of her mind and the torment of her spirit. If only, in the midst of this brave new world that has such people in it, these voices could be heard."Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!" Jesus warns in the same breath as he names children the heirs of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:3,7,10). "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."What must Alex's angel be suffering?Alex has been misled terribly. She is a victim of a "metrosexual" age in which sex change is becoming ever more socially acceptable, and in which a pubescent girl-no doubt starved for loving guidance and affirmation-can make the oceanic leap from thinking "I wish I were a boy" to "I'm going to be a boy." Someone or something-a psychotherapist, a mentor, a television show, a magazine article (or all of the above)-is responsible for planting that twisted idea in Alex's head convincingly enough that she now believes a sex change will give her the life she wants. For those who mislead children, Jesus speaks of a millstone and deep-sea drowning.My wife, who teaches middle school (and loves it), came home recently with a smile that let me know the day had held something extra-special. She told me how one of her students, "Rita"-a tomboy who makes no bones about her frustration over being a girl-had opened up to her, sharing her insecurities and self-loathing. It was a Moment. My wife encouraged Rita, thanked her for her trust. She told Rita that when she was her age, she too had hated her "bad luck" at being born a girl-until the day her great-uncle (and confidant) had stopped her in her tracks: "Your task in life is to find out why God made you a woman, and what specific purpose God has in mind for you."All of us, regardless of gender, could use a great-uncle like that. Alex sure could. So could the justices who heard her case. So, too, could those who feel sex change is the answer to her problem, as well as those who push for a solution built around counselling and medication. Someone with the wisdom and faith to take us by the hand and point us toward God, and away from our self-snare-who can deny their need for such a guide?I'm no great-uncle, and I can't do anything for "Alex." But there are other children around me (two of them are my own). Their troubles might be small in comparison with hers, but that doesn't take away the responsibility I have to them. Ninety-nine sheep are not one hundred. "In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost." The mandate is clear: Defy the world.