Jeff Johnston is Focus on the Family’s resident ex-gay, and he is increasingly being called upon to speak as an expert on various identity issues, though he bears no such expertise. Following up on the group’s promotion of ex-transgender ministries, Johnston is back to spread a series of remarkable falsehoods about what it means to be trans. His claims are built around the false understanding that being trans is a disorder, even though the American Psychiatric Association is declassifying it as such next year. From this false premise, Johnston encourages many mistruths and harmful ideas for supporting transgender youth.
First, Johnston claims that sexual orientation and gender identity are the same, which they aren’t:
[Gender Identity Disorder] is a label usually given to children with same-sex attractions, but it can be given to adults.
Gender dysphoria — GID is now obsolete language — refers to how people experience their gender, which has very little to do with who they are attracted to. Some trans people are heterosexual, some are gay, and some have sexual orientations that do not fit into such neat boxes. Sexual orientation and gender identity can intersect, but they operate independently.
Johnston then claims the best way to support young people who are questioning their gender is to try to force them to accept the body they have, rejecting their gender identity:
Gender Identity Disorder is treatable. There are therapists who work with kids to help them accept the body they were born into and to embrace it as a good thing. This kind of therapy helps children to stop hating their bodies and to embrace their gender.
This sort of “ex-trans” therapy directly contradicts what the majority of medical professionals have found. For example, the American Psychological Association tells parents that “it is not helpful to force the child to act in a more gender-conforming way.” Doing so reinforces the stress young people often feel when their sex does not match their gender identity.
Unsurprisingly, Johnston claims that trans identities are a disorder that only manifest because of sexual trauma:
In the transgender community, sexual abuse seems to be even more common than in the male homosexual community. Sometimes it’s related to issues in the home, like violence. This isn’t something that people grow into in a healthy way. There is trauma involved in producing these disorders. [...] They need healing and growth and renewed thinking — a renewed mind and spiritual help, rather than affirmation of the disorder.
It is blatantly untrue that abuse causes any kind of sexual or gender identity, but Johnston may be mixing up his cause and effect. A study earlier this year found that gender non-conforming youth face a much higher risk for sexual, physical, or psychological abuse at home. Kids aren’t trans because they’ve been abused, they’re being abused because they’re trans.
Johnston concludes that these disordered people don’t deserve nondiscrimination protections:
As Christians, of course, we’d say it’s not healthy to encourage or promote recognition of a group based on their behaviors or based on something that’s problematic psychologically. That’s not the same as recognizing people because of their religion or the color of their skin, or things like this. At the same time we want Christians to reach out with love and treat people with respect. That has always been our goal.
Blatant rejection and stigmatization is not love or respect — quite the opposite.