Church of England is doing something right about gender identity


‘The Good Doctor’ needs to break medical drama stereotypes

By Brooke Pawling Stennett

When National Geographic released its historic January issue titled “Gender Revolution,” the country went into shock. I can distinctly remember sitting in the library for reading hour as a kid and flipping through a National Geographic magazine to pass the time. Along with some other American kids, we learned interesting facts about animals, and ran home to tell our parents all about it with pride. 

Imagine, then, what that one gender identity cover on a well-distributed magazine said to the kids who picked it up because it looked intriguing. A new world was opened to them because National Geographic made the statement that it’s OK to question your gender identity.

Now, think about what it would be like if America followed in the steps of the Church of England, which sent out an advice book to almost 5,000 schools Nov. 13, encouraging children to explore their gender identity. 

The book, “Valuing All God’s Children,” says clothing and activities don’t mean anything in terms of a child’s identity, according to a Nov. 13 New York Times article. Children, it says, should have the freedom to wear what they want and play with any toy they’d like. Boys can wear tiaras and girls can play with trucks.

While it’s important that National Geographic made that statement and reached the important age groups, we still need to reach kids with important messages like this, and sending out advice books similar to the Church of England’s to schools would be a major step.

It’s no secret that LGBTQ kids have a higher risk of experiencing a major mental illness—almost three times more likely, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If we as a society give them more options to comfortably and openly explore their identities, that number can potentially decrease. 

A research study conducted between 1999 and 2015—before the marriage equality act was decided June 26, 2015—found that out of 32 states that had legalized gay marriage, suicide attempts dropped 14 percent for gay, lesbian and bisexual teens, according to a Feb. 21 Associated Press article. 

The study’s researchers implored policymakers to become aware of the impact marriage equality would have on youth’s mental health and how the law could create a more tolerant society. The lead author, Julia Raifman, even told the Associated Press laws that have the greatest impact on gay adults could make LGBTQ kids feel more hopeful for the future. 

It isn’t so far-fetched to think, then, that if we took a page out of the Church of England’s playbook, the same could be said for gender identity.

The problem is that society needs to get behind the idea. It is disturbing that we’re still at a point at which people are comfortable with children dying every day. People who suppress their true gender identity are especially vulnerable. Between 38 and 65 percent of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation, according to NAMI. 

I wrote a feature for The Chronicle almost a year ago about gender neutral parenting, for which I talked to parents who were raising their children with the idea that they could be whatever gender they wanted to be. They expressed specific fears: their children walking into a bathroom and being told they don’t belong there or suppressing their feelings to fit in. 

But the principle consensus was that parents just want their children to be happy no matter what. So, the question remains: Why is society so comfortable in letting other people’s children die?