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The pursuit of unhappiness

New poll confirms the mental health problems associated with transgenderism


Marchers wait for the start of an LGBT parade in New Delhi, India, on Nov. 27, 2011. Associated Press/Photo by Saurabh Das

The pursuit of unhappiness

A major study from KFF–Washington Post has been released looking at the lives of transgender-identified Americans. The study boasts the largest results using random sampling, a method viewed as the gold standard for getting an accurate snapshot of current demographics.

There are many takeaways from the report worth considering. As someone who studies the transgender phenomenon in America and has written a book on the subject, I want to draw attention to a more narrow finding that contradicts what Americans are routinely told when it comes to America’s gender revolution. The report confirms that regardless of America’s growing familiarity with transgender-identified Americans, to claim a transgender identity is to claim an identity disproportionately plagued with other mental health issues as compared to Americans more broadly. The pattern of abiding mental health problems should cause us to pause and question whether unqualified “affirmation” of transgender identities is not making the situation worse.

Two sections of the report reveal an unhappy snapshot of transgender-identified persons in America.

According to The Washington Post’s own summary of the report, “Compared with Americans as a whole, trans adults are more than twice as likely to say they experienced serious mental health problems such as depression or anxiety growing up (78 percent versus 32 percent for the U.S. overall). Just over half of trans adults say they had a happy childhood (53 percent), but that rate is far lower than the 81 percent of Americans overall who say their childhood was happy.”

A later paragraph states, “Though 57 percent of trans adults say they are satisfied with their lives as a whole, that rate is lower than the U.S. adult population at large, of whom 73 percent say they are satisfied. More than half (56 percent) of trans adults say they have felt anxious at least ‘often’ in the past year, compared with 31 percent of cisgender adults. And they are more than twice as likely as cis people to say they felt depressed (48 percent, compared with 21 percent) or lonely (45 percent, compared with 21 percent) in the past year.”

These admissions contradict the project of mainstreaming transgenderism in society. Just summarize this recent research: The most robust study of transgenderism in America confirms that transgender acceptance is not a pathway to healing and wholeness. Indeed, to claim a transgender identity is to all but guarantee that happiness and wholeness remain elusive. Moreover, it is impossible to normalize the transgender experience when it correlates with a host of other psychological pathologies.

The problem facing transgender-identified America is trying to reconcile a contradiction between a confused mind and a truthful body.

The worldview contradiction is glaring. On the one hand, we view anxiety and depression as maladies to be treated in order to diminish them. Yet, on the other hand, because of the political correctness surrounding LGBT identities, we persist in telling persons to claim the very identity whose comorbidities suggest there is something intrinsic to the identity of transgenderism that is destabilizing and unhealthy.

The reason these admissions matter is that in the hot-button cultural debate surrounding transgenderism more broadly, the common refrain from transgender activists is that there is nothing inherently wrong or problematic about identifying as transgender—the reason for depression, anxiety, and increased suicidality stems from a bigoted culture’s rejection of individuals who are simply looking to live their authentic lives.

This is simply false, as Christians would expect it to be. No amount of public and cultural affirmation can erase the underlying facts of one’s biological sex. To exchange Biblical ontology and teleology for expressive individualism and the rejection of one’s body is to put someone on the wrong side of an ineluctable creation order. The problem facing transgender-identified America is not an unwelcoming culture. The problem facing transgender-identified America is trying to reconcile a contradiction between a confused mind and a truthful body.

How else should we understand the findings of this report?

What this report should mean for Christians is a commitment to doubling down on the truth of the Biblical worldview as the only true way to interpret reality and pathway to love our neighbor. The Christian should be the most loving voice in this situation since it is the Christian who is to seek the interest of their neighbor’s ultimate good, not just their desired perceptions. That means telling the truth.

Tragically, reports of this kind will doubtlessly be used to marshal increased sympathy for the plight of transgender-identified Americans. Sadly, and ironically, it is those who see themselves as “allies” who are doing the most damage by continuing to collude with vulnerable and confused persons in furthering self-deception. Christians driven by love of neighbor—including our transgender-identified neighbors—cannot join in this collusion.


Andrew T. Walker

Andrew is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.


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