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Year in Review: Running away from God

New fronts continued to pop up in 2019 for those dealing with family and sexuality issues

Two boys who identify as girls, Terry Miller (second from left) and Andraya Yearwood (left), finish first and second in the girls 55-meter dash at a Connecticut high school track meet in February. Associated Press/Photo by Pat Eaton-Robb

Year in Review: Running away from God

God’s good design for marriage, family, gender, and sexuality faced attacks from every side this year, leaving a trail of victims. Here are the top stories we covered in 2019 on the family and sexuality fronts.

How much testosterone?

Various amateur regulatory bodies and professional sports leagues grappled with who should compete in women’s sports this year.

Caster Semenya, a South African woman and a two-time Olympic track champion, continued to challenge a World Athletics regulation that bans athletes with certain testosterone levels from competing in women’s middle-distance events. Semenya has a rare genetic disorder that causes naturally elevated testosterone levels.

But the debate over acceptable amounts of testosterone applied not just to athletes with health conditions, but also to those claiming they were born in the wrong body. The U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into a Connecticut high school sports policy that allowed two boys who identify as the opposite sex to dominate girls track events for the last three seasons.

At the college level, the NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference named a biological male who identifies as transgender its Female Athlete of the Week in October. And victories for biologically male transgender athletes in women’s cycling and powerlifting drew controversy, especially ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, where we could see a biological male on the female medal podium for the first time. —K.C.

Big Tobacco 2.0

The U.S. surgeon general late last year warned that youth vaping had skyrocketed “at a rate of epidemic proportions,” hooking a new generation on nicotine. That rate continued to go up this year despite efforts to fight it.

In March, the Food and Drug Administration proposed regulations restricting the sale of flavored vaping products. In September, the FDA announced plans to ban all e-cigarette flavors except tobacco and warned e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs about its marketing practices. The company made moves to appease the FDA and other critics, but it now faces lawsuits from several states alleging it used “Big Tobacco’s playbook” to lure youth into vaping.

The mirage that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking was also shattered this year. The first long-term study on its health effects found it leads to the same chronic lung diseases as combustible cigarettes. Doctors later blamed a chemical compound culprit—vitamin E acetate—as the number of hospitalizations and deaths increased. —K.C.

Tech and the family

Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide among teens continued to climb this year, a phenomenon some experts blame on technology use.

Hours on smartphones every day leads to less face-to-face interaction, sunlight, sleep, and silence—all necessary for children (and adults) to thrive. Parents also are scrambling to fight against addictive apps and video games that function like slot machines, playing on dopamine releases to keep its young users coming back for more.

Kids today also are exposed to pornography earlier and more often than ever before—and the porn industry is exploiting them: A groundbreaking New York Times investigation found reports of child pornography on the internet exploded from 3,000 in 1998 to 18.4 million in 2018. Internet safety groups and congressional lawmakers are pushing the U.S. Department of Justice to step up its fight against online obscenity and child pornography in the new year. —K.C.

Racing ahead

Reproductive technology and the booming fertility industry continued this year to outpace ethical considerations about who should create life and how it should be created. Laissez-faire laws in many states mean pregnancy and children are open to anyone able to afford the cost of donor eggs, donor sperm, or the services of a surrogate—practices that often deny a child a relationship with one or both biological parents. In one of the more unusual cases, a New York judge ruled in favor of a couple fighting for the right to use their deceased son’s sperm to create a grandchild.

In a surprising turn, the New York state legislature did not pass a measure that would have repealed the state’s ban on paid surrogacy contracts, a victory for conservatives and feminists who argued the practice turns women’s bodies into commodities and babies into products for sale.

The pendulum this year swung toward looser laws globally that allow LGBT individuals the chance to parent. France struck down its longstanding limits on the use of reproductive technology, opening up artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization to lesbian couples as well as single women. —K.C.

Trans resistance

Bold voices swam against the tide of gender-fluidity ideology this year:

Transgender activists lambasted the Women’s Liberation Front—a left-leaning, radical feminist organization—for arguing that allowing biological men to identify as women poses a threat to the physical and legal rights of women and girls. An academic journal vindicated Brown University researcher Lisa Littman in March, affirming her 2018 study showing that gender dysphoria in teens could be a social contagion and a maladaptive coping mechanism. Littman continued to stand behind her research despite Brown disavowing the paper, her employers firing her, and a barrage of vitriol directed toward her on social media. In April, five former employees of Britain’s only gender transition facility told The Times of London that their supervisors pressured them to refer children for hormone blockers and cross-sex hormones despite concerns over whether the treatments were in the best interest of the children. One former female staff member called the facility’s practices an “atrocity” and wondered if people would one day ask, “What were we thinking?” Three Connecticut high school girls in June filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights arguing a state policy allowing boys who identify as girls to compete against them has cost them higher race finishes and potential college scholarships. An Illinois father wrote a USA Today editorial in August lamenting his local school district’s unquestioning embrace of his 14-year-old daughter’s sudden transgender identity: “Now, thanks in large part to my daughter’s school, my daughter is more convinced than ever that she is a boy and that testosterone may be necessary for her to become her authentic self.” —K.C.

Kiley Crossland Kiley is a former WORLD correspondent.

Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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