Fewer things are more dangerous or frightening than uninformed writers spreading their misinformation among readers who are just waiting for the word “go” to close their minds to the uncomfortable truth. I recently came across an article where the author expressed her opinion that transgender identity was a mental illness. She went further to say that if her kids were transgender, she would not support that decision and of course would seek treatment so that the child could fully appreciate their God-given body. The article has now been taken down.
This is not an opinion. This is ignorance. What is and is not a mental illness, first of all, is not an opinion. Stating that something "in your opinion" is a mental illness just takes away the legitimacy of mental illness and further adds to the stigma belittling the importance of psychological health. Furthermore, the author argued that the gender of a child is their birth sex, no arguments. Sure, their birth sex is their birth sex, but their gender identity doesn't always line up with their genitals, which is why it's important to research this topic if you do not understand it. Finally, she said that she wanted her kids to appreciate God the way He made them. Unfortunately, there's no official Church literature that can rescue her here.
Gender and sex are two different things. Sex is defined by one's reproductive system, whereas gender, as defined by the Oxford English dictionary, refers "to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones." When a new life is conceived, very little is pre-determined. The set of genes that end up creating the physical person are all there, but it’s not known which genes will and won’t be expressed or how they’ll interact. Exactly how an embryo develops into a person depends not only on genetics, but also on their environment within the mother. One little-known fact is that changes and growth that the brain undergoes in utero lead to the formation of gender identity; there are biological and physiological reasons for transgender identity.
Despite the fact that currently, the ICD-10 classifies transgender identity, aka gender dysphoria, as a mental illness, it’s more than likely that the ICD-11 set to be released in 2018 will change this. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5, the manual used to diagnose mental illness and disorders, a mental illness is a psychological/psychiatric condition that causes stress or painful symptoms simply because one has the condition. That’s not at all the case with transgender individuals. The stress, depression and anxiety they experience are due to rejection from society, friends and family rather than a direct byproduct of their gender identities.
Regarding the “God-given body” argument…the Church does not have any explicit teachings about how to treat transgender people. But I think it’s safe to say that we can treat them with the support, respect, compassion and dignity that every human deserves. One could also argue that maybe God made transgender people transgender for a reason. Maybe they’re supposed to align with whatever gender they actually identify with. And maybe, it’s OK if that culturally defined gender does not match up perfectly with their biological sex. It is impossible to claim that gender dysphoria is not acceptable in the eyes of God. Not even the official Catholic Church literature claims that.
Whether or not you choose to support transgender people is a reflection of your belief in the legitimacy of the transgender population; it is not because the Christian doctrine encourages you to shun or "treat" them (it doesn't), and it is not because of lack of scientific evidence.