“Ask a Priest: What If My Daughter Insists She Is Male?”

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Q: My heart is shredded. My beautiful daughter is insisting that she is really a boy. I know this is biologically impossible. I also know that there are solid psychosocial reasons for her ideas, based on severe issues with her father (my ex-husband) and things taught and promoted in the local public school. I have researched this from both a biological, scientific perspective as well as theological. I fall in to the camp that sees this as one of the major lies of our current society. I am panicked at the thought of what she is doing to her soul. My other children are judging me as being cruel, intolerant, judgmental, etc., for not accepting her with open arms and addressing her by her new, male name. She has acknowledged how much I love her and she has stated she loves me, but any relationship we have must be on her terms. I can’t do this. Am I being wrong to reject a relationship on her terms: calling her my “son” and using a male name and accepting and relationships she has?! Can you help me in understanding this and dealing with it? -T.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: My heart goes out to you for the trauma that is afflicting your family. As you say, this confusion about sexual identity is one of the major lies of an increasingly dysfunctional society.

Your basic response is probably as good an approach as you can take. Love the person, despise the malady. True love means that we want the best for someone, and encouraging someone in her bid to “change” her sex is not healthy.

Unfortunately there are no easy solutions. Jesus might counsel, “This kind can only come out through prayer” (Mark 9:29).

Given the lack of support elsewhere in the family, you need to look toward your own psychological well-being first. That involves having both love and limits.

Your motherly heart can keep growing. By continuing to love your daughter, no matter what, you give a powerful witness of your faith; you give glory to God; and you give your daughter something genuine to which she can cling. Yet, you also might want to consider limits, just as Jesus set limits in the Gospels. He was merciful but didn’t condone faulty behavior. So don’t feel pressured, for instance, to welcome your daughter’s “partners” to Christmas dinner.

For your spiritual well-being you might intensify your prayer life and sacramental life. You need to stay close to Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to learn to abandon yourself into God’s arms. Try to get involved with a support group of some kind, too. You need the company of other faithful Catholics to help support you.

Later, if your daughter starts to recognize that her journey is leading to a dead end, and she reaches out for help, try to help her to address the traumas that brought on the gender issues in the first place. It would be essential to get her help from a therapist who can address the potential underlying traumas she has suffered. Here, of course, it is important to find a therapist who will help her with the trauma and not push a specific sexual agenda. You might find such a therapist here.

Don’t lose hope. Eventually the truth “will come out.” Your daughter was created female, and there is no changing that. Nature will be back. In the meantime your cross is to keep loving her amid opposition. Perhaps that cross will be the instrument of her redemption.

Without a doubt, God will also work in your own heart if you bear this cross prayerfully and courageously – he knows how to bring good out of evil, resurrections out of crucifixions. To find spiritual comfort and strength, you might want to watch our free Retreat Guide on Our Lady of Sorrows, “A Mother’s Tears”.

Remember, you will always be your daughter’s mom. She will always need you. Count on you and your family being included in one of my Mass intentions.

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