Dr. Paula Williams: Christian counseling on gender dysphoria rarely occurs

This letter to the editor of the Longmont Times Call, was published on Jan. 6, 2015. The full text is below and the article can be found on-line here.

Dr. Paula Williams: Christian counseling on gender dysphoria rarely occurs

On the day the Times-Call published its excellent article on transgender issues, halfway across the country a tragedy was unfolding. When she stepped in front of a truck on an Ohio highway, Leelah Alcorn brought the world’s attention to one of the ugliest realities of American religion – the Evangelical Church’s mistreatment of transgender people. Her parents have been vilified, but Doug and Carla Alcorn were doing what their church taught them to do. As a result, they will suffer for the remainder of their lives.

I wonder about their ministers, the Christian counselor who saw their child and the church leaders who guided them. Are any of those people having sleepless nights? They should be. Unfortunately, Christian counseling instruction on gender dysphoria is virtually nonexistent. A counselor unacquainted with transgender issues has one single moral imperative when someone presents as transgender — to show compassion and immediately make a referral to a professional acquainted with this complex reality. Anything less is malpractice.

I am acquainted with the religious fellowship that included the Alcorn’s church. Their pastor received his master’s degree from the same seminary from which I received one of my degrees. The church is part of a movement of churches woefully ignorant about gender dysphoria. Too often the church categorically rejects what it does not understand. Leelah’s death is testament to the efficacy of such a response.

I was a national leader who preached in scores of megachurches. When I came out as transgender, the rejection was immediate and almost universal. But I was an adult. I had resources. Leelah did not. It is devastating when you realize you are transgender. No one asks for this — no one! What this young woman heard from her parents, counselors, and church leaders was unbearable. God have mercy on those who drove Leelah to her tragic death.

Dr. Paula Williams

Lyons

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