Ohio Children’s Hospital Targeted Evangelical Beliefs on Gender
An Ohio children’s hospital that carries out gender transition procedures on minors has specifically targeted evangelical views of gender, according to a May 2022 webinar reviewed by The Washington Stand. The director of the Living with Change Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), Lee Ann Conard, dismissed evangelical views on gender as incorrect and proceeded to denounce as harmful any counseling that does not pressure a minor to transition.
Conard displayed her lack of respect for evangelical beliefs on gender by contrasting them with what she repeatedly described as “medically correct information.” She claimed that “being transgender, being gay, is not a choice” and that “the ‘pray away the gay’ kind of therapy … can be harmful.”
Last Friday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) vetoed the state’s SAFE Act (HB 68) after meeting with CCHMC and other children’s hospitals. The hospitals, which all provide lucrative gender transition procedures to minors, actively lobbied against the bill, which would prevent them from carrying out these experimental, irreversible, and harmful procedures on minors. Ohio legislators are currently planning to attempt to override the governor’s veto.
The webinar trained pediatricians on how to advance transgender ideology in medicine by refuting so-called “myths” presented in various case studies. The very first case study involved a churchgoing, evangelical family who believed embracing a transgender ideology was a choice.
The slide read:
“Case Study #1: Tyler. Tyler is a 16-year-old whom you [as a pediatrician] have taken care of since birth. Tyler asks you about thinking he might be transgender. You know that his family goes to an evangelical church that believes that being gay is a ‘lifestyle choice.’ Tyler feels that he has no choice in the matter, but his parents feel it is a choice. His father, Andy, mentions reparative therapy and sees no harm in helping him try it out” (punctuation corrected).
Evangelical beliefs about gender are taken straight from the Bible. Evangelical Christians believe that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). They believe God’s creation of male and female has real, far-reaching applications in family, work, the church, and other aspects of life. They believe that man cannot undo God’s creation, “Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20).
Yet they also believe that every person is born with a sin nature that rebels against God’s created order, inciting his just wrath; embracing a transgender identity is one form of this rebellion (hence, a choice). All of this is preliminary to the main evangelical belief — the gospel or “evangel” after which they are named — that the Son of God satisfied God’s wrath against us and offers salvation to all who will turn from their rebellion and believe in him.
Conard never entertained the possibility of respecting the father’s beliefs about gender and sexuality. Nor did panel moderator Dr. Christopher Peltier, also with CCHMC, who added, “I think a common myth associated with this case is that being transgender or gender-diverse is a choice,” before inviting Conard to respond.
“Being transgender, being gay, is not a choice,” Conard agreed. “There [are] epidemiological things that suggest that genetics, utero environment, brain structure may play a part in this. Just like with familial high cholesterol, there are genetic links for families.”
Here, Conard leapt from tenuous medical documentation to baseless philosophical certainty. With words like “suggest,” “may,” and “part,” she subtly conceded the limits of current scientific research on gender dysphoria. Yet the accompanying philosophical claim (regarding ethics, specifically) that “being transgender … is not a choice” was absolute rather than conditional. Careful scientists do not draw sweeping conclusions from narrow or inconclusive data. But then, scientific data do not tend to yield conclusions of a philosophical nature.
Although Conard attempted to marshal scientific evidence to support her philosophical claim, the simple fact is that her philosophical claim is pre-scientific. To claim that “being transgender … is not a choice” — or, for that matter, suggesting that a person can “be transgender” — is an article of belief, not a scientific conclusion.
Instead of examining her own unscientific prejudices, Conard incorrectly appealed to her own medical expertise in considering how to dissuade the hypothetical evangelical father of his own position, in front of his son. “The tool I like to use for this one is, asking permission to share resources or medically correct information,” she began. (Notice already that, for Conard, despite many protestations to the contrary, an evangelical Christian is not a person to be understood or listened to, but rather a subject to be manipulated through one or the other rhetorical “tool.”)
Four times Conard repeated the catchphrase, “medically correct information.” The unwieldy phrase is not quite redundant, but simply saying “information” would imply as much during a physician consultation. The addition of the words “medically correct” seems calculated to stress that medical personnel are authoritative experts, over and above the revealed Word of God, on non-medical definitions of gender and transgenderism.
“Andy will either tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and I’ve never had a parent tell me ‘no,’” continued Conard. “So I would go through the information with Andy and Tyler sitting there, you know, that being gay really is not a choice, that there are all of these influences. … So then, I would ask Andy, ‘So what do you think of that information?’ And see where he goes from there.”
That’s an aggressive pressure campaign. It might persuade him. It might not. What it certainly does do is deride the father’s beliefs and poison the son’s mind against him.
Conard added a caveat about “the one time you don’t want to use this tool.” She said, “If Tyler’s father brings up reparative therapy, that’s something I feel like I absolutely have to talk about.” In that case, she said, she would go ahead and share the “medically correct information” without giving him an opportunity to decline to hear it. As she explained it, “the ‘pray away the gay’ kind of therapy is not approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], the American Psychiatric Association [APA]. We know that it can be harmful.”
This last statement says more about Conard than about evangelical therapy alternatives. There are many strategies for counseling people with gender dysphoria. But America’s major medical organizations have been captured by transgender ideologues who insist, based on sparse evidence and plentiful smears, that the only acceptable strategy is “gender-affirming care,” which involves always counseling and treating patients toward a gender transition, never away from it. These ideologues lump together all models of care that don’t instantly affirm a gender transition with discredited, abusive practices that have been widely abandoned, in order to discredit them.
Dr. Jennifer Bauwens, director of Family Research Council’s Center for Family Studies, noted on “Washington Watch” “how institutionalized ‘gender-affirming care’ has become [mandatory] for every licensed practitioner, including many medical professionals.” She added, “coming from the field, we’ve all been trained to, support ‘gender-affirming care.’” However, just because medical institutions have embraced the “gender-affirming care” model doesn’t make it any more scientific to predetermine patient outcomes or silence and ban dissenting viewpoints.
In fact, the whole practice of attempting to “change” a person’s sex through chemicals and surgeries is not very scientific to begin with. “So much scientific evidence … all points towards [the fact] that gender-affirming care is not helpful,” Bauwens argued. “We don’t have one single study that we could point to that says, ‘There’s actually some evidence out here that shows gender-affirming care prevents kids from suicide.’ I mean, actually, we have evidence showing the contrary that the harms that are done, physiologically and psychologically, through gender-affirming care.” That should give pause, especially as even people who provide gender transition procedures to children, such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Scott Leibowitz, admit that they have “irreversible” effects.
At root, the controversy is a philosophical, ethical, moral, and even religious one. It is a debate over whether “male and female” is defined by God the creator or by each individual’s own internal feelings. It is a debate over whether our physical bodies are good creations that should be stewarded and protected or amoral organisms that can be modified at will. Transgender ideologues attempt to avoid the debate — one which they would certainly lose — by begging the question, choosing the language, and attempting to reduce the issue to a scientific exercise.
But their actions betray their pre-scientific motivations. In the same webinar, Conard endorsed efforts to “normalize” divergent gender identities through screening questions — a non-medical campaign to change the way people think. In the 2021 podcast mentioned above, Leibowitz claimed there was no problem with allowing males to compete in girls’ sports because, “We’re not hearing stories of cisgender kids getting victimized or teams losing because of inclusive policies for transgender youth.” Two years later, there are plenty of examples, as any disinterested observer could have predicted two years ago.
This is not the only time Christians in Ohio have come under attack for denying the premises of the transgender ideology, which masquerade as medical expertise. In May, local media outlets dredged up years-old sermons delivered by the bill’s sponsor, Pastor Gary Click (R), in an attempt to discredit the bill. “You’re not ‘born that way,’” a hit piece quoted from Click’s sermon. “God’s not going to curse you in the wrong body. He’s not going to curse you with desires that cannot be adequately and appropriately and biologically fulfilled correctly.” (Cue the feigned outrage.)
That’s not hate speech; transgender ideologues simply don’t like it because they are committed to their own pseudo-religious beliefs, which are incompatible with basic Christian teachings. The “Christian vs. LGBTQ” controversy over gender transition procedures is not about “faith vs. science” or “medical authorities disproving backwards beliefs.” Rather, it’s about two competing worldviews with fundamentally different understandings about metaphysics, ethics, what it means to be human, and who is God. Transgender ideologues understand this, and the proof is how often they target Christians simply for being Christian.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.