How can Christian parents teach their kids the truth about gender in a transgender world?
That’s a question many parents struggle with today. While they want their children to learn about sexuality from God’s Word, the fact is that the modern world often has more influence. It’s not easy for kids to take the Bible to heart in a Facebook age.
I think the problem began in earnest two years ago when Olympic Gold Medal winner Bruce Jenner went public with his sexual identity crisis and decided to come out as a woman. What until then seemed to have been the practice of a small, confused group of people became overnight the symbol of a whole new understanding of gender. It’s not a reach to call it a revolution.
More quickly than anyone thought possible, the national mood toward transgenderism shifted. It became a critical feature in the political landscape, with most candidates being forced to take a stand on the issue. The courts expanded existing civil rights laws to include transgenders. The entertainment industry—always alert for opportunities to exploit cultural trends for profit—embraced transgenderism. ESPN, for example, awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to the newly named Caitlyn Jenner a few months after she announced her new gender.
Other institutions jumped on board. Last year the U.S. Department of Education issued guidelines for accommodating transgender students, defined as those “whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.” I blogged earlier about the new transgender directives for local schools in the state of Washington.
Now the transgender movement is reaching a younger group. Planned Parenthood just released a guide called, “How Do I Talk to My Preschooler about Their Body?” providing recommendations for parents as they address gender with their young children:
It’s common for preschoolers to have questions about genitals and how bodies look different for boys and girls…While the most simple answer is that girls have vulvas and boys have penises/testicles, that answer isn’t true for every boy and girl. Boy, girl, man, and woman are words that describe gender identity, and some people with the gender identities “boy” or “man” have vulvas, and some with the gender identity “girl” or “woman” have penises/testicles. Your genitals don’t make you a boy or a girl.
The Human Rights Campaign—the nation’s largest LGBTQ lobbying group—even encourages parents to educate their children about future medical options as they transition from whatever their biological gender may be to whatever new identity they may want to assume. Here’s their recommendation:
Finding a doctor is often an important first step. While medical treatment is not an urgent need for younger children, talking to a gender therapist or a medical provider who has experience working with transgender youth and their families can help you better understand your child’s gender identity and the medical opportunities that they will have in the future.
Certain segments of the Church are moving in the same direction. The Church of England voted last month to develop new worship services in order to welcome transgender persons into their new gender.
So with transgenderism being accepted in almost every area of modern life, what’s a Christian parent to do? How can we teach our kids the biblical truth of gender in a world where almost every institution is telling them a different story?
I think there are several actions every Christian parent can take that will help their families remain faithful to the biblical truth about gender during this challenging time:
Accept the biblical definition of gender. The Bible describes gender not as fluid but as fixed and places it in the realm of God’s sovereign design instead of personal choice. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” says Genesis 1:27. From the Scriptural perspective, transgenderism is essentially idolatrous because it puts men and women in the place of God. Many parents are confused about how to speak to their children about transgenderism, I think, because they haven’t sorted out their own beliefs. The first step toward helping our kids is to allow God’s Word to speak more clearly than whatever voices we hear from the surrounding culture.
Don’t underestimate the threat. No institution is safe from transgenderism’s impact or immune to its influence. Parents must be vigilant in protecting their children. Keep a close eye on what your children learn at school, who they hang out with, what they watch on television, what sites they visit on the internet, and how they use their smart phones. If parents leave the sexual education of their children to anyone or anything other than themselves, they’re setting their children up for failure.
Don’t create an “us versus them” environment. Jesus commands his followers to love our neighbors as ourselves—and that includes people of every race, background and lifestyle. The first responsibility of every parent is to protect their children from harmful people and influences. At the same time, though, we have to teach our children that God’s love extends to every person, regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs. We who try to obey God’s Word instead of the secular world aren’t morally superior–we’ve just found mercy. And the greatest witness of our faith may well be the love we extend to those who don’t accept our convictions.
Be open with your kids. Don’t leave the discussion about gender to schools, politics, or friends. Take the initiative in keeping the biblical truth front and center in your home, in a non-anxious, shame-free way, so that your children can not only learn what the Bible says but also see first-hand the joy and freedom that comes when husband and wife relate to one another in the ways the Bible describes. The more parents integrate their faith with normal life, the more real it is to our kids.
Accept your counter-cultural status. Our convictions about gender as followers of Jesus–indeed, our convictions about all sexual morality–places us at odds with societal norms. We no longer need to pretend that we somehow fit into the modern world. When we stop trying to, and instead live into the gospel promises we have in Jesus, we’ll have a deeper freedom and greater joy.
There are of course many other practical ways to help our children grasp the biblical principles behind gender. But I think these four are a simple way to start. Parents really can raise Christian children in a transgender world.