Transgenderism: Talking to Kids
Jan asked her fourth grader, “How was school today?” James said, “We played Never Have I Ever, and I said, ‘I’m never going to become a girl.’” And then he added, “Mom, that’s something you don’t have to worry about with me.”
Transgender issues are not only in our faces as adults, but they also confront our kids. This raises the question, what should we teach our kids about transgenderism and gender identity?
1. Teach God’s wise and loving design for sexuality
Before we deal with transgenderism as a particular aspect of sexual brokenness, we need to give our kids the positive teaching of God’s design for sexuality. They need to grasp the wisdom of God’s design for sexual wholeness to have a context in which to understand sexual brokenness and sin.
Let me encourage you to take opportunities to talk in age-appropriate ways about sexual topics. You can discuss how great it is that God made them male or female and how God made marriage to be a blessing. For a good place to prepare for such discussions, check out our six-part “Sex Talks” blog series.
Also, discuss with your kids some of the reasons why people don’t follow God’s design for sexuality. We talk about sin not to raise legalistic pharisees but rather to have gospel-centered conversations. The good news of the Gospel doesn’t make sense without the bad news of sin and the Fall. So when we talk about sin in others, it can help us point our kids to their own need for Christ.
We can build on the example of a sibling selfishly stealing a cookie to bridge into discussing how selfishness can motivate someone to have sex before marriage or use porn. Gospel-centered conversations about particular sins are not about denouncing a sinner but about empathetically understanding the temptations “common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). We can help our kids trace the connection between someone’s unbelief in the goodness of God to his or her sinful choices.
2. Educate yourself about transgenderism from a Christian worldview
Our culture believes that gender is merely a human idea or a social construct. But the truth is that humanity is not free to come up with its own self-definitions precisely because we have a Creator and Redeemer who authoritatively defines all things. He reveals His truth about gender, sex, and marriage, and His boundaries are good and laid down for humanity’s flourishing.
The terminology of transgenderism is confusing. One key concept we need to understand is gender dysphoria. This phrase describes an individual’s experience, usually in childhood, of developing feelings that one is uncomfortable with, or even hates living as, his or her birth gender. Some gender dysphoric children become convinced they were born in the wrong body and try multiple ways of living out the other gender. Later, some gender dysphoric people pursue hormone therapy and even gender reassignment surgery.
We must teach our own kids to have compassion for those who struggle in this way. Yet this compassion needs to produce redeeming love, not affirm desires that lead to self-harm.
Here’s a link to Harvest USA’s Fall 2016 Magazine that has four articles covering several important, biblical perspectives on transgenderism.
3. Find out what your kids know and think (or think they know)
Some younger, churched kids may not be aware of transgenderism, but how can our tween-aged and teenaged kids not be? Therefore, ask questions to discover what they know. Perhaps they’ve seen celebrities like Catlyn Jenner or ads for the TV show I am Jazz. Ask them what they think about these celebrities or why someone would be desperate to change his or her gender.
Their opinion may surprise you. Considering the distress of transgendered people offers our kids an opportunity to learn about people’s hearts in general, their own hearts specifically, and how the gospel applies to us all.
4. Teach them about God’s gift of gender and the temptation of gender transitioning
Talking to our kids about gender takes us back to the Garden of Eden. God made us either male and female in His image. Both genders are awesome, wonderful gifts to be celebrated and great responsibilities to be stewarded for God’s glory.
But what did Adam and Eve do with the gifts and the Giver? When tempted to trust their own wisdom, they rejected God, sinned, and experienced the Fall. If Genesis 3 was made into a movie, the serpent would have told them “Trust your heart!” and “Follow your feelings.” So things haven’t changed; we are still up against Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh.
Therefore, we must teach our kids the dangers of trusting our hearts and following our feelings. While your children may not be tempted to change their gender, they all know what it is like when desires of the heart become dictators of their lives.
That’s the key to understanding someone’s desires to transition. But a gender dysphoric kid is not the only one to have disordered desires and deluded thinking. These desires and thoughts are “common” in our kids who are tempted by more socially accepted sins, like dressing immodestly, using porn, or going too far sexually when dating.
The truth is that we all know something is not right with us, that we are flawed, needy, and trapped. Christians and non-Christians have real sufferings. The gospel truth that we can teach our kids is that no one can save himself or herself from suffering. We can’t transition ourselves into a state of peace, fulfillment, and bliss. But we know the One who will one day in His kingdom, and we can trust Him with our sufferings here and now.