I’ve been talking to my older boys recently about transgenderism — they are currently 12 and 7 years old.
Like a lot of our conversations about sexual topics, my wife and I try to take advantage of teachable moments based on what’s happening in the news. For more than a year, the issue of transgenderism has become a more mainstream discussion, from Bruce Jenner’s transformation last year to the recent debates about bathroom policies.
I’m often asked by Christian parents how we can talk to our kids about this subject of transgenderism.
5 Things to Say to Your Kids about Transgenderism
Below are some talking points I hope you find helpful. As C.S. Lewis says, believing in Christ is like believing in the sun—we believe not just because we see it, but because by it we see everything else. Christ becomes more real to us not just when we understand who He is, but when He helps us to understand rightly the world in which we live.
1. Here’s what transgenderism is…
Make no mistake: in today’s world, it is good to equip your children to understand transgenderism. They are bound to bump into the issue sooner or later, and it is best to deal with the subject straightforwardly and proactively.
It starts by simply defining what it is.
Transgenderism is also called “gender dysphoria” is the state of feeling like a gender that does not match a person’s physical/genetic sex. Surveys suggest there are about 700,000 individuals in the U.S. who identify as transgender.
Tell your kids: “If someone says they’re transgender, it means they’re a boy who feels like a girl or a girl who feels like a boy.”
2. The modern world uses “sex” and “gender” differently.
Today, when many people talk about your “sex,” they are talking about your biological makeup, your genetics, your reproductive anatomy, and other sexual characteristics of your body, like having a penis or vagina.
When people use the word “gender” (as opposed to sex), they typically mean your own sense of identity or your social roles based on your sex—feelings, behaviors, and activities that are more masculine or more feminine in a given culture.
Tell your kids: “Your sex is what your body is. God intends people to either be male or female, a man or a woman. When many people talk about ‘gender’ they are talking about how they feel and behave. Do they feel more like a boy or a girl? Are they acting more like a boy or a girl?”
3. Transgenderism is part of a fallen world.
Ever since our first parents walked east of Eden (Genesis 3), the world has not been as it was originally intended. God is the one who invented “gender binaries”—male and female. But sin brought death, decay, and brokenness into the human experience, and in different people, that brokenness manifests itself in many different ways.
People do not choose to be transgendered—at least, not as it is currently defined. They do not choose it any more than they choose to have PTSD, cystic fibrosis, or cancer.
And like PTSD and cystic fibrosis and cancer, even though transgenderism isn’t a chosen condition, this does not therefore make it a desired condition. Regardless of its origins—whether it stems from a psychosexual disorder, family dynamics, or genetic abnormalities—transgenderism does not reflect God’s original design of male and female.
There are many today who want to suggest that if someone is “born with” a condition, this makes all feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that flow from condition good or acceptable. But we rarely apply this same logic to other disorders.
Tell your kids: “Transgenderism is just one of the many physical and mental problems that some people have living in a fallen world. When Adam and Eve sinned, this brought brokenness into our bodies, minds, and souls, and for some people, this means they don’t feel comfortable in their own bodies. Some people feel fat even if they’re very skinny (anorexia); some people feel anxious or terrified about things that aren’t likely to harm them (OCD, phobias, etc.); and some people feel like they should be another sex (transgenderism).”
4. Transgender people choose to react to their condition in different ways.
Those who have these feelings cope with them in different ways—sometimes in sinful or unwise ways.
Some simply hide these feelings and tell nobody. Others talk about them openly with friends, family, counselors, and pastors. Some believe the problem is in their mind, so they work to change how they think. Others, however, believe the problem is in their assigned sex, so they work to change how they look.
Tell your kids: “Some transgender people try to change their bodies, like taking hormones or having surgery, to make themselves look more male or female. But not all do this. Some choose to address the feelings in the mind instead. There is a difference between unwanted feelings or thoughts and choosing to build an identity around those feelings. The first says, ‘I have these feelings, but I know they don’t line up with who God says I should be.’ The second (wrongly) says, ‘I have these feelings so they must reveal who I really supposed to be.’”
5. We must love our transgendered neighbors as ourselves.
It is easy to fear or hate what we don’t understand, but there is no place in the Christian’s life for unloving behavior towards transgender individuals.
Rightly understood, the psychological condition of transgenderism is a form of human suffering, and therefore, it is our joyful duty to show such people the utmost mercy and compassion.
In a famous text in 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul tells us what genuine love looks like: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6).
This gives us a well-rounded picture of love…
- Loving our neighbor means we should never think ourselves better than our neighbor, which means we should involve ourselves in their lives in genuine Christ-like kindness.
- But loving our neighbor also doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with them: love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Tell your kids: “As you go throughout life, as you interact with those who are transgender or talk about transgenderism with others, we should never make fun of them, call them names, or make them feel embarrassed. When others spread lies or gossip about them, we should stand up for them. We should never think ourselves better than them. This doesn’t mean agreeing with what a transgender person does—like wanting to change how they look—but it does mean loving them despite what they do.”
Preparing Christian Kids for an LGBT World
We know there are a lot of questions Christian parents have about this subject…
- What’s appropriate to say at what ages about LGBT issues?
- Should I wait for my kids to ask questions, or should I initiate some discussion?
- What exactly does the Bible say about same-sex attraction—and how do I make that make sense to my kids?
- How can I model love to the LGBT community for my kids?
That’s why we did a training called “Preparing Christian Kids for an LGBT World.” We welcome anyone who wants to take a proactive approach to helping their kids be in the world and not of it.
Learn more about the training
More Resources for Christian Parents:
- Modern Sex Ed Gone Crazy (and how Christian Parents should respond)
- Talking to Kids about Homosexuality
- Christian Parents Ask: What Should I Teach My Kids About Tattoos?
- How to Teach Your Kids Christian Principles for Entertainment
Wow, this is pretty amazing! Helps a great deal!!
Glad it was helpful!
Thank you for this practical approach to talking with the kids about this subject!
I think you did a great job outlining the biblical truth as a response to this difficult topic while maintaining respect for the person. The wording is also just right for a child.
This is just beautiful and biblically based. Thank you! What advice would you have for the families that are struggling with a child/teen who is believing (because society is telling them it is ok) and claiming transgenderism. (Your response could probably turn into a whole series I’m sure ?). We have a 17 yo dtr who has struggled for the last 2 years with this and wants no part in our belief system so fights against every biblical counselor and discussion we’ve broached. We’re now just trying to pray through the storm. Thanks so much!!!
Hi Caryn. Thanks for sharing. As a parent, I’m touched by your story.
First, in situations like this, I think it is best to recognize that these sorts of things are really meant to bring us to our knees. These moments remind us of what has always been true: that our children need the influence of God’s Spirit more than anything else in the world—even more than our good parenting—and one of the best things we can do is pray. I’m glad you’re doing that.
Second, I think it is really, really important to remember the big picture here. The goal of good Christian parenting is not just creating “good” kids, but fostering kids who trust and love Jesus. Before we ask our kids to repent of their sins (little s), we are ultimately calling them to repent of their Sin (big S)—to recognize that they have hearts that reject Christ’s lordship and run after other gods. For a teen who has openly rejected Christianity, the most important work is not “fixing” her but modeling the gospel for her.
Third, part of embracing the gospel (for anyone) is the continual process of basing our identity on Christ, not on other things, even our sexual experiences. Take, for example, my Christian friends who experience same-sex attraction. For them, after embracing Christ as Lord, they knew they needed to base their identity not on their sexuality anymore but on Christ. Christ is central to who they are, not their sexual preference. Because this is true, they are free to not be defined by their sexual attractions anymore but can joyfully obey what Christ says about sex. The exact same thing is true for anyone, regardless of sexual preference: the man who’s been addicted to porn for 20 years, the girl who’s been in a lifelong series of one bad relationship after another, the child molester, the rape victim, the child who has been abused—regardless of how they have sinned sexually or been sinned against sexually, these things no longer have the power to define them. The same is true for a transgender person coming to faith in Christ: what used to be an all-powerful “I am” statement in their life—I am transgender—is now moved aside for a greater “I am” statement: I am in Christ. Their experience of gender dysphoria is, of course, still their experience, but it no longer needs to define their life.
Fourth, challenge your daughter to be as objective as she can when it comes to Christianity. The folks I know who come from an LGBT background who embraced Christianity all came to a point where they told themselves: “If I’m really going to try to ascertain the truth of Christianity, I don’t want my sexuality to destroy my objectivity. If Jesus Christ is really Lord of the world, that is true whether I’m gay or straight, so I don’t want my feelings about my sexuality to get in the way of the possibility of faith.”
Last, love your daughter like you’ve never loved her before. Meditate on 1 Corinthians 13 and scrutinize your own heart according to that standard of love. Ask yourself how well you proactively love your daughter according to that standard, and pray to God for the strength to love her well.
I hope this helps some.
And most of all, do not try to push or force. Read Leelah Alcorn’s story and ask yourself, am I leaving room for my child to feel like she can live? An alive child can take her own journey and perhaps will eventually agree with you (or not). But a child who feels so trapped she walks into oncoming traffic cannot.
Hey Sheila, as I’m not all that familiar with Alcorn’s story—and more importantly, what his parents did or didn’t do—I’ll refrain from commenting about that. I do think, however, that ALL Christian parents need to have a very robust theology of sanctification when it comes to their children. As parents, we really need to understand what brings about longterm change in a person’s mind, heart, and behavior, and how our parenting plays a role. As parents, we need to learn the art of speaking truth—even painful truth—into the sinful hearts of our children in a manner that genuinely displays the love and compassion of Christ. That’s true no matter what sins or weaknesses our particular children have.
Leelah Alcorn was a trans girl, her parents wouldn’t allow her to live as a female and she killed herself. my question for you, would be; do you think it’s truly more sinful to let your child be happy as the person they are, even if your God doesn’t agree, or to suffocate them into being someone they aren’t until they can’t take it anymore? Is it worse to let your child be themselves than to give them a life so awful that death seems less painful? I’m not trying to disrespect you or your religion, I promise, I’m just interested to hear your opinion 🙂
So sad to hear what happens when those who are emotionally unstable hurt or even kill themselves. Heartbreaking.
I think your question assumes that the best way to bring about happiness is allowing those who experience gender dysphoria to affirm their personal identity as “the truth” about who they really are. I’m not sure I would approach the problem this way.
Every human being (regardless of sex or gender) seeks to build their identity on something. For the Christian, part of what it means to have faith in Christ is the process of basing our identity on Christ, not based on other things—not even based on our sexual experiences or sexual expression. My Christian friends who experience same-sex attraction, for instance, all tell me the same thing: after finding faith in Christ as their Lord, they knew they needed to base their core identity not on their sexual preference anymore but on Christ. Because this is true, they are free to not be defined by their sexual attractions anymore but can joyfully obey what Christ says about sex. The exact same thing is true for every single person, even the transgender person coming to faith in Christ: what used to be an all-powerful “I am” statement in their life—I am transgender, I am a boy not a girl, I am a girl not a boy, etc.—is now moved aside for a greater “I am” statement: I am in Christ. Their experience of gender dysphoria is, of course, still their experience, but it no longer needs to define their life.
For the parent of a transgender person, I would say it is vital to point them to Jesus. Regardless of how they work through their feelings of gender dysphoria (which still must be dealt with), the struggle no longer needs to be one of identity and ultimate happiness or stability.
Very interesting perspective. I truly appreciate your view, and though we do not see eye to eye, I think your opinion is well thought out and worded, very interesting indeed. Cannot say I completely agree, but I really respect (and am honestly surprised, because no offense intended, a lot of religious people can be quite hateful towards the LGBTQ+ community) how detailed your responses are and how kind of a person you seem to be. You’ve definitely given me something to think about. Thanks!
Personally, I believe that a Christian’s mission in life should be to call all people to faith in Christ, but then to also say to the same people, “And even if you don’t believe, I’m going to fight to make this world a wonderful place for you, a place where experience love, not hatred or fear.” I believe this is the king of man Jesus is.
Thanks for reading, Jen!
That’s very lovely. Quite a beautiful way to see the world.
Thank you for this post! I have had this discussion with our older two (10,9) which went well but I have been praying about how to approach our 6 and 7 year old a little differently. You have given me some ways and certain things to take into consideration while I pray and prepare so thank you! And i have no idea why butI never even considered the difference in language between the use of sex and gender! Thank you for writing on this topic that can be so overwhelming for so many.
You’re welcome, Lee! Hope this article helps with your discussions.
Thank you so much for this article and your recent series. I am so appreciative of your perspective and guidance. Do you have an article on what our kids need to hear about the gay lifestyle? I’m assuming it is very similar to what you described above.
Very similar, yes.
I think it is really important to distinguish between same-sex attraction, a gay identity, and homosexual activities. As in point #3 above, same-sex attraction is part of a fallen world. While there may be a variety of factors that produce same-sex attraction—including genetics—this does not make the condition desirable. Same-sex attraction is the fruit of broken physiology, broken family systems, broken cultural values, and broken intimacy with God—not necessarily a result of a person’s personal sin, but the result of our fallen condition. On the other hand, embracing a gay identity or engaging in homosexual activity does involve personal sin.
Sam Allberry, a pastor from the UK, does an excellent job talking about this in this video. He himself experiences same-sex attraction offers a wonderful personal and theological explanation of the experience for a Christian.
Thank you for a great answer.
Thanks for a great question.
Many thanks AGAIN for a thoughtful and loving approach to the sexual brokenness we see in this mortal life. As a Christian mental health professional I find the same principles apply when trying to understand (and teach others about) other sexual challenges (same sex attraction), which can lead to “deviations” in behavior which are unacceptable to God (pornography, incest, rape, pedophilia). So much confusion and inner conflict today comes because the world says/screams “Any thing goes!” , “Accept and be who you are, whatever that may be!”, “Do whatever you feel in the moment!” These attitudes are a sad result of the sexual revolution, unrestrained individualism, the human rights movement, and unbounded relativism. In our fear of not allowing freedom or of offending or excluding, we offend God and trample underfoot His unchanging laws and His plan for the salvation of mankind.
Without the compass that Christ and His gospel offer, we see so many who are suffering in silence or driven to insanity in their quest to feel whole. It is so important to root ourselves and those we love to TRUTH… Let’s teach the truth!!!– that we are broken in this life (in one way or another) and that Christ—ONLY, has the power to heal us from Sin and from all physical, mental, sexual, social ailments of our mortal experience. When these truths are lovingly taught and understood… we can find peace, hope and happiness in our trials and burdens, even those that are sexual. That peace and hope comes only from knowing the truth– the good news!— that we can be acceptable and perfected through Christ. We will not find peace through indulgence, alternative lifestyles, or sex change operations. What will come instead will be continued loneliness, addictions, and broken marriages and families. In John 8:31, 32 we read “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
When we know the simple truths of God’s plan for us to come unto Christ we will find rest from the endless searching and wandering ” that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Our challenge in this fallen world is to find and rely on Christ to lead us to healing and wholeness (first in spirit) as we endure and make strengths of our weaknesses in this life, and then (finally) to be rewarded with a healed and perfected body through the resurrection.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15: 22)
Continuing in 1 Corinthians 15:
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Many thanks for raising your courageous voice to share the truth and help to prevent mental and spiritual damage in our world today.
Horrible advice! Transgender is not a disorder! It is a choice you decide like any other sin! What are your thoughts on paedophiles who say they are born with the urge to have sex with children, are you going to tell your children 5 things kids need to hear about bestiality? No thanks!! Be in the world but not of it!
Hi Anna. Thanks for the thoughts. I’m not exactly sure where you’re getting your information from. I’ve never known of a case where a person chose to have gender dysphoria. Mind sharing where you get that idea from?
As for the paedophile example, I would not at all be surprised that such desires might be rooted in one’s biology, though I’m not up on all the research about that. That said, even if one’s disordered sexual desires stem from genetics—even if only in specific cases—I still don’t see why I shouldn’t talk to my kids about it.
Again, I am fully aware that there are sinful ways people react to their transgender experiences, but that doesn’t mean their desires are somehow personally chosen. I have all kinds of sinful desires in me I didn’t sign up for. We all do.
As for being in the world and not of it, I have no idea what this has to do with what I’m talking about here.
An honest comparison of trangenderism percentages of the population between now and 100 years ago will tell you the answer about whether this is a fad brought about by the satanists who run our society or an actual disease. Christians need to stop falling for these traps. They are taking advantage of your sympathy to push pervisions down the throat of society.
I’m not at all talking about those who simply call themselves transgender because of recent trends. Those percentages have definitely risen, but there are legitimate cases of mental disorder at work among those who actually have gender dysphoria.
I’ve been a longtime, silent reader here, but I’m breaking the wall today to stand up and applaud. This was a beautifully written and wonderful post on this very sensitive subject.
I’m an atheist, and a single mom of three. I don’t always see eye to eye with you, but (obviously) love enough of your content to keep coming back despite it. When I saw this pop up in my pinterest feed today… well, I’ll be honest. I cringed. I’ve heard enough horrible things this last year regarding transgenderism from Christians that I immediately assumed the worst.
You, however, handled the subject with grace, humility, love, and perhaps most importantly, with respect. You did not demean or belittle those walking this lonely road by insisting they were merely the worst of sinners and an abomination to God. You did not call out for children to be protected from them, as though they were evil or diseased. Your words, instead, were filled with kindness and respect.
I may disagree, for instance, that such feelings and behaviors associated with transgenderism is inherently immoral, but can’t fault the way you said it. So many others would have used the opportunity to cry foul, label them as ‘other’ and instigate fear and hate. You didn’t. In fact, you did the opposite – your advice was to spot on, to show love, to be kind, to understand.
It’s sad, perhaps, that I find your respect and kindness even in the face of something you disagree with so impressive – it paints a rather ugly picture of the rest of the world.
If only more people were so thoughtful. If only more people were so loving and kind. If only more people had such respect for others, no matter their differences… the world would be a much better place than it is.
Thank you. Thank you for being a voice of kind reason in a world filled with anger and hate. Thank you for your dedication to teaching your children the same – and for aiding others in doing so. And thank you for the advice. Much of it applies even to an atheist like myself. 🙂
Thank you so much for your kind comment. I wasn’t writing the article to appease those with a worldview different than my own, but I’m pleased—despite our obvious differences of opinion—that you find the article respectful, loving, and kind in tone. While this article only scratches the surface on the subject, I pray it is an accurate representation of what Christians ought to believe about it. Thanks for being a longtime reader and for telling us your honest thoughts!
I think your light is showing. Good writing, gentle, truthful, thoughtful, kind, loving.
I agree that this is an important discussion to have with your children.
I don’t understand comparing it to other diseases, like cancer, unless maybe you believe people get sick because of their sin? There is no amount of counseling that can take cancer away. You can’t go down the cancer road and say I am a cancerous person and that’s against God’s design.
I’m just not seeing a very good comparison there.
Thanks for the question. I’m saying that gender dysphoria is a type of suffering brought on by the Fall. It is like a lot of physiological conditions that exist because we live in a world under the curse.
Also, like other physiological conditions, in some instances the right treatment can alleviate the suffering—some can be healed of caner with chemotherapy and some with gender dysphoria can work through their psychological condition with counseling—but in other instances healing is not possible in this life.
In either case, whether you’re talking about cancer or gender dysphoria, the goal is learning how God would have us live in the midst of these conditions.
I know that the church isn’t perfect. We are a congregation of people in need of God’s grace. We have hopefully realized that need and are wanting to know him more and share it. Our church’s motto is “rooted in Christ and reaching out in love.” I do think that’s true, even though I also know a few members who are seem to be more, not just loving their neighbor, but celebrating gay marriage and/or fighting for acceptance of non-binary world views. When I see friends share those last ideas especially, I start wondering if they don’t recall or are denying what the big says about God making “then make and female.” I had a nice chat with her this year. She is one advisor for high school girls where they have a safe place to talk. She said identified herself as “sex positive” (that it’s a god thing) and doesn’t necessarily a person should wait for marriage. I asked why everything had to have a label. I’m not sure I got an answer. I was hoping that in general the youth leaders are teaching God’s design as they also show love and acceptance. I think the PCUSA has become open to gay marriage but I have heard others wondering what decisions ours will be making. It seems there are certainly some on either “side.”
Thanks for the comment, Rebekah.
As with a lot of things, one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves and others is where are our sources of truth. For instance, I’ve come across many Christians who point to research about the genetic and biological origins of transgenderism and same-sex attraction—most of which I don’t have any problem with—but based on this research, these Christians will say something to the effect of, “Therefore, this is what God must think of these things…” This is an odd leap in logic. Using science as the basis for moral and theological claims is both very unscientific and, in many cases, rejects the Bible as our ultimate authority.
I really like your article. I identify as Christian but having attended several churches growing up and seeing hate embraced and encouraged I now chose not to attend. I raise my son to believe in God and Jesus Christ and their love for us and how we should love others and be kind. This world is hard and confusing and someday Christ will come again and we will understand it, and I believe, be embraced and surrounded by His love for doing our best to love all His children. I think your article encourages that very well. My son is 8 and some concepts are hard to explain but I just tell him that some boys think they are girls and some girls think they are boys and we move on. And being open about it, when he has more questions he will come to me. Having represented abused children in Court, I found very few children go to their parents about abuse from others because they are taught what they say is wrong, things are their fault, and to not tell parents. He has always come to me and I hope always will.
So good that you’re talking openly about this subject with your son. More parents should. Hope this article supplies you with some more language to make those conversations easier.
I’m not so sure about the part of comparing transgenderism to anorexia or OCD. This implies we as people in a fallen world have no freedom of choice. Would you also throw alcoholics and drug addicts in this category? If I’m confused about my gender, or believe I’m fat if I’m really skinny, I do not put my security in who I am as a sanctified child of God, but rather my own insecurities. I fully agree people might actually believe they are transgender but still see this on the side of freedom of choice in sinful behavior and not a born with condition like a genetic mutation or an ailment such as cancer. Can’t agree with you on that.
Hey Wendy. Good question.
My comparison of gender dysphoria to OCD and anorexia is that all of these conditions are (a) influenced by factors that are unchosen (such as genetics or upbringing or culture), and (b) all have to do with the discomfort many people feel in their own skin or in their environment. This is not to say that people don’t choose to react in unwise or sinful ways in those conditions, as I say in point #4.
In other words, point #3 largely focuses on the fact that gender dysphoria is a form of unchosen suffering that stems from a cursed and broken world, and point #4 largely focuses on the fact that people can and do choose to react sinfully to their suffering.
I do appreciate your article. Loving others is addressed specifically to this situation, but it resonates to many many things we will encounter. I appreciate that you compare the gender dysphoria to other conditions we don’t quibble about. There is so much we simply don’t know about our physiology, and I don’t think we will ever have enough answers. Some may come, some we will guess at, some we won’t. It won’t matter so much if we stick to what you have outlined. Our true understanding of ourselves is through God’s word. Our obedient following of that word will be loving; which will, as you point out, include an outward righteousness (correct behavior) and an inward humbleness (we are all sinners in a broken world), a caring that is uncompromising in truth (I know what He says) while still compassionate in understanding (I know what I need to do).
When I have asked for prayer for pain, or just being overwhelmed by life, some have addressed those issues as if I should not have them. In essence they were adding to my load that was already more than I thought I could carry. It would be like telling someone just to not have those xyz feelings. We all carry XYZ or xyz feelings. The answer always begins with getting our eyes off ourselves and onto the author and finisher of this race. We really should begin at the beginning.
Scheduling to share tomorrow, what an amazing article. I am so proud of you for writing this, I love how simple it approaches it for kids, you should see a big spike on it tomorrow 😮 Whew, my page might break!
Glad you love it! Looking forward to that spike. 🙂
Beautiful post. I don’t know that I agree that it’s not a choice. I live in an area where transgenderism has become en vogue, especially amongst middle schoolers. I think with society so openly embracing it, it gives some kids a way to get attention. I realize this may not be so for most. I do believe the vast majority suffer from some sort of mental disorder, but this isn’t always the case. Whatever the reason, though, you are right in that we should love them and model the freedom that comes only though Christ.
When I say it is not a choice, I’m talking about the experience of gender dysphoria, not necessarily the choices people make as a result of the condition.
This is the best explanation of transgenderism that I have seen! At first I was taken back at the “it isn’t a choice” point, but it absolutely makes sense! It is a disorder such as anorexia just as you said, but that does not make the actions that follow acceptable. I really like the approach that you took to this article.
This is such a beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing! Pinning it!
I saw this post in a linkup today. I’m going to admit, when I saw the title I was prepared to hate it. But, your response is beautiful. I have struggled with what I should tell my children about those that are transgendered. I will be keeping your points in mind when I do talk to them. The last one, that they deserve love — just as everyone else we meet — that point especially calls to me as I try to teach my children to be giving and give grace.
So glad you enjoyed the article, Christina. I’ve heard the same reaction from a number of readers. I think many of us have grown accustomed to reading the same-ole-same-ole when it comes to these kinds of topics.
My favorite point of yours was that we don’t have to agree with them to love them. Unfortunately most people think you don’t love them if you don’t agree. That is a tragedy. Love is not agreement, it is not a feeling, it is a choice to respect the other person with equal dignity and want what is for their own good.
Hi. This article definitely gave a fresh perspective on transgenderism. However, it sort of negates what I’ve always believed that being a transgender is a matter of one’s choice. I never really thought about it as an infirmity like how you compared it with cystic fibrosis and such which really validates the reasoning of being “born this way”. Because in that case then just like any other diseases where healing isn’t always granted in this lifetime, are we to accept transgenderism as such? I genuinely would like to hear your thoughts on how I understood your points. Thank you!
It depends exactly what you mean by “transgenderism.” If you mean gender dysphoria, as I do in this article, then I would say this is not a chosen condition. On the other hand, there are many sinful ways to choose to react to an infirmity.
I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “accept transgenderism as such.”
Let’s move away from transgenderism for a moment and talk about an unrelated infirmity to see if it brings some clarity. Does a person “accept” having cancer after all attempts at healing fail? They might “accept” it as something providentially allowed by God, something through which they are called to persevere and exhibit Christlike patience, hope, and love, and something God can and will use to conform them to the image of His Son. They ought not “accept” it in the sense that they believe it is “good”—something part of God’s original design for the world. They also ought not “accept” it as a form of suffering that somehow allows them to ignore the God’s commands.
The same is true for transgenderism or any other kind of disordered desire brought on by the Fall.
Does this make sense?
This is a great way to talk about this to others! I’ve been working on figuring out how to talk to our children about a trans friend of ours, and this fits so well with what I’ve been thinking, it just words it better! Thank you!
Glad it is helpful to you!
Hi! I must say I am impressed with the way you’ve handled this. Though I am not religious, nor a parent, this popped up on my Pinterest feed and I decided, you know, why not check it out? Well, I do have a couple suggestions, you said a transgender boy is a girl who feels like a boy (or vice versa), that’s actually incorrect, a transgender boy is a boy born in the body of a girl (again, or vice versa). Just thought I’d let you know! I have talked to many trans people, and the phrase “born in the wrong body” comes up a lot. so perhaps you can understand why someone transitioning to female would want their outward appearance to reflect their inner feminity, as opposed to a masculine appearance. It can be terribly painful to look in the mirror and know that your body doesn’t match your brain. However, this is very well written and I’m glad I took the time to read it! Much love.
Thanks, Jen. When I said a transgender person is “a boy who feels like a girl” (or vice versa), I pointing out that their actual genetic sex is male, but they personally identify as something else. I understand that such a person feels like they are born in “the wrong body,” but why would we affirm this notion by suggesting that the body is somehow incorrect? If every cell of their body has XY chromosomes, should we affirm to them that every cell in their body is somehow lying to them?
I’m glad you liked the article, but I’m not sure I understand the benefit of telling a person that their body is actually wrong.
Thanks for the reply!! I understand your point of view, but scientists believe that transgenderism is caused by a mistake in the second “washing over” of hormones during fetal development. The first washing of hormones determines genitals and the second affirms gender identity, and the hormones can become mixed up and cause the fetus to have a predisposition for a transgender identity. Unfortunately, gender dysphoria is not something that goes away or can be eased. It would be like if you were suddenly in the body of a woman, (assuming you’re a man) all XX chromosomes, but you know your body is wrong. Would you just accept that and live as a woman? (If you say yes, that would be an extremely painful way to live, I would not recommend.) I mean absolutely no disrespect and I apologize if I am being rude, I do not mean to be. This is a subject I have researched extensively and I’d like to help people understand it further 🙂
I’ve heard the same. I’m not at all arguing that gender dysphoria just “goes away.” Nor am I arguing that it isn’t biologically based (I agree that it is). I would never suggest that it is simply a matter of getting better counseling. As you said, it is a “mistake” in our initial formation. I agree with this sentiment: it is something that happens to people, not something they choose.
I’m merely suggesting that the best way to handle such problems is not saying, “You’re second washing of hormones was right, but your first was wrong. Your body is wrong and your mind is right.”
I have difficulty using the desired pronouns in my conversations with and about trans people. The logical part of my brain revolts when I know I am supposed to use “she” when I’m clearly speaking to or about a “he”. I feel dishonest and feel like I am enabling their disorder but I also want to love and respect them where they are on their walk. Any words of advice?
Great question, Martha. I think your desire to respect your transgender friends is a good desire, but you certainly shouldn’t do something that is against your conscience in this matter. This is why how you approach this issue is as important as what you actually decide to do. Like you, I can’t in good conscience use a pronoun I think doesn’t reflect a person’s genetic sex, but if I was ever asked to do so, I would say something to the effect of, “I appreciate what you’re asking me to do, but I would never ask you do something that goes against your conscience. Please don’t ask me to do something similar.” We should make our convictions known in the most loving manner possible.
On one hand, calling someone by their chosen name (like calling a man “Jane”) is of little consequence to me because names can be arbitrary. One of my sons has a name that is commonly used by both men and women, for instance, and names can go in and out of fashion for specific genders in our society. But “he” and “she” have firm meanings, and asking me to use the incorrect term is asking me to be dishonest.
I so love and agree w/your article. Thank you for balanced and thoughtful instruction for parents!
I have a question about this idea of comparing gender dysphoria to cancer/anorexia/etc. tho’…
I recently heard a church leader talking to a transgender person (born biologically female, had surgery/takes meds/etc to live as a male) and the leader basically alluded to the idea that b/c of the fall/sin, everything is depraved—so much so that people have deformities, flaws, abnormalities—so, why couldn’t gender dysphoria be the same? Or rather, maybe b/c of the fall there really WAS a mess-up in birth—that just like someone has anxiety/OCD or cancer which is not God’s original plan but is here b/c of sin in our world, maybe their mind/body are just incongruous.
I don’t agree with that idea AT ALL, but honestly, I can see the slow walk toward it.
I mean, the argument could be that UNLIKE an anorexic who is killing themselves by starving to be 80# when they think they think they are 350#, a person believing they are a boy, when biologically they are a girl–could easily get surgery and meds that would change that. Why can’t they just do that? We do medication and surgeries for other problems, right?
Transgenderism is so lumped into the gay/homosexual conversation that it gets confusing, too. Because the transgender person I mentioned above sees herself as a MALE. So, she’s attracted to women as a MALE. She wouldn’t call herself a lesbian, b/c she thinks she’s a male. So, she sees no sin in regards to a homosexual lifestyle. So, she doesn’t think anything wrong with her “choice” or desires.
Again, I’m not agreeing with this—this is just the argument I’m hearing and am not sure how to respond or what to think! Any thoughts on this? (And I know this article is from 2016, but I’m hoping you see this comment!)
Hey there, Amanda. You ask some good questions.
I personally have no problem believing there could be an underlying physiological component to some cases of gender dysphoria—whether it be genetic or a hormonal irregularity in the womb. We know that’s true for a variety of conditions. There are all kinds of birth abnormalities that exist because of our fallen world. That said the largest transexual twin study ever conducted included 74 pairs of identical twins, and in only 21 of the 74 pairs (28%) did both identical twins identify as transgender. In other words, multiple factors play a role in determining gender identity, not just genetics.
And yes, a person should receive help for gender dysphoria, but the key question is this: What issue exactly ought to be treated when it comes to gender dysphoria? Where is the abnormality located? Is the problem primarily in the gender markers of the body or in the state of the mind?
Now, to answer this, I first should stipulate I’m not here talking about sex chromosome disorders (like Turner syndrome, trisomy X, Klinefelter syndrome, etc.). While I think much of what I write here can and does apply to a variety of these disorders, the way I would care for people in these situations would be a bit more nuanced.
That said, I believe, in cases of gender dysphoria, the primary problem that needs to be treated is in the mind, not the body. For the female who sees herself as male, it is not the gender traits of her body that are lying to her but her own state of mind. Every cell in her brain and body is XX, and no amount of hormone replacement therapy or gender reassignment surgery will change that. There are considerable health risks associated with taking cross-sex hormones. Males taking female hormones are at high risk for blood clots, breast cancer, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, gallstones, and high levels of the lactation hormone prolactin. Females taking male hormones are at high risk for erythrocytosis (having a higher than normal number of red blood cells), severe liver dysfunction, coronary artery disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, and breast or uterine cancer. Not to mention, complete gender reassignment surgery often renders a person completely infertile.
In addition, gender reassignment is not the best longterm care that is needed. A study of 324 sex-reassigned persons in 2003 in Sweden concluded: “Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism.” People who identify as transgender have about 8x the risk of attempting suicide above the general population. Their risk of death by suicide is 19x higher—and the risk does not decline after surgery. A review of over 100 medical studies of post-operative transsexuals found no robust scientific evidence that gender reassignment surgery is clinically effective.
So, your aforementioned argument that “a person believing they are a boy, when biologically they are a girl–could easily get surgery and meds that would change that” is not all that convincing to me.
Now, I won’t dare pretend that addressing the psychological issues of transgenderism are a cake walk, but as I was indicating in the article, all people are born with disordered desires because of the Fall, and for some people that means a discomfort with their own bodies.
The good news is that for the person who has these desires, God can bring about a radical transformation in their life where the center of their identity isn’t located in their perceived gender but in Christ.
Hmm. I think the reason many Christians react so poorly to the transgender discussion is because we are often asked not only accept it but to often embrace it and call it good, so I appreciate this post.
I do not, however, agree that everyone who identifies as trans is suffering from gender dysphoria or does not choose this.
Let me explain. I came to Christ later in life. I have struggled with bisexual attractions my entire life (rarely now, but those attractions do still pop up from time to time.) I lived in a gender and sexuality dorm with people from all walks of life. Many of the “trans” people I knew then are no longer “trans”. Of course, there are at least two who have completed the transformation and are now living life in the opposite sex. However, the majority of them either outgrew it or changed their minds. ONE woman in particular is now very embarrassed about the fact that she lived her college years as a man. What is interesting to me is that all of the individuals who no longer consider themselves trans were all subject to some sort of trauma- either abuse or neglect. The one trans male who has had the operations had not.
So, I am just chiming in to say that I think Christians have a legitimate concern that the publicity of the trans movementry certainly causes some people to act out in these ways to gain approval or attention. Those with true gender dysphoria are not typically the ones (in my experience) who desire to be in the lime light because of their condition. And while gender dysphoria may not be a choice, transgenderism- even without the underlying cause of gender dysphoria- is. Yet, as you say, it is also still a result of our broken world and the trans individual is struggling with something.
I also think we have to be careful to evaluate if our actions are based in love or appeasement. There is a very, very Fine line between being not dismissing trans strugles and appeasing the trans community at the risk of compromising our beliefs. It just goes to show how fully we must always rely on God to direct us.
I agree, Sarah. In this article I was focusing more specifically on genuine cases of gender dysphoria.
This is wisdom, Luke and Trisha!!!! What a gift you two have! You are working at a level above our current culture. Thank you for yet another tremendous resource. Please keep up the spirit-filled work of your ministry.