Talking to Your Children about Transgender

Andrew T. Walker

In this edited extract from God and the Transgender Debate, Andrew Walker gives some helpful ideas for how we can talk about sex and identity and how we can positively relate to transgender people.

If you are a parent, it is going to be impossible to avoid this topic. It’s not a question of if you’ll have to talk to your son or daughter about the growing acceptance of transgenderism; it’s a matter of when. When that happens, what will you say? 

SEE ALSO: Can Someone be Transgender and Christian?

Will you shrug your shoulders in disbelief and avoid the topic altogether, leaving your child to be informed and have their opinions shaped only by the outside world? 

Will you respond in mocking disbelief, and tell your kids, “Those people are crazy. They just need to know what it means to be a man or a woman. And that’ll take care of it.” 

SEE ALSO: 5 Things Every Christian Needs to Know about the Transgender Debate

Will you panic, withdraw your child from school, and aim to shield them from this—and everything else that is wrong “out there” in the world? 

Or will you sit down and have a difficult and honest conversation about a challenging topic that their young minds may find very difficult to understand? 

SEE ALSO: What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church

You can’t avoid your child having this conversation, sooner or later. The question is whether your child will have it with you, or with someone else. If you find yourself wanting to avoid the topic altogether, and your child knows it, not only will it communicate that you don’t want to help them navigate challenging topics; it will suggest to them that Christians lack the ability to give a compassionate, nuanced answer, and that your faith can’t cope with reality. 

The temptation to shield our children from such topics is understandable, but it is not acceptable. A part of being wise as a parent is balancing a desire to protect your child from the world with the need to prepare them for the world.

Walking and Talking

So here’s what I’d say to a ten-year-old on an hour-long walk:

You’ll notice I’m basically taking my child on a walking tour of Genesis 1-3.

A part of being wise as a parent is balancing a desire to protect your child from the world with the need to prepare them for the world.

Loving without agreeing

If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, have the courage to say, “I don’t know. But let me do some studying about what the Bible says about that.” Being honest with your children about hard topics, and letting them know you are committed to helping them instead of giving them some ham-fisted answer, will demonstrate that you are serious about helping them navigate a challenging culture thoughtfully.

Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely.

Keep the conversation going

Finally, find ways to keep this conversation going. As a child matures and experiences new phases of life, there are going to be natural questions about proper expectations and how that child understands himself or herself as a man or as a woman. Encourage that. Don’t run away from important questions about sexual and gender identity just because your pre-pubescent child, or pubescent teen, is asking hard and awkward questions. Reject the temptation to offload parental responsibility in the awkwardness of puberty. That’s when your child needs your greatest attention, your confidence, and your affirmation. In the home as much as in the church, we each bend toward harsh “truth” or untruthful “love”—and we need to be aware of this in our parenting. We need to pray about, and against, whatever particular tendency we as parents might have when parenting our kids.

Communicate confidently, but not arrogantly. Communicate compassionately, not harshly. Communicate honestly, not simplistically or tritely.

God and the Transgender Debate is available now from The Good Book Company 

This article originally appeared on TheGoodBook.com. Used with permission.

Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) is Director of Policy Studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. http://www.andrewtwalker.com/  

Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/monkeybusinessimages

Publication date: September 14, 2017

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