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Talking to Your Children about Transgender

  • Andrew T. Walker Author
  • 2017 14 Sep
  • COMMENTS
Talking to Your Children about Transgender

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? 

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.” 

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? 

SEE ALSO: Can Someone be Transgender and Christian?

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? 

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

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

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

  • People see reality in different ways, and Christians base our view of reality on what the Bible teaches about the world, because it is written by the God who made us. 
  • God made men and women equally valuable, and he made them to be different, and this difference is wonderful and good, and is what leads to humans reproducing in every generation. The human race relies on sexual difference. I’d talk, in an age-appropriate way, about the unique traits of being a boy, and being a girl.
  • I’d also aim to poke holes in cultural stereotypes about gender. I’d tell my child that not every man likes to hunt or watch football. Some men enjoy cooking and writing poetry. Not every young girl wants to wear princess dresses. Some girls enjoy tramping through the woods in overalls. And that’s okay. I’d point out to them that in our church, there are men who are sports-obsessed, unlike me. Equally, there are men who can’t fix a car, like me. And there are women who don’t enjoy cooking, and women who run their own business, and women who love cooking and work in the home. 
  • While God made a very good world, it’s been messed up by sin, and sin causes brokenness in the world and, in very different ways, in people’s lives. I would be looking to make very clear that there is a difference between suffering the effects of a sinful world, and active personal sin; and that we are all sinners, including them, in different ways.

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

SEE ALSO: What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church

  • The biblical view of this world is not one that everyone shares. People who reject God’s good rule are not going to accept God’s teaching. Sometimes, we don’t feel like accepting it either.
  • Some people feel they were born a different gender than their birth sex and they feel alienated from their body. Feeling like this really upsets them, and it’s a very hard place to be in. We don’t need to be mean to these people, and we must never consider them weird or freakish because they’re made by God, in his image. But we need to remember that God made them to be a man or a woman, with a male body or a female body, and so how they feel about themselves is not what God wants for them. A girl is a girl, because God made her that way, even if she wants to be called David, and dress like a boy. 
  • In a fallen world, every human, including us, is walking with sin and brokenness that they did not choose and that they cannot simply walk away from. And so every Christian sometimes has to say “no” to what they want or how they feel, because Jesus is their King. To be a Christian means we trust in God even when it seems different than what our experiences, perceptions, and desires say. To be a Christian also means loving those around us, even when—perhaps especially when—we disagree with them. That’s what Jesus did. 

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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