Preparing Christian Children for the Transgender Moment
The mainstream prevalence of transgenderism seems to have risen and emerged far faster than most people would expect. Practices, norms, and behaviors that conservative people may have expected to remain confined to limited environments, now appear on the front door (or at least the school house door) of large segments of American society.
A 2017 study by the UCLA’s school of law measure that 0.7% teenagers identify as transgender. The 13-17 age range contains the highest percentage of transgender people in the United States.
Many states are examining and debating whether transgender teenagers should use the restroom of their birth gender versus preferred gender. At some universities, early childhood and elementary education majors are being taught not to identify student as “he / him” or “she / her” until the child makes clear their preferred gender.
How do Christian parents prepare their children for the “trans moment?” As a Christian parent, there are two “trans-moments” for which I am preparing my children, moments that I expect every American child will encounter soon.
Moment #1: Having a transgendered classmate.
I fully expect my children, who are young, will one day have transgender classmates. As parents, we need to be aware that there can be a danger in allowing ethical principles to be confused with people. By that I mean while orthodox Christian teaching opposes the beliefs of the transgender movement, we do not oppose people. No matter how much we may disagree with a child’s or family’s decisions, we are called to treat all people with love and dignity.
I have told my old-school age child first to view a transgender student with compassion. None of us know what that child is experiencing in their mind and body. We can assume that they’ve dealt with much anxiety and difficulty leading up to their decision to transition. As a result, I have told her to regard a transgender student with compassion and without any judgment.
Secondly, I have alerted my child that a transgender child will likely be a target for bullying. Consequently, I have encouraged my daughter to have a particular awareness and sensitivity to those students. I have basically said, “We are Christians and we believe all people are made with dignity. As a result, we will defend anyone who is being demeaned and degraded. You need to stand up for any person who is being mistreated, whether you agree with them or not.”
This point is important to make because in our fear on issues we can overlook people. Christian parents are genuinely very afraid about this issue. While Christian parents may have grave disagreements with the principles surrounding transgenderism, we have to form children who respect and protect the human dignity of every person.
Moment #2: Participating in a gender pronoun introduction
A newer practice on college campuses involves a “gender introduction” on the first day of class. Students are asked to introduce themselves by name and also their preferred pronouns. For example, if you are male named Bill, you would say, “Hi, I’m Bill. My pronouns are ‘he’ and ‘him.’” Higher education tends to operate by the norms of the most progressive segments of the culture, but there is reason to believe that “gender introductions” will make their way into more and more settings that the average child will enter.
I would imagine that teachers or professors who start class with a “pronoun introduction” have the best of intentions and only want to make the class as welcoming as possible for all students. Simultaneously, the presuppositions that underlie pronoun introductions and gender fluidity are diametrically opposed to my family’s practice of orthodox Christianity.
Let me explain. Gender fluidity assumes that human beings have the authority to determine and define reality. It says, “Physical reality may say that you have a male or female body, but you, as a human being, ultimately will dictate for yourself whether or not you actually are male or female.”
God ultimately defines reality in every realm. His word provides mankind with the means through which we see that reality. The Christian parent is trying to lead their children to interpret the world through the lens of the Bible on God’s terms.
In Genesis 1, when God creates mankind, he states,
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
In creation, God makes physical reality and he defines it. He makes mankind and declares that they are male and female. The Lord does not leave that definition up to mankind; he determines it himself.
When God hands the law down to Moses in the Torah, he defines right and wrong. He created human life and therefore has the authority to deem what is good and what is bad.
Mankind claiming authority to determine reality strikes at the core of human sin. In the Garden of Eden, the major shift that leads to eating from the tree occurs when Adam and Eve decide to define reality for themselves. God essentially said, “eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is bad. It will harm you. Kill you, in fact.”
But the key turn occurs when Eve eats from the tree after “[she] saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” After that shift, “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
A central element in the downfall of Adam and Eve involved a shift in the seat of authority. God had objectively defined eating from the tree as bad. Adam and Eve subjectively overruled and decided to define reality on their own terms. They deemed the fruit to be good. This choice was destructive in ultimate terms.
I would not accuse an instructor of deliberately trying to indoctrinate my child into a specific worldview. I would imagine the intent is to create as safe environment for transgender students. Nevertheless, when a gender pronoun introduction occurs, my child is being pulled into an exercise that presumes that we as humans define reality. The presuppositions of that exercise communicate, “We will all go around and pronounce how we individually define our own physical reality.”
So if my daughter is in a group situation where the instructor or leader initiates a pronoun introduction, I have taught her to say in a humble, kind, and respectful tone, “God made me female, you can call me ‘she / her / hers.’”
In leading up to this discussion, we reviewed New City Catechism Question #4:
Q: How and why did God create us?
A: God created us male and female in his own image to glorify him.
We talked about how God created and defined reality, namely gender in the context of this conversation. We interpret reality through God’s word, rather than constructing it ourselves. I taught my daughter to open by saying, “God made me female” to reinforce that the definition of life and meaning starts with God, not mankind.
In truth, when the day comes that my child encounters a gender pronoun introduction, I am not as worried about the form of the language she uses. According to her own conscience through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, she may determine that it is unwise to use the statement I taught her in certain contexts. My bigger concern revolves around her understanding the ideological and theological difference between a biblical worldview and one of human self-construction. I am teaching her to reject the notion that we as human beings can define reality on our terms. I want to reiterate that life lived on God’s terms is hopeful, life-giving, and peaceful; life on our own terms is self-destructive, isolating, and self-centered.
Many Christian parents are very, very afraid of the world into which we are sending our children, with the transgender issue ranking high on the list of concerns. Rather than fixating on whether or not our daughters will have a biological male using the bathroom stall next to them, our time is better spent having conversations about human dignity and the role of scripture in understanding life. I would recommend that we see the opportunity of these conversations to highlight the incoherence of a self-constructed reality versus the soundness and wisdom of life understood according to God’s word.