What do I do if my child doesn’t seem to fit with typical gender norms?

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In a 2014 blog post titled “Let Kids Be Kids Instead of Sexualized Little Adults,”[1] writer Amy Julia Becker raised concerns about a YouTube video that tells the story of a child named Ryland. Ryland “transitioned” from female to male at age six. The seven-minute video, which had been viewed more than seven million times at the time of writing,[2] shows a cute little girl with attentive parents talking about herself as a boy. Ryland wants to wear a tie and sees herself as a big brother to her little sister. When her manner and these preferences stay the same for years, her parents decide this is more than a phase. Experts told them that children know their “true gender” by age five. So, the parents begin to support Ryland’s transition to a boy by cutting her hair short, using male pronouns, and supporting her desire to dress in boy clothes.

The Bible teaches us that our given gender identity is the identity that corresponds with our biological sex. Because God made mankind male and female, a man or woman’s gender is—in this sense—fixed (Gen. 1:27). It cannot become whatever we want it to be, because our gender is a part of our personhood. Being a man or a woman is a gift we receive from God.

While affirming this truth, it needs to be nuanced. It’s important to affirm ways in which gender expression is fluid and relational—even in the Bible. Think, for instance, about the two patriarch brothers, Jacob and Esau. They were both men. But Jacob imaged forth God’s orderly rule in the kitchen—he made a legendary lentil stew. Esau, on the other hand, expressed his masculinity as a hunter (Gen. 25:24-28). They were really different sons. And it’s not just Jacob and Esau. There are a range of ways masculinity and femininity are expressed across relationships and cultures today as well. In Scotland, for instance, a kilt is a cultural expression of masculinity. In the States, wearing one might seem more appropriate for a school girl.[3] Gender doesn’t emerge identically across all times and cultures.

So, on the one hand, our gender is given (Gen. 1). And, on the other hand, the particular expression it takes varies culturally and relationally. According to the American Psychological Association, the term gender refers to the “attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.”[4] The APA’s definition captures well the personal and relational ways each person’s gender identity is expressed. In Genesis 2, the man and woman expressed their gender identity in the context of their relationship. And, since that time, gender has always taken a cultural shape.

What does this tell us about Ryland? Ryland’s parents and the experts who advised them made early assumptions about Ryland’s adult gender identification. It is true that kids begin to form their gender understanding early, but the process by which this happens is not well understood.[5] Children don’t typically need to be taught purposefully about their gender. They absorb this knowledge from the normal course of family life and their larger social environment. While a strong sense of gender identity is common by preschool, it can change, like any matter of self-perception, as children move into puberty and then adulthood. Becker relates anecdotes of other children, including her sister, who acted like the opposite sex as a kid but ultimately emerged with the typically masculine or feminine traits corresponding with their biological sex. She concludes,

When little girls want to dress and play like boys, when little boys want to dress and play like girls, it's too early to indicate their gender identity. Some of them will go on—in puberty and beyond—to want to change their biological sex. Some of them will go on to identify as gay or lesbian. But many of them—perhaps most of them—will simply grow up into the gender in accord with their biological sex.[6]

Jumping to conclusions about a child’s future gender identity based on their childhood interests fails to see children as who they are—kids, who still have a lot of growing up to do.

But simply knowing kids are kids doesn’t keep us from worrying, does it? What if your daughter is into boxing and will have nothing to do with ribbons and dolls? What if your boy cares nothing for sports but instead is interested in fashion and dance? Should you be concerned if your child loses interest in the toys and activities typical for their sex? Should you be worried that your children are on the road to a destabilized gender identity or that they’ll want to transition to the opposite gender?

God always chooses broken people who need him. He meets us in our discord, and he works out his glorious purposes.

A certain degree of anxiety about our kids is understandable. A very feminine mom can struggle to relate to her tomboy daughter. And if dad is a man’s man who loves to hunt, it can be hard to accept a sensitive son who prefers the kitchen to the woods (Just ask Isaac!). The biblical view is that our masculine or feminine gender identities are not established by our cultural gender expression but are rooted in God’s design. Sadly, our tendency—both within the church and in society at large—is to connect gender identity to rigid stereotypes. We think girls must wear pink and play with dolls while boys wear blue and play sports. Andrew T. Walker thinks this is a particular danger in our day:

Perhaps this is tempting for Christians in this generation, where, for the first time in history, questions of gender identity and a celebration of those seeking to change gender have moved into the mainstream. In our quest to stay true to God’s calling, it is possible to play to extreme stereotypes in such a way as to bring confusion . . . [But a] man who cooks or a woman who likes watching football is not blurring inappropriate gender norms; nor is that any sort of concrete evidence that a person has gender-identity issues.[7]

If we disentangle the biblical perspective on gender from our cultural biases, then we can be set free from these assumptions and fears. Since cultural norms don’t make a boy or girl, we can support our child’s interests, even those that don’t fit gender stereotypes, and at the same time encourage a gender identity that aligns with our child’s biological sex.

So, what does it look like to encourage your child to embrace his or her God-given gender without putting too much weight on cultural norms? Here are a few pointers:

First, affirm your child’s biological sex and their corresponding gender identity.

Affirm God’s creation of your child as a unique person and affirm the gender identity that corresponds with your child’s biology. This may be in ways that fit common gender stereotypes. But it may also be in ways that do not—such as encouraging a young man who is interested in music to see a great male musician like Bach as a role model or encouraging a daughter with mathematical skill to look up to an outspoken female engineer.[8] Rigid gender norms should be avoided. They may appear to codify biblical manhood and womanhood, but, generally speaking, they do more harm than good. A father who feels shame, for example, over a son who wants to pursue cooking may invalidate his son’s legitimate desire to cultivate a real gift and ability simply because it doesn’t match with his preconceived idea about what it means to be a man. And if a child fails to live up to such inflexible and extra-biblical standards, this may create a sense of internal distance between the child and his or her gender identity.[9] Biblically speaking, seeing your child affirmed as a man or woman according to the culture’s values is not the most important thing. More important than worldly affirmation is encouraging your son or daughter to grow in confidence as the person God made them to be.

Second, give your child focused attention and appropriate affection.

In his classic book on parenting, How to Really Love Your Child, Ross Campbell wrote, “A child is the most needy person in our society, and the greatest need is love.”[10] Most parents know this intuitively, but they find it a challenge to convey their love in a way their child can receive it. Many parents only touch their children when necessity demands it, such as when helping them dress or buckle into their car seats. This is a travesty. Children need the emotional encouragement that comes from regular affection. God means for every child to be held, touched, and snuggled. As kids grow, they need wrestling, back-slapping, high fives, and physical contact from sports and games. We can help our sons and daughters grow in confidence by giving them unconditional love, eye contact, focused attention, and physical affection.

Finally, face the obstacles presented by a destabilized gender identity with grace, truth, and hope.

Sometimes preferences and desires, like Ryland’s in the YouTube video, do persist. Loving parents sometimes watch their child progress from harmless interests to deliberate, regular cross-dressing and a destabilized gender identity. Godly, Christian parents have children who experience discord and inner conflict between their gender identity and biological sex. Psychologists label this gender dysphoria.

We don’t understand much about the causes of gender dysphoria, but we do know the experience is real. It might be tempting to label a child’s feeling that he or she would feel better as the opposite gender (or no gender at all) simply as an example of wrong thinking or a lack of faith. But when a child experiences distress, anguish, and conflict about their perceived gender identity, this is usually a complex, unchosen experience. People experiencing gender dysphoria experience the feeling that their biological body is lying. And, when their experience is severe they may also experience depression and thoughts of suicide.[11]

Please don’t be dismissive with your child about their experience. Rather, show compassion and speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Supporting your child by empathizing with their pain does not mean affirming gender dysphoria as natural and normal. And it does not mean supporting a “transition” or transgender identification, that is, their expressing a gender identity that does not match their genetic sex. Parents should be wary of hormonal or surgical treatments that seek to change an individual’s body and chemical balance and bring them into alignment with their perceived gender. As Nate Collins writes, “God designed personhood to be constrained and shaped by bodies, and efforts to make permanent, fundamental changes to the body are inherently traumatizing.”[12]

We know that God made men and women to live out our masculine and feminine gender identities with joy and confidence. But in a fallen world, broken bodies, broken family systems, and broken human cultures can conspire against us. Our love must not change nor shrink back. Instead, we must respond with grace, truth, and hope.

Even if an experience of gender dysphoria persists for your child’s lifetime, God remains faithful. I briefly mentioned the story of Jacob and Esau above. Have you considered that God didn’t pick the most gender stereotypical son to be the patriarch and namesake for his chosen people? Jacob wasn’t even the most obedient and faithful son. Scandalously, God chose the deceptive son who pretended to be someone he wasn’t. You see, God always chooses broken people who need him. He meets us in our discord, and he works out his glorious purposes. Because he is faithful to broken sinners like Jacob, we can faithfully love our kids as well, facing whatever obstacles may come with hope.

This post appeared first at ERLC.com 

NOTES

  1. ^ Amy Julia Becker, “Let Kids Be Kids Instead of Sexualized Little Adults”, Thin Places (July 10, 2014), accessed online at http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2014/july/let-kids-be-kids-instead-of-sexualized-little-adults.html.

  2. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAHCqnux2fk

  3. ^ Andrew T. Walker, God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity? (The Good Book Company, 2017), pp. 31-32.

  4. ^ “Definitions Related to Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in APA Documents,” accessed online at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/sexuality-definitions.pdf, p. 2.

  5. ^ Douglas Davies, Child Development: A Practitioner’s Guide, Third Edition, (Guilford Press, 2011), pp. 296-298; Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, p. 167; Stan and Brenna Jones, How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Character, (NavPress, 1993, 2007), p. 104.

  6. ^ Becker, “Let Kids Be Kids.”

  7. ^ Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, pp. 55-56.

  8. ^ Stan and Brenna Jones, How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Character, (NavPress, 1993, 2007), p. 109.

  9. ^ Nate Collins, All but Invisible: Exploring Identity Questions at the Intersection of Faith, Gender, and Sexuality, (Zondervan, 2017), pp. 218-19.

  10. ^ D. Ross Campbell, MD, How to Really Love Your Child, (David C. Cook, 1977, 2015), p. 14.

  11. ^ Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, p. 33.

  12. ^ Collins, All but Invisible, p. 220. Also see Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, pp. 33-35.

Mom, Dad... What's Sex? An excellent new book from Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick

My generation of American church youth participated in True Love Waits rallies and purity Bible studies. Even though it wasn’t explicitly taught, we got the impression that if we kept our pants on, saved ourselves for marriage, and never kissed until the pronouncement then we’d experience marital bliss. But the trouble is sex can’t carry that much weight.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the Teacher writes about his own grand search for meaning in life. He searched for significance in work, in material treasure, in aesthetic beauty, and in sexual relationships. He says, “I acquired… a harem as well – the delights of a man’s heart” (2:8). If the writer of this text was King Solomon (and I believe it was), then he’s employing quite the understatement. According to 1 Kings 11:3, he amassed seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure,” the Teacher writes (2:10a). But was this enough to satisfy his deepest longings? No, he concludes, “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (2:11).

God didn’t design sex as a way of meeting our deepest spiritual needs.

God did not design sex as a way of meeting our deepest spiritual needs. He designed sex to be an expression of a loving marital relationship (Gen. 2:24-25). And he designed the marriage relationship as a signpost that points to something more – the deep love and mystical union between Christ and his bride, the church (Eph. 5: 31-32). When a married couple experiences the joy of sexual intimacy, God intends for them to be reminded of the greater joy they’ll one day experience when they’re united to their bridegroom Christ in glory. “Even the single person who is celibate,” writes Joel Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, “is declaring with their life that they are waiting the union they will experience in the consummation of all things.”[i]

So, rather than holding out a great sex life in the future as the great hope and moral motivation for our kids, we must instead hold out Christ for them. Teach your teens that while sin gives temporary satisfaction, our great hope is found in God, whose love is better than life (Ps. 63:3). An orgasm gives pleasure for the moment, but God’s love and presence brings eternal joy. Teach your kids to look up and cling to the Savior who loved them even in the midst of their weakness and sin (Rom. 5:8).

As Thompson has written beautifully elsewhere:

Tell them that believers in him have his record of being the only sexually pure one to ever walk this earth. Teach them about the free grace of forgiveness that he extends to everyone. Teach them how much his love is better than any sexual experience they will ever have. Open their eyes to the beauty of the Lover of their soul.

One tool that may help you is the excellent new book by Jessica Thompson and Joel Fitzpatrick entitled, Mom, Dad... What's Sex? A Gospel-Centered View of Sex and Our CultureThis new book provides families with a clear vision, a winsome apologetic for the Bible's sexual ethic, and practical guidance--everything from social media to porn to same-sex attraction. But to just say that would miss the point. Joel and Jessica's goal is to celebrate Christ, who enters the hot mess of our sexual brokenness and brings redemption. Get this book and let it guide your family conversations. 

And as you remind your kids about the good news of God’s love, believe it for yourself. Show them a life lived in his love with confidence that Jesus is the only solution to our brokenness and the only pathway toward purity.

 

Be Who You Are: Teaching Kids About Gender

My favorite scene in Toy Story takes place at the Dinoco Station. Woody and Buzz fight, and their squabble sends them falling out of the minivan onto the concrete. The argument goes on for a moment when, suddenly, Woody stops. He looks up and watches in horror as Andy and his mom drive away. Woody chases after the car for a few steps. “Doesn’t he realize I’m not there?” he shouts, “I’m lost. Oh, I’m a lost toy!” Woody experiences deep anguish, because he knows who he is.

You see, the toys in the world of Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story movies want nothing more than to bring joy to their owners. They want to love and be loved by their kid. After all, Woody’s kid Andy wrote his name in permanent marker under his shoe. Toys like Woody live for playtime. They revel in it. It’s what they’re created for. But, for a toy like Woody, being lost or replaced is your greatest fear. The older and more worn out a toy gets, the more danger there is of being donated, discarded and sent to a trash heap, or just stored in the attic forgotten. And getting left behind at a gas station is close to the worst that can happen.

If we try to take account of our lives without considering the One for whom we are made, we’re delusional.

Buzz Lightyear’s reaction fascinates me in this scene. He doesn’t understand the importance of catching up with Andy. He doesn't understand the great tragedy of being lost. Buzz thinks he’s a real spaceman having an adventure on an uncharted planet; he doesn’t know he’s a toy. What Buzz can’t see is that he’s more lost than he knows.

We are just like the toys in those movies. They’re lost without Andy, and we’re lost without God. God made us as his children—to love and be loved by him. We're his cherished sons and daughters. God made us his representatives. We bear his name. It's etched on our very souls. If we try to take account of our lives without considering the One for whom we were made or how he made us, we’re as delusional as Buzz.

While God made each person to represent him in some unique way, we need both women and men, with their complementary differences, to get a complete picture of God’s loving character

So, how did God make us? Right at the beginning, God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…male and female" (Gen. 1:26-27). These verses show us that the biological differences between men and women are a fundamental part of God’s design—a part of who we are and a part of the essence of God’s image. God made us to live in community with one another so we can image forth the kind of relational life the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally shared. While God made each person to represent him in some unique way, we need both women and men, with their complementary differences, to get a complete picture of God’s loving character.

Let’s take it one step further. God didn’t just create men and women to be together, reflecting his glory. He also created men and women to work together, accomplishing his purposes. Just like the cowboy and the (eventually self-aware) spaceman must work together to get back to Andy, men and women must work together to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). As Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup observe:

By creating them as male and female, God invested their bodies with strengths and weaknesses that would bind them together in mutual dependence as they fulfilled the Creation Mandate. The woman’s body would allow her to cultivate new image bearers, but this would also make her more vulnerable. The man’s body would be unable to bear life, but his physical strength would allow him to protect and provide... The differences between them were not an end in themselves… They were the means by which they would together cultivate the good bounty of the earth and their own bodies. Together they would rule and reign over the new creation as King and Queen.

God’s in the business of gifting his children so they can use those gifts for his glory through loving and serving others. Our biological sex is one of the first of these gifts, and it’s a gift we need to help our children steward. But how? 

Simply put, we need to train our boys and girls to be who they are—to pursue Christ-like gender expression that corresponds with their given biological sex.

The term biological sex refers to the compositional differences between men and women written into our DNA from birth—XX for girls and XY for boys. This compositional difference gives rise to the kinds of physical differences in reproductive systems and muscular-skeletal structure Anderson and Alsup describe in the quote above. The term gender refers to the “attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.”

Some gender expressions are culturally bound. In Scotland, a kilt seems manly, but in the States, wearing one might seem more appropriate for a school girl. According to biblical teaching, other gender expressions—particularly the engendered covenant roles for men and women in a marriage and the church (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:12-13)—should follow our biology. For example, when a biological male gets married (according to the biblical model), he becomes a husband not a wife (and vice versa).

Binding biology and gender together in this way is a constraint that’s out of fashion, but I it’s truly freeing. When gender flows from biology it becomes clear that manhood and womanhood are not status levels you achieve by pursuing certain cultural expressions of gender. Rather, instead being a man or woman, being male or female, is a gift. Our responsibility is simply to teach our kids to live a Christian life in accordance with this given identity.

For young men, this means parents should prepare them to live as servants-leaders—to take initiative, work to cultivate good, and fight to protect what’s true:

  •  Take Initiative. Think about how God commissioned Adam—before the Fall—to live as a servant-leader. God sent Adam to name all the beasts (Gen. 2:19-20). He names Adam as head and representative of the human family (Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:22). We see this confirmed in the order of creation (Gen. 2:7; 1 Tim. 2:13). But ultimately Adam failed (Gen. 3:6). Only Christ truly shows what it means to lovingly serve as head by humbly considering others as greater than himself (Phil. 2:3-8).

    If we’re going to raise young men to serve as faithful covenant heads of families and churches, we must teach them to serve sacrificially. When a cup spills at the dinner table, boys shouldn’t wait for mom (or his sisters) to grab a paper towel. Teach boys to jump up and move toward the problem with eager humility (Prov. 3:27). This is important. We must show young men that taking initiative doesn’t require always being in charge. Even when they enter a headship role as husbands or fathers, leadership should look like spirit-empowered service (Eph. 5:23; John 13)
     
  • Work for Good. A man’s physical strength allows him to provide for his family. He was created with an orientation toward work. Genesis tells us the Lord formed Adam from the ground (2:7), and then he placed the man in the garden “to work [the ground] and take care of it” (2:15). If a husband or father refuses to work and provide for his family, this is tantamount to denying the faith (1 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:8). A lazy man fails to steward the strong body God gave him for the others in his care (Prov. 12:24). He fails to conform his life to Christ, who sacrificed his own body for our sakes.

    Teach sons to cultivate their bodies, minds, and relationships—not for selfish gain, but for the sake of God and others. If a young man doesn’t love God, he’ll work with the wrong goals in mind (Gen. 4:19-24; 11:1-9). We can teach young men to get a job and start investing early—not so they’ll be millionaires by forty but instead to learn the character and skill necessary to provide for a family. Boys need dads and other older men to model service in church and community. They need to see men working with humility for the sake of justice and mercy (Micah 6:8).
     
  • Fight to Protect. Finally, our goal should be to raise young men with self-control, who will use their physical and emotional strength to protect others. Some men fail to control their strong emotions and become foolish hotheads (Prov. 14:16-17). Others take it to the next level, using their physical strength for violence and abuse (Gen. 4:1-16). Adam neglected his strength. He should have spoken up to protect his wife from the serpent’s lies (Gen. 3:6). But in Adam’s failure, we receive the promise of one who would finally fight and crush Satan (Gen. 3:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:25).

    We have an opportunity to participate in Christ’s victory when we fight for what is good and true (Rom. 16:19). Throughout the Scripture, we’re given examples of men who use their strength to protect others. Abraham went to war to save Lot. David fought again and again to save Israel. Not all our sons will learn to wrestle or do martial arts, but they can all learn to speak up and fight for what is good.

Just as we prepare young men to be servant leaders, we should call young women to live in conformity with Christ’s character as influential helpers and nurturers:

  • Give Help and Influence. When God made the woman for Adam as his wife, he created “a helper suitable for him,” because it wasn’t good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). A few verses later, we see the woman “taken from Adam” (Gen. 2:22). This is parallel to the man who was taken from the ground and called to work it (Gen 2:7). In the context of marriage, the woman’s orientation is toward her husband—to give him her help and influence.

    This is a unique way women image forth God’s character as help and salvation for his people (Ps. 33:20, Ps. 70:5; Ex. 18:4). It should inspire every woman and humble every prideful man to see that every major era of biblical history begins with a woman. (Eve—Gen. 3; Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter—Ex. 2; Hannah—1 Sam. 1; Mary and Elizabeth—Luke 1). Notice that Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t give birth to Moses, but through him she brought deliverance to the Hebrew people. Her compassion gave her saving influence (Ex. 2:6).

    The woman was made as co-ruler with the man (Gen. 1:26); there’s shared authority in that statement. But often times influence accomplishes more than authority ever could—both for good and evil (Prov. 8-9; 31:10-31). Eve didn’t need to flex her muscles or get political to influence Adam to eat the fruit. She simply gave it to him. Her actions had destructive power. Teach your daughters their actions and words have influence (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:1-5). Then teach them to ask, “Is what I do and say a help or a hindrance to others? Do I think about how I can help and serve or do I only consider how I want to be served?”
     
  • Nurture and Empower Others. After the Fall, God named the woman Eve, mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20). This was a grace. The man and woman received the wages for sin but not yet fully; the woman’s body could still give life. This is a great gift. A woman’s body is designed to incubate and sustain a baby’s life from conception to birth. Her milk alone can sustain her newborn for the first part of the baby’s life.

    Not every woman will become a wife or mother, but every one of our daughters can provide life-giving care for others. Paul instructs every woman in the church to develop others (Titus 2:3-5). We see examples of this in Priscilla’s ministry to Apollos (Acts 18:26—her name is listed first before her husband!), in Philip’s prophet daughters (Acts 21:8), and in Timothy’s grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5). Such women model what it means to nurture and empower others in the faith.
Manhood and womanhood are not status levels to be achieved.

I hope I’ve been abundantly clear. Young men and women don’t need to “be more of a man” or “more of a woman.” Like Buzz Lightyear, they simply need to know who they are—who they’ve been created to be. As both sexes grow in maturity and transform into Christ’s likeness, the integration of their body and soul will ensure they are more fully formed as men and women.

An earlier version of this post first appeared at champthornton.com

Three Must Reads After the Transgender Accessibility Directive

Last week, the Obama Administration issued a directive to America's public schools regarding transgender bathroom/locker room accessibility.  The President has ordered every school district in the country to allow students use the bathroom or locker room of their chosen gender identity rather than the one that aligns with their biological sex. The directive does not have the force of law, but it comes with the threat that funding will be removed from school districts that do not comply.

Since that time, a wealth of information has been written on the subject. Even though it's not our Friday Links day, I wanted to point to three articles that I've found to be incredibly helpful:  

First, Andrew Walker has written a very helpful piece on how Christians should respond for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. He encourages civil disobedience on behalf of local districts and state governments as well as advocacy with public officials on the part of Christian citizens. One of his encouragements is for Christian parents to establish a tipping point at which they may choose to abandon the public school system altogether. He asks:

What actions taken by your local school will be sufficient for you to re-evaluate public education? Is having a teacher reprimand your child for his or her belief about marriage, sex, and gender acceptable? Will you allow them to be in schools where bathroom policies are based on gender identity rather than biological sex? Are you uncomfortable with a biological male having access to the restroom and locker room that your daughter uses?

I think Walker's questions are good ones. I'm certainly not comfortable with what is happening. Honestly, a form of separatism may be the best option in the future. But pulling my daughters out of public school also feels like a compromise of my convictions. Christian families like my own who have chosen the public education option recognize that the worldview our children are taught in the classroom clashes with what is taught at church and home. But rather than insulate our children from a secular culture, we desire to teach our kids to live with Christian convictions in the midst of that culture. Our desire is to prepare them to live as Christians in cities and work environments that operate on the basis of secular values. For us, this is what it means to raise them to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16)--to not be of the world but be in it and on mission to it (John 17:14-19). Nevertheless, Walker's piece is really thought provoking, and I encourage you to read and consider it.

A second article is by North Carolina pastor, Brian Hambrick, who wrote about how he is processing the issue with his boys who attend a public school. One of his key concerns for his boys is that they be biblically informed and personally compassionate: 

I want my boys to be both thoroughly versed in God’s original design and increasingly equipped to care for others in a broken world... My boys love biology, so we talked about how gender is ingrained in every cell of our body as either an XX (female) or XY (male) chromosome. They love to ask, “Whose nose do I have? Whose eyes do I have?” Tying the conversation to something they were familiar with and enjoy was an important way of making it less awkward.

We emphasized that we should never make fun of someone who is suffering. We should never call people names that make them feel embarrassed or shamed. Whenever we hear people doing these kinds of things to others, we step in and help the person who is being picked on. We don’t have to agree with someone or understand their experience to love them. We believe that everyone is made in the image of God and deserves our honor and respect. If they’re hurting, we try to represent God’s compassion. If they’re sinning, we let them know of God’s forgiveness through the gospel. If we’re not sure, we listen and ask questions.

I love this post, because family discussions can be pathways to helping our children think and express their feelings about these issues in a way that is not reactionary but rather helps them own a strong biblical worldview for themselves. 

Finally, I was taken back to an older article that pre-dates the administration ruling. In this 2014 post, Amy Julia Becker asks four questions about transgender identity.  I was reminded of this post, because Amy asks all of the right questions here. She explores a central theological issue--how our understanding of gender relates to Jesus' incarnation and thus to the gospel itself. She asks what the Bible itself teaches about masculinity and and femininity and whether the Bible leaves room for varied expressions of gender that corresponds with our biological sex. Finally, she asks what radical hospitality and generosity look like as the relate to biblical sexuality. Here are a few of the gems:

Christians believe that God created us as persons, and that each of us bears the image of God (an image marred by sin, but an image nevertheless). Further, we believe that our bodies, minds, and spirits are integrated and ought not to be divorced from one another. Jesus' incarnation—his willingness to become a human being—affirms all the more the importance of bodies . From this vantage, transgender identity seems to signal brokenness—discord between the physical and the emotional self.
Some of the confusion about gender identity in our culture arises because of narrowly constrained gender norms (i.e., girls wear pink and boys wear blue). Many of these norms are fluid, culturally bound, and change over time. And yet God creates male and female in his image, with the implication that men and women, in their physical attributes and gender identity, are intended to complement one another so as to better reflect the character of God. On the one hand, I want to be careful not to assume traditional gender norms simply because they are traditional (i.e., men can't be nurses or women can't be in the army). On the other, I want to understand for myself and for my daughters what it means to be a woman—and for my son, to be a man—before God.

I hope you'll read and carefully consider each of these posts and that they will help us be families who know our times and know what God's people should do (1 Corinthians 12:32).