It's easy to forget that young children can easily misread our intensity.
- Rob Jackson
As a mental health professional, I'm more concerned about transgenderism than I am homosexuality. In a separate post, I've written about the increased rates of physical and mental health concerns experienced by transgender individuals. Based on these and other trends, including the recent alarm sounded by the American College of Pediatricians, I predict that transgenderism will eventually prove more prevalent and damaging than other variants of LGBTQ sexuality.
As a Christian, all sexual sins concern me, including those committed by heterosexuals, but transgenderism is especially alarming from a spiritual perspective, too. It not only goes against nature (as does homosexuality,) it requires hormone therapy, body enhancements with silicon and/or surgery, and the altered biological reality of sexual reassignment. While the ACP is correct in their concern for the physical and mental health challenges associated with gender identity disorders, I believe the spiritual wounds are far greater still. We Christian parents now have another level of spiritual attack from which we must guard our children’s developing identity.
In my work as a Christian therapist I frequently meet with parents who are concerned for their children's sexuality. Childhood exposure to pornography opens Pandora's Box where counterfeit versions of sexuality abound. For example, in a recent week of intensive therapy with parents and their 11 year-old daughter, I was saddened, though not surprised, to learn their precious child had seen pornographic videos. Porn sites hold nothing back. A curious child is likely to see a wide array of sexual expressions, including, of course, transgenderism.
Here are some ways I encouraged that little girl's parents to speak with her about healthy sexuality. These four qualities will keep the conversation relational and effective as we talk to our kids about any important subject. They are especially important as we shepherd a child’s developing sexuality. I hope they will help equip you and your spouse to broach the sensitive issues emerging from today’s porn-saturated culture.
Frequency. The US Treasury issues authentic dollar bills frequently, and updates about counterfeits occasionally. You have the privilege of teaching your children daily about God’s plan for new life in Christ. By focusing primarily on the standards that honor him, your children will be more apt to detect counterfeit philosophies and practices of all types, including transgenderism. If, instead, you talk more about the negative than the positive, you may actually cause your children to be over-focused on the sins of our culture. A final caveat is in order here, though. Teachable moments abound in today’s sex-saturated culture. Strive for balance. You don't have to capture every teachable moment, ruining family outings and creating the dreaded eye-roll response. Balance is key.
Tone. Tone reveals attitude, so check your heart before you speak. Be mindful of how you talk about people who live as transgendered individuals. Kids can tell whether you are working from a position of love versus one of fear or hatred.
Take for example, the ongoing media saga of Bruce Jenner’s attempted gender switch. Recent reports say he has challenged Trump's reversal of the bill that would allow transgendered people to use the restroom of the opposite biological gender. Now, I find Jenner's appearance as a woman unconvincing, and there's a good chance you do, too. It’s easy to find something to critique there. But we can't be genuinely concerned for this person while speaking in unloving ways about him. When we speak to our children about Jenner and other transgender individuals, we need to voice our convictions and concerns with compassion. If we don’t feel compassion for him in our heart, we need to deal with our unloving attitude before God first, then speak to our children when that sin is resolved.
Intensity. Most Christian parents I know are increasingly concerned and even outraged by the dramatic shift in our culture. According to the liberal media, transgenderism should be considered the new normal. Now, your child is likely to see a new transgender doll when you take her shopping. Righteous indignation over this form of child abuse is the natural response for evangelical Christians. But strong feelings do not justify the misuse of our emotions as we respond.
Along with tone, intensity communicates what we really feel about a subject. Here again, we must take care to respond to our children, and not react to a topic. Our anger over the culture's promotion of transgenderism, or fear that our child might be led into sexual sin, can quickly ramp up the intensity of our response. Our intensity may trigger an unwarranted sense of shame or blame in our kids. It's easy to forget that young children can easily misread our intensity. They react to our reactions and may shut down to avoid our anger. At this point, we ourselves have become the problem to avoid in our children’s eyes, rather than the sin we so vehemently protest.
Duration. I’ve always told parents that, when it comes to sex, micro-conversations are way more effective than “the talk.” Specific to this topic, our sermonizing will also create reactions for or against transgenderism. We must bear in mind what the priority here should be. We don’t just want a robot that thinks correctly or a puppet that spouts good theology. We want our child to love Christ and desire to imitate Him in word and deed.
How do we accomplish this lofty goal? A good place to start is to be sensitive to our child’s body language, countenance, and overall receptivity when we talk. Make sure that we're actually having a conversation and not a monologue. It’s pretty obvious when our child is checking out mentally. When this happens, chances are we missed earlier cues that she needed a break.
Related Topics. Younger children need us to connect the dots for them. Explain each letter of the LGBTQ acronym as simply as possible, based on the age and maturity of your child. Tell him about each of the five counterfeit lifestyles that are becoming more popular as humanity falls further from the genuine standard God declares in the Bible.
Resources. In addition to writing for The Stand, I've also written commissioned articles for Focus on the Family. You can find a list of articles about Christian sexuality here.
Finally, I never intend to speak or write about LGBTQ issues without conveying my genuine love and concern for individuals in this community, and for those who are beginning to experiment with their sexuality. While The Stand's readership is predominantly conservative, evangelical Christians, I'm sure that some reading this post don't agree with me. God reveals biblical truths to his children. Without a redeemed love for Christ, a person can't be expected to love God’s Word or desire or be able to live like His Son.
As our culture continues to erode even more quickly than many of us could have predicted, let’s seek peace with God, and teach our children the good news about new life in Christ. As we do this, let’s also be kind to our neighbors who differ from us in appearance and practice, for we are far more alike as humans than our appearance, faith, and politics may reveal.