Supporting Parents and grandparents who are anxious about ‘gender confusion’
“How can I respond to parents or grandparents who are anxious about their children’s exposure to the issue of ‘gender confusion’?”
In today’s world, children are encouraged to choose which gender they “identify with.” Today’s media, television, and movies portray and celebrate those who have become someone with a different gender than their birth gender. Parents want to be “good parents,” and they want their children to be “happy” with themselves. Children have always gone through a period of discovering “who they are,” but never before has gender been one of the “confusing” qualities. If a parent or grandparent appears to be insensitive to their child’s dissatisfaction with being who they were born to be, those parents or grandparents are now labeled as “intolerant.”
“For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139: 13-16
Parents and grandparents have often been the focus of criticism regarding how they raise their children. Some parents have been criticized for being too strict, and some are viewed as being too lenient. Ultimately, each parent or grandparent must choose the “best” way to raise their own children. Today’s society now adds a new “wrinkle” to the challenges of being a good parent or grandparent: gender identity. Boys have always had to learn “how to be a man,” and girls have always learned “how to be a woman.” The definitions of “man” and “woman” have always included the foundation of who they were when they were born. Now, who they were when they were born is not something that governs who they will be later in life. Today’s world permits the child to be confused about “who” he/she is. If a child is born as a boy, but wants to become a girl, that’s okay. If a girl feels that she is a boy instead of a girl, the world helps her “become” a boy. Parents and grandparents are basically powerless because their children are influenced by those outside the home. Every parent or grandparent’s fear is that their child will come home from school and declare, “I want to be a girl” (if he is a boy), or “I want to be a boy” (if she is a girl). So, how can the Church or the CM respond to parents’ or grandparents’ anxiety over this issue? There are three basic responses, 1) Ignore the anxiety because it is too “hot” of an issue, 2) Encourage the parents or grandparents to strengthen and support their child’s identity connected to what their birth gender was, or 3) Encourage the parents and grandparents to let their children “become” what feels the best for them. Response #1 is not “healthy” because simply ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away, and ignoring an influence from “the world,” doesn’t fit with the scriptural mandate for parents in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Response #2 fits with what God says in Psalm 139: 13-16 because God doesn’t make a mistake when He created each child. Response #3 goes against what we read in Psalm 139. God knows who the child is and will be; nowhere in scripture does God imply that a child is born with the “wrong” gender! So, how do we encourage or support of parents and grandparents as they guide their children to be the best of who they were born to be? The challenge comes when parents or grandparents permit their children to be “locked into” what society says a “boy” or “girl” is. If a young girl doesn’t like playing with dolls, but likes playing rough games with boys, that doesn’t mean that she is born to be a boy! If a boy doesn’t want to play rough sports or shoot guns, but would rather play with dolls or read books, that doesn’t mean that he is really a girl! Proverbs 22: 6 says that parents are to “train up a child in the way he should go…” this could mean that each child is unique and different, and that parents or grandparents need to understand each child and influence him or her to honor the Lord no matter whether he or she enjoys the stereotypical gender behaviors. The Church or CM could support parents and grandparents as they focus on their children’s natural interests apart from connecting those natural interests to a specific gender. If we encourage parents and grandparents to take “gender” out of the picture, they might be more comfortable supporting their boys who want to be dancers, interior decorators, or cooks than making them feel “confused” about their interests. In the same way, parents and grandparents should be encouraged to support their girls who want to play football, hunt, or serve in the military, rather than making them feel “confused” about their interests. For more help, click on the links below.