Discussing Transgender Issues with Teens

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How can we help our teenage son and daughter when they run across instances of gender confusion in high school? A close friend of my daughter now identifies as a boy and wants to be treated as one. On the surface, my kids are trying to be cool about the whole thing, but I can tell it's thrown both of them for a loop. And how should we respond to school officials who seem to promote the idea that these situations are normal and should be taken in stride?

You’re probably right to assume that your teens are struggling with their feelings. Change is difficult for all of us, but it can be especially challenging during adolescence when kids face adjustment in almost every area of life.

And no matter what school officials or the culture may say, it’s disconcerting when a close friend suddenly decides to try to alter his or her gender. The idea that we should break down our sensibilities and learn to take this in stride as the new norm isn’t wise advice.

How can you give your son and daughter firm footing while still being sensitive to their feelings?

  • Encourage them to talk—and remember that takes time. Ask them how they feel. Help them identify their emotions and process their thoughts. Create a safe space where they can slow down and voice their feelings without fear of correction.
  • Remind them of their Christian principles and values. Your kids might be tempted toward anger or condemnation. Talk with them about compassion, true tolerance, and the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Encourage them to read John 8:1-12 and consider how Christ cares about people no matter how they struggle. We all struggle.
  • Remind them that Christ-like tolerance always strives to balance love with appropriate emphasis on moral truth. It’s easy for teens to get drawn into the postmodern mentality that says truth and morality are relative. This philosophy can be especially attractive when peer pressure and the dynamics of close personal relationships are in play.

If either of your children drifts in this direction, give them plenty of opportunities to talk it through. Ask key questions like, “How do you think transgenderism fits in with God’s design for human sexuality?” Don’t censure or contradict their answers. Encourage them to commit the matter to serious prayer and thought.

What about talking with school officials?

Handle this piece of the puzzle with great care. After processing your own emotions and making sure they’re under control, take time to research and understand the school’s protocol. Be ready to counteract any inaccurate information distributed to students by the administration.

We have two booklets you might find useful:

And our TrueTolerance.org website is designed specifically for parents who need help responding to homosexual and transgender activism in their child’s school. In part, the site offers:

  • Talking points you can use to express your faith-based viewpoint
  • Do’s and don’ts for approaching school officials
  • Prepared memoranda from legal experts on the importance of respecting religious freedoms and parental rights
  • Take Action center that lets you email legal information and other professionally packaged data directly to your educators

Be as diplomatic and non-confrontational as possible when talking with school staff. If the conversation includes any hostility, let it come from their side of the table. Show respect, and appeal to reason and logic. You can do all of this while staying true to your convictions.

In everything you do and say, model a Christ-like attitude. Conduct yourselves as ambassadors for Christ. We may not be able to avoid coming across as an “aroma of death leading to death” in the nostrils of some people (II Corinthians 2:16). But that shouldn’t happen because we’re intentionally offending others with our responses and behavior.

If you feel it would be helpful to discuss these recommendations at greater length with a member of our staff, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our counselors would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. You can contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.


Transgender Resources

Copyright © 2017, Focus on the Family. Used by permission.

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