How to Talk to Your Kids About Gender Identity

by Feb 27, 2023Parenthood

“Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.”

These words, written by G.K. Chesterton in 1905, may have seemed extreme at the time. However they have certainly, whether intentionally or not, proved prophetic. As Chesterton dealt with the radical skepticism of his day, many would have seen these comments as over the top or alarmist. Surely no one would doubt such basic truths of nature? 

 Yet as Christian parents we now find ourselves navigating topics concerning gender that many of us simply don’t have a category for. We are faced with seemingly absurd claims, narratives, and ideologies from every direction. We hear statements like the following: 

  • Men can become women (and vice versa) 
  • Mothers are “pregnant people” 
  • Women are “people with uteruses” 
  • There are multitudes of genders other than male and female 
  • Biology has no bearing on gender as it is simply a social construct 

This is only scratching the surface. For many of us, these conversations are not something we have faced only in the abstract or just some news story or Twitter post; they have hit close to home or even in our homes. How do we respond to our children when one of their school friends claims to be trans or non-binary and changes their name and pronouns? How do we respond when we are confronted with the reality that this involves real people we know and love and who, like us, are created in the image of God?

As parents we will feel pressed to answer the question, “What is gender?” However, answering this question alone, while important, is like fixing a broken door knob while the house is on fire. The more fundamental question is one of authority. Who defines gender; in fact who defines identity, reality, or truth itself? “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3 ESV). In his book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman traces the cultural and philosophical movements that have led to the current views on gender and sexuality. He identifies the flow of ideas that have led to the modern concept of identity.

The modern view is that we find our identity inside out. We look inward to how we feel and that determines our identity. Trueman sees this “expressive individualism” as the root of what we are now seeing in our culture. This message is prevalent in almost every area of our lives from social media, movies, and tv shows to peers, school, and university. It has become the air that we breathe, so much that it is rarely questioned or even discussed. The modern identity is one of self-discovery and all external realities must adapt to “our truth.”

The point here is not to over-complicate the issue or make it overwhelming. Parents, we do not need to do an extensive academic study to answer these questions. I would encourage you with the truth that God’s Word is not only inspired but it is sufficient. The point, however, is that what we desperately need as mothers and fathers is to instill in our children the foundation of a biblical worldview. My prayer would be that as you disciple your children through the Word by the power of the Spirit, they would begin to see that as our sovereign creator, God alone has authority to define truth. Our goal is that they would learn to see these questions of culture through the lens of the Bible and not the other way around. As Paul would remind us, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17 ESV).

 For the content of these conversations, my wife and I have looked to three primary places in the Scripture when discussing gender and sexuality with our children. 

  • The gender binary of male and female was created by God in Genesis 1:27 for his glory and in his image.
  • This is affirmed and elevated by Jesus in Matthew 19:1-12 in his teaching on marriage. 
  • Finally, we see how this is to be lived out as an expression of the gospel in Ephesians 5:22-33. 

In contrast, we see in Romans 1 the unraveling consequences of rejecting God’s authority in this aspect of life. Part of these conversations is a constant reminder that there are those who may be caught in sin, rejecting God’s design and boundaries for gender and sexuality. They are created in the image of God and need the love, mercy, repentance, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ that we have received in the gospel. As the church it is our role to take that message to the world. My prayer for our children and yours is that they would come to see the Bible’s teaching on gender and sexuality as not only true, but good; that they would see that God’s design is for their own joy and flourishing.

The massive shifts in our culture can at times lead us to despair and worry, so let me offer one last word of encouragement. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, reigning until all his enemies are subdued (1 Corinthians 15:24-25), and he has promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). In his book Christianity and Liberalism, written in 1925 to address the challenges facing the church of his time, J. Gresham Machen also reminds us that our challenges are not so unique. The church has faced what seemed to be existential threats in the past, but God will continue to preserve his people.

 “There have been previous great crises in the history of the church, crises almost comparable to this. One appeared in the second century, when the very life of Christendom was threatened by the gnostics. Another came in the Middle Ages when the gospel of God’s grace seemed forgotten. In such times of crisis, God has always saved the Church. But He has always saved it not by theological pacifists, but by sturdy contenders for the truth.” (J. Gresham Machen).

Recent Posts

Set Your Face Toward Jerusalem During Lent

Set Your Face Toward Jerusalem During Lent

We’ve just finished a season of fasting as a church body, and you may be thinking about continuing to fast through Lent this year. While our three weeks of corporate prayer and fasting during Depend have been meaningful as we seek God’s will for the growth of our...

read more
Rescue the Perishing

Rescue the Perishing

Editor’s Note: This post was written on the ground last year, during a vision trip to a West Asian city. During the trip, team members prayer-walked the city and asked the Lord to rescue and redeem those who are perishing. “God is great! I bear witness that there is...

read more
Biblical Principles for Divorce and Remarriage

Biblical Principles for Divorce and Remarriage

I never imagined I’d be here! I hear these words from friends facing divorce—far too often—and it breaks my heart. I bet you come across these same situations, don’t you? As believers, we are called to love God and to love our neighbor. Dealing with troubled marriages...

read more