Summer is upon us, and along with soaring temperatures and a break from school we have an increasingly prominent cultural focus: Pride Month. Rainbow flags, signs, and statements from mainstream media and corporations mark the month of June. This raises a lot of questions for Christian parents. One related question that I often get from parents is, “When should I talk to my child about sex?” My answer is, “Right now, in an age-appropriate way.” Yet, while parents are usually speaking of having “the talk” with their kids, we must also realize that we need to discuss sexuality in general with them.
As Christian parents, we want our kids to be protected, maintaining their innocence and purity as long as possible. We want to shield them from as much of the hypersexualized society that we can, and this is a good thing. But we need to realize two things: 1) They are exposed to so much more than we realize; and 2) It is right and good for a child to understand from a young age and in an appropriate manner that God made us a certain way and that it glorifies God when we see his design for the good gift of sexuality.
In today’s society, not only has promiscuity been glorified and worshiped, but so have homosexuality and transgenderism. These things are hardly appropriate to discuss in detail with young children, but exposure to them is everywhere. For example, the recent kids movie about Buzz Lightyear features a brief same-sex kiss. And Doc McStuffins, typically watched by preschoolers, featured a same-sex couple in 2017. A quick internet search will find at least a dozen shows geared toward children that are pushing the LGBTQ agenda.
Even if you don’t have a TV or allow your children any screen time, the gamut of LGBTQ+ issues are being promoted widely. You can hardly walk into a bookstore without seeing books featuring a gay or transgender lifestyle (especially geared toward children). Coffee shops abound with rainbow flags and pronoun preferences. Your local Target store likey has a Pride section prominently featured in the front of the store for the month of June. The retailer is even selling discretely marked chest binders which help flatten the chests of girls who feel they are transgender. I even saw a board book in the children’s book section titled “Bye Bye, Binary.”
I don’t say all of this to decry our culture. As my pastor husband says, I am a Christian, and I have a hard enough time living like one, so how in the world can I expect someone who’s not a Christian to act like they are? Nor do I share this in order to stoke fear in parents’ hearts. However, I do share all of this to let parents know that it is never too early to start talking to your children about gender and God’s design for sexuality. It is a difficult and often awkward subject, and it can be intimidating. So, how can we begin to address these important topics with our children? Here are four suggestions:
1. Keep it simple and age appropriate
Use diaper changing time and bath time to simply remind your child that they are a boy or a girl because God made them that way. Use real names for body parts. Explain that we cover certain parts of our body because we want to be modest and honor God. This can all be done when a child is very young, even before they are talking.
As they age, keep the conversation going. This is not a one-time conversation, but is simply part of ordinary, everyday interaction. If you know a couple that is getting married, be sure to differentiate between the bride and the groom. Talk about mommies and daddies. There is no need to mention the act of sex at a young age. Just simply acknowledging the differences between boys and girls is helpful. This is really simple and will entail matter-of-fact conversations. It actually requires more linguistic gymnastics to introduce some of the LGBTQ thoughts and ideas being pushed on children.
When they get older and you talk to them about sex—which needs to be done at a younger age than you probably think because of society’s obsession with sexuality—don’t shy away from confidently and gently pointing out things that aren’t a part of God’s design. This includes homosexuality and things like sex outside of marriage.
2. Don’t be ruled by stereotypes
It’s also important to talk through cultural stereotypes and point out that boys can like girl things and girls can like boy things. If a girl likes to play sports, doesn’t prefer dresses, and likes toy cars, it doesn’t mean she’s a boy trapped in a girl’s body. If a boy likes to cook, is artistic, and gently holds baby dolls, it doesn’t mean he’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body. It’s necessary to affirm a child’s maleness or femaleness regardless of their toy or activity preferences, or even their genuine struggles. God has made each person in his image, either male or female, and each one of us is unique. While there are certainly norms, and wisdom is required, people won’t fit neatly into “boyishness” or “girlishness.”
However, it is absolutely essential that we understand that God has determined and set our biological sex from the womb (with the exception of a very small number of intersex persons, born with ambiguous genetalia)—and it is to be celebrated and cannot be changed. It is cruel to make someone believe that just because they don’t fit into a certain stereotype, they must be something different deep down inside and must take action. This creates and invites more confusion and emotional harm.
3. Remind your child (and yourself) that God has a sexual ethic that we all must follow
As a culture, and even within the church, we have taken God’s good gift of sex and warped it, using it for what we think is our own pleasure. However, it winds up causing pain, destruction, and death because we’re not keeping sex in the context for which God created it—within marriage between a man and a woman (Prov. 14:12; Gen. 2). When we reject that design, we are met with a whole host of difficulties including pornography, broken relationships, infidelity, a higher risk of poverty for children, sexually transmitted diseases, a lack of relational committment, and emotional destruction. In contrast, God’s design leads to our flourishing and is evidence of his goodness.
Have ongoing conversations with your child about God’s design for sex, marriage, singleness, and relationships that are grounded in God’s Word. Romans 1:18-38 gives a vivid picture of humankind refusing to acknowledge God and giving him proper glory. Paul gives the specific example of homosexual relationships as man’s way of committing idolatry and worshiping God’s creation rather than God as Creator. While we must be clear that homosexuality and all things within the LGBTQ array of issues are certainly not the only sins, nor are they unforgivable, they are singled out in the Bible as evidence of idolatry.
God’s sexual ethic goes for all of us, not simply people who struggle with same-sex attraction. As followers of Christ, we are all called to holiness, and this involves dying to our own sinful desires. So just as a heterosexual man cannot sleep with someone other than his wife (and may never marry, thus living a life of celibacy), a homosexual man also cannot sleep with anyone other than his wife (and also may never marry, living a life of celibacy). It is a call to self-sacrifice and obedience, no matter who a person is attracted to, believing that God’s way is better.
4. Speak the truth with love and conviction
When I was growing up, I learned at a fairly young age what the term “being gay” meant. I lived in a more progressive city in Florida. Though I saw gay flags in the windows of some stores and knew that my neighboring community had a “gay pride” parade (this was long before Pride Month was a thing), I didn’t really know anyone who was gay, at least not my age. Now, however, your child probably knows someone who claims to be gay or transgender. If they are not in school with them, they may have seen a little boy in a dress at the park. Perhaps this is something your child is even wrestling with themselves. When we can put names and faces on those who are caught in this struggle, we feel more compassion and remember that this is about people, not merely an issue. This should give us a sense of urgency to share the truth of the gospel that saves us from all of our sin and meets our deepest desires. We tell people the truth because we love them.
But we are living in a time that equates truth-telling with hate. Your children are told that in order to love someone who identifies as LGBTQ, you must embrace and celebrate that lifestyle. But, it is not loving at all to tell someone that it’s okay to go against God’s plan for sexuality. We know from God’s Word that our sin itself is what separates us from a holy God and only brings about death and destruction. We best love someone by telling them the truth. We must emphasize the love, forgiveness, and redemption of God, but that cannot truly be realized without a proper understanding of our sin. This is what makes the grace of God so amazing. So, keep telling your kids the truth. And pray for the grace to do it in love.
The job of Christian parents seems as hard now as it has ever been. We are swimming upstream in a world that is determined to go in the opposite direction. And our children will not escape the current unscathed. But we can have confidence that in our weakness, God is strong. He has given us what we need for life and godliness in his Word, and he will give us wisdom to train up our children in the goodness of his ways. As we seek to have important conversations about sexuality with our kids, let’s ask God to give our children ears to hear, hearts to embrace the Savior, and lives that show how good his design is.