How to Talk to Your Children About Sex & Gender

Discussing the essentials, from toddlers to teens

Gracilynn Hanson

At all ages, kids talk about what our society refers to as gender. Whether we have toddlers who are learning about their bodies or teens who are experiencing internal and external pressure to define themselves, we are regularly confronted with curiosity and confusion about sex and gender. As parents and caregivers, we want to respond in a way that is honest, biblical, and thorough. 

Fundamentally, all the gender questions are asking: “What does it mean to be human as a man (or as a woman)?”. So, talking about gender with our kids is really an invitation to discuss the beauty of God’s good design for humanity and to establish life-long parameters for understanding ourselves and each other. 

Defining crucial terms in the conversation

In order to have helpful discussions with our children and pursue faithful answers, we must first define terms. As we seek to answer questions about sex and gender, we should remember that sex and gender are not synonymous terms in today’s understanding. However, the totality of Scripture assumes the two cannot be separated. Here are a few definitions related to this conversation for quick reference:

A hundred other terms could be included, but they are not critical to talk about here.

What does gender mean?

We need to understand two critical aspects of gender before having informed conversations with our children.

1. Gender is fundamental to being human and is the reality of being embodied. 

Being embodied (having both body and soul) is essential to human existence, and genderedness (the fact that we are a man or a woman) is essential to having a body. We are not genderless souls in gendered bodies. And we are not gendered souls in potentially mismatched-gendered bodies. The physical and nonphysical parts of our being are interwoven. Thus, we are gendered all the way down (externally/physically and internally/nonphysically). Any separation between these aspects is the result of the fall, including both the perception of separation in gender dysphoria and the reality of the temporary separation of our body and soul after death. 

2. Gender differences are real—though few. 

Men and women share more commonalities than distinctions. As two types (male and female) of the same kind (humankind), men and women share purpose, mandate, and virtues. 

God created humanity in his own image (Gen. 1:26-27), and both men and women share the purpose of glorifying God as his image-bearers. 

All humanity was also given the same mandate (Gen. 1:28)—to multiply, fill, and subdue the earth. This was expanded by Jesus’ command to go and to make disciples of the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). 

We also share the same virtues, or characteristics that produce a thriving life (fruit of the Spirit, spiritual giftings, beatitudes). These are commanded by God and desirable for flourishing (e.g., wisdom, Prov 1:1-7; courage, Josh. 1:9; and nurturing, Eph. 6:4). 

Despite the shared traits, men and women have two basic distinctions: type and expression. As the two types of humankind, men and women are complementary and interdependent—not interchangeable. Type is reflected in, but not limited to, the biological differences between men and women. 

Expression refers to how we view and live out what we have in common. Science and philosophy have broadly recognized that men and women generally think and behave differently, but universal male and female expression has never been defined. Typical behavior for men and women varies across time and cultures. 

God’s apparent concern in Scripture (Deut. 22:5) is not with defining female and male expression of the shared properties, but with a woman intentionally behaving as a man in order to be identified as a man (or vice versa). The same principle would apply to those attempting to blur or to hide the reality of their own gender (for example, androgyny or gender fluidity). Rather than conform to some masculine stereotype, a man’s expression of his gender must reflect his acceptance of being a man (and vice versa for a woman). The biblical story leaves no room for a lifestyle that promotes a gender expression that contradicts your biological sex or that ignores sexual relationships as only for male and female partners in marriage. 

How do we discuss gender with our kids?

Explaining gender to toddlers and teens starts with explaining who we are, rather than how we look or what we do. We should define who God created us to be before we define how he commanded us to behave by answering the fundamental question: “What does it mean to be human as a man (or as a woman)?” Using age-appropriate vocabulary, we can answer starting here: 

Having laid the groundwork in our own hearts and minds, the following are examples of how we can discuss sex and gender with our children of all ages: 

Toddler version:

When God created people, he made only two types of people—boys and girls.

Boys and girls are the same in a lot of ways. Both are equally special and important to God and to his plan. How we love and obey God is often the same.

Boys and girls are also different in some ways. We can see some of those differences in our bodies. Our bodies point to some of the ways boys and girls are fit to help each other.

Boys and girls are also different in ways we can’t see. Sometimes how we worship God, how we follow God’s instructions, or how we love each other looks different for boys and girls. We need each other’s help.

God’s plan for you is good. He made you a boy (or girl), and he made you unique. We can praise God for making you just the way he did.

Teen version:

When God created humanity, he made humankind with only two types (commonly referred to as “binary”)—male and female. 

Men and women share many common human properties. We share our God-given purpose to glorify God; our mandate to fill and subdue the earth; and our virtues for living in a way that pleases God.

Men and women are different physically—in our hormones, genes, and anatomy. Our bodies point to some of the ways men and women are suited to help one another (e.g., reproduction and typical frame/strength differences). We are complementary and interdependent physically.

Men and women are also different in nonphysical ways. How we consider and experience the properties we share in common are typically different. This is shown in our various expressions of any given context (e.g., forms of aggression, analytical thinking, relational intelligence). Men and women are complementary and dependent on one another in these things.

We can’t define gender by what you do, what you like, or what role you have. Some behaviors and tendencies are typical for men and women, but they are not the defining standards. For example, girls are typically more social and relational than boys their age. Not sharing some of the typical traits does not mean you don’t fit your gender. You are still 100% a girl even if you like playing sports more than talking to your friends, and you are still 100% a boy even if you like talking with your friends more than sports.

God cares that you accept how he made you—not that you act like all the other boys (or girls) around you. His plans for you are good.


Conversations with our children about sex and gender will be recurrent and ongoing, but these points provide a good basis. As we talk about these things, let’s celebrate the goodness and beauty of who God made us to be and cast a vision for our kids living within his design. Let’s teach them that when we trust God’s goodness, sovereignty, and love for us, we can embrace his plan—whether or not it feels right to us now. When we trust who God is, we can trust what he has done; and we can glorify him in the present life and the life to come with our whole selves.

Gracilynn Hanson has her Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes freelance, and is a stay-at-home parent.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24