By / Jan 8

Catholics around the world are sharply divided by the Vatican’s recent declaration giving priests more leeway to bless same-sex couples. Supporters of LGBTQ inclusion welcome the move; some conservative bishops assail the new policy as a betrayal of the church’s condemnation of sexual relations between gay or lesbian partners.

Strikingly, the flare-up of debate in Catholic ranks coincides with developments in two other international Christian denominations — the global Anglican Communion and the United Methodist Church — that are fracturing over differences in LGBTQ-related policies.

Taken together, it’s a dramatic illustration of how – in a religion that stresses God’s love for humanity – divisions over marriage, sexuality, and inclusion of gays and lesbians are proving insurmountable for the foreseeable future in many sectors of Christianity.

Some conservative denominations — such as the Southern Baptist Convention and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — have adhered firmly to policies that reject recognition of same-sex relationships and ordination of openly LGBTQ people. These policies have prompted departures, but no major schism.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptists’ public policy commission, reiterated the SBC’s position in a statement asserting that the Vatican — under Pope Francis — “has been on a trajectory that seems destined for the allowance of same-sex marriage.”

The reality is marriage has been defined by God … It is a union between one man and one woman for life. Southern Baptists remain anchored in this truth.

Brent Leatherwood

Read the full Associated Press article here.

By / Jun 27

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” The SBC’s commitment to love of neighbor is grounded in the truth that “God created man in His own image; He created Him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” (Gen. 1:26-27)

Through the Equality Act, Congress would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage. While the proposed intention of this bill is to protect individuals who identify as LGBT, the bill fails to respect people’s freedom of conscience. A government that can pave over the consciences of some can steamroll over dissent everywhere. In its pursuit of fleeting cultural ideals, the Equality Act erodes foundational constitutional freedoms.

The Equality Act undermines decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. Women’s shelters for those escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological males who identify as women. The Equality Act disregards the privacy and safety concerns that women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the opposite sex. This legislation would also harm women’s sports and scholarships as girls would be forced to compete with biological males for limited positions.

The Equality Act threatens the efforts of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies. The legislation would explicitly curtail the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, thereby forcing faith-based child welfare organizations to either abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down. State enforced closures of such agencies is especially harmful at a time when multiple social crises increase the need for children services.

The Equality Act hinders the work of healthcare professionals and faith-based hospitals. While religiously affiliated hospitals routinely serve patients of any background, including those who identify as LGBT, providers who hold moral or religious beliefs cannot perform every procedure a patient requests. For example, doctors and nurses who object to gender reassignment surgeries for moral, religious, or scientific reasons would be forced to provide the procedure or risk losing their jobs.

The Equality Act would also force healthcare workers and pro-life healthcare providers to participate in and provide abortions. This bill would roll back decades of conscience protections that protect pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious beliefs. No person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be the taking of a human life. Additionally, it would jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion.

The Equality Act would undermine the ability of Americans who disagree to work together for the common good. These legislative changes represent a dramatic departure from the foundations of civic tolerance. If enacted, the Equality Act would bring sweeping and historic changes to religious liberty with devastating effects to this foundational freedom. Due to these concerns, among many others, the ERLC strongly opposes the Equality Act.

By / Jun 27

Last week, the Equality Act was once again introduced into the House of Representatives and the Senate for consideration. This legislation intends to expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (SOGI) and would revise every title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add these categories as new protected classes in the federal code. Last Congress, the Equality Act passed in the House, but the bill died in the Senate. 

The ERLC affirms the full dignity of every human being. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Messengers passed a resolution to “reaffirm the sacredness and full dignity and worthiness of respect and Christian love for every single human being, without any reservation.” But the Equality Act does not advance the cause of human dignity. 

If passed, the Equality Act would punish faith-based charities for their core religious beliefs about human dignity and marriage and would undermine decades of civil rights protections for women and girls. The alarmingly detrimental consequences of the bill pose a significant threat to the deeply held religious beliefs of millions of Americans who honor God’s design for sexuality.

What does this bill mean for religious liberty?

This bill would substantially undermine religious liberty protections in the United States. America has long been a place where people with different views and beliefs have lived at peace alongside each other. Though America has not perfectly lived up to this ideal of a shared nation, it was central to our founding as persecuted religious minorities sought safe harbor in this land. Though cleverly named, the Equality Act is out of step with that American ideal. Equality cannot be achieved while eliminating other basic, fundamental freedoms. Of particular note, the bill would essentially gut the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a bill which passed with broad bipartisan support and was signed by President Clinton.

By undermining RFRA, the Equality Act would force faith-based child welfare organizations to abandon their deeply held religious beliefs or be shut down by the state. The state-forced closures of such agencies is especially detrimental at a time when multiple crises—including the post-pandemic effects and the ongoing opioid epidemic—have led to increases in the number of children in need of services.

What does the bill mean for women and girls?

Most strikingly, the Equality Act undermines decades of hard fought civil rights protections for women and girls. Single gender spaces, such as locker rooms or shelters, would no longer be protected by law. This departure from a legal understanding of gender as male and female makes women and girls vulnerable to biological males being in their private spaces. For example, shelters for those women and girls escaping domestic abuse or homelessness would be forced to house biological men who identify as female. This legislation disregards the privacy and safety concerns women rightly have about sharing sleeping quarters and intimate facilities with the biological opposite sex.

Another example of the harm this legislation poses to women and girls is in athletics and academics. Since 1972, Title IX has advanced women’s sports and scholarship in remarkable ways. If enacted, the Equality Act would threaten female competition as both areas would then be open to biological males as well.

Are there pro-life concerns in the Equality Act?

Yes. The Equality Act would be the most pro-abortion bill ever passed by Congress. It would redefine the term “sex” to also include “pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.” This language would roll back federal law that protects the consciences of pro-life nurses and physicians who object to participating in abortions because of their deeply held religious or moral beliefs. These conscience protections carry decades of bipartisan consensus—a consensus that no person should be compelled to participate in an act they believe to be gravely immoral. The Equality Act would also jeopardize the longstanding Hyde Amendment that protects federal taxpayer dollars from funding abortion. There is nothing equalizing about forcing Americans to fund abortion through taxpayer dollars.

How has the ERLC been involved?

The ERLC has worked tirelessly to defeat this bill. We have partnered with a broad coalition of more than 85 faith-based nonprofits, religious entities, and institutions of higher education to highlight the dangers of the Equality Act. We have raised these concerns with members of Congress and the administration through coalition letters and countless meetings with members, administration officials, and their staff. We have also engaged in public advocacy against the bill by producing a suite of resources to inform Christians and the broader public about the pernicious threat of the so-called “Equality” Act.

What’s next?

In the prior Democrat-led House, the Equality Act passed 224-206, with three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats. In the 118th Congress, Republicans narrowly hold the majority seats, but the bill is unlikely to make it to the floor for a vote. Two of the three Republicans who voted in favor of the bill are no longer in Congress, which makes it even more difficult for Democrats to force a vote on the bill. Another obstacle is Speaker McCarthy’s commitment to unifying the Republican majority’s voice in the House to present a strong front before the American people. 

While it is unlikely the bill will be passed in this Congress, its continued appearance presents a larger, on-going threat to human dignity and religious liberty. The ERLC will continue to highlight how the Equality Act erodes fundamental freedoms and undermines the ability of Americans of diverse beliefs to work together for the common good.

By / Feb 6

Everywhere we look, it seems that many of our long-held freedoms are being challenged. Whether it’s a preborn child’s right to life, an employee’s right to receive religious accommodations at work, or the right of everyone to exercise free speech, new lawsuits are filed daily that threaten to chip away, or eliminate altogether, a subset of American freedoms. 

In March 2021, another such lawsuit was filed, threatening to jeopardize the rights of religious schools to operate according to their deeply held beliefs. 

In Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), filed a class action lawsuit seeking “to nullify the religious exemption to Title IX that,” according to the plaintiffs, “allows widespread discrimination against LGBTQI students at faith-based colleges and universities.” 

After almost two years, the district court recently dismissed the case.

What was the case about?

On March 30, 2021, REAP filed a class-action lawsuit “representing 33 LGBTQ students and alumni from religious colleges demanding that the U.S. Department of Education stop granting religious exemptions to taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities that,” in their words, “discriminate against and abuse their LGBTQ students.” Virtual public hearings began in early June 2021.

Kristen Waggoner of Alliance Defending Freedom argued that at its core this lawsuit was an effort by activists “to strip all students at private religious colleges of federal financial aid” and “prevent any student from using tuition grants, student loans, and any other federal financial assistance at schools that operate according to biblical views about human sexuality.” 

Likewise, the lawsuit—were it to be decided in the plaintiffs’ favor—would force religious schools “to either abandon their beliefs or lose the many students who rely on federal financial assistance.” It was an obvious attempt by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project to roll back some of our country’s longstanding legal protections for people of faith and religious institutions.

Responding to REAP’s lawsuit, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) requested that the court “allow three Christian colleges—representative of more than 1,000 others across the country—to intervene in the lawsuit and defend Title IX,” a U.S. Department of Education statute targeted by the lawsuit. The motion was granted in October 2021, and ADF proceeded to represent these three institutions (Corban University, William Jessup University, and Phoenix Seminary).

How was the case decided?

On Jan. 12, the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruled to dismiss Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education outright and continue to allow students to receive financial aid at schools that share their religious beliefs.” 

Responding to the plaintiffs’ claims of discrimination and abuse, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken stated that “Plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the regulatory changes have led or contributed to the harm they have experienced.” 

Though the opinion affirmed that Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, it affirmed the legality of the religious exemption and rejected arguments that the schools’ actions were in violation of the First Amendment Establishment Clause. On all points, the plaintiffs’ arguments were deemed insufficient and implausible, leading to the court’s dismissal of the case. 

In response to the multitude of angles REAP took to accomplish its goal of ending the so-called “abuses perpetrated under the religious exemption to Title IX,” the court delivered a definitive statement of support for religious liberty by dismissing this case. 

While Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, it will likely be appealed in the coming days. 

What’s the ERLC’s response?

The ERLC applauds the court’s decision to dismiss this case. As others have argued, the lawsuit which precipitated the Hunter court case was an unfounded attempt to eliminate an essential freedom afforded to religious educational institutions and their students. No student of any faith should be deprived of their right “to attend a school that shares their beliefs” and no educational institution should be stripped of its freedom to “live out their deeply and sincerely held convictions.”

Religious liberty is a core conviction and key distinctive of the ERLC and the Southern Baptist Convention, and we heartily agree with the court’s dismissal. The ERLC will be tracking this case as it moves forward closely, and should the case be appealed, the ERLC will continue to stand firmly for the constitutional right of religious freedom. 

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, stating: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title IX law is intended to provide equal opportunities for both men and women seeking to participate in educational institutions and extracurricular activities that receive federal funding.

Title IX and its implementing regulations contain several exemptions and exceptions from its coverage,” including substantial religious exemptions, which is what REAP’s lawsuit sought to target. The ERLC has long been involved in protecting these vital religious exemptions, even as Title IX has been expanded and adapted.

By / Oct 12

Although terms like “transgender” and “gender identity” are increasingly used in the public square, many Christians are still unaware of what they mean or how broad the scope is in which they are being used. To help provide some clarification and context, I’ve provided definitions for 31 terms commonly used by the gender identity movement. This glossary is designed to help you better understand the radical and ever-expanding language used to describe elements of the sexual (and gender) revolution. In order to effectively minister to those in our communities, it is helpful to grasp the terms used by the wider culture. Our goal is to understand so that we might proclaim God’s good design reflected in the biblical sexual ethic that brings flourishing and the gospel that brings hope and reconciliation.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means — Facebook alone allows you to choose from more than 70 gender options. Even though many in the LGBTQ+ community are united around certain terms and language, it is important to note that this is an incredibly diverse community that is not always in agreement with one another and their lifestyle choices.

Ally — A term for a person who supports members of the LGBTQ+ community and who advocates for them to others. 

Androphilia — A term used to refer to sexual attraction to men or masculinity that can be used as an alternative to a gender binary heterosexual or homosexual orientation. (See also: gynephilia.)

Bigender — A person who has two gender identities or expressions, either at the same time, at different times, or in different social situations. (See also: genderfluid.)

Bisexual — A person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. Although the term used to be defined as a person who is attracted to both genders or both sexes, that has been replaced by the number two (2) since the LGBT community believes there are not only two sexes or two genders but multiple gender identities. Within the LGBTQ+ community, a person who is sexually attracted to more than two biological sexes or gender identities is often referred to as pansexual or omnisexual.

Butch — A term used by the LGBTQ+ community to refer to masculine gender expression or gender identity. A nonbinary butch is a person who holds a nonbinary gender identity and a butch gender expression, or claiming butch as an identity outside of the gender binary. (See also: femme.)

Cisgender — A term used by many in the LGBTQ+ community and their allies to refer to people who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity. Cisgender is often used within the LGBTQ+ community to refer to people who are not transgender. (In general, Christians should avoid using this term since it implies that cisgender and transgender are equally normative, i.e., the opposite of “heteronormative.”)

Femme — A term used by the LGBTQ+ community to refer to feminine gender expression or gender identity. A nonbinary femme is a person who holds a nonbinary gender identity and a femme gender expression, or claiming femme as an identity outside of the gender binary. (See also: butch.)

Gay — Until the mid-20th century, the term gay was originally used to refer to feelings of being “carefree,” “happy,” or “bright and showy,” though it also added, in the late 17th century, the meaning “addicted to pleasures and dissipations” implying a that a person was uninhibited by moral constraints. In the 1960s, the term began to be used in reference to people attracted to members of the same sex who often found the term “homosexual” to be too clinical or critical. Currently, the term “gay” is used to refer to men attracted to people who identify as men, though it is also used colloquially as an umbrella term to include all LGBTQ+ people. (The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation considers the term “homosexual” to be offensive and recommends that journalists use the term “gay.”)

Gender dysphoria — A term that refers to the psychological condition of experiencing discomfort between one’s gender identity and biological sex. 

Gender expression — A term for the manner in which one chooses to express or show their gender identity. This can be through clothing choices, appearance, or mannerisms. The term assumes a spectrum of expression between more or less masculine/feminine activities and actions.

Gender identity — A term used to refer to an individual’s personal sense of identity as masculine or feminine, or some combination of each. The LGBTQ+ community and their allies (e.g., the Biden administration) consider gender to be a trait that exists along a continuum and is not inherently rooted in biology or physical expressions.

Genderfluid — A term used for people who prefer to be flexible about their gender identity. They may fluctuate between genders (a man one minute, a woman the next, a third sex later in the day) or express multiple gender identities at the same time.

Genderqueer — An umbrella term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍. Sometimes referred to as non-binary, gender-expansive, pangender, polygender. (See also: Bigender, Trigender.)

Gynephilia — A term used to refer to sexual attraction to women or femininity that can be used as an alternative to a gender binary homosexual or heterosexual orientation.

Heteronormative — Popularized in the early 1990s in Queer Theory, the term refers to lifestyle norms that hold that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) based on biology with natural roles in life that may or may not be socially constructed. Heternomativity presumes that heterosexual behavior is the norm for sexual practices and that sexual and marital relations are only fitting between a man and a woman. (The Christian worldview is “heteronormative.” The Bible clearly presents gender and heterosexual sex within the bounds of marriage as part of the goodness of God’s created order.)

Homophobia — A term to describe a range of negative actions (ranging from fear or discomfort to violence) toward LGBTQ individuals. There are similar terms for other groups within the LGBTQ community (i.e. biphobia and transphobia). The “phobia” language is key to the Sexual Revolution as it aids the psychological understanding of the self over that of biological realities since it attached moral stigma to those who do ascend to the tenets of expressive individualism.

Intergender — A term for people who have a gender identity in the middle between the binary genders of female and male, and may be a mix of both.

Intersectionality — A term from the work of Kimberle WIlliams Crenshaw which argues that various social identities (race, class, sexuality, gender, disability, etc.) overlap to create new intersecting identities of discrimination and disadvantage based largely on power dynamics (i.e. An African American woman is disadvantaged because she is a woman and because she is African American).

Intersex — Intersex is a general term for a variety of physical conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. The variations in sex characteristics may include chromosomes, gonads, or genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as male or female. Intersex is a rare physical condition while transgender is a psychological condition. The vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. (The term “hermaphrodite” is now considered outdated, inaccurate, and offensive as a reference to people who are intersex.)

Lesbian – The term most widely used in the English language to describe sexual and romantic attraction between people who identify as females. The word is derived from the name of the Greek island of Lesbos, home to Sappho (6th-century BC), a female poet that proclaimed her love for girls. The term “gay and lesbian” became more popular in 1970s as a way of acknowledging the two broad sexual-political communities that were part of the gay liberation movement.

LGBTQ+ — An initialism that collectively refers to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and Queer communities (the “+” refers to all the other categories included below which may be added to the initialism and represent non-heterosexual behavior or identity). In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which itself started replacing the phrase gay community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. The initialism has become mainstream as a self-designation and has been adopted by the majority of sexuality and gender identity-based community centers and media in the United States. Along with LGBTQ, other letters are sometimes added. Other variants include: An extra Q for “questioning”; “U” for “unsure”; “C” for  “curious”; an “I” for “intersex” another  “T” for  “transsexual” or  “transvestite”; another  “T”, “TS”, or “2” for “Two‐Spirit” persons; an “A” or “SA” for “straight allies”; or an “A” for “asexual”; “P” for “pansexual” or “polyamorous”; “H” for “HIV-affected”; and “O” for “other.”

Man/Woman — In LGBTQ+ parlance, terms that refer to a person’s chosen gender identity, regardless of biological characteristics.

Non-binary — See “genderqueer.”

Polyamory — A term which describes the act of existing in multiple consenting relationships at one time. This may include relationships such as a “throuple” in which three individuals are in a relationship together, or “open relationships” in which individuals have ongoing relationships apart from their primary partner.

Preferred Pronouns — A term for the pronouns that someone desires others to use when interacting with them. These may not coincide with their biological sex, and may be more expansive than just one set (i.e. A person may prefer to use “she/her pronouns” as well as “they/them”). Preferred pronouns can also shift over time and depending on circumstances.

Queer — An umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities that are not heterosexual, heteronormative, or gender-binary. The term is still controversial, even within the LGBTQ community, because it was once used as a homosexual slur until it was re-appropriated in the 1990s. The range of what “queer” includes varies, though in addition to referring to LGBT-identifying people, it can also encompass: pansexual, pomosexual, intersexual, genderqueer, asexual, and autosexual people, and even gender normative heterosexuals whose sexual orientations or activities place them outside the heterosexual-defined mainstream, e.g., BDSM practitioners, or polyamorous persons. (In academia, the term “queer” and its verbal use, “queering,” indicate the study of literature, academic fields, and other social and cultural areas from a non-heteronormative perspective.)

Sex — The term refers to the biological characteristics and realties of an individual as revealed in chromosomes and physical traits such as reproductive/sexual anatomy (e.g., male or female).  (See also: Intersex). 

Sexual Orientation — A term for the emotional, romantic, or sexual feelings one has to another person, often defined by the gender of the person attracted and the gender of the person to whom they are attracted. Though gender plays a part in sexual orientation, it is not the same as gender identity. 

SOGI — An initialism that refers to “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” It is commonly used to refer to laws which would protect those identities from certain forms of discrimination under the law. 

Third gender — A concept in which individuals are categorized, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman (though not necessarily intersex). Sometimes also called “third sex” or othergender. (See also: Queer.)

Transition — A term for the process a transgender individual goes through to fully identify with their gender identity. There are various levels which can include social practices such as changing clothes or choosing new names/pronouns, hormonal therapies to prevent puberty or using hormone replacement therapy to replicate puberty of the opposite gender (i.e. a biological female who takes testosterone and sees a change in physical characteristics such as facial hair or a deepening of the voice). It may also include radical surgeries to change reproductive organs to align with gender identity (i.e. removal of breasts for trans men). 

Transgenderism — An umbrella term for the state or condition of identifying or expressing a gender identity that does not match a person’s physical/genetic sex. Transgender is independent of sexual orientation, and those who self-identify as transgender may consider themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual. Approximately 700,000 individuals in the United States identify as transgender.

Trans man — A transgender person who was born a female but claims the gender identity of a man (i.e., a biological female who identifies as a man).

Transsexual — A narrower (and outdated) term used to refer to individuals who have undergone some form of medical intervention to transition to another gender, whether that is through hormonal therapies or sex reassignment surgery. 

Trans woman — A transgender person who was born a male but who claims the gender identity of a woman (i.e., a biological male who identifies as a woman).

Transvestite — A person who cross-dresses, or dresses in clothes of the opposite sex, though they may not identify with or want to be the opposite gender. (All transexuals are transgender, but transvestites do not necessarily fall into either of the other categories.)

Trigender — A term for a non-binary (i.e., genderqueer) gender identity in which one shifts between or among the behaviors of three genders. These genders may include male, female, and third gender (e.g., genderless, non-gender, polygender, etc.).

Two-spirit – A term used by some Native American LGBT activists for people who possess qualities of both binary genders.

Ze – A gender-neutral pronoun used to replace he/she. (Sometimes spelled as Xe.)

A version of this article was originally published at The Gospel Coalition and has been updated to reflect current terminology used in the LGBTQ+ movement and wider culture.

By / Jun 29

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. 

By / Jun 10

In 1999, President Bill Clinton declared June to be “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.” The official sanctioning of the month fell away during the years of George H. W. Bush’s presidency, but returned in 2009 when President Obama declared June LGBT Pride Month. Since then, the month has been celebrated by President Trump and President Biden. 

When even U.S. presidents are celebrating “pride” in the LGBT identity, it shouldn’t be surprising that the label is taken up as a badge of honor. That seems to be the message that young adults are receiving. For example, a poll taken by Gallup earlier this year finds that the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or something other than heterosexual in 2021 has increased to a new high of 7.1%. That figure is a 21% increase since 2020, and double the percentage from 2012. 

Since Gallup began measuring LGBT identification in 2012, the percentage of traditionalists (those born before 1946), baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and Generation X adults (born between 1965 and 1980) who identify as LGBT has held relatively steady. In contrast, the LGBT identification among millennials almost doubled, from 5.8% in 2012 to 10.5% in 2021. 

In 2017, the percentage of Gen Z who identified as LGBT was already twice that of any other generation—10.5%. But in the next five years, that number would nearly double, to 20.8%. This means that 1 in 5 Gen Z adults currently identifies as LGBT. As Gallup notes, “Should that trend within Gen Z continue, the proportion of U.S. adults in that generation who say they are LGBT will grow even higher once all members of the generation reach adulthood.” 

Most LGBT Americans identify as bisexual

The most common identification of LGBT among Americans is bisexual. More than half of LGBT Americans (57%) and 4.0% of all U.S. adults say they are bisexual. Overall, 15% of Gen Z adults say they are bisexual, as do 6% of millennials and slightly less than 2% of Gen X.

In comparison, 21% of those who identify as LGBT say they are gay, 14% say they are lesbian, 10% say they are transgender, and 4% identify as “something else.” Each of these categories accounts for less than 2% of U.S. adults. 

Women (6.0%) are much more likely than men (2.0%) to say they are bisexual, while men are more likely to identify as gay (2.5%) than as bisexual, and women are much more likely to identify as bisexual than as lesbian (1.9%). 

There has also been an explosion of transgenderism among Millenials and Gen Z adults. While only 0.1% of all Baby Boomers and 0.6% of all Gen Xers identify as transgender, 1% of all Millenials and 2.1% of all Gen Z adults embrace that gender identity. 

From “born this way” to hero status

A decade ago, the LGBT community was still claiming that sexual orientation was primarily genetic, and ​​that those inclined to same-sex behavior were—as one popular song claimed—“born this way.” But subsequent research “suggests genetics may have a limited contribution to sexual orientation.” What then can be driving the increase in identification?

While still a complex topic with no clear-cut explanation, it’s possible that such polls based on self-identification are being skewed by social-desirability bias. In social science research, social-desirability bias is a type of response bias in which respondents to surveys answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. LGBT identification is a prime example of such favorable status. Young adults have lived their entire lives in an era when identifying as LGBT is considered progressive and laudatory. Answering that they are “bisexual” in an anoymous poll is a cost-free way to signal one’s own socially approved “virtue” while not actually having to change one’s sexual behavior. 

But even if this bias is skewing Gallup’s self-reported poll figures, the reality is that many young people believe that it is preferable to identify as LGBT than as heterosexual. This preference may be part of or encompass the motivation to emulate those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender since culture deems them worthy of our admiration.

The moral philosopher Linda Zagzebski says that admiration is an emotion toward someone who exhibits, upon reflection, a human power in a high degree of acquired excellence leading to the behavior of emulation, or imitation. Zagzebski proposes that our admired figures tend to fall into three categories: heroes, saints, and sages. Heroes exhibit strength and courage, in either physical or social acts. Saints exhibit self-denying love for God and others. Sages exhibit great wisdom and insight.

As applied to LGBT propaganda, young adults have been conditioned to see those in the LGBT movement as “heroes”—people who exhibit great courage in “living out their truth.” The reality, of course, is that it takes almost no courage for a young person to identify as LGBT in modern America, especially in urban areas or on college campuses. Indeed, as the promotion of Pride Month by corporations and the White House reveals, in many parts of our nation being LGBT is awarded a higher status than being heterosexual.

Millennial and Gen Z adults are given the impression that they are emulating heroic behavior that goes against cultural norms when the reality is they’re conforming to an identification that has become trendy and popular. 

How churches offer a truly “alternative” identity

The trend is likely to increase for the foreseeable future. As Gallup notes, “The proportion of U.S. adults who consider themselves to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender has grown at a faster pace over the past year than in prior years.” But the rate of increase is likely to plateau relatively soon. 

The reason for the rapid increase in LGBT identification—its trendiness and trappings of nonconformity—is likely to lead to its eventual decline. The culture will soon hit a tipping point where identifying as LGBT, and especially as bisexual, will be seen as an insincere pose to fit in rather than as an actual expression of a minority sexual orientation. Besides, the current trend cannot—mathematically speaking—last for much longer.

This trend—whether because of peer pressure or a genuine struggle with same-sex attraction— provides an opportunity for evangelical churches to reach young adults who are exhausted by the broader culture’s over-emphasis on sexual identity. Churches that hold to the biblical standard of sexuality will increasingly be the only area of culture where young people can hear the truth that their sexuality is not the most important aspect of their identity. 

Such churches will be able to provide a safe haven for those who sincerely wrestle with gender identity issues and for those who will feel increasingly coerced to identify as LGBT even when they are not interested in changing their gender idenity or pretending they have same-sex attractions. It is only in biblically faithful churches that Millenials and Gen Z adults will learn that truth that the identity they’ve been searching for—the most important thing about themselves and what they are at the deepest level—can only be found in being a disciple of Jesus, the one by whom all things were created and whose authority over us leads to our ultimate flourishing (Col. 1:16). 

By / Dec 15

A 2018 survey from the Barna Group and Impact 360 reveals that 33 percent of teenagers believe a person’s gender is determined by what the person feels like rather than their birth sex.1The Barna Group, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018), 46–47. Although only 3 percent of the American population identifies as LGBTQ—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer—that number more than doubles to 7 percent among teenagers. Additionally, 30 percent of teenagers know someone who is transgender. My goal in this article is not to present a defense of historic Christian sexuality, but to help youth workers sensitively care for and minister to students in these confusing times.

The rules for engaging students in a modern age are essential: listen, clarify, and keep the gospel and a person’s identity as an image-bearer the main thing. This will help youth workers take a gracious posture that covers a multitude of missteps and will assure LGBTQ students that we are not their enemies. It’s also essential to remember their greatest need is the same as the greatest need of every student—to be reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Youth workers can trust the Word of God to do the work of God. The Bible has power to change people’s hearts through the words God inspired. But Scripture is not a weapon to wield against sinners who need the grace of God. Youth workers build their ministries upon the Scriptures to proclaim the life and peace and hope of the gospel. As you minister to LGBTQ students, pray for the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work to turn the unbeliever’s heart toward the truth.

Don’t make every conversation with LGBTQ students about their sexuality, which would only anchor them deeper into viewing their sexuality as the most important thing about them. A sole focus on changing students’ sexual orientation misses the bigger picture. The mission of youth ministry is not simply to make students’ lives conform to godliness, because legalism can do that too (at least, on the surface). Instead, gospel-centered youth ministry calls students to live in light of the grace of Jesus Christ, confessing and repenting of their sins daily as they strive to live their new life in Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When students identify as LGBTQ

A key question that comes up in youth ministry is whether or not someone can embrace a homosexual or transgendered lifestyle and still be a Christian. A Christian’s identity is first and foremost shaped by their relationship with God through Jesus Christ, so I am uncomfortable with combining any other adjective with the label Christian. When we do that, there is a subtle competition between the two identities. The Christian’s identity as a Christian should be the core identity that reshapes and refines every other identifier: gender, nationality, sexuality, cultural preferences, denominational affiliations, etc. These other identifiers may be valid and important, but they must be shaped by God and by the authority of Scripture rather than the other way around. 

The Bible does not permit homosexual activity, and it teaches us that a person’s sex and gender are assigned by our wise and loving God at birth. Christians who live with gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction embrace their identity in Christ as their primary identity rather than allowing their sexuality to be the most important thing about them. This is often a confusing and difficult road for them, and youth workers are called to ensure they don’t walk it alone.

The call of the gospel is an invitation to a new life through grace-fueled repentance. A new believer will not repent of every sin immediately; it is a lifelong sanctification journey that requires much grace (from God and from others!). But Christians do repent eventually. The Holy Spirit is at work in their hearts, persuading them of the goodness and truthfulness of God’s Word—even when it brings conviction of sin. Those who profess faith in Christ Jesus but never repent of sin show that, although they may be trying to gain the treasures of heaven, they don’t really want a new life as a child of God. The timeline for this repentance may take years because of the nature of sexual confusions and how ingrained these identities have become in our culture. Be generous and long suffering with students and LGBTQ friends. If a practicing homosexual or transgendered person professes to be a Christian and yet persists in rejecting the Bible’s teaching on sexuality, that person’s conversion remains questionable.

But rather than lobbing this warning as a grenade, offer concern that befits the gospel. It is not a cop-out to leave judgment in God’s hands. The Lord has not rushed into judgment, and neither should youth workers. So, when in doubt, err on the side of patience. At the same time, Christian leaders will be held accountable for holding fast to biblical teaching (James 3:1), and it is not loving or gracious to affirm a professing Christian’s sinful lifestyle, regardless of what that particular sin may be.

Excerpted from Lead Them to Jesus © 2021 by Mike McGarry. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission. To purchase this and other helpful resources, please visit newgrowthpress.com.

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    The Barna Group, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018), 46–47.
By / Oct 28

The Biden administration released the “first-ever national gender strategy” in our nation’s history Oct. 22. According to the administration, it is intended to bring about greater gender equity and equality for all people, whether in the United States or abroad. This strategy is made up of 10 interconnected priorities and will be led by the newly formed White House Gender Policy Council (GPC). It is designed to develop a roadmap for the entire nation on gender issues.

The White House release explains that this strategy is desperately needed given the “overlapping” pandemics of COVID-19 as well as a “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence in the U.S. and around the world. The strategy is described as a pathway toward overcoming the “longstanding gender discrimination and the systemic barriers to full participation that have held back women and girls.” This national plan is primarily based on an intersectional approach to identity and has far-reaching implications for much, if not all, of public and civic life. 

One important and revealing aspect of this federal strategy is that gender equity and equality is framed as the natural next step in America’s pursuit of recognizing the inherent dignity of all people — in line with the Emancipation Proclamation, the passage of the 19th Amendment, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, reproductive rights, and even marriage equality. Portrayed in this historical lineage, the Biden Administration is intentionally arguing that gender equity and equality—namely LGBTQI+ issues—are on the same level of importance with the abhorrent practice of slavery and inhumane Jim Crow laws alongwith the historic unjust subjugation of women as of lesser value and position in our society than men.

Who developed this strategy?

In celebration of International Women’s Day, which occurs annually on March 8, President Biden signed an executive order establishing the Gender Policy Council under the executive branch and mandating the release of this national strategy. The White House states that this council works in collaboration with other White House policy councils — including the Domestic Policy Council, National Security Council, and National Economic Council — and across all federal agencies. 

The council is co-chaired by Jennifer Klein, who also serves as the executive director, and Julissa Reynoso, who also serves as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s chief of staff. The council is also made up of various domestic and international gender policy experts, including a senior advisor on gender-based violence. This national strategy on gender equity and equality was among the first public aspects of the council’s work and was announced at a White House press conference last week.

What does the strategy contain?

The strategy is detailed in 42-page report that touches on a host of issues ranging from “abortion rights and immigration to the creation of a National Intelligence Officer for Gender Equality to analyze the relationship between gender and violent extremism.” Council Co-Chair Klein highlighted the historic nature of this first national gender strategy and whole-of-government approach both domestically and internationally in an interview with Foreign Affairs

The report states that its goal is to provide a federal vision based on intersectionality to ensure equity for all communities including “Black, Latino, and Indigenous and Native American persons, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and other persons of color; members of religious minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons; persons with disabilities; persons who live in rural areas; and persons otherwise adversely affected by persistent poverty or inequality.”

According to the White House release, the strategy highlights 10 “interconnected” priorities of the Biden/Harris administration including: 1) economic security; 2) gender-based violence; 3) health; 4) education; 5) justice and immigration; 6) human rights and equality under the law; 7) security and humanitarian relief; 8) climate change; 9) science and technology; and 10) democracy, participation, and leadership. The specifics of these priorities are wide-ranging and include an emphasis on overcoming gender discrimination in the workplace, eliminating gender-based violence, addressing sexual violence at home and abroad, promoting the safe and fair treatment of “all people in the justice and immigration systems,” and advocating for the “leadership of women and girls in addressing the challenge of climate change.”

The plan is described by the co-chairs as “aspirational,” not tied directly to any piece of legislation. It also is designed to encourage the private sector to join with the administration in promoting gender equity and equality throughout our society as well.

What is intersectionality?

Intersectionality is considered an analytic tool used to identify various power dynamics and relations through various overlapping identities among minority groups in society. As scholars Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge describe in their influential introduction to the subject, “Intersectionality investigates how intersecting power relations influence social relations across diverse societies as well as individual experiences in everyday life. As an analytic tool, intersectionality views categories of race, class, gender, sexuality, class, nation, ability, ethnicity, and age — among others — as interrelated and mutually shaping one another.” 

This concept is often used to highlight the unique perspectives that each person has given their intersecting and overlapping identities. Intersectionality is also closely related to various critical theories as well, given how each frames our true identities in light of the pronounced power dynamics that exist in society, often defined around various economic realities.

GPC Co-Chair Klein explains that this strategy will employ an “intersectional approach that recognizes overlapping forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ability, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity” as the core and guiding principle of the entire strategy. 

The concept of intersectionality is routinely applied to many of the issues highlighted in this national strategy, which is concerning for people of faith, particularly Christians, who do not see our true identities as grounded in mere power dynamics or economic activities, but rather as people created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-28) with infinite value, worth, and dignity. While Christians rightfully acknowledge our sin has both a personal and social component to it, some of these tools highlight the differences among people as paramount instead of what actually binds people together — that all human beings are created in the imago Dei

Referencing the need for evangelicals to support biblically defined social justice, famed theologian and ethicist Carl F. H. Henry wrote in God, Revelation, and Authority that “Social justice is not simply an appendage to the evangelistic message; it is an intrinsic part of the whole, without which the preaching of the gospel is truncated. Theology devoid of social justice is a deforming weakness of much present-day evangelical witness.”

Christians understand that as believers we are given a new identity in Christ and that this new life in Christ doesn’t seek to be colorblind or overlook our differences, but rather reframes them as unique gifts from God to the world and the church for his glory.

How should Christians think about this strategy?

This strategy is not only ambitious, but can be seen as a way for the federal government to expand its authority and influence over everyday life given the sheer breadth of issues included. While this plan may contain some elements that could gain bi-partisan support, these issues are completely overshadowed by the intersectional approach to issues and the unwavering support for a constitutional right to abortion nationwide. While the strategy does not have any immediate authority and Congress would have to authorize many of the priorities listed as part of the normal legislative process, the framing of these issues reveals the deep-seated tensions in our society over public expressions of faith and some of crucial issues in the public square today. 

Notably, the strategy rarely mentions the plight of religious minorities around the world, among them many women and girls, nor does it enumerate religious freedom among the many human rights it claims, especially in the midst of the ongoing religious genocide among the Uyghur people in the Xinjaing province in China. This is striking given the persistent practice of authoritarian regimes around the world that strip their people of all basic rights, including religious freedom and free expression. Religious freedom is of paramount importance domestically and around the world because it is a basic human right and good for a flourishing society.

Of particular interest, many of these interconnected priorities align with the administration’s goal to solidify a right to abortion under, ironically, the auspices of healthcare. The strategy states that this administration is fully committed to promoting “access to sexual and reproductive health and rights both at home and abroad.” This commitment is a part of the whole-of-government approach that President Biden declared in light of the recent Texas Heartbeat Act, also known as Texas SB 8, that “bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically occurs anywhere between five and eight weeks into a pregnancy.” The strategy also calls for a concerted effort to uphold the practice of abortion in light of how the Supreme Court is preparing “to hear the greatest challenge to Roe in a generation, putting women’s fundamental rights on the line.” This particular reference is to Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which begins oral arguments at the Supreme Court Dec. 1. 

It also remains to be seen what this National Strategy and/or the GPC may seek to do to promote greater online regulations or digital content moderation for hate speech and violence online, especially given the emphasis of many social media platforms on expansive definitions of what constitutes hate speech. These hate speech definitions now include conflating the misgendering or deadnaming of individuals—meaning using the name prior to one’s gender transition—with actual threat of physical violence and hate crimes. In recent years, ideas — particularly those rooted in biological realities and historic Christian teaching — have been deemed as inherently bigoted and harmful. But, as Brookings scholar Jonathan Rauch eloquently states in his recent work, The Constitution of Knowledge, “words are not bullets . . . stopping words does not stop bullets, and . . . confusing words with bullets is a tragic error” (203). Hate crimes and violence cannot be equated with words online, especially words speaking to the realities of how God made both men and women in his image.

The ERLC will be closely watching the developments, including any potential recommendations or future legislation, surrounding the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. We are committed to providing further resources from a biblical worldview on the concerning aspects of the federal government’s approach to gender and various social issues.

By / Aug 11

Sandra grew up in a Christian home. She was a good girl in church — read the Bible, prayed, did her quiet time. She was homeschooled by solid parents. She never snuck out or did anything crazy. She’d never even been to a high school prom. On the outside, it looked like Sandra had a sheltered and safe Christian childhood, but on the inside, there was a lot more going on.

During her freshman year of college, Sandra met June, a girl who quickly became her best friend. They spent hours each day together, and, over time, their worlds began to revolve around each other. Their emotional closeness became codependent and inappropriately physical. One day it happened, and they freaked out. They cried and prayed and asked God to help nothing like that happen again. But it did. And Sandra and June never told anyone. They even promised one another they’d never tell their future husbands.

A kid like Sandra should feel safe confessing her sins to Christian parents and her church community. But there’s understandable shame for a kid confessing same-sex attraction or transgender feelings, especially if that child has grown up around coarse gay jokes or politically charged opinions about the LGBTQ movement. It’s understandable for a kid who grows up in that context to fear losing friendships if they allow their struggles to become public knowledge.

What can a parent or a church leader do in the face of such shame? What does it look like to show love and compassion for a child who experiences the discord of gender confusion or same-sex attraction?

First, cultivate empathy. If we’re honest, we know kids’ fears about confessing disordered desires are not unfounded. Many parents don’t react well. Some parents’ first instincts are to run from the situation and ignore it. Some become overwhelmed emotionally and get angry, whether with God or with their child: “How can this be happening? You were raised better than this!” These kinds of responses only create more distance between parents and their children. Like the Pharisees, many Christian communities sometimes teach true doctrine all the while judging and marginalizing those who publicly confess sin that makes us particularly uncomfortable or is socially unacceptable (Luke 18:9–14). We must remember that those who experience gender confusion or same-sex attraction are not unique in battling brokenness or sinful desires. Cooper Pinson asks:

Can you relate to a student who wants to follow Christ, but finds strong, competing, sinful tendencies within himself that moves him in destructive directions?1Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.

If so, you’re more like your child than you may have originally thought. When we acknowledge what we have in common and move toward kids who struggle rather than away from them, we reflect the kind of love with which Jesus loved us (1 John 4:19).

Second, acknowledge the courage it took to be honest.2Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9. Even if your child’s confession is hard to hear, thank them for being honest enough to tell you the truth. Acknowledge how hard it must have been for your child to speak this secret and get it out in the open. Thank them for trusting you, reaffirm your love for them, and assure them that your relationship will not end because of this confession. Affirming your love for your child and expressing gratitude for their truthfulness will help you cultivate an ongoing relationship that is built on authenticity.

Third, listen before you speak or act. If your child begins the conversation, respect their initiative by allowing the dialogue to be about what you can learn from them and not what you feel they need to hear from you. When seeking to understand, the most important thing is to ask comfortable open-ended questions.3Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/. If your child says, “I’m gay,” “lesbian,” or “I want to transition,” for instance, it’s important to understand what they mean by that. Ask your child how they came to this understanding, how long they have been considering this, how certain they feel it is true, and why. Ask whether or not your child is content with this expressed identity, or if this is something they don’t want. Don’t assume your child or their friends understand these terms in the same way you do. 

It may be that your child is confessing a sinful experiment with a new gender identity or same-sex sexual intimacy in the same way a cheating husband who wants to turn away from unfaithfulness confesses, “I’m an adulterer.” When a Christian owns his or her identity as a sinner in this way, it should never be discouraged (1 Tim. 1:15). Your child is most likely describing an ongoing battle in which they feel oppressed and helpless. As Tim Geiger observes, “He might really be saying, ‘I’ve been struggling with these feelings for years, and the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that I must be gay.’”4Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.

Fourth, acknowledge your child’s suffering. Kids who struggle with gender confusion or same-sex attraction may have heard many times from the church that homosexuality is wrong. But rarely have we acknowledged their unique form of suffering and intense temptations. Students who experience same-sex attraction “often contend with intense loneliness, confusion, fear, and even despair as they wrestle with something that seems as if it’s an essential part of who they are.”5Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14. The same is true for kids who experience gender dysphoria.

Having disordered desires, whether these desires consist in same-sex sexual lust or gender confusion, is not the same thing as giving in to these sinful desires, that is, dwelling on those desires and acting upon them. Both are sinful, but the kind of repentance required and the kind of change we can expect is different. We must turn from all sinful behavior. But where we can repent and refrain from sinful actions related to sexual temptation, disordered desires — while they should be resisted, confessed, and put to death — may nevertheless remain throughout our lives. Sharing your own struggles — how you may not always feel at home or comfortable in your own body, or, as appropriate, your own ongoing battles with lust and temptation — will demonstrate that brokenness and sexual sin is not unique to your child.

Fifth, pray for your child. We can educate our children as much as we want, have conversations, and teach them the biblical point of view. But in the end, their hearts must be in submission to God or these words will fall on deaf ears. A child’s repentance ultimately depends on the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart and not on a parent’s actions. Some things only come out by prayer (Mark 9:29). So, as parents, we must appeal to God to act on behalf of our children. 

The parents of Sandra or June may be in for a long journey. Sometimes it seems that we do and say all the right things, but our hearts break because our children continue to choose the wrong path. In these times, one of the best ways to care for our children is to advocate for them while on our knees.

Finally, gently communicate what it looks like to follow Jesus. By adopting an empathetic posture and listening carefully, you set the stage for speaking redemptive truth. If your child is determined to pursue an intimate same-gender, sexual relationship or transition their gender, there may be no way of avoiding defensiveness on their part. Remember that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). Your child needs kindness too. It’s doubtful that arguments will convince your child their perspective is wrong. But if they are open to dialogue, share sensitively a biblical and compassionate perspective on suffering with sexual brokenness. We can encourage a child who experiences besetting and persistent trials with the truth that all Christians are called to suffer. As Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).

Following Christ while enduring gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction will involve taking up crosses. It will mean rejecting impulses that run counter to God’s created design. It may mean that your child remains single and celibate into adulthood or resists temptation while their psychological distress increases. You should never gloss over or minimize these hard realities, but you can remind your children that they have a high priest who can sympathize with them in their weaknesses (Heb. 4:15). As Andrew Walker observes, “No one ever experienced greater dysphoria than the perfect Son of God being treated as a sinner.”6Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24).

As you encourage your child to persevere, keep in mind that this most likely will be a long journey. Change is slow. A girl like Sandra, whose story I told above, may gain confidence to confess her sins and grow both to live a life in obedience to the Bible’s commands and even to disciple others who experience same-sex attraction. But that same girl may still struggle to discern whether or not missing one of her girlfriends who is out of town is just a normal part of friendship or evidence that she’s still battling a sinful pull toward codependence. As Chris Torchia writes:

We all appreciate the success stories of someone coming to Christ and experiencing complete freedom from ingrained sin patterns, but God doesn’t always work that way. A more accurate picture of repentance is a gradual process of turning away from sin and turning to God more and more, usually with many bumps along the way.Chris Torchia, “Coming Out as Gay or Transgender: Five things parents must do—part 4,” The Student Outreach, (Sept. 21, 2017), accessed online at http://thestudentoutreach.org/2017/09/21/coming-gay-transgender-five-things-parents-must-part-4/.

Parents, you should find the kind of support network that will stick with you through the long haul. Don’t hide your weakness from your Christian friends. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your pastors and biblical counselors like those at Harvest USA (www.harvestusa.org).

We can be confident that Christ is ready, willing, and waiting to meet us even where brokenness seems profound and irreparable. We can persevere with faith, knowing that we share in Christ’s sufferings so we may also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17). For those who do not shrink back, God has prepared a great reward. We do not belong to those who shrink back to destruction but to those who persevere and are saved (Heb. 10:36-39).

This article was adapted from A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: Helping Kids Navigate a Confusing Culture.

  • 1
    Cooper Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction: Guidance for Parents and Youth Leaders, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2017), 8.
  • 2
    Adapted from Tim Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay, (Greensboro: New Growth, 2013), 8–9.
  • 3
    Brian Hambrick, “Talking to My Boys after the Transgender Talk at Their Public School” (May 16, 2016), accessed online at http://bradhambrick.com/talking-to-my-boys-after-the-transgender-talk-at-their-public-school/.
  • 4
    Geiger, Your Child Says, “I’m Gay,21.
  • 5
    Pinson, Helping Students with Same-Sex Attraction, 14.
  • 6
    Walker, God and the Transgender Debate, 89.