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 / 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 / Apr 2

Earlier this week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Rep.) signed a bill into law that bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade. This bill, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents, has brought about intense national controversy. This is due, in large part, to the prominent role that sexuality and gender identity play in today’s cultural conversations, as well as the influence of the LGBTQ+ movement in all aspects of our society. Even as the bill was being debated in the Florida legislature, organizations and companies across the country rallied in support or opposition of the bill.

Acting ERLC President Brent Leatherwood, speaking about the bill, said, “For years, we have asked elected officials to prioritize the protection of children and to respect families in their policy-making. In general, this new law creates a framework for just that. Mothers and fathers absolutely should be the ones surfacing complex matters with their children for the first time, not someone outside the home.” But it seems that many in our culture believe that the state should encourage and teach these controversial and divisive subjects as early as possible, essentially stripping parents of their God-given responsibilities to raise their children to become wise, virtuous people.

Cultural pressure to conform 

Because of the organization’s ties to Florida, Disney CEO Bob Chapek came under incredible scrutiny and criticism for not being vocal enough in support of the LGBTQ+ movement by publicly denouncing this bill. Other Disney executives and lead creatives expressed outrage over the bill, claiming it would further marginalize and harm children across the state, with some even asserting that their mission as a company is to spread gender ideology and teachings to children through their creative work. A few days after the signing of the bill, some in prominent roles at Disney even went as far as to say that they are intentionally seeking to add more characters and narratives that will model these alternative lifestyles and promote the sexual revolution with its committment to complete moral autonomy.

Disney is one of the most influential companies in the world, especially as their work often captures the imagination of younger generations. The company is Florida’s largest employer, and through their streaming service, Disney+, they have a massive catalog of family content providing entertainment for millions around the world. For this reason, Christians need to be mindful of what they are saying and evaluate the messages being communicated through the lens of a biblical worldview — just as we should be doing with the products and services from other prominent companies. From plans to create more transgender characters to stories highlighting same-sex families, some in leadership at Disney are clearly seeking to form the moral imagination of our children in ways that are contrary to the biblical sexuality and marriage.

The worldviews communicated by this company and others like them have the potential to leave a lasting impression on children and families for a lifetime. And that should come as no surprise since the things that we are exposed to on a daily basis, whether social media, movies, or news, deeply shape how we view ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us. Entertainment, much like technology, subtly yet radically alters our minds, including the things we find morally acceptable or objectionable. The things we are exposed to matter. This can be clearly seen in the normalization of same-sex relationships through the 90s which ulimately culminated in the consequential Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision, and in the ongoing campaigns from the private and government sectors to normalize a transgender lifestyle.

How parents can respond

For parents or children’s ministers, this can be an especially difficult and overwhelming reality to grasp. How are we to navigate these cultural issues and the onslaught of the sexual revolution with our children? How can we be salt and light in our world without withdrawing from the culture in which we’re called to be witnesses? 

First, we must see that the controversies surrounding this bill — those related to sexuality and gender — often center on a longstanding cultural tension between the rights of parents and the role of other powerful social institutions including the state, corporations, and cultural movements. Do parents have a right to know what their children are being exposed to, and do they have a say in what their children are taught, especially if those things are contrary to their religious or cultural beliefs? While businesses are free to express their beliefs in their work, parents also have the right and responsibility to raise their children in line with their deeply held beliefs — which may mean that some parents decide on other forms of entertainment and education or at least recognize the realities at play in the midst of the sexual revolution. 

Parents rightfully see the importance of raising up this next generation, but we must do so with a biblical vision of how God created every person, including our kids, in his very image. Parenting is not just simply a right to be wielded, but a responsibility to be cherished. We have been entrusted with this responsibility to nurture and train up our children in a world of competing worldviews. There is no such thing as a neutral or truly secular space, whether it be in entertainment or the public square. Everything communicates some type of worldview and every person espouses some set of moral values and beliefs.

This means that we cannot sit idly by while our children are discipled by the state, society, or even by a corporation like Disney — each with its own distinct cultural and ethical values. The worldviews that your family are exposed to each day matter because the truths we are being taught will inevitably shape every aspect of our moral framework. We must take responsibility for and think intentionally about the things that we allow our children to be exposed to — not out of fear, but out of a desire to steward our families well and raise them with a keen sense of discernment (Romans 12:2).

Second, parents must be ready to equip their children to see the beauty and freedom of the Christian sexual ethic which is rooted in the very creation of man and woman as image-bearers of the almighty God (Gen. 1:27). The cultural stories we are being exposed to each day through our entertainment choices are often contrary to the scientific and biological realities of being created as a man and a woman. Contrary to the moral autonomy championed by many today, we simply do not have the ability to choose our gender nor do we have the authority to alter God’s good design for sexuality rooted in the marriage of a man and woman. This created order is central to the Christian sexual ethic and must be part of how a parent “train[s] up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6).

Another reality of this cultural revolution is that our children will have friends or classmates struggling with these issues. Christian cultural engagement is rooted in speaking truth in grace, modeling the fact that all people are inherently valuable as created in God’s image. This type of engagement will include seeking out ways to love our neighbors regardless of their beliefs and affirming their inherent dignity, even when we disagree with them. While this will look different for each family given their circumstances, we must remind our kids (and ourselves) that people are more than simply their sexual desires or how they feel about their gender identity. Our culture often promotes the lie that your sexuality defines your core identity as a person, but the Christian ethic reminds us our identities are actually tied to who God made each of us in his image. Our sexuality is rooted in how God made us and we do not have the authority to define our own realities. This truth is actually freeing since our dignity is not tied to what we do or how we feel, but who we are. Training our children to see the dignity and value of their classmates and friends, regardless of their personal beliefs, while also speaking truth in love is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to this next generation.

As I recently wrote, Western culture is at an interesting crossroads today, representing an especially crucial moment for our kids and families. On one hand, our society champions complete moral autonomy under the guise of throwing off all moral boundaries and pursuing our own versions of realities at all costs. On the other hand, we all recognize that truth cannot actually be relative and that our moral choices have profound consequences for us and our society. We may seek to deny objective moral truths in the name of liberation and revolution, but these false notions of reality will not and cannot last.

Parents and churches must be ready to respond to the mores of the sexual revolution that will only leave precious image-bearers — especially our children — in its wake. The sexual revolution will not be able to deliver on its grand promises of liberation, and the Church must be ready to welcome those who have been deceived with open arms of dignity, respect, love, hope, and the truth of the gospel. So while there are some at corporations like Disney that seek to capture the hearts and minds of children through the stories they create, it is our responsibility to parent our children and raise them in light of a far better and truer story. Regardless of the lies they they are sold by the sexual revolution, our Creator has a better answer. And it’s through honoring him that we will find the joy and satisfaction that we’re made for.

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.

  • 1
    The Barna Group, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation (Ventura, CA: Barna Group, 2018), 46–47.
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.
By / Jun 4

President Joe Biden recently issued an official proclamation declaring June 2021 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month. “I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Biden, “to celebrate the great diversity of the American people, and to wave their flags of pride high.”

The sexual identities “Pride Month” intends to celebrate run contrary to the pattern of God’s design for human sexuality as expressed in Scripture and revealed through nature. According to article 28 of the Baptist Faith & Message, marriage — which is defined as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime” — is the sole biblical “framework for intimate companionship” and “channel of sexual expression.” As witnessed by President Biden’s proclamation, in recent decades the LGBTQ movement has gained wide acceptance in our culture.

Here is what you should know about LGBTQ Pride Month. 

What is Pride Month?

In the United States, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month occurs in the month of June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots, which occurred in New York City from June 28 to July 3, 1969, helped launch the social and political movement known as “gay liberation.” 

The Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, was a tavern operated by the Genovese crime family. The bar lacked a liquor license and violated many of the city’s health and safety codes (it didn’t have running water and the toilets frequently overflowed), which made it the frequent target of law enforcement. The mafia owners reportedly paid almost $9,000 a month (in 2021 dollars) in bribes to the local police, yet were still raided about once a month. 

At 1:20 a.m. on June 28, six police officers attempted to close the bar. About 200 patrons resisted, and a crowd of 500 gathered outside. When the crowd became violent, the police officers barricaded themselves inside the establishment. Rioters threw rocks and bricks and attempted to burn down the building to kill the police inside. A SWAT team quelled that disturbance, but two days later an even more violent riot broke out as thousands of protesters clashed with police. (Despite the violence and attempted murder against police, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn a national monument in 2016, and the NYPD police commissioner issued an apology on behalf of the police force in 2019.)

A year later, gay activists in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles organized marches to honor the riots and promote “gay liberation.” The next year, Gay Pride marches took place in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm. By 1972 the marches were occurring in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. Since then, they have become ubiquitous in the U.S. and in other Western countries. 

Why is the rainbow flag associated with LGBT Pride?

The rainbow LGBT flag was a creation of Gilbert Baker, a designer and gay rights activist, who created the flag in 1978 as a new symbol for the gay libertarion movement. The original flag had eight colors, each of which had a representative meaning. “Pink is for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun,” said Baker. “Green for nature, turquoise for magic, blue for serenity, and purple for the spirit. I like to think of those elements as in every person, everyone shares that.” Most of the flags today have only six colors, with the pink and turquoise removed.

Christians recognize the rainbow as the sign of God’s covenant with Noah. Where the LGBTQ movement has appropriated the sign of the rainbow as a symbol of affirmation or pride, the Bible reveals that the rainbow is meant to be a sign of deliverance from judgement. As Erik Raymond has written: “The God of the Bible owns the distinct honor, as he has long used the rainbow to illustrate his loving demonstration of mercy instead of judgment! God the loving Creator was angered by humanity’s rebellion against his will & so therefore justly demonstrated his judgment upon their sin. In Genesis 6 the Scriptures teach that instead of giving mankind what they deserve for their rebellion, he chose to save some from destruction. The mercy & faithfulness of God was demonstrated by the beautiful rainbow that filled the sky.”

Is Pride Month an official U.S. commemoration?

Three presidents have issued official proclamations commemorating Pride Month: Bill Clinton in 1999 and 2000; Barack Obama from 2009 to 2016; and Joe Biden in 2021. Donald Trump became the first Republican president to acknowledge Pride Month in 2019, though he did not issue an official proclamation.

A related commemoration occurs in October, with LGBT History Month. In 1995, a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the National Education Association included LGBT History Month within a list of commemorative months. 

Why has LGBT Pride become embraced by corporations?

During the month of June, it’s nearly impossible to find a large American corporation that is not engaged in promoting Pride Month. There is disagreement about whether the promotional activities are merely attempting to appeal to consumers or if something more nefarious is behind the marketing.

The practice is sometimes criticized as “pinkwashing,” a term used to describe the action of using gay-related issues in positive ways in order to distract attention from negative actions by an organization, country, or government. Regardless, Pride Month has become a massive cultural phenomenon that is impossible to ignore. And those who refuse to acknowledge or affirm LGBTQ causes will likely face even greater social pressure to do so in the years ahead. As Joe Carter has written: “Today, the American people fly a rainbow flag, wear an ‘ally’ pin, or change their social media avatars to show they observe LGBT Pride Month. In doing so, they show they’ve bent the knee to the LGBT cause and will not incur their wrath that will be poured out those who are not ‘affirming.’”

What is the purpose of LGBT Pride Month?

From its inception, the LGBT Pride movement has been about “sexual liberation.” As the prominent LGBT magazine The Advocate wrote in 2018, 

From its roots, Pride was a political act. And so is having the kind of sex we want to have with who we want to have it. That was a rebellion against the institution of monogamy and ideas about women as property. . . . Pride is the antidote to efforts to control and limit sex — which politicians are still trying to do.

For decades, Pride events have been frequently criticized (even by some LGBT activists) for overt displays of sexuality and championing of causal promiscuity. But as Alex Abad-Santos of Vox writes, that’s part of the point of Pride. “Queer history is often about resistance to norms and embracing radical existence,” he writes, “so engaging in respectability politics—the idea that marginalized groups need to behave or act in a certain way to validate the compassion shown toward them—flies in the face of those goals.”

For these reasons, it is all the more important for Christians to prepare their hearts and minds to stand against the tide of the LGBTQ movement. Christians must model Christlikeness as we bear witness to the truth of the gospel and about the beauty of God’s design for humanity. And we must do so without anger or fear, but with love, charity, and grace.

By / Jun 4

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a Christian response to Pride Month, a major leadership change in Israel, and recent news involving the ERLC. They also cover new ERLC content including a critical abortion case headed to the Supreme Court, questions about content moderation on social media, and one city’s approach to combatting abortion through local ordinances.

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. 100 Years since the Tulsa Race Massacre. Churches are leading on racial unity.
  2. June is “Pride” Month. How should Christians think about that?
  3. A major shake-up in Israel’s national leadership. What’s that mean for the Biden Administration?
  4. A leaked letter from Russell Moore sparks conversations within the SBC about race and sexual abuse.

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