By / Jan 11

COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP) – The Ohio House of Representatives Jan. 10th overrode Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill protecting youth under age 18 from gender transitions and limiting women’s sports teams to biological females.

The Ohio Senate is expected to concur Jan. 24 in overriding DeWine’s veto, Senate President Matt Huffman told Columbus NBC affiliate WCMH, allowing the Saving Ohio Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act and the Save Women’s Sports Act to take effect. Both measures were included in House Bill 68, passed in December. DeWine vetoed it Dec. 29.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) welcomed the override.

The Ohio House of Representatives’ vote to override Gov. DeWine’s veto is a step in the right direction to protect the most vulnerable among us. This vital legislation will protect children from life-changing medical and surgical interventions and protect the integrity of women’s and girls’ sports.

ERLC Vice President and Chief of Staff Miles Mullin

“The ERLC has long maintained the position that children must not be pawns in the sexual revolution, and we will continue to advocate against harmful gender-transition practices,” Mullin said. “And while we affirm the rights of parents in decision-making regarding their children, those rights cannot extend to decisions that harm children’s bodies.”

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

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 / Nov 15

Only a short time ago, it would have been unthinkable that young children would be introduced to transgenderism. However, it is a reality today. Children are regularly in class with boys and girls who are identifying as the opposite sex, all while our larger cultural is doing its best to disciple our youngest neighbors to embrace the sexual revolution. Christian parents instinctively know this is wrong but are often at a loss when it comes to talking though these issues with their preschoolers and elementary-age kids. That’s why Marty Machowski, a father and pastor, has written God Made Boys and Girls. Below, he talks about this resource and why it will help moms and dads celebrate God’s good design for gender and sexuality in an age-appropriate way.  

Champ Thornton: At what age do parents need to start having conversations with their kids about gender? 

Marty Machowski: When you consider that some public schools are reading books like I Am Jazz, which promotes a pro-transgender understanding of gender to young children, as well as the larger cultural message of the sexual revolution, you realize how important it is to build a biblical understanding of gender and sexuality in children from a very young age.

CT: How does a parent make the determination of what is age appropriate for their child and what is too much to share?

MM: As a parent, I wanted to be the one to introduce teaching on intimate topics with my children. I set out with a guideline that I would teach God’s plan for sex in marriage to my children when they were 10 years old. Then, when they turned 13, I would teach them how the world twists sexuality, and I’d talk about LGBTQ topics. But I had to adjust that timeline downward when my children were exposed to those ideas at a younger age. 

I didn’t have to teach my children about the idea of gender fluidity before they were 10 years old because it wasn’t such a promoted issue 10 years ago. But today, I would begin teaching my children biblical identity in gender and sexuality in purposeful conversation from about 3 years old by affirming God made my son a boy or my daughter a girl.

CT: Should parents start the conversation by reading God Made Boys and Girls to their children or wait until the topic of gender comes up naturally?

MM: I wrote God Made Boys and Girls to build a foundation of truth—that our gender and sexuality is a gift from God that cannot change—without having to talke about more mature issues like sex-reassignment surgery. So parents can feel comfortable using God Made Boys and Girls with their youngest children even before the issue of gender comes up. 

CT: God Made Boys and Girls addresses several common gender stereotypes. What are some examples you use, and how do you explain that we should avoid false gender stereotypes?

MM: If you look on the front cover, you’ll notice that the boy is reading while the girl is climbing the tree. When I grew up, the phrase “girls don’t climb trees” was a common gender stereotype. Back then, about the worst thing that could happen was a girl could be called a “tomboy.” While that is an unkind label, the girl in question wouldn’t have been given an option to start hormone therapy so that she could “become a boy.” Girls who loved to climb trees grew up to lead normal lives as girls—just the way God made them to be.

We should avoid gender stereotypes because they are unkind and unbiblical. Additionally, at the present time—with gender fluid philosophy so prominent in our culture—children are at a far higher risk of becoming confused about their gender identity. The biblical truth is that while God assigns certain traits and roles to women and not men, such as motherhood, God does not define femininity by the likes, dislikes, hobbies, or job preferences of a woman. The same is true for men. God calls men to be husbands and fathers, but doesn’t define masculinity by hobbies, interests, or occupation. 

CT: How do you explain the difference between boys and girls? Are preschoolers able to understand the science at that age?

MM: I included the science behind gender in God Made Boys and Girls to ensure my argument would not be dismissed by those who believe differently. Even basic genetics is over a preschooler’s head. But, I have always advocated that we teach our children information that is a step ahead of their full comprehension. That way, as soon as they are mature enough to comprehend, they have the information at their disposal.  

CT: What should a parent explain to their child if they come home talking about a classmate who is saying they are no longer a boy or no longer a girl?

MM: One of the ways I hope parents use God Made Boys and Girls is as a reference when questions or concerns arise. So, if your daughter comes home and tells you that there is a boy in her class that is saying he is a girl, you can pull out my book and read through it. 

Then I think we’ve got to lovingly explain that some people get confused about their gender because of the Fall. Then we want to emphasize two unchanging truths. First, that God gives us our gender and biological sex as a gift. Second, that God codes every cell in our body, boy or girl, and there is no way to change that code. So a scientist can tell if you are a boy or girl just by testing one strand of your hair or one drop of your blood.

CT: Can you tell us more about the section at the back of the book written specifically for parents and caregivers?

MM: I knew when I wrote God Made Boys and Girls that I could not include all the information a parent might want or need in a story for preschoolers. So, I included much more detailed information for parents in the back of the book. It is my hope that it can equip parents with the information they need as their children get older and ask more mature questions.

CT: God Made Boys and Girls is a part of the God Made Me series from New Growth Press. Can you share a little bit about the other important topics the series addresses?

MM: The God Made Me series is designed to help parents have important but sensitive conversations with their children. Most parents feel equipped to teach their children how to tie their shoes or put on their own clothes, but when it comes to teaching on topics like “good touch/ bad touch,” or racial diversity, parents can feel lost for words. 

The God Made Me series provides the help parents need to teach children on those topics. God Made All of Me teaches children how others should appropriately treat their body. God Made Me and You covers the topic of ethnic diversity, and God Made Me Unique helps parents teach their children that God creates every person in the image of God, and each individual has tremendous value, regardless of his or her appearance or abilities. 

CT: If you could offer parents just one piece of advice as they start the conversation about gender and sexuality with their kids, what would it be?

MM: If your child begins to show signs of gender confusion, don’t panic. For example, if you have a little boy who asks if he can wear a dress today to be like his sisters, don’t freak out. The vast majority of children who are confused grow out of their confusion and can be effectively steered in the right direction by affirming their gender.

Affirming your child’s gender from a young age can serve to build their confidence in the gender gift they have received from God. So, when your son helps his sister, affirm the manhood he demonstrated in his care. When your little girl helps you care for her little sister, tell her she is going to be an amazing mommy one day, and tell her that God has made her to be such a wonderful woman. 

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 / Oct 6

On Sept. 28, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a controversial new bill designed to promote California as a place of “refuge” and sanctuary for those seeking gender-affirming care. This is in response to how many states have sought to ban these types of medical treatments for youth and to punish medical providers and/or parents who allow it. After signing the bill into law, Newsom touted the openness and inclusivity of Calfornia as he decried the 22 Republican-led states who are currently seeking to block gender-affirming care for youth and children as demonizing and promoting hate toward transgender youth.

This type of bill coming from one of the most populous and influential states in the union is deeply concerning and immoral, as it will lead to irreparable harm for children, youth, and their families. What’s being promoted is a false view of the self under the auspices of moral autonomy and freedom — especially toward children and youth — that is at odds with basic biological and moral realities.

What is State Bil 107?

According to Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who led the effort, State Bill 107 was designed to reaffirm California as “a leader in protecting the civil rights and basic dignity of LGBTQ people and will help trans kids and their parents have a safe place to go if they are threatened with prosecution or criminalization for being who they are and seeking the care they need.” The authors frame it as a response to mental health issues and suicide among transgender youth. The bill had 12 co-authors from across the California General Assembly and the State Senate and was also co-sponsored by Equality California, Planned Parenthood, TransFamily Support Services, and Lieutenant Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.

Essentially, SB 107 blocks out-of-state attempts to penalize families who may come to California for gender-affirming treatment and care or who have already sought services from any legal consequences for their decisions. According to Wiener’s office, the bill has three main components:

  1. It prohibits the enforcement of a law of another state that authorizes a state agency to remove a child from their parent or guardian based on the parent or guardian allowing their child to receive gender-affirming healthcare.
  1. It bars compliance in California with any out-of-state subpoena seeking health or other related information about people who come to California to receive gender-affirming care, if the subpoena relates to efforts to criminalize individuals or remove children from their homes for having received gender-affirming care.
  1. It prohibits law enforcement participation in the arrest or extradition of an individual that criminalizes allowing a person to receive or provide gender-affirming healthcare where that conduct is lawful in California and to the fullest extent permitted by federal law. It declares that it is California’s public policy that any out-of-state criminal arrest warrant for someone based on violating another state’s law against receiving gender-affirming care is the lowest priority for law enforcement in California.

Of note, the bill is centered around the autonomy of youth and children, as well as their parents, to seek gender-affirming care which includes hormone treatments, gender reassignment surgeries, and other types of care which affirm the choice of the individual to bodily and gender autonomy. SB 107 also adds a layer of data and medical privacy for individuals since it bars California from cooperating with out-of-state subpoenas if the subpoena is intended to bring charges against an individual seeking these types of treatments. This is similar to recent bills passed about data protection in light of renewed questions surrounding privacy as it relates to illegal abortion procedures. One important aspect of this bill is that a severability clause was added which ensures that if a court strikes down parts of the bill as unconstitutional, then the rest will remain enforceable. 

In remarks made upon the signing of the bill by Gov. Newsom, Wiener said “With SB 107 signed into law, California is forcefully pushing back against the anti-LGBTQ hatred spreading across parts of our nation. The rainbow wave is real, and it’s coming.” The bill has led to 19 other similar ‘refuge’ bills across states all designed to provide greater access to gender-affirming care and provide safe haven for those seeking these services. The bill will take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.

What is behind this bill?

While the stated aims of the bill are to provide a refuge from states who have banned or limited access to gender-affirming services and gender transition care, SB 107 is the latest push to normalize these types of services and offerings nationwide for those who identify as transgender and to codify various civil protections for the LGBTQ+ community. Given the size and influence of California, these types of bills will not stay isolated to the state. Oher states will use this as model legislation, as has happened with a host of other issues such as digital privacy and abortion.

This bill is also framed in light of a growing chorus of concern over the state of personal privacy and moral autonomy after the Dobbs decision issued earlier this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court. While the decision itself was limited to abortion in the majority opinion, some have sought to use this decision to push for a host of bills codifying rights to contraception and same-sex marriage. As I have argued previously, abortion as personal autonomy is the linchpin to the entire sexual revolution which is rooted in a false sense of radical individualism and moral autonomy.

This gender-affirming care bill comes on the heals of another highly controversial and politicized package of bills signed into law on Sept. 26, which promotes California as a similar type of sanctuary state and safe haven for abortions. The state also launched a website providing information about abortion services — including detailed information for out-of-state residents on how to obtain an abortion in Calfornia. The website declares that all people have a legal right to an abortion, regardless of what may be legal in their state of residence.

Newsom, who is up for reelection in November, has recently been behind a mass billboard campaign across California, and even in other states that seek to limit access to abortion, promoting abortion tourism to the state. The campaign promotes the message “Need an abortion? California is ready to help,” and goes as far to cite a Scripture reference about loving our neighbor as yourself in support of abortion. This campaign has also been expanded by Planned Parenthood to include transit hubs in California, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, and Maryland with the message promoting the state’s pro-abortion policies. 

What about parental rights?

One of the most controversial aspects of this bill, outside of promoting radical gender transition surgeries and treatments for youth and children, centers on the role of parents and doctors in these types of life-altering and often irreversible decisions. These treatments can include hormone treatments, puberty blockers, and surgeries that forever alter one’s body. Surgeries could include facial reconstruction, chest (top) surgeries in which healthy breast tissue is removed or augmentation/enhancements are made, and even genital (bottom) surgery where genitalia are transformed and reconstructed. Other care can include voice therapy and gender-affirming counseling.

In a letter on Sept. 29 to the state senate, Newsom wrote, “In California we believe in equality and acceptance. We believe that no one should be prosecuted or persecuted for getting the care they need—including gender-affirming care. Parents know what’s best for their kids, and they should be able to make decisions around the health of their children without fear. We must take a stand for parental choice.” Interestingly, some aspects of SB 107 do not seem to align with Newsom’s own words about how parents know what is best for their kids. The bill raises a host of concerns about what happens when a parent or parents choose not to allow their child or youth to seek such care. As others have noted, this bill goes as far as to allow children this level of autonomy and rights even without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

How should Christians think about these issues?

Given the enormous consequences of this bill and its far-reaching promotion of moral autonomy and the rights of youth over that of their parents, there is much to be concerned about here. This bill may face significant battles in the courts over multiple provisions including parental rights, which is why the severability clause was added last minute before its passage. In response to this push, Christians must be wise and discerning as these false visions of reality are being promoted as common-sense measures in line with our contemporary culture’s fixation on defining our own realities and moral autonomy.

First, Christians should be sober minded about these situations. Part of a Christian vision of society includes upholding basic goods and God’s design for men, women, and families. God not only created us male and female in line with biological realities, but also designed the family unit as a basic building block of society. The family and the individual are pre-political, meaning that governments should seek to honor God’s design for marriage and sexuality given that they are rooted in the very nature of what it means to be human.

This type of bill seeks to put the family in the crosshairs of the sexual revolution by prioritizing the autonomy of youth and children over that of their parents. Parents, by nature, are to protect, care for, and seek the best for their children regardless of what the state may promote. The family is tasked by God with this grave responsibility and to give an account for how they raise their children into mature and wise adults. Youth and children are simply ill-equipped to make these life-altering decisions, and any provision that severs the unity of the family should be immediately called into question and subsequently rejected.

Second, Christians must speak into these matters. Many proponents of this bill will argue that it is simply not the role of others (specifically including the church) to speak into private issues of individuals and families, especially in regards to questions of sexuality and gender. This cuts to the core of the argument driving these bills since humans were not created to live self-determined and autonomous lives. Not only is true moral autonomy impossible, but we often fail to know what is truly best for us in many situations, especially when dealing with high-stakes gender-affirming care. 

Truth is not a matter of mere opinion or preference, but it is established by God and is to be discovered and cherished by all. Christians must resolutely promote the good of others (Matt. 22:37-39), and this means directly speaking to the realities of being made male and female (Gen. 1:27) and the grave threats to God’s design for marriage and sexuality encountered in our culture today. We must do so with lavish grace to those struggling with a host of sexuality issues, including gender-dysphoria.

Christians must remember it is not loving to speak a lie or affirm something that is simply not true, no matter the cultural pressure to do otherwise. But we also must do so remembering that those caught in these lies are made in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26) and deserve our love and care. Many of us know and deeply care for those in our communities and families who are walking through these types of issues. Regardless of one’s sexual brokenness, there is hope in the name of Jesus for radical transformation, just as there is for all who sin (Rom. 3:23). 

True dignity, value, and worth are not found in our sexual identities or expressions but in how God has made us. These truths directly counter the lies of the sexual revolution as well as the rampant ideal of moral autonomy which is fixated on the individual as reigning supreme. May the Church be known for speaking the truth, loving God, and loving those left in the wake of the sexual revolution’s failed promises and who have been harmed by this type of disatrous policy in Calfornia.

By / Sep 2

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the United Nations’ report on human rights violations in China, the rejection of the Transgender Mandate at a Federal Appeals Court, life in the digital age, and Yeshiva University’s appeal to SCOTUS regarding a potential religious liberty violation. They also celebrate the beginning of college football season. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs.
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By / Sep 2

A federal appeals court upheld a ruling preventing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from requiring doctors and hospitals to perform abortions and gender-transition procedures. A three-judge panel unanimously upheld an injunction issued in a federal court in Texas that barred enforcement of the regulation. 

“Baptists have long recognized ‘God alone is Lord of the conscience,’” said Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “This ruling adheres to that truth and protects doctors and health-care providers from violating their consciences by conducting gender-transition surgeries or abortions.

“The government must understand that asking medical personnel to go against their sincerely held religious beliefs is an abuse of state authority,” he said. “This result is not only a victory for the rights of doctors but also recognizes that the conscience is not some trivial item that can be paved over.”

What was ​​the HHS regulation?

In 2016, HHS issued a rule—known as the Transgender Mandate—that required doctors to perform gender-transition procedures on any child referred by a mental health professional, even if the doctor believes the treatment or hormone therapy could harm the child. 

The regulation was based on implementation of Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), a nondiscrimination provision that redefined “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In response to the issuance of this regulation, two lawsuits were filed on behalf of multiple religious organizations, healthcare providers, and several states. The ERLC supported the move to challenge the mandate. 

What was the court case about?

In Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, the court ruled that a Catholic healthcare network and the Christian Medical and Dental Society—a group of nearly 19,000 healthcare professionals—cannot be required to carry out gender transition procedures or abortions when it violates their deeply held beliefs and professional medical judgment. 

As Becket, the religious liberty law firm that defended the plantiffs, explains, “The court explained that while the government argued it should get more chances to show why it needed religious healthcare providers to participate in gender-transition procedures, other cases showed that permanent protection was appropriate

This is now the second court ruling blocking the administration from enforcing the policy. The first ruling was handed by a federal court in North Dakota.

How did the term “sex” become redefined in the law?

In 2016, a District Court held in Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell that HHS erroneously interpreted “sex” under Title IX — that the final rule was arbitrary and capricious when Title IX “unambiguously refers to the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth.” The District Court further ruled that the Final Rule’s failure to include religious exemptions likely violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

Four years later, the Trump administration finalized a rule reversing the Obama administration’s regulations on Section 1557 and narrowed the definition of “sex.” But mere days after this rule was completed, a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling authored by Justice Gorsuch in Bostock v. Clayton County expanded the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” for the purposes of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

In 2021, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS announced that it will interpret and enforce the Affordable Care Act and Title IX’s nondiscrimination provision and expand the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The Office of Civil Rights used the Bostock decision as a justification for its redefinition of “sex.”

What happens now?

In most court cases, appeals are final. The court of appeals decision usually will be the final word in the case, which means physicians will not be required by to violate their conscience by the Transgender Mandate. The Supreme Court could be asked to take up the case, but there is no justification for them to overturn the permanent injunction. This decision is likely to stand as a major victory for conscience rights

By / May 12

Several years ago when I was a kids’ pastor, I encountered my first transgender guest at church. I was not ready for the situation. No class had prepared me on how to react to a 5th grade girl asking to use the boy’s bathroom because she was changing her gender to something that made her feel more comfortable. 

That experience is becoming less uncommon for pastors today. 

In a recent study, 48% of pastors told Lifeway Research that they know someone who is transgender. According to Gallup research, 15.9% of Generation Z identifies as part of the LGBT community. Churches in areas with a high population of young people are more likely to be confronted with issues related to gender identity. If you haven’t had a transgender guest to your student ministry yet, you will soon. 

Based on my experience and my understanding of the scriptures, here are five things that you and your church leadership should keep in mind when a transgender student visits your church.

The imago Dei 

Imago Dei comes from the Latin version of the Bible, translated to English as “image of God.” This phrase has its origins in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This verse teaches an essential truth. Humanity’s value comes from being created in the image of God. 

This imago Dei is what separates humanity from all creation. Our intrinsic value comes from the divine nature that man and women were created to reflect. The transgender student and the 4.0 student and the star quarterback all have the same intrinsic value because they are all made in God’s image. Our churches often use Genesis 1:27 to condemn our transgender neighbors’ sin, but it also points to the wondrous truth that our worth and identity are grounded in something so much more, though not less, than being male or female. 

Despite our best attempts, the LGBTQ+ community often finds more judgment inside our churches than they do outside of them. What if, instead, they found a place that graciously shows them the truth about their value and gender? 

Your own identity crisis 

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3).

The reality for followers of Jesus is that we were once as confused in our spiritual identity as our transgender neighbors are, and that us to choose lifestyles in opposition to God’s ways. Hostile in our mind to the things of God and prisoners to the desires of our flesh, we, too, once walked in open rebellion to God’s design—just maybe in different ways. But God, in his mercy, offered us grace.  

There is a larger piece of our story in the life of our transgender neighbors than we often care to see. We will only find a perspective of hope and reconciliation for those struggling with gender dysphoria when we embrace the depth of depravity that God has rescued us from personally. Our churches should be distribution centers of the same grace we have personally received.

Jesus came for sinners 

Remind yourself of the mission of Christ himself: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (John 19:10). 

If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, our churches should be welcoming to people who look, act, talk, and live like they are lost. It might be time to sit down with your leadership team and ask, “Are we OK if a transgender person wants to come to our student ministry?” If that question makes you uncomfortable, you can rest assured that our transgender neighbors will feel uncomfortable and potentially unwelcome in your church. 

Remember Jesus’ words from Mark 2:17 to the religious leaders of his day who were unhappy with whom Jesus spent most of his time, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Our student ministries should be the waiting room of our community where young people suffering from the symptoms of sin can come to meet the healer. 

It’s harder than it looks 

Repent from your sins and be saved through Christ. That’s the message that most churches preach on any given Sunday. It’s the message that many of us have heard all of our lives. And it’s the message we need. But that message comes with a high price for the transgender guest sitting in your church on Sunday.  

Jesus warns would-be followers in Luke 14:28-33, 

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” 

For our transgender neighbors to follow Jesus, they must count a significant cost. For many of our transgender friends, renouncing all that they have will feel like denying their true selves. It will mean giving up comfort in their own body, relationships, community, identity, and potentially family to be a disciple of Jesus. Our churches must be grace-based centers of encouragement, community, and refuge for those whose faith compels them to embark on such a journey marked with loss.

Parents are scared

It might be that the transgender student visiting your church is a child of one of your members. Currently, in my church, a dear friend and faithful volunteer confided in me after youth group that his child wrestles with gender dysphoria. My heart ached when I heard him describe his worry about discussing publicly what he and his wife were going through at home because of the judgment that they might experience in our church. He confessed that all he and his wife were looking for was prayer and encouragement as they sought to handle the situation in the most Christ-like manner and in a way that didn’t alienate their child from church. I drove home thinking, “Why should he be afraid?” 

There is an opportunity today for pastors to lead in creating a safe place for our transgender neighbors to encounter Jesus Christ’s life-changing love in our student ministries and in our churches. Not affirming a lifestyle pursuing sin—but embracing a sinner in need of grace and transformation. Not turning a blind eye to the biblical categories for gender—but pointing to a greater reality for identity and value than our physical bodies. Not prescribing a checklist of do’s and don’ts—but creating a welcoming community that receives people just as they are because Jesus is powerful enough not to leave them that way. 

As we welcome our transgender neighbors, we can demonstrate who our servant King by meeting sinners with grace and truth, but without fear. We live in a complex time with complex problems that will not have easy answers, but we can move forward in ministry confidently because we know our God is greater than our sin, and his gospel is more powerful than the false promises of our sexually confused culture. 

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 / Oct 26

My mom, grandma, and I were shopping for clothes for my 9th birthday. For the first time, I had strong opinions about what I wanted to wear, and everything I liked was on the boys’ side of the store. That year, I had stopped going by my name and had asked my teacher and friends to call me “Tom” instead, as in “tomboy.” In 1988, that’s what girls who acted like boys were called. Everyone around me saw it as a phase I would grow out of, and in fourth grade, I did. Not because I fully accepted being a girl, but because I had to start wearing a bra. There’s nothing like puberty to convince you of the reality of your biology.   

As I grew up, I still felt more masculine in many ways than I did feminine, especially by cultural standards. I wanted to watch sports and hang out with my guy friends. I was very black and white in my thinking. I couldn’t figure out how to wear make-up. I never felt like I fit in when the girls talked about crushes or their feelings or what I considered to be “drama.” And if I was part of a group, I took charge. It all made me feel different from most of the girls I knew. 

As I grew into my 20s and 30s, I figured out why I always felt like an outsider. All the characteristics that didn’t make sense to me finally did when I learned more about neurodiversity and characteristics of those with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. I found myself on this spectrum, understanding that the quirks I tried to hide and overcome were, in God’s sovereignty, a part of who I was.

As God told Moses in Exodus 4:11, “Who placed a mouth on humans? Who makes a person mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say” (CSB). Although disabilities are a result of the fall, God uses them in our lives to produce Christlikeness. They weren’t part of his original plan for humanity, but they are part of his plan for 1 in 5 people now. But even as we (rightly) normalize disabilities and neurodiversity, we can’t let society convince our young people that their neurodiversity is tied to a mistake in their gender identity.  

Recent study finds connection between transgender identity and neurodiversity

If my shopping trip had taken place in 2021 instead of 1988, many would peg me as transgender. I would have been tempted to classify myself in that way instead of coming to understand that I was on the neurodiversity spectrum. That’s why a recent study caught my attention. This study, released in 2020, found “elevated rates of autism, other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric diagnoses, and autistic traits in transgender and gender-diverse individuals.” Journalists explained, 

“People who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth are three to six times as likely to be autistic as cisgender people are, according to the largest study yet to examine the connection [641,860 self-reported individuals]. Gender-diverse people are also more likely to report autism traits and to suspect they have undiagnosed autism.”

The study’s findings that relate to girls and young women held particular interest for me. There are many characteristics that are true of neurodiverse girls that are typically associated with being masculine — especially during the school years. These include:

  • Challenges with social skills
  • High IQ
  • Concrete, black-and-white thinking
  • STEM skills instead of language/fine arts skills

Considering that girls often receive autism diagnoses later than boys, it’s likely that a young girl who identifies with these traits may be more tempted to think of herself as being transgender because of the differences she is struggling with, rather than considering she might be neurodiverse. She likely — in light of the frequent conversations that occur in culture and social media where so many girls spend their time — knows more about society’s acceptance of a spectrum of gender identification divorced from biological sex than the spectrum of neurodiversity. As she’s figuring out what these differences in her personality mean for her personhood, it can be a very confusing time for the struggling girl and her family, especially as the world’s answer to gender confusion is embracing transgender ideology.

There’s an opportunity for the church to support and encourage these families during this confusing season. We need to draw near, not push them away because we are unsure of what to do. 

How can the church respond? 

Numbers and studies report facts, but they don’t tell the full story. They can tell us what, but they can’t always tell us why. So when we read studies like the one cited above, we must look through our biblical lens, beyond numbers and profiles to see the people represented. How can we draw those who believe they are both neurodiverse and transgender into a relationship with their Creator, the lover of their souls? How can we show them their biological design is for their good? Here are three ways to start: 

First, avoid teaching gender roles and expectations that aren’t biblical. If a girl can’t see herself on the checklist of biblical womanhood she hears at church, our society gives her one option — she isn’t a girl. But we can see spectrums of femininity and masculinity within the gender binary. We can teach those spectrums to our children while staying faithful to gender differences.

On Saturdays, I drop off my teenage son at musical theater rehearsal and come home to watch football. Our interests, skills, and even appearances don’t change our God-given sex. There is beauty and purpose in our diverse expression.  

Second, welcome those who are neurodiverse. If a family has a member with autism, they are eight times less likely to attend church than a typical family. And surveys show it’s even less likely for adults with autism to attend church. Churches should take steps to be more welcoming to those with autism and other disabilities, breaking down barriers to the gospel and to inclusion in the church family. (Read: “How special needs inclusion changes the culture of the church” for more on the topic of accessibility). We need to show the children and teenagers in our church families that they don’t have to fit into behavioral boxes to be accepted. It’s okay to struggle with social skills, sensory input, or even reading out loud. Church should be a safe place to be yourself in the years when you’re figuring out what that means.  

Finally, offer stronger community ties than other tribes. What did I want more than anything as I was struggling? To fit in; to have a group of people who accepted and even celebrated me for who I was. This is a common theme for people who “come out” and are affirmed by the LGBTQ community or those who receive a diagnosis of autism and join a group of people trying to make sense of what that means. Both these communities, for different reasons, are tightly knit and committed to those who identify with them. But the ties that bind us together as Christians are even stronger than what ties other groups together. 

According to Galatians 3:28, we are called to prioritize our relationships as children of God, as brothers and sisters, above other labels we have, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This doesn’t erase who we are; it just shows us our primary identities. 

I’m thankful for studies that show us opportunities for love and action for those who often don’t look to the church first for acceptance. I am who I am today because my parents and church continued to accept me, give me opportunities to be myself as I grew and learned what that meant, and pointed me to God’s design in his Word. I look at girls in our youth group and see so much of myself in them when they struggle with their identities and even possible diagnoses. I can point them to a God who created them with care for every detail and with a purpose for each trait and quirk, and I can show them that being a part of a church family that loves you is even better than the communities the world tries to provide.

Pray with me for those who are neurodiverse and being convinced they are also transgender. And let’s all work to point them to the hope we have in Christ and the fellowship we have as believers.