We Must Answer Well
So, please, no witty or snarky comments. Kids are asking real questions. They want real answers. And real answers are not belittling, nor fun-poking, nor requiring an apology.
Real answers also aren’t often very short.
The Statement Is A Question
We were on vacation in the California Redwoods when one of my teenagers said to me, “My friend thinks she’s a boy.”
I stopped walking.
“She wants me to treat her like a boy. The teachers all call her by this new name she’s giving herself, but her parents don’t approve.”
I thought, That’s like this tree saying, ‘God didn’t make me. I’m not a Redwood. I’m a Japanese Cherry Blossom.’ But that wasn’t going to be helpful, so I didn’t say that.
Just listening is sometimes very hard. It’s much easier to interrupt and react and to throw logic, facts, and feelings into the mix than to go on listening. Especially when the person who is talking wants help–like weeks ago. And the whole ‘Where-were-you?-How-come-you-didn’t-see-this-coming?-I-wish-we’d-already-talked-about-this-because-it’s-stressing-me-out’ series of thoughts and undertones also have to be heard.
So I asked for time to gather my thoughts and prepare an answer. It took weeks. I wrote it all down, and then slowly began to go through it with my teenager.
This will be long… and slow… and may seem to wander at times, but we need a shared backdrop from which to have this conversation.
My Gut Response, Genesis 1
My gut response is based on Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Humans—both male and female—were made in the image of God. We would do well to let it sink in that no other creature was given the honor of bearing God’s image.
As someone who grew up in the States and saw plenty of television and movies I can understand that if a person’s mind isn’t deeply rooted in something that stands as an immovable authority over all aspects of life, the surrounding culture can easily be the dominant force in shaping a world view. Following that, if the culture is absolutely sure, the person is sure. If the culture is doubtful, the person doubts. If the culture is confused… how can anyone stand?
I’ve heard a nurse say that trauma can be experienced while in the womb, and that trauma can affect how people develop, even down to sense of gender identity.
I’ve heard someone else say that we’re not just physical beings, we’re spiritual beings, and spiritual things, curses and such, can be passed down from generation to generation.
To those points of view, both of which I cannot say I understand, I say, “True or not, doesn’t matter. Jesus ends all curses and heals all wounds. Bring a person to Jesus. He’s the Creator.”
But What About Sin?
But what about sin? Is being confused a sin? If someone is deceived, are they sinning?
“Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment. He is then to bring to the priest a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation, for a guilt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him concerning his error in which he sinned unintentionally and did not know it, and it will be forgiven him. It is a guilt offering; he was certainly guilty before the Lord.”
Forget the issue for a minute. Everyone is sinning. Every day. Take lying for example. Anyone who says they’ve never lied… is lying. Personally, I’ve broken all of the 10 Commandments in one way or another. So I don’t have a boxes I put people in and think “I’m better than that.” No, that’s dumb. I have one enormous box I drop planet Earth and all its inhabitants into because the playing field is level if I just ask the lying question. Everybody has lied, therefore everybody’s a sinner and needs Jesus.
Can you do that? Can you drop the issue that’s up for discussion and see yourself and the other person as sitting next to each other in the same box?
Take another minute. This matters. If you can’t climb into the same big box, the “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” box, then don’t keep reading because you’ll miss the heart of this post.
(Back to the three questions) When Eve was listening to the serpent, was she sinning? I don’t know. I don’t know when sin starts. Reaching out to take the fruit, plucking the fruit, eating the fruit—these are all outward actions she committed. Exactly when did Eve’s rebellion take place? God knows.
The issue is God’s holiness. Fortunately, God has supplied the Bible which tells us what should not be done. Whether we’re deceived or confused, those states of being don’t nullify our sinful actions. If God has commanded us not to do it, and we do it, it’s still sin. Thankfully, even if we are unaware of God’s standards from the start, God has provided an offering and a priest to cover sins in this category.
Putting People Into Boxes
So how do we treat a transgender person? Are they confused? Are they tempted? What box do we put them in?
If we treat everyone like they need Jesus—which everyone does, because we’re all sinners—then how we treat a transgender person won’t be anything “special”.
But what about the special treatment? Like a girl asking to be referred to as a boy. Do we call a her a him in our everyday speech? Do we let them redefine our language labels? Won’t that impact how we think? Or will it be like we’re lying all the time. Isn’t it lying if we can see that she is a she, but we say, “he”?
I see. We don’t want to participate on the side of the serpent. We don’t want to help in the area of confusion or deception. We don’t want to lead a person to sin.
Jesus spoke about causing people to stumble in Matthew 18:5-7
And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!
Jesus says “it would be better” only twice. Once in regard to the man who betrayed him—“it would be better if he had never been born”—and once in regard to leading children into sin. Terrible consequences. Consequences that aren’t even spelled out except to say that the deepest kind of drowning would be better than these consequences.
So… yeah. Let’s not join in leading people astray.
Practically speaking, we can refer to a person by the name they were given, and skip the whole him/her/he/she pronoun use. Yes, it might get tiresome to say Bob over and over, but it’s a way of not participating in redefining the person. If someone wants to be called Jane rather than Bob, there’s always the person’s last name.
What if the person is beyond the state of being confused? What if you know the person has, based on the person’s own admittance, started acting out sexually as another gender? What is our responsibility then? And what should our approach be?