It used to be that it was OK for kids to be confused. To ask questions about their identity. To wonder about who they were. To enjoy thinking that all boys were horrid. Or to think that boys had more fun. To not want to be a sissy girl. Or to hate rugby and want to join the girls who were chatting nicely to each other using real words, not grunts.
More seriously it used to be OK to ask questions about your sexuality in a world where it wasn't expected that you would express your desires until you were heading for your late teens. It used to be OK for girls to have a crush on their French teacher, even though she was getting married in the summer to a lovely young man from Margate. Nobody thought that it had to define your sexual preference for the rest of life. It used to be all right to chop and change what you enjoyed doing and who you hung out with, without being labelled as being more male or female. Or both.
Parents used to provide safe boundaries for these feelings. They understood that children are children. That you can't expect someone going through all the hormonal confusion of puberty to make decisons that will effect them for the rest of life. And we used to understand that the social pressures of finding your place in the jungle that is the playground meant that young people changed their wardrobes and their tastes and their hairdo and their friends and their passions from time to time. So parents would smile and not ask too many questions and wait for things to settle down.
This last week the BBC News website site has had an article on the issues surrounding gender dysphoria on most days. Some days they have had two. All the articles have been positive in the way they have reported people transitioning from one gender to another. Some have been advocating that this for children.
So here are three problems with this from a Christian perspective:
1. Our feelings don't define who we are. God does. We are created male and female (Genesis 1:27). It is because we live in a fallen world that people feel a different gender to their sex as physically defined by their genitals. The world of creation is out of kilter with it's creator, and this is seen no more clearly than in the areas of human sexuality. I am not saying Gender Dysphoria is not a real condition, that brings distress and heart ache for those who suffer it. But rather that the gospel of Jesus offers acceptance, love and security to people struggling with this issue, or any other.
2. Our feelings don't define what is best for us. God does. I don't expect those who aren't Christians to agree with me on this (or the above for that matter!). We don't let everyone enact what they feel to be good. We recognise that certain behaviours are harmful to others and we used to recognise that certain behaviours were harmful to the people doing them, and so we should try and stop them because we cared. One of the shocking facts that has been lost in the gender dysphoria debate is that there is no reduction in levels of depression, anxiety and emotional distress amongst those who choose to transition when compared to those who don't. Doing what you feel will be good for you doesn't always work.
3. Children are children and are too precious for us to conduct our social experiments on. Our culture still recognises that children are not mature enough to make certain decisions. For example a child of 13 who consents to have sex with an adult of 21 is deemed to be too young to make that decision. The adult commits a criminal offence. Yet our culture is increasingly content to allow teenagers decide that they are in the wrong body and give them hormonal treatment or even surgery to change their body to the one that they think that they need to be happy. The government seems quicker to proscribe what they should eat, than how they should behave in the areas of sex and gender.
The Bible makes life much easier for children. There is only one instruction in the New Testament. They are to obey their parents:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)
Put simply: Obey your parents as they try to teach you what it is know the God who loves you in the Lord Jesus and how to live as he wants. That's how life works best.
And parents are to help their children understand the beautiful boundaries of love that God has given his people, to protect us and help us love others.
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)
Put simply: Don't wind your kids up by breaking your promises and having double standards and not being their for them when they need to talk . But bring them up to know the Gracious Lord who has loved and forgiven you, and teach them what he says is best for them, with all the patience that God has shown you. Because they're going to live lives that are at least as confused and as messy as yours!
Children need to be allowed to be children. That requires the safety of a loving home with clear boundaries. Boundaries that for the Christian are clearly given by the Bible.