Friday, September 18, 2015

Raising Children In A Gender-Confused World

I have been trying to write this post for several days now.  It's difficult to find the right words, without sparking a heated debate on a controversial subject.  I try to stay away from confrontation or from opening myself up to it.  Unless it's with my husband or kids, I avoid confrontation whenever possible.  I am too emotional and find that I cannot communicate well when I am pushed beyond my limit.

But I was faced with a situation recently that I am still not sure how to handle going forward.  I feel ill-equipped to tackle it head on and to do so with the right answer.

We are raising children in a society that allows anything to be called moral, as long as it feels okay to the person making up the rules.  As a parent, I haven't quite figured out how to keep my kids safe and instill the values I hold, at the same time teaching them to show God's love and grace to the people they come in contact with.

I don't want to disrupt anyone with this post or step on any toes, but I am going to speak very candidly on a topic that I believe is doing more to confuse and misguide our children than it is helping those who embrace it.

My oldest daughter has a friend.

This friend was a born as a girl.

Now, as a teenager, she would like to identify as a boy.

I can't say that having two lesbians moms has helped to solidify this desire within her, but I can't rule it out either.  She has no apparent male role model in her life.  She is also interested in women, as a romantic preference.  I find this altogether confusing when you combine transgender with a same sex attraction, but I suppose it would be just as odd to have someone who identifies as the opposite sex also being attracted to the opposite sex that they were born.  See how confusing that is?  I'm 36 years old, have had a lot of years to see our society accept and embrace things that I do not believe in, and this whole topic confuses me.  I cannot even begin to imagine all of the emotions that are going on inside of this teenage girl who wants to be a boy.

If we take the attitude that society has today and apply it to me as a teenager, I would have to be angry with my parents for not encouraging me to identify as a boy.

I was a tomboy through and through.

I loved playing in the woods, or taking a machete through the tall grass pretending I was hunting.

I loved to play in the mud.  I wasn't afraid to get dirty.

I hated to wear dresses or makeup, or anything that made me feel "girly."

I loved to play with my brother and marbles and army men, while my sister enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls and makeup and other things we used to consider to be more feminine traits.  I too played with Barbie dolls, but I was more fascinated with Ken than Barbie.  I liked him better.

By today's standards and point of view from the LGBT community, I should have been encouraged to identify as a boy.  Never mind that I bear female anatomy that was formed before I entered this world.  Because I felt more like a boy and enjoyed things of boys more than that of girls, shouldn't I feel somehow cheated out of a different life?

My point is that we continue to grow and change and develop over time, so I think it is next to impossible for a child who hasn't really experienced the world outside their tiny bubble to be able to DECIDE who they will be, with regards to gender.

I also think it is impossible to decide or choose your gender, in general.

From the beginning of time, people were born either male or female.  Yes, a small percentage have both male and female anatomy - but I am not addressing that right now.  That is probably the only scenario where I think the parents have to make the best choice they can for their child.  In the majority of people though, that choice is made before birth.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
Psalm 139:13

You simply cannot change the anatomy you are born with, in the sense that you can go back to the womb and somehow change your gender.  Yes, science has come a long way and there is much that can be done medically to ALTER your anatomy.  But it doesn't change your basic human make up.  You can't be unmade.  At the very core, you are either male or female.

How you FEEL about yourself is a completely separate issue.  This is a product of your environment, your insecurities, your preferences.  But those alone do not change your physical body or your DNA.  It is impossible to magically erase who you were from birth.  You can try to mask it - my daughter's friend keeps her hair short, wears baggy boy's clothing and binders to hide the breasts that are growing due to the fact that she was born a girl.  You can scale off any imperfection or any part you no longer want or have a use for.  But it doesn't change who you are.

If you are a girl who wants to identify as a boy, I would suggest that there is something very turbulent at the heart of that desire.  You don't just wake up one day, having experienced no trauma or pain in your life, and think, "Yeah, today I feel like a boy."  This topic in particular is why I believe understanding your story (who you are, the events in your life that make you the person you are today) is so important.  You have to deal with the issues that have caused you pain or left you broken to understand why you feel "different."  You do not simply feel different because you should have been this gender, or that gender.  You feel different because there is something that has hurt you in life.  There is something missing.  Something you don't quite know how to explain or fill.  Like with an alcoholic or drug addict, you will try to fill that emptiness with something you think will help.  And it may mask the pain for a while, but unless you deal with the heart of the issue, you will still feel different and broken and misunderstood.

I have read articles on both sides of the transgender spectrum.  Stories of those who have moved forward with gender reassignment surgery and feel better than they used to.  I suspect though, at some point, the hurt or events in their life, the feelings they have that led them down that path will one day catch up to them.  And there will come a day that even that reassignment surgery isn't enough to fill the void in their heart.

Don't you get it?  We all have that void.  That is evidenced by the countless stories of people who regret their decision to identify as the opposite sex or regret the choice they made to have surgery to correct what they felt was wrong.  If you have the time, I encourage you to watch this video to the end.  It is a very powerful example of a man who chose to identify as a woman and how it has affected his life now.  The first video is one that was done in 2012.  The second is a follow up done in July 2015 with Diamond Dee, and how he is coping now living as a man once again.

Getting a nose job doesn't change the nose you were born with.  It makes the picture look different, and maybe you are more comfortable with it for a time, but eventually doubts and insecurities will creep back in and you may find yourself thinking, "My nose doesn't look right,"  creating the "need" to have the surgery all over again.  People have become addicted to plastic surgery.  They change their appearance, feel good about it, then after a while, feel insecure and hate their appearance all over again.  It is a vicious cycle.  This cycle, regardless of what the "it" is, lives in all of us.  We all have a behavior pattern that follows us through life.  It dictates how we deal with our fears, insecurities, and pain.

All of that is just part of what has been going on in my mind regarding my daughter's friend.  She insists that her friends call her by the male name she has chosen to take on.  My daughter calls this girl by her boy name, and each time I hear her do it, I cringe a little inside.  Not because I am a bigot or disgusted or anything like that.  I know I may be opening myself up to be labeled a bigot by writing this.  But even if I am, I can't get too upset about it.  Jesus told us this might happen.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
John 15:18

The reason I cringe when I hear my daughter say her/his name is because it's confusing for my daughter!  She has to try to navigate through this world that throws homosexuality and transgender issues in our face.  Haven't you heard?  Being a lesbian while you're in high school is all the rage.  The majority of my daughter's friends have decided they are either lesbian or bisexual.  I do not think that my daughter is just some magnet for the lesbian population.  I honestly believe that there is a LOT of peer pressure for these kids to be something different than who they are.  And it isn't just my older freshman daughter.  My daughter in 7th grade tells similar stories.  Girls are suddenly deciding that they are gay on day, then bi the next, because they think they might like both, then back to being straight.  Most of them would call themselves bisexual at this point in their lives, which I think clearly speaks to the idea that there is a lot of peer pressure involved in this.

Back in my day (how old do I sound?), smoking and drinking and wearing Guess jeans were what culture said was the right thing to do.  These days, our children are being taught that it's cool to be gay.  Everyone's doing it now.  Gay marriage is being allowed, people are being persecuted in businesses if they disagree with it, friendships are lost in moral arguments on Facebook, and you're labeled a bigot if you believe that the Bible means what it says in Romans 1.

I think that there is a very big problem with our young children.  They will be the most confused and broken generation yet.  They have to ask themselves questions like "Do I like boys or girls?" or "Should I have been born with different body parts?"  These are not questions we asked twenty years ago.  We didn't even consider them.  Sure, a small minority of people may have wrestled with these, but not like today.  Today it is to be embraced and encouraged.  Even if you are straight, there is this unspoken urging to give "gay a try."  And today we are told to keep our mouths shut if we disagree with this worldview.

But that doesn't negate me of my responsibility as a parent.  I have four children (ages 10-15) entrusted into my care.  Kris and I have to teach them how to make the right choice in a world that embraces the wrong.  And I am not just talking about transgender or homosexuality now.  There is this attitude in our society today that if I FEEL like it is okay, then it SHOULD be okay, and if you disagree with me, you are a bigot.

I'm sure there are a large number of people (see the Ashley Madison list for instance), who believe there is nothing wrong with adultery.  In fact, they would LOVE to see adultery praised and elevated to a place of superiority, as has been done with same sex relationships and transgender lifestyle choices.  They are just waiting for their day to come, to be able to look at their spouse and say, "Hey, it's not wrong.  The world says it's okay, so it must be okay."

Do you realize what is happening in our society by opening ourselves up to so much deception?  So much "tolerance?"  Let me digress for a moment and point out the definition of tolerance.  Because for many people tolerance has come to by synonymous with acceptance.  When, in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Tolerance:  the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

When did we stop teaching people what tolerance really meant??  This drives me crazy, this idea that tolerating your lifestyle choices must mean that I agree with those choices.  Even if I grant you this idea that "you were born this way," that doesn't change the fact that I can still tolerate that difference between us and not agree with you.

Tolerance does not equal acceptance or agreement!

Do you know that there are psychologists out there who are pushing for pedophiles to be treated more fairly?  To be looked at as a person no different than someone who likes to go out and get drunk on the weekends?  Research it.  It is out there.  Because of the choices our society has made today, there may come a day where we are called bigots if we disagree with a grown man viewing or treating our young children inappropriately.  They can't help it.  They were born that way.  Right?  It sounds absurd, I know.  But so did the idea of same sex relationships being celebrated 20 years ago.  As a country, we are slipping deeper and deeper into a pit - becoming our own Sodom and Gomorrah.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not bashing same sex marriage here.  Because same sex marriage is not the issue.  It is AN issue.  But it is not the issue I am writing about.  My heart aches for the pain that is inside of each person, regardless of their choice for a life partner.  Same sex couples are not immune to the pain of this life.  They are chosen to be brave and step outside of what used to be unacceptable, and want to be treated with the same dignity and respect as opposite sex marriages.  I don't have a problem with same sex marriage in and of itself.  By that I mean to say that while I disagree with the concept of same sex marriage, it ultimately doesn't change the heart.  I may get called on the carpet for that, but hear me out.  Whether or not same sex couples can marry is not nearly as important as what is going on in the heart of the individual.

My heart aches for my daughter's friend.  What I haven't shared yet, and what I believe is all too common in these types of scenarios, is that her friend battles depression and has trouble sleeping as well.  Many would like to argue that this is all stemming from criticism this girl likely receives because of her lifestyle choice.  I have to disagree.  She is supported by her friends and her mothers.  So why then can't she sleep?  Why is she depressed and feeling like it would be better if she were dead?  Because she's floundering, lost and confused.  Because she has pain in her heart and no one has offered her a better way to cope with it.  She is left dangling precariously atop this cliff, where one loose stone could send her toppling to the bottom.

I am not saying that the only people who are depressed and can't sleep are those who are living in darkness.  But I do believe there is a very real correlation between the two.  I have battled depression both in the light and in the darkness.  One thing I can say with certainty is that it was worse, and my feelings of hopelessness and self-hatred were the worst when I was living a life that opposed God.  Without Christ, we have no hope.  We can try to fill that void that only a blood stained cross can, but ultimately, it will not be enough.  In the midst of my sin, in the act of sin, I felt pretty good.  No, I felt amazing.  Alive.

So why, when I would go home to my "real" life, did I  feel so sad and alone?

Because I was pretending that an affair would satisfy me in a way that Christ never could.  I was deceived (mostly of my own doing), that it would satisfy me fully.  What I have since learned is that only Christ could satisfy me in a way an affair never could.

Only the blood of Jesus could offer me a way to true joy and day-to-day strength to get through the pain this life brings with it.

And that is what I so desperately want my daughter's friends to learn.  What I hope they can see through my daughter's example.  And so maybe my daughter is a magnet for troubled girls who are torn between the to-be-or-not-to-be-gay dilemma.  Inside of her and out, the light of Christ shines.  I believe these girls are drawn to that light.  I believe they are thirsty for something they see that she has, something they don't.  And while they might ridicule church or God or try to remain distant from Him, they cling to her.  They trust her.  They confide in her.  Whether they know it or not, the thing they all so desperately long for and need is inside of her.  Because Christ is inside of her, guiding her.

So I trust God with my daughter, and I pray He will give her the strength to share his truth with her friends.  I pray that their hearts will be open and their eyes too, so that they can see that what she has is exactly what they need.

In the meantime, practically as a mother, I have to wrestle with things like not allowing this girl who identifies as a boy to spend the night.  Think about it.  She spent the night with us last weekend because my daughter asked and I was distracted.  And because I view her as she was born:  a girl.  But after the decision was made, I became increasingly anxious.  Upon further thought of why I felt that way, I realized this.  She identifies as a boy.  Therefore, she should not be laying in a bed with my daughter.  She should not be spending the night.  Even though I see her as a girl no matter what her friends call her or how she dresses, she sees herself as a boy.  And under normal circumstances, I would not allow my teenage daughter to have a boy spend the night!  I'm not even sure how I feel about having a girl who likes girls to spend the night with my daughter.  This is the world we live in. These are the things that we have to contemplate as parents.  And it's hard.  I'm so torn over how to best deal with this situation without making things more difficult for my daughter, or alienating her friends.  She understands my decision in the end to say, "Sorry, but he/she cannot spend the night anymore."  We are to be in this world, but not of it.  It's a very delicate balance.

Thoughts?  How would you, as a parent, handle it if a girl who identified as a boy wanted to spend the night with your daughter, or a boy who identifies as a girl with your son?

1 comment:

  1. I feel the same way and am glad you have opened up your heart here. I know a lot of parents who refuse sleepovers at all. They say it is easier to avoid bad situations that way. I still allow sleepovers although not as much as I used to. My daughter is 11, I have not had this discussion with her and truthfully hadn't even thought about it yet. Thanks you for sharing!