Fear or Faith? How My Christian Faith Led Me to Understand and Love My Daughter’s Transgender Classmate
I’m a politically conservative Christian. Six years ago, God blessed my husband and me with a beautiful daughter. Like all parents, we want to do everything we can to keep her safe.
A few years ago, I found myself caught up in an article on Facebook about legislation to block transgender people from using bathrooms of their identified gender. The article cited safety concerns for non-transgender children, arguing that pedophiles would sneak into bathrooms, dressed as the opposite sex, to hurt our children. I bought this hook, line and sinker; after all, I wanted to keep my daughter safe.
Fast forward a couple years. My daughter is now in school. One of our favorite families has a sweet girl (who was physically born a boy). Our daughter is not concerned that this little girl used to be a little boy, she’s a girl, and they both like to play dress up. This family has strong Catholic roots; they do not fit the caricature I’ve seen of experimental parents who want to force a new gender identity on their kid. Rather, just like my husband and me, they want to keep their child safe.
This is when my Methodism kicked in. One of the foundations of my faith is the use of reason. So I started doing research. Here’s what I learned:
1. Why does a family allow a child to be transgender?
- Parents aren’t forcing transition on their kids; they’re helping save their kids’ lives. Transgender children have a significantly higher rate of mental health issues and suicide attempts than non-transgender children, because of the stigma and bullying they face – and it’s worse when they’re not allowed to transition to their identified gender.
- Kids who are allowed to transition, on the other hand, have mental health similar to their non-transgender peers.
- Parents meet with doctors and counselors and go through extensive sessions before their child begins to transition.
- Young transgender children like my daughter’s friend do not have surgery to change their physical anatomy.
2. Is my child really in danger of transgender people in the bathroom?
- This is where fearmongers love to stir things up, and it’s what I initially reacted to on Facebook. But I’ve learned that the last thing a transgender person wants is any conflict, or any recognition that their physical anatomy does not match their gender identify. Think about it: we don’t know who around us is transgender, because transgender folks are not revealing their private parts to us in public restrooms! Transgender children and adults simply want to use the bathroom and leave without being called out or harassed.
- Protections already exist making it illegal to peep or molest/assault.
- Regardless of gender, the best way to keep ALL children safe is to teach them about body awareness, “tricky” people, and what to do if they feel in danger or are actually molested.
3. Why can’t transgender children just use a special bathroom?
- “Special” bathrooms make me think back to the not-so-distant past when we labeled restrooms with “White” and “Colored.” Separate but equal is NOT equal.
- When a transgender child is forced to use a separate bathroom, it allows other children and persons around them to discover that they are transgender. If we want to keep all of our children safe, then we need to allow transgender children the privacy of simply being a “boy” or “girl” and not that “transgender boy” or “transgender girl.”
- In discussing this with friends who have reservations, the issue of locker rooms comes up. How do you handle your kid changing in front of others? I’ve learned that many schools have some private changing areas, and many children (regardless of gender) change in bathroom stalls. There is not a universal answer to this but, where resources allow, I think all of our children would prefer to change in privacy!
4. Should my concern for my child’s safety override the safety concerns for a transgender child?
- If I am living by fear, then I am always going to respond with “my child is more important.” If I am living by faith, then I realize that God loves all of His children equally. If I start applying reason, I see that my fear has been flamed by people who are focused on discrimination and judgement and not on any actual facts.
5. How should my faith as a Christian impact my attitude towards transgender people? What if I just don’t believe in this “transgender thing”?
- I don’t think you have to believe that “transgender” is a real identity to agree that all of our children deserve to be safe. Please ask yourself: What am I afraid of? Is this a valid fear? Can I find data that supports it? I don’t think you can – because I’ve tried.
- As a Christian, I look to the Bible for guidance. One verse that strikes me is from Luke 18:16: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Note that this doesn’t say, “let only the non-transgender children come to me.” Jesus loves all of us.
Once I started applying my Methodist reasoning, and my faith, I had to face the fact that previously, I had been living in fear and not in faith, reacting to something I didn’t know or understand. God has blessed me with becoming friends with a family that is facing the challenges of protecting a child simply because she is transgender. As a fellow Christian, how can I do less than join them in protecting her and all of our children?
If you will humor me, one final scripture that speaks to me on this topic is from 1 John 4:11, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” Discriminating against transgender people, or anyone else, is not love.