Gender Identity

FAQ Guide

Gender and gender identity have become heated topics of debate today. There’s a cultural revolution that seeks to dissolve traditional and biblical assertions about sex and gender.

We’re seeing a drive to redefine the basis of gender from that of physical anatomy to emotional preference. Christian parents fear the impact that current cultural messages about gender are having on their children.

While most of the arguments surround individual rights, the real issues at stake are how we define human nature and reality itself. We need to become confident to live in today’s culture in light of what the Bible has to say about gender.

This guide is designed to help you:

  • get clarity on the issues around gender and gender identity
  • remove confusion created by the messages of culture
  • give you confidence to know what’s true about gender and gender identity as God reveals in his Word

Questions

Here are the questions we’ll cover:

What is gender identity?

Why does gender identity matter?

Can culture determine gender?

Can you choose your gender?

What does the Bible say about gender?

How do I teach my kids about gender?

How should I respond to gender identity issues?

What if my child is displaying or expressing gender identity confusion?

Conclusion on gender identity

What is gender identity?

Simply put, gender identity refers to the way that we think about ourselves as male or female. As Stanton Jones puts it, “it is the subjective sense of being a man or woman.” [1] In itself, this is fairly uncontroversial.

However, what has become controversial, is the complete reversal in views about how gender identity is determined.

Throughout the history of the world, people assumed that a person’s gender was self-evident. It seemed obvious that human beings exist in two basic categories: men (males) and women (females).

Gender was something revealed at birth according to whether you were born a boy or a girl.

Gender identity, therefore, referred to the way that your thoughts about being male or female lined up with your physical reality. A properly formed gender identity was one that aligned with your body.

In short, physical sex determined gender, and gender supplied the basis for gender identity.

However, through carefully orchestrated campaigns of social and political activism, this order has been reversed.

Once grounded in biological reality, male/female gender categories are now seen entirely as social constructions —mere artifacts of culture and custom.

This development has shifted the basis for gender categories off biological reality and onto each individual’s personal sense of self. The basis for gender has shifted from objective biological reality to subjective psychological experience.

In summary, the term gender identity represents a cultural move to detach gender from physical reality, and anchor it instead to each individual’s personal and private sense of self.

Why does gender identity matter?

Gender identity matters because it represents a significant aspect of how we understand human nature itself.

But an influential force of activists and political reformers are at work to redefine human nature by making gender and gender identity solely a matter of personal choice. 

They want to teach children through the school systems that there is really no such thing as a “boy” or a “girl”. They believe that real freedom comes by creating our own identity and determining for ourselves “what” and “who” we are.

A clear and biblically based understanding of gender and gender identity is critical to possessing and living out true life in Christ.

We need to strengthen our biblical understanding about our fundamental nature as men and women created in God’s image.

This understanding is the key to shaking the fear created by our culture’s confusingand many times aggressivemessages.

Can culture determine gender?

Culture can’t determine gender, but it can powerfully influence how we think about it. Unfortunately, through radical efforts to disconnect gender from God’s created design, confusion about gender and gender identity abound.

For example, consider this: Transgender activists deny that male and female are fixed gender categories on the one hand, but on the other insist that a transman/transwoman is a “real man” or a “real woman”.

Activists also insist that gender and even biological sex are socially constructed categories, but that a transgender person’s gender identity is biologically hardwired and an unchangeable aspect of their nature.

Contradictions like these are symptoms of fallen humanity’s attempts to re-define itself apart from our Creator.

Ultimately, any culturally based definition of gender becomes meaningless because it isn’t grounded upon the timeless truth of God’s design and eternal purpose in creation.

Can you choose your gender?

You can no more choose your gender than you can choose your skin colour, eye colour, or age.

That’s because all of these things are determined by our biology.

This isn’t to say that biology determines gender stereotypes.

God’s Word recognizes and affirms a great deal of variation within each gender when it comes to gender expression. For example, some women enjoy fixing cars, while some men enjoy ballet.

Insisting upon overly rigid gender stereotypes can contribute to a person’s sense of discomfort about their gender. This may unnecessarily contribute to gender confusion.

There are exceptional cases where a person’s biology can present gender confusion, such as hermaphroditism.

These cases are not evidencing of variation between genders, but scientifically identifiable instances of biological disorder. These instances may require medical intervention and compassionate assistance to help those affected gain clarity about gender where biological disorder has made it unclear.

What does the Bible say about gender?

The Bible says that God created us “male” and “female”, but it also tells us a whole lot more. It tells us why he made us that way.

It teaches us how men and women are meant to relate to each other. It shows us what our gendered bodies are for, and it reveals the way we can relate to God with our entire being, including our gender.

To dig deeper into the topic of gender identity, find out what the Bible says about gender by learning the reason why God created male and female.

How do I teach my kids about gender?

As a parent, it’s important to get practical tools to protect and equip your children from the deceptive cultural messages that are bombarding them every day.

Teaching about gender begins with teaching about God and his purposes for gender.

It’s important that we begin at the earliest age to teach our children why God has given them their gendered bodies, and how he wants them to be used.

When God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness” in Genesis 1:26, he intended humanity to be a reflection of his own being. Before anything else, therefore, our gendered bodies bear witness to God’s very nature.

How?

In Deuteronomy 6:4, God reveals his nature to Israel: “Behold O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.”

The Hebrews word for “one” (ehad) is the same word used to describe how a man and woman become “one (ehad) flesh” in marriage.

This means that our gendered bodies and their intended relationship to the opposite gender allow us to embody and reflect something of God’s own likeness.

How can this be?

The Bible teaches us that God is Trinity; one in his being, but three in his persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The mystery of the Trinity is that God experiences perfect unity among the three persons of his being. Within God’s own being he is both one and many, unity and diversity.

Likewise, humanity is meant to share in God’s likeness in unity and diversity through the marriage union between and man and a woman.

In marriage, a husband and wife remain distinct persons (diversity), but through the sexual union of their gendered bodies they become united (“one flesh”).

How should I respond to gender identity issues?

We should avoid the error of viewing gender identity issues solely through the lens of politics and activism.

There’s a time and place for debate, but when we’re dealing with gender identity firsthand, the primary concern is the life of the individual in question.

This means that in the course of affirming God’s design and purpose in creating us male or female, we recognize that the fallenness of sin means that not everything is as it should be.

We need to show patience, kindness, gentleness, and respect. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit that Christians must display most when engaging with people experiencing brokenness in the area of their gender identity.

People aren’t issues to be dealt with, but lives to be redeemed by Christ.

Above all, while we seek to respond, we need to pray that those who experience gender confusion will encounter Jesus, begin a relationship with him, and be transformed by his grace and power.

What if my child is displaying or expressing gender identity confusion?

Having a child who displays or expresses gender confusion can be frightening. Social pressure to encourage cross-gender identification is enormous.

As a parent you’ll need wisdom and support to intervene and help your child to develop a true sense of their given gender.

As when encountering gender confusion elsewhere, your best first action is to approach your heavenly Father for help.

Bring your child before the Lord in prayer. Then rest assured that he’s able to help you to respond lovingly and wisely as you walk with your child through this time of questioning their God-given identity.

Your child’s greatest need will be to feel safe and secure in their relationship with you. Where both parents are in the home, involvement from father and mother are essential.

Glenn Stanton, author of Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children Into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity, offers this advice:

With children showing opposite-sex tendencies, mothers should deeply and carefully guard against overprotection and coddling, while fathers should guard against shaming and nagging. Again, mothers should become the pushers away from gender-discordant behavior and fathers the gentle pullers toward healthy gender-aligned attitudes and behaviors.

When parents are on their own, the job can be more difficult. The hole left by an absent mother or father may require turning to another family member, close family friend, or maybe a trusted Sunday School teacher or church member.

Where possible, seek the help of a qualified family therapist who shares your worldview. This is important since many therapeutic approaches today are driven by ideology over hard scientific method.

Lastly, you will need to educate yourself. This can be a challenge given the extreme range of perspectives on gender and gender identity.

To get you started on this last step, learn more about where parents with gender-struggling children can turn.

Footnotes

[1] Stanton L. Jones, “Is Sex or Gender a Choice?” Feature article for Holman Worldview Study Bible, Wheaton College, March 2013 draft.

 

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