Mom, I Want to Be a She

3. Pay Attention to the Importance of “Influence”

A group of researchers sought to discover why young people experienced what they called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.” In other words, “Why did my daughter all of a sudden announce she wants to be a he? Where did this come from?”

These researchers found that 86.7% of young people who changed their gender identity did so because either a friend (or group of friends) also became gender incongruent, or they had exhibited an increase in their social media/internet use (or both).

Think about that for a minute. Friends and social media.

Let me tell you, as a guy who has been working with teenagers for 30 years, has three kids of his own, and researches this stuff all the time…friends and screens are by far the biggest influences in their lives at the moment.

So when parents have a child who suddenly announces they identify as the opposite gender, I tell parents to not discount their normal duties as a parent, like the importance of implementing some sensible screen limits, simple rules that experts agree on like no phones in the bedroom for the night.

The screens in our kids’ pockets are eager to tell our kids everything they would like to hear…instead of the truth. In a world full of lies, make sure you are exposing them to truth. What about going to breakfast with your kids once a week and going through a book with them like the Preston Sprinkle book I linked above?

Don’t just try to block out lies, engage your kids in conversations about truth.

But in all of these conversations, remember the most important thing…

4. Respond in Unconditional Love

As I researched this issue, reading countless articles and books, comparing diverse responses…one common denominator kept rising to the surface, one practice helping young people who were experiencing feelings of gender incongruence…

Empathy.

A willingness to suppress overreaction and respond with compassion and understanding. This is what Jesus did consistently, and it’s worth emulating.

Open up the Gospels and read the stories. Even though we didn’t see him specifically responding to the LGBTQ community, you’ll see his compassion for rejected and hurting people again and again. Zacchaeus. The woman at the well. The women who anointed Jesus’ hair with perfume. The woman caught in adultery. And that doesn’t even touch on his parables on the subject. Let’s just say that Jesus was big on, “come as you are” and loving people despite their past.

In Dwayne’s interview with Ellen, Ellen said, “First of all I think it’s what every parent should be—what you’re being right now—which is unconditionally loving your child and supporting your child.”

I don’t disagree at all. (Even though some of you will be mad at me for agreeing with Ellen. Sorry folks.)

Our kids need to know hands down that they are loved no matter what.

Does this mean we need to say, “Good for you!” and affirm their gender identity or sexual identity? Not at all. If our kids decide that they believe in sexual promiscuity—I can have sex with whoever—we should still love them unconditionally, but we don’t need to encourage their sexual behavior.

Here’s where it gets tricky.

Some Christians believe we need to almost “lead” with our correction.

“Even though I don’t agree with this silly behavior of yours, I love you.”

Blah!  (How’s that for my scholarly response?)

I encourage you to jump into the Gospels again and look closer at how Jesus responded to sinners like us (yeah, we’re all sinners and all need Him desperately). His response always began with love, connection… and then sometimes the, “Go and get your husband” (John 4) or “Go and sin no more (John 8)… or sometimes we don’t even see the conversation at all, we just see him connecting with a sinner and next thing we know the sinner changed their ways (Luke 19). But it always starts with love, not disclaimers.

I’ve heard of physicians refusing medical care or even a “handshake” to transgender patients. Personally, that infuriates me. This is not a way to express disagreement. This is a way to up a young person’s chance of attempting suicide by 19%.

What if we responded a little more like Jesus?

If you spend time doing the research, you’ll find that many Christian experts cite good results when parents (especially the same sex parent, grandparent or mentor) just “spend more time and share positive play experiences with their child while also avoiding criticism of their child.” (Understanding Gender Dysphoria, Mark A. Yarhouse, pg. 103).

We might not agree with the LGBTQ+ community; they might have even done you wrong (they have me, and I to them). You might not agree with Dwyane Wade. But as a parent raising kids in today’s culture, think hard about your response in advance, because you are being watched. And you might just be the only glimpse of Jesus someone in the LGBTQ+ community ever sees.

When they see you, do they see Jesus?

This article originally appeared here.

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Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to Four Battles Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources on TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan and his wife Lori live in Northern California.