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  • Katie Smith

How to talk to kids about gender identity

We over-complicate by over-simplifying. Concepts like love, truth, and identity are muddied for kids merely wanting to play in the mud these days. If we are all people made to love, but we can change, erase, or alter our personhood, then we can change what the word love means too.

Follow what you feel? Listen to your heart? Use non-binary pronouns? This can all get a bit complicated and confusing for little ears. If "love" should be simple for kids, then the "person" part should also be simple. Kids are born knowing how to be selfish and mean, maybe not as infants, but certainly once they are between one to two years old. We must teach them kindness, compassion, and selflessness. But what happens when we change what love means? Is it hateful to be confused by someone's appearance? Is it wrong for a child to feel strange about family dynamics?

I think the simplest way to talk with kids about gender, sexuality and identity involves an analogy. Let's picture life as a game (not the board game LIFE but any board game). If we can't agree on the directions for the game, the original design if you will, and if we can't agree on the point of the game, or the end result, then there's really no reason to try and understand why we are all playing different games.

Like toddlers throwing puzzle pieces or tearing the monopoly money, or preschoolers rolling the dice twenty times or rushing their game piece to the finish line, there's no reason to be angry when we are playing a game without a unified objective. Similarly, having a conversation about gender, sexuality or identity won't be constructive if we are all playing with a different set of rules.

If I believe there is an original design for man and woman (board game instructions), but our sin-nature has caused us to try and take ownership of that design, and if I believe there is a place called Heaven and Hell (winning or losing the game), and we are only saved for Heaven by God's grace through Jesus' death on the cross (surprise- you don't win the game by yourself), then I am free to love others who are playing the game differently, while still seeking to live by God's original design.

It's not a perfect analogy, but I think it helps us keep love as love and truth as truth while not moving to love something more than God. Without origin and without purpose we can get into dangerous contradictions and muddy the water so much for our kids that they lose sight of what is actually true, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8). If our identity is in anything other than our Creator, then we will at some point experience real fear, uncertainty, and anxiety because we will strive to win our own games and forget the original point in the process.

As our family traveled across the country, we had time for many conversations, we saw the amazing beauty of God's natural design, and we witnessed every man's giftings and downfalls, all the while, learning to love each other even when we were unlovable. There's no greater lesson in my opinion because if God can love me at my worst, I should strive to do the same. Travel affords you time: the gift no one seems to have during our regular scheduled programming...

~Traveling while teaching and writing Carefully and Carelessly

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