Boy, Girl, or Something Else? Gender Confusion Reaches Children

We live in confusing times. One facet of life that seems straightforward – gender – is rapidly becoming more confusing. In April, a controversial ad for J. Crew depicted the company’s president, Jenna Lyons, painting the toenails of her son, Beckett, hot pink. The caption below the picture read, “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” This ignited a brief skirmish between those who, disdaining  gender stereotypes, celebrated the ad and those who saw a mother encouraging her boy to paint his toenails hot pink as transgender propaganda.

Fast forward one month to the story of a couple in Toronto who have decided to raise their newborn baby without gender identity. They will keep the baby’s gender secret and allow “it” to choose “its” own identity from the toys “it” plays with to the clothes “it” wears. Naming the child “Storm”, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker announced to friends and family in an email, “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime.” The kind of genderless world Storm’s parents envision may be a pipe-dream – wishful thinking won’t change biology or anatomy – but it is a world dreamed of by more and more.

Or take the case of Andrew Viveros. Last week the transgendered teen known to classmates as “Andii” was voted by seniors at McFatter Technical High School in Davie, FL to be their prom queen.  He is the first transgender prom queen at a public high school in the United States and won the title over 14 girls who competed against him. In an article in the Miami Herald Oscar Viveros, father of Andrew/Andii, offered this advice to parents in similar situations: “Let them grow to be whatever they want to be, as long as they’re good. Let them blossom into whatever they want to be. Support them 100 percent.”

The message builds from Beckett to Storm to Andrew with increasing clarity. The individual is god. No one can restrain “my” freedom and “my” choices. “I” will not be determined or ruled by anything. Parents, institutions, cultures, norms, communities, families, and now biology and God himself have no authority over the little god of self. Of course, this thinking is ultimately ridiculous. A man may wish to be a woman or vice versa, but hormones and surgery can still not change the biological reality. You may want to have the basketball skills of Lebron James, the intelligence of Stephen Hawking, and the voice of Scotty McCreery, but no amount of self-determination or identity manipulation will change the reality that you have the basketball skills of Napoleon Dynamite, the intelligence of Larry the Cable Guy, and a voice that sounds like a hyena attacking a wildebeest. We may want to be free of the authority of our family, community, culture, and God, but we are not. So we rebel against that authority and against God.

This is how sin began in Genesis. Adam and Eve were presented with nearly limitless freedom except for one provision in Genesis  2:17, “…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” But that wasn’t good enough for our forebears. They refused God’s authority, doubted His goodness, questioned His character, rebelled against their Creator, and attempted to become gods themselves. While the results of their sin was disastrous, we have continued their project ever since.

At the heart of these stories of gender confusion is a rebellion against our Creator who “created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” God has created each of us with a gender identity of male or female; to reject this is to reject His design. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:14-15, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?” Paul is not passing on tips for hair stylists; in this context he is encouraging the church to avoid gender confusion in the way they fellowship and worship. Men should look and act like men and women like women.

At the beginning of the music video for her song “Born This Way”, Lady Gaga announces that the current generation is a “race which bears boundless freedom.” While the idea of boundless freedom is silly (All freedom has limitations – I can’t breathe underwater, buy a Lamborghini, or even eat a cement block) it summarizes the attitude of our time. This ultimate freedom of the self to determine its identity and course and to follow its desires and urges is what has spawned the present gender confusion.

Christians have been graciously redeemed for a better way – not of rebellion against the Creator but of obedience to Him. Freedom isn’t found in self-determination but in self-surrender. Our example isn’t the person who “did it their way” but the One who “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). Our lives should declare with the Psalmist, “With my whole heart I seek you, let me not wander from your commandments” (Ps. 119:10).

As Christians, let us celebrate the Creator’s good gift of gender and not embrace the confusion. Our freedom is found in Christ and in joyful obedience to God’s design and commands; not in the freedom of becoming our own god through self-determination. At the same time, let us love those caught in the confusion with the love Christ showed to us in our rebellion. We can never look down on those made in God’s image; my sin leaves me just as guilty before a holy God as the most gender confused among us. Christ loves and died for those who struggle with this particular form of rebellion. May the Becketts, Storms, and Andrews of this world find the joy and freedom only surrender and obedience to the God Who died for us can bring.


(image credit)


16 thoughts on “Boy, Girl, or Something Else? Gender Confusion Reaches Children

  1. Man, I really enjoyed reading this- mostly the aspects of rebellion and authority. The abuse of authority throughout the years has placed our generation in a peak of rebelling against our authorities. And yet, on the flip side, when we follow and submit ourselves to our authority, we allow ourselves to be protected by Him, lifted up by Him, embraced, loved, and supported by our God. Thanks Brian and Emily!

  2. God, our Heavenly Papa, is the Master Architect and His plans are perfect. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” this is what the LORD told Jeremiah. Before Jeremiah’s earth suit was even formed, God knew who he was and the plan that He had for Jeremiah’s life. Most people consider themselves to be the sum of what they can see concerning their outward physical appearance. If we can look beyond the flesh and see people how God sees them, then it will help us to love them how God loves them. Then we can begin to speak into that individual in regarding their destiny and purpose, which includes their entering into this world with a male or female earth suit. When that individual begins to glimpse who God made them to be, it will help eliminate the confusions of their assigned gender. As children of the Father of lights, we can see clearly and know the truth. We should shine the light of God in the darkness of transgender confusion, but we must do this out of true love and compassion for the individual. Brian, I truly agree with your statement, “let us love those caught in the confusion with the love Christ showed us in our rebellion”.

  3. “but no amount of self-determination or identity manipulation will change the reality that you have the basketball skills of Napoleon Dynamite, the intelligence of Larry the Cable Guy, and a voice that sounds like a hyena attacking a wildebeest.”

    By this logic, only those who can achieve these hights, should ever attempt to do so.

    Your logic implies that your lifestyle is a monument to God, while all others, including those of the Aposles is not, since they certainly lived very different lives from you.

    It’s sad that, in expressing your fear of others, you have degenerated into the same argument that is made by those running Aravia or Iran, namely, that disagreement with your standards is disagreement with God.

    Sorry, but you, like those running Arabia and Iran are blasphamous/

    • Let me interact briefly with each part of your critique.

      First, I think you missed the point of the argument in the quote above. The point the above quote is making is that large parts of our identity are fixed by the Creator. I cannot change my natural athletic talent, intelligence, or voice. Sure I can work to make what I have better, but a 5’9 guy can’t decide he wants to be 6’7 like Lebron to play basketball.

      Second, if you read the article fully you will see I call myself a sinner who needed Christ to redeem me in my rebellion. Because He has, I now live a life to glorify Him. Your reference to the apostles is confusing, because in the Bible they repeatedly call those who have been saved by Christ to turn away from sin and live holy lives. Jesus said in Matt. 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Paul writes in Romans 6:1 “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” John says in 1 John 3:6 “No one who abides in Him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him.” Peter says in 1 Peter 1:14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” I could go on, but I’ll stop there. To say God doesn’t care how we live our lives is to betray a serious ignorance of the Scriptures. The apostles, like all of us, are sinners, saved by grace in Christ to live for God.

      You also unfairly compare me to those in Iran who would legislate their religious views. If you read the article, you will find it absent of any political views. I may disagree with these alternative lifestyles, but I will vigorously defend the right of every transgender and homosexual individual to have the freedom to live how they wish. You comparison of me to those who make morality law is not valid.

      Finally, you somewhat ungraciously label me blasphemous. Since you cite no authority, such as Scriptures, outside of yourself to justify your claim, I can only assume you are basing this on your own personal views of what you believe God to be like or think He should be like. Thus, I am not blaspheming Him, but you. You may not accept the Bible or another source of authority, but without one it becomes simply your feelings against my argument from divine revelation, as quoted in the above article.

      Thank you for your comment. I hope we can avoid personal attacks and have a mutually beneficial discussion on this important issue.

  4. I was commenting on your apparent dislike of this person’s self expression. Since you have clarified that you would defend their’s and other’s right to express themselves, I am happy to withdraw that part of my comment.

    There are only 10 sins. They are called the commandments. Even Jesus didn’t make any new ones.

    My suggestion of blasphamy was my assumption that you sought to impose your views and your will, onto society in the way that some claiming to be clerics, do so in the ME. That would be blasphamous since Jesus didn’t impose any new sins, there are only 10.

    Sexual expresion, other than adultry, (which is bad faith and a terrible thing to do to anyone), are not sins. That you and some congretaional leaders, some of whom are cited in parts of the New Testament, think they are, is a matter for yourselves.

    I apologise of I appeared to be flaming you. That was never my intent. Rather I was and will defend the word of God, as clarified by Jesus in the Gospels, against those who seek to manipulate it to suit their own purposes. I most certainly mean you no harm. I will defend your right to speak. But equally, I do take issue at those that will try to clain to be speaking on behalf of God, especially when they speak in support of intolerance, hatred or war.

    • Thanks for the response! I appreciate the discussion. If you will allow me, I would like to push you a little on three things in your response.

      1. In arguing the 10 Commandments in Exodus 19 are the only sins in the Bible, you are making an argument no Rabbi or Biblical scholar, conservative or liberal, has ever made. In fact, both Christian and Jewish tradition has long identified 613 distinct commands in the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy). This is where a little Bible knowledge can go a long way. Even Jesus said in John 13:34 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Turns out Jesus did make new ones, unless you disagree with Jesus!

      2. Your argument that sexual expression other than adultery is not sin is troubling. By your reasoning, child molestation is not a sin, nor sex trafficking, nor sexual assault, nor knowingly transmitting an STD to an unknowing partner, nor beastiality because they don’t meet the dictionary definition of adultery. All those committing these acts would simply argue they are expressing themselves sexually and you would have to say the Bible is silent. Fortunately it is not. Jesus said in Matt. 5:28 “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thus any lustful intents or actions toward someone other than my spouse are adultery. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Paul identifies any sexual immorality as sin. The Greek word Paul uses for “sexual immorality” is porneia – which is a term that includes any kind of sexual expression outside of marriage.

      3. Here’s my challenge to you – don’t take my word for it, read the Bible and deal honestly with what it says! Again in your response you have cited no biblical text to support your argument; only vague generalizations. If you follow Christ, I hope you will take seriously what the Bible teaches, not what I teach. If you do not follow Christ, I would love to talk with you more about why He is such an amazing Savior to foolish sinners like me whose only hope is the mercy of God.

      Thanks for your time and thoughts!

  5. Thanks for this article, Brian! You and Emily have a really great blog here, I am loving it!
    I have a couple questions for you on this post, if that’s okay!

    First of all, I was intrigued by your reference to the passage in 1 Corinthians 11 about hair lengths for men and women. As I’m sure you know, that comment was given in the context of Paul discussing head coverings for women during church worship services. Verse 6 reads: “For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.” and the verse immediately prior to the ones you quoted, verse 13, says “Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?”

    Most of the American evangelical church has come to understand this passage as a culturally specific issue of the ancient New Testament church- this can obviously be seen by the fact that women do not wear head coverings in the vast majority of American evangelical churches today. So I’m just wondering what you believe about this. Can we separate the fact that Paul was discussing long hair on women in the context of women wearing head-coverings, and say that one standard applies to us today but the other does not? Do you truly think it is wrong for a woman to wear her hair short, and if so, does that not necessitate that you believe women should wear head coverings in worship?

    I just realized a photo will show up with my post so you’ll find out anyway, but I wear my hair shorter because it is very thick and looks much more flattering at a shorter length, and my husband likes it better that way:-)

    My other question is more brief: I’m curious whether you have done any research about intersex individuals- according to Wikipedia, “those who are born with atypical combinations of physical features that usually distinguish female from male.” These people do not choose their gender ambiguity, and I am curious about how you would say we should deal with this as Christians.

    • Great questions! I’ll see if I can answer them in a helpful way.

      1 Corinthians 11 is a difficult passage and I’d like to claim two things about it. First, the passage is not culturally bound. In discussions I have with those on the theological left, who dismiss large portions of Scripture as antiquated and irrelevant, this passage is a favorite example of a reason not to take the Bible literally. However, just as we don’t dismiss the passage about eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8 ) as cultural but find the greater message the Holy Spirit has for churches in all times and places (how to deal with gray areas in the Christian faith), I believe the truth Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 11 remains while the specific application looks different.

      Second, I would argue this passage is not about hair. The truth Paul is getting across is we should not confuse gender roles in the church (thus the need to wear a head covering in Corinth) but should joyfully embrace the gender God has gifted us with by design (thus the example of wearing one’s hair in a way that doesn’t confuse). In my understanding, to violate this passage one would have to either disregard the Bible’s teaching about the complimentary roles of men and women in the church or intentionally confuse and mislead others about one’s gender identity by appearance or conduct.

      To truly explain this passage would take a whole other article, but I hope this clarifies. I do not believe you can separate the truth about head coverings and hair, but see them both as applications of timeless truth to a timely situation. I believe men and women can wear their hair however they want (my mom’s hair is shorter than yours!) as long as their heart is to embrace their God-given gender identity and not rebel and create confusion.

      While I have never run into the issue of intersex individuals, my guess is I would approach it in one of two ways. First, if there is a biological leaning towards either male or female (determined by genitalia) I would counsel them to embrace that gender identity. Second, if that is not possible I am not a legalist. Just as I would not fault a disabled man for violating 1 Tim. 5:8 if he could not provide for his family, I would extend grace to an intersex individual who could not fully embrace either gender.

      It all comes down to this: is our desire to glorify and obey the Lord or rebel against Him and put ourselves at the center? If our heart is for the Lord, we can successfully navigate these issues.

      Hope that helps! Please let me know if I can explain or clarify any of my remarks! God bless

      • Hi Brian! I’m just seeing your reply now- sorry for the delay! But that was a great answer. Thank you for taking my questions seriously and giving such a thoughtful response.

        FYI, I think I am going to steal your explanation of what it means to understand the timeless truth behind certain biblical passages. I had a hard time choosing the right words for what I was trying to say in my first comment regarding the 1 Cor. passage being “culturally specific,” because I do not want to err on that side of theological “liberalism,” so to speak- where one can basically say any passage is culturally specific and then decide not to follow it. I agree wholeheartedly with what you say about seeing the points in this passage as “applications of timeless truth to a timely situation.”

        I’m glad you don’t think I’m a godless heathen for having short hair;-)

  6. Thank you Briandj for your response.

    It isn’t my place to seek to undermine your faith. I am very pleased you have found such contentment.

    I appreciate the notion of there being 613 commandments. I won’t get into any argument with you over that.

    I won’t rise to your challange, since I don’t seek to alter any truths you feel have been revealed. Neither will I submit myself to judgement, since that clearly breaks the 3rd commandment.

    I remain pleased that you were expressing your own point of view on the matters raised in your text. It is, I’m sure you will agree, utterly unacceptable to claim to vulnerable people that others are qualified offer any judgement on behalf of God.

    I pray you that you will continue to accept that the commandments of God apply to only one person in the entire history of existance.


    • Ah, the irony. You are denying to me the very thing you are claiming for yourself. You are upset with me for claiming my understanding and beliefs about God and His commandments apply to anyone but me. But in order to say that, you MUST believe your understanding and beliefs about God and His commands are superior to mine. In other words, my belief about God doesn’t apply to you but your belief about God applies to me.

      Let’s take the last sentence in your reply and apply it to your beliefs. If your beliefs about the commandments of God apply only to you then you cannot take them and apply them to me. By telling me to stop telling others what I believe God has said, you are standing in judgment over my beliefs and arguing yours are superior. We can discuss which of us is right or wrong, but in telling me what I should do, you are doing the exact thing you are upset at me for doing.

      You have sawed off the branch you are sitting on.

  7. No Brian, I’m not denying you anything. I don’t seek to undermine anyone’s faith.

    I’ll tell you a short story about myself.

    I use to be in complete confusion about God and the Bible. Then a number of years ago, I was working in health care and was sent to sit with a dying man. I was given to believe he was having problems which was why I was hired to care for him. Complicated I know but that’s all the background necessary for the moment.

    Anyway, I arrived at the hospital where this man was, early in the morning, looking forward to a 12 hour or so shift. I was shown into this side room and found this man, comatose. His room was completely bare. The windows were frosted. I had brought nothing to read.

    As you can imagine, I got bored pretty quickly. I eventually found a copy of Gideon’s Bible. You may know, it is the New Testament. I really didn’t want to have to read something which I naturally assumed, I already knew, from the endless lectures poured out over the years from so many different types, each selling their own brand of whatever. But I had little choice, so I started to read it from the begining. I mean, the begining, starting with the name of the printer!

    Anyway, that was my revelation. My point when my eyes were opened.

    I know God personally. We ‘talk’, (for want of a better expression), more or less all the time. I have no doubts. But I also know my own purpose and it isn’t to preach or change anyone’s faith.

    I wish you well. I wish everyone well. I make no judgement on anyone’s faith or practice. I respect the Muslim as much as the Jew, as much as anyone identifying with any of the many branches of Christianity, quite simply because it isn’t my place to do otherwise.

    But I do and will take exception to anyone attempting to tell, those who have enormous personal problems that God is going to think any less of them or condem them for how they chose to proceed with their own lives.

    You have said that that was not your intent. I take you at your word. But I won’t enter into any discussions on the nature of God with you since I am not quialified to do so. I am sure that, when your time comes, you will come to whatever understanding is intended for you. Or, perhaps that understanding has already happened.

    But I do ask that you don’t attempt to express what are political views using God to back these up. And I thank you for your assurance that you didn’t intend to.

    • This is a really fun interchange and I am glad I am getting to read it. I do have one thing to add if you don’t mind.

      It seems that one of spacial’s concerns is the risk of being judgmental, and I would assume hateful, toward the person struggling with gender issues. That is a legitimate concern because Christians do often come across hateful in the way they communicate some of the things they believe. We have a reputation that we have probably earned.

      On the other hand, I wonder if it isn’t equally hateful to just remain silent about this issue or any other similar issue. Traditionally (by traditionally I mean at least since the time of Plato and Aristotle) people have assumed that there are ways to live that bring happiness and some that actually prevent happiness. Christians (Plato and Aristotle weren’t Christians but would have agreed on this point) believe that the ultimate state of happiness comes when people are living in a way that is consistent with how they were designed. Therefore to work against the way we are designed, though it might bring a momentary happiness, would prevent a more complete and full happiness.

      Given that this is our worldview it seems to me that the most hateful thing would be to allow someone to be satisfied with something less than the best. Anyone who has ever been happy about anything knows that just isn’t the way the we works. If we go to a movie that we like we tell our friends to watch it too. Why wouldn’t we want to be as eager to share things that can bring even greater happiness than a movie.

  8. I find this article, this perspective, these replies, and this intolerance in general to be horrible and pathetic. I think you are all terribly brainwashed into blind adherence to the bible and each unique idea of god you each have created for yourselves. Have you ever, for one moment, considered the notion that just about everything you think about god, morality, the reason for our and the universe’s existence – might not be true?! Have you EVER thought for yourself, outside the confusing little box you call christianity? You’re fighting a losing battle. You WILL lose. You will be dragged, kicking and screaming if need be, toward rationality, whether you like it or not.

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