There is a growing trend in the world today that we see repeated in news headlines: Parents choosing to raise their child genderless or as the opposite gender, due to the child’s preference. Simply put, if a little girl says she wishes she were a boy or a little boy prefers to play with dolls, the parents seek to grant their wish.
I find this especially troubling because honestly, if raised in a different time, by different parents, I fear I could have been one of them. You see, I had two older brothers who, from my 4-10 year-old tomboy perspective, got to do a lot of pretty great things that I didn’t. They didn’t have to wear a shirt when they were hot (a great injustice in my mind), they didn’t have to wear complicated dress clothes and they were in Boy Scouts. Everything about Boy Scouts seemed awesome to me – camping, learning about animals, racing little wooden cars – it looked like a dream. I had no desire to be a Girl Scout as large groups of girls intimidated me and all they seemed to do was sell cookies, have sleepovers, and wear mud brown. I liked to run with the boys. I remember on multiple occasions as a little girl questioning why God had to make me a girl!
The logical conclusion to my dilemma in our culture would have been for my parents to grant me my desire and either raise me as a boy or genderless so I would have time to figure out “who I am” without the pressure of nurturing. As this is a growing trend, we need to first and foremost look to Scripture when engaging culture, advising friends how to handle this or dealing with our own children’s views about their gender.
First, we must remember that God created gender (Gen 1:27) and He created our gender to be a blessing (1 Cor. 1:11-12). Ephesians 5:22-33 shows how God uses them to teach us about Himself and to paint a picture of His love for the world. While there may be some aspects of being a woman that our flesh isn’t thrilled about, such as submission, we should also acknowledge that manhood brings its own set of challenges (Eph 5:25, 1 Pet 3:7). The grass isn’t greener on either side.
Second, we should understand that children need nurturing to understand their world and grow up to honor God (Prov 22:6). Any parent can think of examples of irrational requests or desires their child has expressed. When my husband was little he would tell people he wanted to be a fire truck when he grew up. As silly as it seems, it is about as reasonable for his parents to start keeping him in the garage and paint him red as it would have been for my parents to raise me as a boy. Mothers and women in the church should help girls learn to be women of God. Men in the church and fathers, likewise, need to model and teach manhood to boys (Titus 2).
Third, we should acknowledge the wide spectrum of femininity and masculinity and not seek to force stereotypical preferences on our children. Dorcus was crafty (Acts 9:39) while Rachel was a shepherdess. David was a fierce warrior (1 Sam 18:7) but he also liked poetry (Ps 23). Ultimately, I’m glad my mom made me wear a shirt, taught me to dress like a lady, and didn’t fight to let me be a Boy Scout. I’m also glad my dad took time to show me outdoor skills and that my mom gave in to my begging to join the pole-vault team, though she was sure I’d break my neck. My parents nurtured my femininity without forcing me into stereotypes.
I fear that many children raised counter to their God-given gender will, with age, question what their parents were thinking. Just like a parent who allows their child to play with matches, the excuse that it is what they wanted or it wasn’t culturally acceptable to tell them “no” won’t cut it. As believers, we need to be loving enough to tell our children and our culture “no” when we see them destroying themselves.
Ultimately, a few years of perceived injustice in my life gave way to being very glad that I am not a boy and enjoying my God given gender. I love Pinterest and I’m always up for a pedicure, but I still love being outdoors and doing physically challenging activities. I couldn’t claim to be a girly-girl, but I’ve come to realize and to love that that is simply not the kind of girl that God made me.
–This article first appeared on BiblicalWoman.com. Maggie is pursuing her Master of Divinity with a concentration in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary.