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Talking to My Family About Transgenderism

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
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December 3, 2020 1:00 am

Talking to My Family About Transgenderism

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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December 3, 2020 1:00 am

How do I talk to my family about transgender issues?" J. Alan Branch, Professor of Christian Ethics at Midwestern Seminary and author of "Affirming God's Image," gives direction for families, affected by confusion and brokenness over this issue, in how to lead with truth and grace.

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This is Bob Lapine from Family Life Today. We're again going to be dealing today with a very sensitive subject, the subject of transgenderism for people who are experiencing gender dysphoria. Is there an alternative to hormone blockers and gender reassignment surgery?

Allen Branch says there is. At some point we just have to stop and say, wait a minute, how many surgeries are we going to do? Isn't it a better game plan to say, we understand you feel this way and we grieve with you and we know it hurts and we love you, but let's find a way to try to embrace the image that God gave you. Let's find a way to embrace that.

You've got a fight the rest of us don't have, but we love you and we're going to be with you through this, but we're not going to mutilate your body to achieve this goal. This is Family Life Today. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. I'm Bob Lapine. You can find us online at

What does it look like for us to respond to the issue of gender confusion or gender dysphoria with both grace and truth? We'll talk with J. Allen Branch about that today. Stay with us. And welcome to Family Life Today.

Thanks for joining us. Ann, you grew up in a house full of brothers. I did. And there were times as you were growing up where you kind of wished you were a boy. I said those exact words to my mom. I was out playing football. I think I was nine years old, eight or nine.

And let me tell you, this girl can play some football too. And I was the only girl playing with all the neighborhood boys. I thought I was really good.

I don't know if I was, but I thought I was. And I remember coming in because somebody didn't want me to play one of the boys and they didn't think I was as good. And I walked in the house, I was mad. And I told my mom, I don't want to be a girl. I want to be a boy. I don't know why God would make me a girl because it's dumb being a girl, you know, that kind of talk.

And I was glad that my mom didn't freak out. And I felt like I wasn't like most of the girls. I wasn't the girly girl. I was more of a tomboy. And I liked all the things the boys did. I didn't like thinking about being older and having a cycle. I didn't like thinking about the pain of childbirth.

And I just thought, this is terrible. Boys have it so much better. And my mom's reaction, I'll never forget it because she just sat and she listened and she said, oh, honey, I used to feel like that once in a while. And she said, but then when you get older and you have kids and you do these things that boys can't do and you're going to be amazing at being a mom or a wife or a career or whatever it is you're going to do, you're going to be really good at it. And that just settled my heart. And I said, well, I don't want to be it right now.

And that was it. But as I got older, I never even thought about it. You have to wonder if you'd had that feeling as a child today and gone on YouTube and found the videos. I mean, we're talking about the issue of transgender today. And this is a whole different era for boys and girls to start to be figuring out what does it mean to be a boy or a girl? I think it would be very confusing. And I wasn't confused in that day.

I was just mad in the moment and I wanted to beat all the boys. But today it could make it very confusing for so many kids. I mean, we all do, but you search for truth. Can somebody give me truth? Your mom was able to do that. And I think if my mom, we believed in Jesus, but I wouldn't call us a Christ-reared family in terms of biblical teaching.

If someone had brought the Bible to me, I would have been hungry to know what God said. And I wonder if more people are than we realize. Well, we've got Alan Branch joining us today on Family Life Today. Welcome back to the program.

I'm so glad to be here. Alan is a professor of Christian ethics at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City and has written a book on this subject that's very helpful. It's called Affirming God's Image, addressing the transgender question with both science and scripture.

Alan, I'm interested. I mean, this isn't a light topic. How did you decide to tackle this? Well, part of it is that God's called me to teach at the seminary, and so this is a huge issue in the culture. And I feel like part of my responsibility is serving the body of Christ and serving my denomination to answer these issues. But we've encountered folks in life that experienced either same-sex attraction somewhere across the LGBTQ spectrum, or, in particular, had family members that wanted to say they were transgender. A young lady was on my staff at a church in North Carolina about 25 years ago, a wonderful Christian woman. And after she left our staff to go in and do some other things for the Lord, she had a brother that suddenly, out of nowhere to the family's knowledge, said, I am not a guy, I am a girl, and adopted a new identity. And I want to tell you about this family. This was a good family. Okay, this mother and father, so often the media portrays Christians as hypocrites, we're one thing in public, something else completely different in private. They weren't, and they did a good job raising their kids. And they loved the Lord, and what they were in public is what they were in private. And their son, out of this very conservative Southern Baptist family, to this day now identifies as a woman. And the grief that they went through, these are people, this is not someone else, this is people that we know. These are our friends.

I have a buddy now, we're both veterans, and sometimes we go eat at Cracker Barrel together. And he has a brother that now identifies as a woman. And so these are real people, people we go to church with. Their family members are saying, what do you do? So to try to bring something to the body of Christ that's helpful and gives people a way of thinking, and at least a grid to think through these things, and how do I talk to my family member that says they're transgender? What do I say?

What do I do? So I think the central verse, I do want to make sure we mention this out of affirming God's image. There's a reason why the book's titled that, and it comes from Genesis 1, 26, and 27. So all humans are made in the image of God.

There's been a lot of discussion about race in our country over the last year. Well, listen, racism dies on the 26th verse of the Bible, right? I mean, everybody's made in the image of God. So then the next verse that was very interesting is Genesis 1, 27. And it says, so God created man in his own image.

In the image of God, he created him. Male and female, he created them. So our sex, being male or female, is not an accident. I talked about this distinction between sex and gender that secular people make. The Bible doesn't really make that distinction. The Bible just assumes that you're going to act in appropriate ways that match your sex. So it's not a bad thing to be born a boy.

It's not a bad thing to be born a girl. It's a very, very good thing. So we want to affirm the image of God. We want to affirm what God has done. So that's why we call the book Affirming God's Image. And some of the things we talked about for parents at a very early age, affirming to children, it's so good God made you a boy and so good God made you a girl.

So that's where the idea of affirming God's image comes from. And as we talk about this, I've had this question come up. As I've talked with people about this, they say, well, what about intersex people, people who have genital confusion is about the only way I know how to describe it.

Well, I'm really so glad you asked that. So let's talk about that. First of all, some of the listeners may not know, the term Bob just used, intersex, refers to someone who has ambiguous genitalia. The popular term is intersex.

The technical term is disorders of sexual development. So transgender activists frequently use this as evidence. And what they want to say is they want to say, aha, look, the existence of people with a disorder of sexual development proves that gender is very fluid.

It's not a binary. The gender binary you've been trying to force upon us is just wrong. Well, I think there's some very important differences between modern day transgenderism and disorders of sexual development.

And let me give them to you. First of all, a disorder of sexual development can be clearly diagnosed. Usually they are some genetic problem that's taking place and they can trace it down to the gene. That's very different from modern day transgenderism. Modern day transgenderism is all subjective.

It's just, well, this is how I feel. Okay, I'm trusting what you're telling me. I have no objective diagnosis.

And we need to be clear about this. There's no way that you can do a genetic test and look at a baby genetically and say, aha, this baby is going to be transgender. The science has no predictive value about that. There's no way you can do a brain exam and say, aha, this is a transgender brain.

The science has no predictive value. We're all basing this on subjective evidence, which is a major, major distinction. And one of the key points in ethics is you want to treat different cases differently. So a DSD is a different issue. A disorder of sexual development is a different issue from transgenderism. All of us deal with the effects of the fall on our body, right? Kids with a DSD deal with it much more profoundly and much more earlier.

And so they need our grace and our mercy. But that doesn't mean that gender is not binary. In fact, the gender, this is a case where the exception proves the rule. The only reason we know that these kids have a DSD is because the rule is the gender binary, male and female.

So the exception actually proves the rule. Now, as you have been studying this for how many years? Oh, you know, for the last five years, I've really made an intensive study of transgenderism. And, you know, when I was reading your book, I'm reading things I've never read.

Right. You know, even the surgery and how that- Oh, yes, it's painful. I mean, quite a chapter to read.

It's brutal. What about the results? I mean, as people take hormone therapy or they go in and have surgery to change their- Reassignment surgery. Reassignment surgery. What are the results? I mean, I don't know.

So that's a great question. So first of all, usually what they'll tell you, someone who has had gender reassignment surgery, is they will usually say they are pleased with the aesthetic results afterwards because they look differently. And so they're usually pleased with that. But the data on the other comorbid psychological issues that go along with transgenderism, here's what you need to know. Transgenderism has a whole bag of other problems that come with it.

Depression, suicidal ideation are very, very common. So let me go ahead and tell you about this. Even after the surgery?

Yes, it's common after the surgery. Let me explain what's going on. Here's what's happening. The secular people will say, well, yes, people who have transgender identity have a higher level of suicidal ideation. And here's why. Preachers at churches that are saying things about sin and that gives people guilt.

They self-internalize the guilt and they loathe and they hate themselves. Well, there was a huge study coming out of Sweden. You will not find a more transgender affirming country in the world than Sweden. They were looking at about 300 plus folks who'd had gender reassignment surgery. This is 2011, I believe it was. And they were looking at what were the mental health outcomes after they had the surgery.

So what you found was, well, they were pleased with the aesthetics of the surgery. The suicidal ideation didn't go away. The mental health problems didn't go away. They were not in southern United States, the Bible Belt.

They were in Sweden. So what you find is the comorbid mental health issues that the surgery is supposed to fix is not fixing the issues. Yeah, in fact, there's a book that has come out recently by a left-leaning, gay-affirming non-Christian. And I bring that up only to say this is not somebody who would be in our camp. But she's written a book called Irreversible Damage, the Transgender Craze That Is Seducing Our Daughters. She's looking at the data and saying, boy, there's something going on here where girls in particular are being seduced into hormone replacement therapy and surgery. Right. And the other issue is puberty suppressing drugs.

This is brutal. These drugs were developed years ago to address kids who have precocious puberty. So there's some children, for reasons we don't know, they go through puberty at really, really early ages. And it's not the best scenario because you want puberty to happen at the right age when they can emotionally process things. So some drugs were developed in the early 80s to help suppress puberty for those kids.

I want to be clear, the drugs were developed for a reason which Christians would find morally permissible. How young would this happen in certain kids? Oh, yeah, this was like six, seven, and eight-year-old kids.

Oh, okay. So the idea was we're not postponing puberty forever. We're only postponing it until the developmentally correct time.

So the drugs were developed for a morally permissible use. Well, some folks in Holland started saying, hey, wait a minute, some of these kids that are transgender, what if we gave these drugs to them? And we just kept them from going through puberty. And so the idea is they say, well, part of the problem, the anticipatory burden of going through puberty is too great for these transgender kids. They don't want to go through these changes in their body, so we're going to just suppress puberty. And what they'll tell you is that this is completely reversible and that this gives the child time to make up their mind if they want to embrace transgenderism or embrace their birth sex. The data shows that's not what happens. If they start taking the puberty suppression drugs, they go to transgender. I mean, it's overwhelming data.

And let me just tell you, that's a bad idea. Children have lots of anticipatory burdens about a lot of things in puberty. I had an anticipatory burden about not wanting to go to junior high. I mean, I had an anticipatory burden about algebra class.

I mean, I didn't. So children have lots of things that they don't want to go through. But to suppress puberty, this is ridiculous. And for the boys who want to become girls, it gets very vicious, and let me explain what happens in gender reassignment surgery. And this is why puberty suppression is such a bad idea. The physicians will take the boy's genitalia and they will invert it into his body to create an artificial girl's genitalia.

However, a boy who has been through puberty suppression, his body doesn't grow as large as it normally would, and there's not enough material there to do that. So then what happens is they have to go and bisect a piece of the colon or of the intestine and use that to create an artificial female organ. This is brutal surgery.

It's extensive, all in the name of an expansive notion of transgender identity. Now, at some point, we just have to stop and say, wait a minute, how many surgeries are we going to do? Isn't it a better game plan to say, we understand you feel this way and we grieve with you and we know it hurts and we love you. But let's find a way to try to embrace the image that God gave you.

Let's find a way to embrace that. You've got a fight the rest of us don't have, but we love you and we're going to be with you through this, but we're not going to mutilate your body to achieve this goal. Now, I found it interesting, and maybe I'm understanding this wrong in your book, but it sounded like when doctors even presented that to the person coming in, like, hey, this is how it's going to go. And I would discourage it.

It seemed like you were hearing, they said, I still want to go ahead. If we're trying to understand transgenderism, these are real people and we don't want to objectify them just as some sort of object. These are not, these are human beings. And some of them are, honestly, are brothers and sisters in Christ who experienced gender dysphoria for whatever reason.

Okay. The challenge is if someone knows up front how brutal the surgery is, but they still want to go through it, that should give us some idea of how terrible this distress is. They're desperate.

They're desperate, yes. And so that should cause us to have mercy and to show kindness. Now, the world says, well, if you really want to be kind and merciful, then help them do the surgery. And we're saying, no, no, that's not the merciful and that's not the kind thing to do.

But we do love you and we don't hate you and we want to be kind to you. So that someone would be that desperate that they think that drastic of a surgical procedure is going to solve my grief, then it should cause us to have some mercy. I'm thinking about parents who are raising kids who aren't experiencing any kind of gender dysphoria, but here's what they are experiencing. At age 13 or 14 or 15 in their school, if they are not pro transgender, they are canceled, they are haters, they are outcasts. How do we help our sons and daughters understand that it is loving to say this is not going to be good for these people?

I think this is wrong because it's going to hurt them and hurt them for the rest of their lives. Well, truth is never popular in many cases. Right. And so what we want to do as Christians is to share the truth and love, and our demeanor does mean a much. And I think part of the challenge we have, particularly in America, when it comes to issues just like you described, Bob, about how do we stand for the right thing in the right way and endure the fact that we are very unpopular for it, is we have a bit of challenge because this country had such a rich Christian tradition. For Christianity to celebrate, it's a good thing.

You played quarterback in college. I remember when Steve Barkowski, the quarterback for the Falcons in 1978, got saved. He's a Christian day living for the Lord. And everybody was talking about, man, that's great. Even non-believers like, well, you know, I don't want Jesus, but I'm glad that worked out for Bart, right?

But we're living the day to day. If you get saved, oh, well, you join the haters, right? That's not a good thing. Well, I think what we have to teach our kids today is, frankly, you are now stepping into what Christianity is like for the rest of Christians outside the United States around the world. Christians in Iran already face this. Christians in China already face this for other reasons.

It's not for transgenderism, but it's for other reasons. The Marxists hate Christians. So to teach our kids that if you're going to live for Jesus, here's the truth.

Yes, you can have a victorious life. Here's the truth. The world's not going to be happy. And part of being a Christian is loving your enemies. We never have the liberty to be unkind.

We never have the liberty to respond in hatred. We just have to tell our friends, I love you. I care for you. Jesus loves you. I know you're mad at me.

I'm not mad at you, and I care about you. I think more than ever before, we have to have these discussions with our kids, with our families. We are in a culture now that we have to know where we are, where we stand, what God's Word says. And we have to disciple our kids and love them.

And I love that you're teaching our kids, that we're teaching our kids. We need to love people better, but also be firm in our stance, in our biblical worldview. And that's true. And it's true for churches as well, because, listen, ministry is messy. I believe in evangelism, and I want people to share their faith in Christ. But sometimes we forget that when somebody gets saved, God doesn't immediately take away everything at once. And life can be really, really messy, and ministry is messy. And if you're going to minister to people anywhere across the LGBTQ spectrum, it's going to be messy. They're going to have questions you didn't have to deal with before. I think the best thing that could happen for some churches is right now they're arguing about the color of the carpet, or how we should do church government, or the preacher preaching too long, or is it expository or topical, and they're grumbling about these things. What they need is for somebody across the LGBTQ spectrum to get saved, to come to church, and at Bible study say, I've got a question.

I feel like I'm still a male, but I'm a female. What do I do with that? I mean, they're not going to be worried about the church governance anymore. The carpet won't matter.

Right, it won't matter. But in all seriousness, ministry is messy just like that. And Jesus came into a messy world.

So the church comes into all this mess, and we reach out to people in their brokenness. There's a fabulous Japanese art form where they take broken braces, and then they glue them back together with gold. Have you seen this? We used it as a theme and a visual for one of our women's retreats. It's beautiful. It's beautiful.

Right. And so something that was broken is now more valuable when it's put back together than what it was in its original state because of the beautiful art form. Well, that's what Christ does with people's lives. And across the LGBTQ spectrum, and especially people who've gone through gender reassignment surgery, what do you do?

They've gotten saved, and they come on and join the church. Well, God can take that brokenness and bring beauty out of it. We're absolutely confident of that. Absolutely. The gospel is sufficient for that.

Beauty from ashes is what Isaiah says, and that's the glorious truth of the gospel. And it may be messy. It's going to be messy. It may not be a step-by-step, oh, look, they're totally perfect now.

It can be messy along the way. I mean, you've said it. I think it's so key that we lead with grace.

Yes. They're both equal. You've got to have truth and grace. I think they're not going to listen to truth, and I mean they, anybody, unless we lead with love, lead with compassion. You've been so compassionate every time you've talked about this. That's where you have to start, that they feel loved by the love of Christ, that they would be interested in knowing, is there a truth that I'm not seeing?

Yes, it is here, and both are equal, and it's actually possible to be truth and grace. And here's how we've got to help coach and train our kids, because stop and think about it. Every parent, when your child is eight, nine years old, you want your kids to have friends, friends that they can connect with, and they want to have friends and want to be popular. When you recognize that the rules of friendship and popularity today may require compromise to your faith, in order to have friends and be popular, you can't be a Christian. Now, what do you care more about, that your kids follow Christ or that they have friends?

Here's where we've got to be able to sit down with our kids and say, you know what? Late elementary, middle school, these are going to be very hard years, and what's going to be in your heart more than anything else is you're going to want the other kids to like you. You're going to want to be a part of the popular group, and there may be things that you believe, that we believe as a family, that your friends are going to say, you can't believe that. You can't follow that and be popular, and you've got to prepare them for what's ahead. We have to disciple our kids, and we can't be passive in it, because the culture and social media, they are discipling our children, and it all starts with relationship.

It's not, here are the rules, and here's what we're going to do. It's, we are loving them, we are talking to them, we're teaching them God's blueprint and God's plan, and man, we can be the light of the world. Alan, this conversation has been so helpful, so good. Thank you for the book, thanks for being here and for coaching us on all of this. It's been a great honor to be here, and I want to remind everyone that's listening that the Gospel is sufficient for these things.

Yeah, thank you. I hope our listeners will get a copy of your book. The book is called Affirming God's Image, Addressing the Transgender Question with Science and Scripture. You can order the book from us online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book by J. Alan Branch is Affirming God's Image, Addressing the Transgender Question with Science and Scripture.

Order online at or call to order 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Let me ask you to take just a minute and think back over the last 12 months. I mean, most of us would rather not think back over the last 12 months. It's been that kind of year, right? But my question for you is, has family life today in some way been used by God in your life this year? With whatever you've been going through in your marriage, raising your kids, extended family relationships, maybe it's something you heard on Family Life Today, maybe it's a resource you found on our website. Has God used this ministry to have an impact in your life this year? If so, we want to ask you to make a generous year-end contribution to this ministry.

Honestly, we need you. We need you to step forward and make a donation to be as generous as you can be in 2020 so that we can finish out this year in a healthy place financially. Family Life Today is dependent on your donations for this program to be heard on this local station and for all that we do here at Family Life.

That's why we want to ask you to make a year-end contribution. When you do make a donation during the month of December, that donation is going to be matched dollar for dollar up to a total of $2 million, and we hope to take full advantage of that matching gift opportunity that has been presented to us this month by some friends of the ministry. And when you make a year-end donation, we'd like to say thank you by sending you first a flash drive that has the top 100 Family Life Today programs from the last 28 years.

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You'll get the USB drive with 100 top programs from Family Life Today and a copy of my book Love Like You Mean It, and you'll be helping tens of thousands of married couples all around the world, moms and dads as they raise the next generation. Thanks for your investment in this ministry at year-end. We look forward to hearing from you. Now, tomorrow we're going to hear a unique adoption story.

In fact, I've heard a lot of adoption stories over the years, and I don't know that I've heard one quite like this. We'll introduce you to Holly and Mark Girth tomorrow, and we'll hear their story. Hope you can join us for that. I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Anne Wilson, I'm Bob Lapine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life of Little Rock, Arkansas, a crew ministry. Help for today, hope for tomorrow.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-19 16:07:30 / 2024-01-19 16:19:42 / 12

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