by Tim Wade
When it comes to the subject of gender identity the culture has been outpacing the courts for years. And as the courts begin to catch up and address “the new normal” we as believers are often left searching for a way to respond. On Friday, February 15, a memorandum was sent out to school districts across Massachusetts from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education providing guidance concerning the implementation of An Act Relative to Gender Identity. The memorandum issued earlier this year details how school districts are to accommodate students who express a gender identity that conflicts with their physiological sex, allowing students to use the restroom or changing facility they feel is most suitable. The full text of the 13-page document can be found here. While the creation of a new, extra-biblical category of people should deeply disturb us, we should also decry discrimination via denial of public services to any individual for any reason.
However, like other laws, the implementation of this measure is where the enemy exposes himself. The more troubling aspects of this document are the case studies that are presented as both examples to follow and justifications for the recommended course of action. One case study cites the example of a preschool student who, although biologically female, identified herself as a boy throughout her “early years.” The parents submitted the following description of the child’s actions:
[The] child preferred to play with boys rather than girls, wanted a short haircut, rejected wearing any clothing that the child identified as “something a girl would wear,” and ignored anyone who called him by his stereotypically feminine name. When it was time for the child to enter kindergarten, the child said to his parents, “You have to tell them when I go to kindergarten that I’m a boy.”
In this particular case a child, who believes in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, is being allowed to make a life altering decision about her gender identity, and that decision is celebrated by the highest educational entity in the state.
As Christians, we should not deny that an individual may experience legitimate confusion about one’s gender. It is the nature of sin to obscure truth. However, in the past Christians have benefitted from the socializing power of secular institutions to reinforce the biblical truth of gender identity. It appears that Christians in Massachusetts will no longer benefit from such an alliance, and Christians across the United States should prepare to be likewise bereft of secular support on this issue as other states will undoubtedly follow suit.
Instead of helping to correct and reinforce true gender identities within students, the Department of Education in Massachusetts has determined to undermine the truth of gender identities by attempting to instill new moral norms in students in the state. Let me be clear, this is not a neutral position that the state has taken. Instead, Massachusetts has determined to compound confusion and vilify students and teachers who oppose these new policies on moral grounds. Students who feel uncomfortable with males in female locker rooms and restrooms or vice versa should be [re]educated.
School administrators and counseling staff should work with students to address the discomfort and to foster understanding of gender identity, to create a school culture that respects and values all students.
The department makes it clear that the feelings and intuitions of the students confused about their gender identity are to take precedence in any situation. Even if it is suspected that a student is feigning confusion for more devious purposes, the burden of proof is placed on the teacher, rather than the student claiming gender confusion.
At its most fundamental level, this law seeks to recognize a group of people that the Bible does not. Scripture affirms beautifully in Psalm 139 that we are no fluke of evolution or a chance collection of genes. Instead we are personally crafted by the same God who scooped out the oceans with his hands, who flung the myriads of stars across the universe and calls each by name. There are no mistakes in our forming; our gender identity coincides with our physiology and this is true for every human being. However, we must not be surprised when people misunderstand and confuse this truth. Instead of affirming confusion, we must speak biblical truth to both young and old about how they can overcome the confusion brought about by sin. We must become all the more zealous to do so, as it is clear that we may soon be alone. This forces us to consider ahead of time what we should do if and when such laws are enacted nationwide. In particular, three groups of Christians will stand on the front lines of this battle and should have very specific plans of action. For teachers, parents, and students, laws such as the one in Massachusetts will require tough decisions and decisive action.
The response for each will be spelled out in Part 2.
Tim Wade is an Associate Pastor with Ferguson Avenue Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia. He and Lauren, his wife of 5 years, have one child, Lydia Lucille Wade.
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