I am sure by now you have seen the news that the Obama administration is preparing to “issue a sweeping directive telling every public school district in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity” (New York Times). The directive is planned to be issued today.
Can they do that? Do they have the authority to do that? While the Obama administration does not have the legal standing to enforce the new code, federally funded schools feel the pressure to acquiesce or else they risk losing their funding and could also face law suits. We have come a long way from the days of mandatory scoliosis screening when all of us embarrassed 14 year olds were marched into the girls’ locker room, forced to remove our shirts and bend over in front of the school nurse and scoliosis screener.
So here we are again, facing the Target scandal anew, but with an added level of intensity. It is no longer a cultural phenomenon at a major retailer which we can choose to avoid for any variety of reasons. It is now a daily situation that our children will encounter. One would hope that sex crimes and safety would be a lesser issue in schools, but with the early age of sexual exposure children have and their own history of abuse, it is to be expected that the bullying we see on the play ground will continue extend into bathrooms, and now with the added dynamic of gender confusion and unintentional cross-gender exposure.
We cannot get bullying under control, but yet we are opening Pandora’s Box of reasons for bullying and alienating children. Being different is what gets kids beat up at school physically and psychologically. But yet the Obama administration thinks that giving these rights will help gender-confused children feel more safe. It will be very interesting to see the psychological ramifications and research that emerge from this policy implementation.
It is interesting that by offering a choice of gender-association, we are actually enforcing what many would call sexist generalizations. As a young girl, I spent nearly all of my time outside – climbing trees, riding horses, hiking through the woods, building forts, playing with the dog and a myriad of other “boyish” activities. At the time, they called me a tom boy and I was proud of it. I hated wearing tights, dolls had little interest to me, and even though my long hair made me feel pretty, it was daily tied up in a ponytail. Fifteen years ago, this was acceptable, and as I grew up I became much more “feminine” in my disposition (though I still prefer to spend my time outside and love a good game of ultimate frisbee). Nowadays, however, such a little girl might be considered confused and even encouraged to explore her gender identity – just because she does not like the color pink or play with dolls.
Instead of encouraging children to express their personalities in gender appropriate ways, we are forcing them to alienate their God-given identity by forcing them into social confines that are neither Biblical or even truly gender definitive.
But that is another conversation for another day.
We must focus now on how we will respond. This situation is quite different from the Target scandal. With Target, we can choose to use the family bathroom and never interact with another person. With Target, we can choose to use the bathroom before we visit the store and thus never have to use their facilities. With Target, we can always be with our children and make sure that they are safe and teach them Biblical truths while interacting with the culture. With Target, we can show, by example, how to love the lost. And with Target, we can choose to not patron the store.
With the schools, however, there are no private bathrooms available. With the schools, children will need to utilize the restroom sometime during the day, and cannot avoid it. With the schools, we will not accompany our children to the bathrooms to guarantee their safety and will not be able to teach them Biblical truths while they interact with a gender-confused child or teacher. With the schools, we leave our children under the authority of their teachers and school policy to teach them tolerance and acceptance, void of Biblical truth. With the schools, most of us do not have the financial or timely freedom to homeschool or enroll our children in private schools which uphold our values.
Thus we must consider the art and discipline of child rearing. It is the goal of raising a child to produce an educated, healthy and capable adult who can manage life decisions, provide for himself and be a valuable asset to society. We are handed an infant who can do nothing for himself, and in eighteen years we need to teach him basic life, social and economic skills. Thus the process is a gradual releasing of control and instruction while the child grasps and learns responsibility and maturity. Parents cannot let go too quickly, and children must take hold as parents release. Unfortunately, every child and every situation is different. Thus there is no science or foolproof technique to this endeavor.
Research has shown that children who come from a healthy and balanced home will excel in most schooling and social situations, provided they are not abused or bullied in those situations.
Left with those realities, we must then decide: will we send our children to schools where we know values contrary to our own will be taught, or seek an alternative route? Some children will grasp their faith and believe what they learn at home and at church and be a bold and dynamic witness to their friends at school – even at a very young age. Some children will be naturally timid and easily influenced until adulthood and event throughout life. It is the nature of humanity, however to become desensitized to the culture and exposure that we experience daily – so it can be expected that few children will continue through 12 years of an educational system and still be bothered by gender confusion and convicted of Biblical manhood and womanhood when they are daily exposed to tolerance of diverse sexual expression.
We must be a witness to a lost, dark and dying world. We must train our children to be a witness to a lost, dark and dying world. We must also be keenly aware of their individual strengths and weaknesses and seek to put them in situations where they will grow and flourish.
But what about those who have no option but to send their children to public schools? Because this is the reality for many Christian families in our society, we must utilize our voice to take a stand and seek a loving compromise. We cannot and will never force a public school to teach Christianity or Christian values. We can, however, expect our convictions to be protected in the same manner we are expected to protect and respect others’. Therefore, there must be a compromise that protects both. Perhaps we need to financially invest in every single school building to build single-room bathrooms so there is no sharing. Yes, this will increase bathroom visitation time, but it would solve the problem. Perhaps we no longer have gang showers, open rooms for locker rooms, and insist on privacy for every individual. Most junior high students would enjoy this adjustment, as everyone is conscientious about their bodies and changing in front of others before gym class.
As we push for compromise and for our own rights, we must always act in love. A person who is confused about his sexuality needs Jesus more than he needs to understand his body. In fact, it is only Jesus who can help him truly and fully understand his body and sexuality. We must remain in the world to be a light and a witness to the world, without compromising our beliefs and seeking the well being and Spiritual development of our children and those with whom they interact.