What If My Son Wants to Dress Like a Girl?
What if my son wants to dress like a girl? That’s the question that I’m going to tackle this week on the podcast. The reality is, as I answer that question, it’s actually only one manifestation of a parental difficulty that could come out in all sorts of ways. You might ask the question differently. You might say, what if my daughter wants to dress like a boy? You might say, what if my little girl wants to play with boys’ toys? Or if my little boy wants to play with girls’ toys? There are all sorts of things going on here in the parental realm that could make a question like this manifest itself, but just for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to go with what if my son wants to dress like a girl? We need to say that answering this question in 2023 is a lot more controversial than it used to be. We used to live in a society and exist in a parenting culture that knew the answer to this question. Now we live in a society and exist in a parenting culture that has a very strong answer to this question. But honestly, it’s the wrong answer. So my job on Marked by Grace is to try to answer practical issues of life from the perspective of the Bible and the good news of the grace of Jesus Christ.
What the Bible Teaches
So to get our bearings on this question, the first thing we need to do is say, very honestly and straightforwardly, that being a little boy and being a little girl is a biblical reality. In Genesis 1:27 it says, “God created man in His own image in the image of God, He created him, male and female, He created them.” God made us to be men and women. God made people to grow up. And as they grow up, they are little boys and little girls, and they become young men and young women, and then they become full-grown adults, but God made our genders. They are not constructs. They’re not up to our determination. Whether you are a boy or a girl, whether you’re a man or a woman, is based on the decree of God in your life. And it’s also biblical not just to acknowledge that God made us to be men and women or God made us to be boys and girls but to acknowledge that we should act in a way that he has made us to be. There are all sorts of areas in the Bible that we can point out to address this issue. But one really straightforward passage is in 1 Corinthians 16:13, which says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men.” The apostle Paul writes to men, and he says, you need to act like a man. If you’re a man, you need to act like a man. It is right that you live and act and present as God made you to be. So the question is, what happens when you have a little tiny human, a little tiny boy, or a little tiny girl, and they’re trying to figure out what it means to be a human being? They’re trying to figure out what it means to be a little boy or a little girl. And there are all sorts of things that happen. There are all sorts of things that misfire all sorts of curiosities that happen as little kids are trying to do this. Honestly, what I want to say is if your question is, what if my son wants to dress like a girl, I would say you need to do to your child what you would do with other issues where there was confusion or where there was misbehavior. If you have a kid who is watching too much TV, if you have a kid who is being rude to other children, if you have a child who is misbehaving at school, if you have a kid who likes to play with sharp objects. You do this parental intervention, and it goes something like this. Don’t do that. Hey, buddy, we don’t play with our friends that way. Hey, honey, we don’t talk to our mommy that way. Hey, listen, I love you. We’re not going to watch this on the television. We’re not going to play this in the backyard. We’re not going to do this to the dog. We’re not going to act that way at the dinner table. There are 100 million things in parenting where we just say, don’t do that. Do this.
That is also a really biblical idea. In Proverbs 22:6, it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go. And even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Now listen, there are some interpretively difficult issues about that passage that I don’t have time to get into right now. The point I’m raising with it right now today is that it’s a very straightforward command in Scripture that parents are supposed to train their children. We’re supposed to train our kids how to act. It is right that if God made your son a boy, and if God wants your son to act like a boy, it is right that you would train up that child in what it means to be a boy. If your son wants to dress like a girl, you say, hey, buddy, that’s not the way boys dress. That’s not the kind of clothes that boys put on. This is the way boys dress. And honestly, most of the time, this is not that big of a deal. I mean, in our culture today, we have all sorts of parental confusion, where, you know, the boy comes downstairs with mommy’s dress, and he’s like, look, “I look like mommy, I like mommy’s dress.” And the parents freak out. And they say, oh, my goodness, he wants to be a girl. And we have to honor that. And we can’t impose on his humanity. And we can’t impress our preferences on his, on his personhood, and all this kind of thing. Most of the time, it’s just a little kid experimenting. Nobody needs to freak out. Nobody needs to give the kid more authority than they have. You don’t need to worry that your whole kid’s life is going to be one of confusion. He just saw Mom wearing the dress, or he saw a color that he liked, and he put it on. The parental response is not to freak out. It’s not to be upset, or certainly never cruel, but just to say, hey, buddy, that’s Mommy’s dress. That’s not the way we dress. God made you to be a little boy. And here is what we’re going to do the same thing. With behaviors, you can do the same thing if it’s a little girl. Most of the time, this is not that big of a deal. It’s just curious experimentation.
Now, sometimes, it actually is more of a serious thing. And it becomes what psychologists refer to as gender dysphoria, where you have a sustained situation where a kid really is unhappy with their biological sex and their internal sense of their gender is different than whom God made them to be. Here is what you need to know about that. That is a problem. Everybody admits it’s a problem. The secular solution to the problem, which is insane and sinful. The secular solution to the problem is let’s change your body. Let’s change your hormones. Let’s try to change who God made you to be as though such a thing were possible. That is an insane, heartbreaking, terrible solution. Here’s the thing, it’s not just insane. This is really cruel. The secular advice on how to, quote-unquote, help our children on these issues is actually an attack on their bodies. It’s an attack on their future. It is destroying their lives. In the decades ahead, we are really going to regret what we have done to our kids by letting them persist in their foolishness and in their curiosity without parental instruction. A better solution is to bring your thinking into alignment with your body. Some people say let’s bring our bodies in alignment with our thinking. That’s not the way it works. What we need to do is bring our thinking in alignment with our bodies. If you wonder whether that’s a good idea or not for your kid, just remember 75%. 75% of people who grow up with gender dysphoria and go through gender reassignment, 75% of those people still report hugely abnormal rates of suicidality, depression, and all sorts of things. That is to say that gender reassignment doesn’t take away the pain in the heart of a person struggling with these kinds of things. Another reality, about 75%, that’s even more important for this conversation. Is that 75% of kids who experienced this kind of serious gender dysphoria resolves by their teenage years. So, parents, if you’re a little boy wants to dress like a little girl, don’t freak out and get angry. Don’t freak out and get worried. You don’t even need to waver through all sorts of questions and concerns. You just do Proverbs 22:6, and just like you teach your kids about loving Jesus and believing in Jesus, just like you teach your kids about the gospel and just like you teach them about staying away from the stove, you say, hey, let’s not do that, let’s dress like a boy.