Transgender Camp for Kids

The issues and conversations around transgender continues to accelerate as it becomes a major point of interest in the country.  Discussions like which public restroom should someone who is transgender use?  Can they serve in the military?  Are sex-change surgeries ethical?

The transgender spotlight has now even been turned onto children...some as young as 3-to-4-years-old.

An example is the Rainbow Day Camp.  It's a camp in the city of El Cerrito (San Fran area) for children who say they are transgender or "gender fluid."  The camp is for children ages 4 to 12 and is one of the first in the world for "transgender preschoolers."

When kids check in, they are given a name tag with their pronoun of choice.  Some choose "he."  Some choose "she."  Some choose "he/she" or "they" or no pronoun at all.  Some kids even change their name or pronouns daily, based on what feels right that day.  Specialists say the camp reflects a larger number of children across the nation who are coming out as transgender at younger and younger ages.  Some say children can know as young as 2 that they are transgender.

The protocol today for when a child begins to indicate that he or she is transgender is called "gender affirmation."  It focuses on helping transgender children to socially transition.  In other words, to live as the gender they identify with rather than the one they were born with until they are old enough to decide about medical procedures like puberty blockers and hormone treatments.

Consider these statements from some of the specialists in this field.

"When people say, 'Isn't this too young?' my question back to them is, 'Too young for what?  How young do people know their gender?'  The answer to that is some people know it at 3, and some people know it at 30." 
- Johanna Olson-Kennedy,  The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles

"Enrollment has tripled over the past few years.  There has been a 'sea change - maybe we can even call it a tsunami - in the number of little kids showing up with their families'."
Diane Ehrensaft, San Francisco's Child and Adolescent Gender Center 

"Scarlett" is an example of one of the kids who attends the camp.  Scarlett is 6-years-old and was born as a boy.  She first started expressing her female gender at the age of 2.  She would be sent off to preschool in boy's clothes but would change into spare clothes at school and come home dressed as a girl.  She fully transitioned to Scarlett at age 6 and started going by that name all the time, using female pronouns and wearing girl's clothes.

There is obviously a big controversy about whether parents should let children transition to another gender...especially at a younger age.  It's not something that is going to diminish, but will probably pick up momentum in our rapidly changing culture.

What should our response be as children's ministry leaders?

How should we approach this?

How should we navigate this when families in our ministry who are experiencing this come to us?

What should we teach our children about this?

What does the Bible teach about this?

In a recent post, I shared what I believe is a balanced, Bible-based approach to take.  You can read it at this link - "Transgender Children...a Christian Leader's Response."

Ministry is messy.  Last week our family was eating dinner with a gay couple that we know.  During the meal, I was reminded that I was right where Jesus would be.  He spent time not with the Pharisees, but with those who needed Him.  He was right in the middle of the messiness - offering hope, forgiveness and love.