The news Lia Thomas received last week was not what Lia Thomas wanted. You might know Thomas as the news-worthy male college swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania who became the first openly transgender college athlete to win a Division 1 national championship back in 2022 in the women’s 500 frestyle event. Thomas was, to be sure, testing the waters (no pun intended), hoping to become for the transgender community what Rosa Parks and other civil rights trailblazers admirably were to the African-American community. The news Thomas received from the Court of Arbitration for Sport was that he did not have standing to challenge the World Aquatics gender inclusion policy. As a result, Thomas is ineligible to compete in women’s events, including in the upcoming Olympics. Common-sense, logic, science, genetics, genitalia, and biological reality prevailed. . . as they should.

I fully realize that some of my statements in the prior paragraph will irritate and anger some. . . from my use of pronouns to everything I mentioned in that last sentence. Put my faith-perspective aside for a minute, along with the deep conviction – historically held in the church and never widely-questioned until recently – that there is a gender binary and God made His image-bearers male and female, and you still have to conclude just from common-sense that this was the correct ruling.

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot over the past few years, all the while trying to make sense of it with a balance of grace and truth regarding what’s been unfolding in terms of the evolving (or devolving) understanding and practice of gender in today’s world. So much hangs in the balance. As a follower of Jesus Christ there are so many things to take into account when looking at situations like these, or when interacting with those dabbling in the transgender ideology in thought, word, and deed. I have heard many say that in these situations we should “lead with love,” and I wholeheartedly agree. The model of our loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ requires nothing less from us. We need to have compassion on all people, and like Jesus, we need to see all people as Divine image-bearers, worthy of respect and dignity. But where I think we so easily fail is assuming that showing compassion and love requires nothing more or less than affirming others in their desires and choices, an approach we more and more take in just about everything these days.

How has this approach to compassion and love played out in the lives of those dear kids who are trying to navigate all this stuff? The mounting number of detransitioners are now telling us stories that should wake us up to the answer. I would encourage you to watch “The Detransition Diaries: Saving Our Sisters,” a film from The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network (CBC). I watched the film a few months ago and now I’m reading through the book, The Detransition Diaries, from the CBC’s Jennifer Lahl and Kallie Fell. The stories are compelling and serve to lead us out of the fog that has settled on us over the last few years regarding how to best understand and respond to the philosophical and functional realties of the transgender ideology.

Let me share just a short bit of Helena’s story, which you can read about in the book and see on the film. Depressed and working to navigate the early years of her adolescence, she spent loads of time online. She didn’t fit in with her peers. So, seeing messages like “If you don’t fit in , that’s a sign you’re trans” and “If you don’t like your body, then that’s a sign you’re trans,” she believed that transitioning would remedy these feelings, and she began to think she was a boy. Lahl and Fell write, “At school, no one reached out to here even though she was clearly in distress and struggling. But, she says, when she finally came out as trans, ‘They all wanted to bend over backwards to help me.'” Helena’s story, like most, tells us that people like some teachers, counselors, medical professionals, etc. are all too eager to affirm she was trans without ever taking the time to dig more deeply into what was really going on for her.

Helena began to transition, but “transitioning was not turning out to be what she expected. She had thought she was going to blossom and finally become her authentic self. But instead, she had become profoundly dysfunctional.” There’s much more to her story, but by age 19 she was detransitioning.

Here’s what Lahl and Fell write in their book: “Now that Helena sees gender ideology from a different point of view, it is difficult for her to understand how anyone who has experienced what it’s like to be a teenager can fail to understand how unprepared adolescents are to make such life-changing decisions. Teenagers do not have developed foresight and can’t realistically picture being adults – they tend to get attached to the idea that appeals to them at the moment and think their perspective will never change. It is hard for Helena to understand how the physicians, therapists, and school personnel she spoke with lacked this common-sense understanding of adolescent experiences, and she believes it is irresponsible for people who work with adolescents not to take a look at the demographics and observe the rise of gender confusion in adolescent girls. A responsible, ethical person who thinks critically and rationally would surely know that we must not allow adolescents, who are in a state of emotional and intellectual immaturity, to make permanent life-changing decisions based on incomplete knowledge. The bare minimum of proper care for adolescents, she reflects, must surely include recognizing the possibility that there is more to their story than appears on the surface. She is disappointed that even these very basic professional expectations are no longer being met, that adults with authority are willing say, ‘Let’s carry out these permanent medical changes to your body.'”

I can’t help but think that Helena and kids like her need adults in their lives who will love them enough to tell them the truth, all the time, especially when the destructive lies that exist in our world undermine their human flourishing as divine image-bearers. . . leading them into making choices that will destroy them both now and for the rest of their lives.

For all of us who are Christian youth workers, charged with leading kids into embracing and living the new life offered in the Gospel, there’s a message here. Are we really loving kids when we affirm them to live into their momentary and fleeting feelings and desires? Aren’t we called to guide and direct, loving kids best by telling them the truth about sex, gender, and everything else? Shouldn’t our most basic of marching orders direct us to pause and consider what we are teaching and telling our kids in light of the ninth commandment? And if we are ever tempted to hold back on the truth, thinking that this is the best way to love our students, shouldn’t we consider these words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

As you ponder truth-telling as it relates to all aspects of our lives, I would encourage to read this article, “Friendly Wounds”, by R. Carlton Wynne. He writes, “What sort of friend do you want? Someone who supports your selfish ways, flatters your fancies, and praises your preferences? Someone who accompanies you along the paths to which this world beckons? An honest look at ourselves can reveal this is not what we need. A truly loyal and steadfast friends risks offense by telling us what need to hear to hold us to the path of life. . . ” continue reading here.

“I love you enough to tell you the truth.” I need to love and be loved like that.

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