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A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health proposes that using a transgender youth’s chosen name instead of their name given at birth reduces mental health risks.1
The study demonstrates the power of acceptance in the lives of transgender youth. Lead Them Home has taught for many years that “acceptance does not equal approval.”2
Acceptance welcomes people to God. Rejection harms mental health, increases risk of suicide, and pushes people further from Christ.3
As Christians called to love as Jesus loves, we cannot offer a Gospel of rejection or exclusion. Rather, we must remove obstacles that block transgender youth from coming to God. We must level the playing field and nourish their faith identity.4
Therefore, here are three reasons to use a transgender youth’s chosen name.
1. Using a youth’s chosen name shows respect for their humanity.
As youth enter and move through their teenage years, they become increasingly autonomous. As Guiding Families notes, the role of the parents moves from authority to influence. Refusing to use a chosen name shows a desire to control. It does not allow a young person to move into adulthood.5
Refusing to use a chosen name shows a desire to control.
Demonstrate an age-appropriate “handing off” of increasing responsibility to teens. For a younger teenager, this could mean parents granting them permission to make certain decisions regarding name, pronouns, and personal interests. For an older teen, it could be allowing them to buy the clothing they desire. Create trust and be an example of godly respect, even amidst disagreements.
2. Using a youth’s chosen name demonstrates genuine care for what is happening in their life.
You are engaging in an intimate part of a young person’s identity. This level of trust is difficult to attain and easy to break. Whether you are a parent, pastor, teacher, or youth worker, refusing to use a chosen name can create distrust in a transgender teen’s future relationships. They may doubt genuine care from others and anticipate rejection from those closest to them. It may drive young people to cut off those closest to them — even family — in order to self-protect. Sadly, this outcome never serves the best interest of one’s mental health. It can also disrupt faith identity formation.
3. Using a youth’s chosen name expresses acceptance for who they are.
You can reinforce that your love for a teen is not conditional upon the way they dress, the words they use, or anything else they do (or don’t do).
You can reinforce that your love for a teen is not conditional upon the way they dress, the words they use, or anything else they do (or don’t do). They are loved and accepted simply because they are made in the image of God. Their worth and value is placed solely in God’s love for them, which was displayed through Jesus Christ on the cross.
Setting Worthy Goals
At Lead Them Home, we aim to enhance church inclusion, increase family acceptance, protect again victimization, and nourish faith identity in Jesus Christ. Using a transgender youth’s chosen name is an immense step toward all of these goals. Using a transgender youth’s chosen name is not a rejection of theology. Instead, it is a demonstration of acceptance from God and the Church.
If you take such a courageous step, be prepared: criticism will come! As people misread your intentions and level their accusations, just take in how oppression feels. Let this experience be a reminder of the wounds that are often inflicted on trans youth. And remember, no one has to give you permission to love a young person. No one has to give you permission to love your own child!
A transgender youth who is respected, cared for, and accepted by their church and family will be able to run toward God on a level playing field.
Let us then act with our dependence on God, that He has “a plan to prosper, not harm, to give hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).6 A transgender youth who is respected, cared for, and accepted by their church and family will be able to run toward God on a level playing field.
2 Proctor, Josh “Does Acceptance of LGBT+ Loved Ones Equal Approval?” (https://www.leadthemhome.org/2018/03/acceptance-equal-approval.html)
4 —— (p. 40).
5 —— (p. 42).
6 The Holy Bible, New International Version. (1984). Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House.