Parenting in a Gender Confused World

Written by Anne Marie Williams. Originally published in Family Foundations

CCL couples already know that our current culture is confused to the core about what it means to be a man or a woman. Many parents feel at a loss on how best to approach discussions about gender with their children in a way that doesn’t violate their innocence but does get out in front of cultural misinformation or peer pressure. CCL recently conducted a Gender and Parenting Survey amongst volunteers, and three of the responding couples agreed to share at greater length their lived experience of seeking to parent well in a gender-confused world.

Leigh and Ace Blankenburg

Leigh and Ace Blankenburg of Texas are the parents of 6 children, ranging in age from 15 months to 15 years. In her response to the CCL survey, Leigh lamented the sad and frustrating position parents are regularly put in, having to have conversations with their children about topics that frankly aren’t age-appropriate. While the Blankenburg children know who they are and understand their inherent dignity as children of God, they feel confused by things they see on television commercials and hear on the radio, even in so-called children’s programming.

Ace called gender confusion “similar to how the devil tried to confuse Jesus in the desert. That’s all the devil continuously tries to do is lie and confuse the world. Thankfully, we can try to persevere in our homes to continue to explain the truth, through the help of our Catholic faith, to our children hoping to bring about a generation of strong Christians.”

Parents are the first models of masculinity and femininity for their children

Leigh spoke to the ways that parents are the first models of masculinity and femininity for their children, saying “I am the first glimpse of what a woman is like to our children. My husband is the first glimpse of what a man is like to our children. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gives my husband and me the sacramental grace through our marriage to live up to these roles for each other and for our children.” 

Complementarity of the sexes

The Blankenburgs teach their children that God made women to be able to do certain things that men can’t, and vice versa. As Leigh said, “there is a distinct difference of how God created men and women. Obviously, there are physical differences- only I can breastfeed babies and birth them. The children look to me for those nurturing qualities. My husband does the heavy outside labor that my body can help him with but is not designed to do, like heavy ranch work, fixing tractors or trucks, building fence, repairs for the home, etc. The children look to him for those protective and strong qualities.”

Leigh and Ace also point out how men and women aren’t strictly limited to their gender roles. Leigh elaborated, “When I’m healing from giving birth or if I’m too sick to do my normal routine in the house, my husband helps out with dishes and the kids. When my husband is out of town for work or if he’s sick, then I (with the help of the kids) do his normal routine with outside chores. Again, this helps to teach our children that husband and wife and men and women can do similar jobs and help each other.”

Whether boys or girls, Leigh and Ace want all their children to know “how to cook and clean and care for babies and children,” how to change oil or tires, tend a garden, and care for livestock, and, most importantly, “how to know, love, and serve God in this world like how the Catechism teaches.”

Deacon Bob and Lisa Reinkemeyer

CCL teaching couple Deacon Bob and Lisa Reinkemeyer of Missouri are parents of six living sons and two miscarried children. In their response to the CCL survey, they shared the practicals of helping their sons become rooted in the dignity of every human person. “We have always tried to emphasize their individual strengths and personalities, and their giftedness from the Lord. Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of Personhood & Theology of the Body had such an impact on us. We learned to accept that each of us is a gift, and our lives are sacramental, meaning that they are meant to be life-giving to the world.”

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God

The Reinkemeyers first taught their sons and now teach their young grandchildren that “We all have discordance and disorder in our lives. Pinpointing and addressing it is the lifelong work of each of us. How do we allow our lives to be surrendered to God in the deepest intimacy of the Sacraments instead of turning away?” They specifically encouraged each of their children to pursue “a strong sacramental life with daily prayer and reflection, to make sacrifices for conversions, to frequent confession” and to develop a “ firm reliance on the Grace of the Eucharist  and the Holy Spirit.”

Focus on the goodness of God’s design

They noted that their approach to addressing gender ideology centers on teaching the beauty of God’s design for life, love, and family. Referencing two books they highly recommend, “The Princess and the Kiss” for girls ages 8-12 and “The Squire and the Scroll” for boys ages 8-12, they shared “Parents can comment on the seven deadly sins and even the perversion of today’s culture; but more importantly on the rewards of a life lived in virtue, simplicity, purity, and generosity of service. While they don’t shy away from addressing specific problematic aspects of gender ideology, the Reinkemeyers succinctly summed up their take-home message for their young grandchildren, “God knows best how to make us happy and we cannot change the plan which He designed in our bodies to make our hearts happy.”

Jessica and Bill Davidson

Jessica and Bill Davidson of Ohio are parents of 5 children ranging in age from 21 months up to 11 years old, and both have Masters degrees from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage & Family Studies in Washington, DC.

Let children lead the conversation

The Davidsons shared their approach when their 9-year-old daughter asked what an “all-genders” bathroom was. They wrote, “We let her ask the questions and share her thoughts. We affirmed what she had gotten right and clarified a few things for her. We tried to meet her where she was at and not give more details than needed.” The bathroom incident was not their daughter’s first encounter with the gender paradigm-simply by playing with friends she has both met someone who calls herself trans (and whose own father is transitioning) and experienced “pressure” and “hate” from others to affirm the goodness of it. Bill and Jessica’s response was to “affirm that God has made us unique but also embodied us as male or female. We are to treat all people with dignity and kindness, but we can’t change our sex or gender.” Attending the Guiding Star Project’s Guiding Star Cycle Show last summer has contributed to their daughter being able to “see many of these truths clearly for herself,” so her parents see their most important role right now as “helping her and her brothers deal with the pressure of other kids succumbing to this perspective.” 

Be of good hope

Jessica offered words of wisdom and hope-filled encouragement for other couples seeking to get out in front of the culture on the topic of gender confusion. She commented, “It’s about rooting our kids in their identity in Christ and their identity as part of our family. In all the studying that I’ve done, frequently those who are questioning their gender identity are those who didn’t have a strong identity to begin with.”

She affirmed, “But if you’re rooting your kids in reality, you’re affirming their goodness and their dignity as a child of God- before you start talking about what it means to be a man or a woman and the trans debate. It becomes easier to have these conversations because they’re more confident in who they are.”

She continued, “We as Catholics do not need to be afraid, as parents we don’t need to be afraid of this ideology…. Christ is the answer. His becoming man, the Incarnation, the dignity of being male or female-our Church has what we need if we allow ourselves to dwell in Him.”

She marveled at God’s providence in preparing His Church to face the current state of affairs, saying “He gave us Theology of the Body before the trans ideology came along. He gave us fertility awareness right as they were developing the contraceptive pill. He has not abandoned us, and He has been setting us up with thinkers like Edith Stein and her work on the person.”

CCL couples like the Blankenburgs, Reinkemeyers, and Davidsons take to heart 1 Peter 3:15’s admonition to always be prepared to give a reason for our hope. With the treasures of our Catholic Faith, the practical advice given here, and use of the solid resources, in Jessica’s words, “I think we can be at peace knowing that He is with us and He knew what was coming and He has not abandoned us. What a grace that we have the deposit of Faith and it’s been given to us for such a time as this. He wanted us to be equipped to speak this Truth to the culture, starting with our own families.”