When the first transgender student visits your youth group will you be prepared?
Which small group will you invite them to?
Which washroom will they use?
Which cabin will you assign them to at the retreat?
These are some of the things you will want to think through with your leaders but probably not the most important issues.
Consider their Special Needs
I see a student who is transitioning to another gender as someone with special needs. The needs may be physical or psychological but in the same way I would want to help a student in a wheel chair, (I hope that this doesn’t sound offensive to anyone) I would want to accommodate the special needs of this student without making them feel shame, exclusion or humiliation.
Hear What Their Needs Are
Don’t assume too much. Discover where they feel most comfortable. Consider the needs of the other students as well. That is maybe more complicated especially with urban legends circulating about guys in girl’s washrooms and inappropriate behaviour taking place.
Is there a gender neutral washroom available in your building? Could you have a co-ed bible study group that students could opt into?
Some of these logistics are going to feel awkward at first. Some groups have been able to get past the outward appearance to care for the student.
Don’t Give them Celebrity or Oddity Status
Don’t make them a celebrity or an oddity. As much as possible call them by the name they have chosen and wherever possible, address them by the gender they want to be addressed by.
How you treat unusual students sends a message to all the students about their biggest worry: “If people knew me for who I truly am, would they love me?”
In the case of my transgender student, she has voiced to me many times how accepted she feels with my youth group because we aren’t constantly bringing up her gender issues. Everyone is aware that she is a self-identified transgendered person, and she understands what the Bible teaches about God’s ideal for gender and sexuality (she knew it long before she set foot in our church).
What makes her feel so loved and accepted is that she gets to be one of the gang regardless of who she is. The vast majority of our conversations have nothing to do with gender, because gender is just one piece of what makes any given person who they are.
She knows that she can always talk to me about anything gender-related (or about anything at all for that matter) and every now and then she will want to talk about it. The thing is that I don’t feel the need to force the subject because I have learned to see her as more than just a walking case of gender dysphoria.
This should be the case with every person we meet because at the core of every human being is a soul that God loves dearly.
Schools and public groups are scrambling to accommodate transitioning students. Errors will be made. I am hoping that with wisdom, caring for the needs of all youth, we will err on the side of love.