Caring for Transgender Self-Identifying Students

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?”

One Pastors Story:

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.

Love Wisely

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.

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Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Adviser to the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for over 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email


  1. Carolynsays:

    Can you explain what you mean by calling some documented reports urban legends? Love wisely.. That statement needs to be explored a whole lot more.

  2. Steve Pikesays:

    This is an ancient problem not a new one there have always been folks coming to church who are confused about their gender. Now that children are taught to be gender confused the churches role as given by God is to help them see God’s truth as it always has been. It’s unfortunate if they have been seen earlier since they have always been here. I can only accommodate gender confused people to the degree that I accommodate any other sin. For example the convicted pedophile is only allowed in the sanctuary and foyer unless accompanied by an adult. Welcoming yes! treating it as OK no! And that couple that are living together yes I keep after them because its not OK! That is what the gender confused person needs to see. God has one standard for all of us he considers all of us special. If we accommodate with special bathrooms you may as well prepare the special marriage vows you will use and baby dedication service you will use. Love offers help for change not accommodation.

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for following and weighing in on this.
      It is really difficult. My intention is not to normalize this situation and spread greater confusion. I don’t want to make a celebrity out of a confused student but at the same time I don’t want them to be bullied. They need help. I hope I didn’t come across as saying this is okay.
      I agree completely in the case of an offending pedophile.

    • Tim Craigsays:

      If I may, we have family bathrooms for the case of parents changing their kids, or a toddler needs help to unbutton, usually it is a one stall bathroom, and in some churches they just keep it to that have two or three washrooms for people wit wheel chairs or family situations so then the others don’t get as crowded.
      instead of having people feel awkward, the washroom does not need fancy names but just the washroom. this washroom could be used for family people in wheel chair and well if need be for people who might just want privacy outside the larger washrooms.
      I don’t see that we are treating transgender people any differently from any other people when it comes to ministry, I would not put transgenders in to a leadership role that would make things difficult for them or for us. if we are to have leadership model as what the Bible expresses, then whether or not they are believers or not if they are not lining up in what we see a model of a leader is then we would not put them in to the role.
      Yes we love the person, but yet we are not going to let go on what we feel is the word of God.
      the address in this article is pointing out just that. not making people uncomfortable, but you would treat the situation based on what it is. you would do your best not to make a show out of it and the person who may be feeling one way or the other should feel safe.
      Again when it comes to marriage or other matters if we value what Scripture says, then we would council them accordingly and let them know that we can not do to the way we stand on the word. it can be a slippery slope, but if we choose that you must be a member to be married inside the church, and through that the information is clear in what we stand on as members of the church then we are to be aware of who we are allowing to be members and have the place where it is in clear print. again you are welcoming and the person may be part of various things but being at a church does not mean you are a member.
      Ke part we need to reveal the Love of God. not allowing ourselves to be walked over but to let people know they are loved.

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