Remove Logs, Save Lives: Affirming Trans Youth

Author’s content warning: This article addresses transphobia and suicidal ideation among LGBTQ+ youth.

Self-proclaimed former lesbian Rosaria Butterfield’s upcoming book Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age is due to be released this September.

The following transphobic quote is one of her many dangerous arguments: “When the atheistic therapist asks if you want a live son or a dead daughter, the answer is that all Christians want our children to be dead to sin and alive to Christ.”

The book has already been enthusiastically endorsed by people from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Focus on the Family, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and The Daily Wire.

When I saw this preview quote appear on my Facebook feed, I felt ill. Is the Christian Right actually encouraging parents to desire the death of their youth? Does Butterfield not realize the danger of conflating literal death with metaphorical death?

According to a recent study by the Trevor Project, transgender youth are 10 times more likely than their straight or cisgender peers to attempt suicide, with 73% of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 58% experiencing symptoms of depression.

Additionally, the study found that 82% of LGBTQ+ youth wanted mental health care in the past 12 months; 60% of those who wanted that care were unable to receive it.

For those who share sentiments similar to Butterfield’s, a common belief is that being LGBTQ+ makes you depressed as a consequence of your “sin.” The logic then follows that if you could stop being queer, then your depression would go away because you’d no longer be living a life of “sin.”

This shallow argument overlooks the numerous outside factors that impact queer people’s daily life: bullying, harassment, discrimination in hiring and the current anti-LGBTQ+ laws being passed all over the U.S.

That argument is a bit like telling a blonde person to dye their hair so they’re no longer the butt of “dumb blonde” jokes. Sure, their outward appearance may be more palatable to you, but that doesn’t change what their natural hair color is at its root.

It also attempts to blame queer people for how other people treat them – as if we are responsible for the violence other people enact upon us. Is the aim of your right hook bad enough that you need my hand to guide your fist to my face?

Suppressing who LGBTQ+ people are at the root doesn’t reduce queer youth suicide rates, but do you know what does? The presence of affirming adults in the life of that youth – adults who examined their own prejudice, repented and now look upon their kid with Christ’s inclusive love.

According to the Trevor Project, having one family member affirm them reduces the likelihood that a trans youth will attempt suicide by more than half.

The affirmation of LGBTQ+ people is essential mental health care. In a time when transgender people – youth included – are being villainized for simply existing, they need to know that there are people in their lives who support them unconditionally.

I know some folks may not fully be on board theologically with affirming the existence of transgender and nonbinary people, even if they claim to have compassionate feelings toward the queer community.

To those people, I’d gently remind you of a teaching of Jesus from the beginning of Matthew 7. He begins with the reminder to not judge others, lest we be judged.

He then says this: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”

Are the logs of prejudice in our eyes more valuable than the literal lives of these children?

To create an environment where an entire demographic of people experiences higher rates of depression and then blame them for having depression is the epitome of ignoring the log in our eye.

Perhaps when you remove the log of prejudice from your eye, you will see that the sin strangling our youth isn’t being trans (because that is not a sin), but the sin of self-hatred they’ve absorbed from the world – perhaps even from you.

Jesus also said in Matthew 19:14: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the ‘Kin-dom’ of heaven belongs.”

Let us remove the logs from our own eyes and instead look upon our LGBTQ+ youth the way Christ does: with open arms and a warm embrace.

The lives of our youth depend on it.

Editor’s note: This article is part of a series this week calling attention to May as Mental Health Month. The previous article in the series is:

Churches Can Help ‘Stamp Out Stigma’ Around Mental Health | Starlette Thomas

Addressing Mental Health Post-Pandemic | Michael Chancellor 

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