My friend and I recently held a discussion on gender identity and the pressure exerted on our young children in a bid to fit in. I know this is a super sensitive matter, but sometimes it is necessary to talk on sensitives issues.

For some reason, before the discussion with my friend, I had thrown the gender matter in the back closet of my mind; you know like we usually do when we are not faced with a problem directly – until a similar thing happens to us. I have always known trying to influence our children to choose between genders to be a sad thing, but did not think anything much about it during or after our discussion, until a few days later in a restaurant as we had lunch. Sitting across from our table, was a “couple” – two young girls, about 18 years of age. I say 18 because I did not want to believe they were younger than that, although they actually looked much younger, like they could have been about 15 or 16.

The young girl dressed like a man, walked like a man and treated the other girl with utmost care and attention, just like a man would a lady, when they are out on a date. The jolt for me was that; I could have very well been looking at my own grandchildren. I think by now we are used to older people coming out to state their “truths” openly. But seeing those young children, going in the way I knew they were broke my heart into many small pieces. Did their parents know they were out on a ‘date’?  Who was advising them, what kind of advice? Did they even understand themselves well enough to know that this was actually what they wanted for themselves? Or maybe they were just being adventurous? Very many questions came to my mind. So, if this is what is happening to our young people, what and where is the hope for our future generations?

Gender based issues are now an open topic, with children being taught in schools that they are free to explore and choose what gender they would like to belong to. Peer pressure then mounts as they try to discover who they actually are, where they belong; how and where they can fit in: Are they boys or girls? Is being a boy better than being a girl? – (and vice versa); Why are they this particular gender and not the other? If they choose to belong to one gender and not the other, how will their friends see them? Will they be accepted? Do they want to have gender change? How will their parents and friends think of them if they say they belong to one gender versus the other? What if they feel they’d want to change back to their original gender down the line? I put myself in those shoes, and remembered that I never even knew what gender meant, until maybe I was about 10 years old; and even then, it was not a major concern. If anything, we were not allowed to dwell on those issues like that. But I do understand this is another age.

It is hard to imagine the internal struggles children go through, and the sad thing is that they may not be able to share with their parents, because for one, parents are extremely busy to notice there is something going on with the child, and secondly, this is a super sensitive issue that most of us do not want to discuss or even imagine it could happen to our children. When children sense the doors to their parents’ hearts are closed, they will seek other avenues, where they can get solace. Some turn to the internet to try and get answers, and we can only imagine where that can lead.  I know a few who turned to drugs, overdosed on them and died, while others turned to alcohol. When all is said and done, I believe that more than judge, isolate and penalize, we need and ought to love our children, no matter their affiliations or choices in life. Love is the key word. It is the language that the deaf hear, and the blind see. We love the person, but hate the sin.

We have allowed our children to be put in direct contradiction with God, and we look on silently, saying its children’s rights. What are we doing? Then we wonder why our children are getting depressed? We have done it. We are guilty. Please, if we never do anything else, let’s just pray for the sanity of our children, if we are not strong enough to stand against it. I do understand if we speak up, we are marked, discriminated, ridiculed, criticized, and ostracized. But who will stand for our children if we do not? It may be their right to decide what they want, but do they really understand what it is they are being told to choose? Doesn’t choice also come with understanding? Isn’t undue influence over anyone, especially children, an unfair thing? Wouldn’t that be considered as coercion? I am just asking.

For lack of a better hypothesis, I imagine this scenario: You are a famous artist, and have done your best to produce the best piece of art that could ever be produced. You take your art to the art gallery for safe custody, and for probably getting the best price. You then go on your way, believing the gallery custodian to be a faithful and honest person who will ensure your art is well taken care of, protected and cleaned, so that it fetches as much money as it can. After a while, you come back to the gallery and to your chagrin, the custodian has been messing around with your piece, trying to add on more lines and colors, to match what he thinks your piece ought to have looked like. This is exactly what we have done. We are God’s custodians of His best creation, our children. He put them in our hands for us to take care of, nurture and protect them, but instead, we think He made a mistake creating them the way He did, and so we are busy trying to shape them to fit what we think they ought to be.

It is OK for grown people to make their choices, but it is a tragedy to unduly influence children to make choices that they do not fully understand.

I understand the age we live in, and I agree there had to be great minds, sound thoughts and good reasons behind the fight for all these freedoms and rights.  Freedom, of necessity, needs to run hand in hand with responsibility; else there would be detriment. Because seldom will young people take on responsibility willingly, the onus then falls on us as parents to ensure our generations do take the necessary responsibility. Parental refusal or inability to guide their children always reminds me of the very sad case of a teenage girl, about 12 at the time, who became rebellious, and went into prostitution. The mother encouraged her, even took the money she earned this way from her. Many days later, they appeared on a popular TV talk show, and she cried bitterly asking her mom: “Mama, why didn’t you tell me I was wrong, I was only a kid, you were the grown up?” No amount of tears, regret or apologies could ever remedy such a situation.

There are theories that claim that life is an open book with no blue print, but I beg to differ. Life is a well purposed, intentional journey, that has one true and very reliable blue print, but people have refused to follow it: The Bible. I seldom talk about my faith, but on this issue, I have this to say: If God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins; we know the stage is being set for the same thing to happen. 

Finally, if we have not already done so, I think now would be a good time to start that conversation on gender issues with our children, no matter how hard it seems. At least let us rest in the knowledge that we gave guidance and protection to God’s precious gifts.  Will it be awkward and hard? Experience showed me it was most awkward and very hard, but the yields were and continue to be very well worth the effort. Remember if we as parents do not talk to our children, another person will, and it may not be in the version we would want for our children to know or receive that information.

Facing the unthinkable sometimes may save a soul from self-destruction, which is a precious thing. Remember protecting one another, and especially our children, is protecting the universe, because we are all one.

It is still a beautiful world, let’s strive to be happy.

Susan Wambui

Kenyan Parents in USA Senior Columnist.

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