God Made Boys and Girls – Marty Machowski

God Made Boys and Girls: Helping Children Understand the Gift of Gender by Marty Machowski
Series: God Made #4
Published by New Growth Press on September 2, 2019
Genres: Children's, Children's Educational
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God Made Boys and Girls helps children understand that their gender is a gift from the God who made them and loves them. The story begins as the girls and boys at Grace Christian School are discussing if boys will always be boys and girls will always be girls. Their teacher explains that God gives each of us the gift of being male or female before we are born, and that you continue to be a boy or a girl whether you like to climb trees or play house, play tag or color pictures, cause a ruckus or sit quietly.
In a world where there is so much confusion about gender and identity, pastor and best-selling author Marty Machowski shares the simple, clear truth that all of us are made in God's image as either male or female and what God made is very good! Included at the back of the book is a special section just for parents and caregivers that gives biblical guidance and help as they have this important conversation with their children.

I feel like I have to preface this review by saying that the previous three books in this series have been probably the three best books I’ve seen come from New Growth and are books I feel are important must-reads to help your child’s development.

The first book in the series God Made All of Me was a carefully-worded book that taught children about private parts and gave them autonomy over their bodies. One of the most powerful statements in the book: “If OK to say no because we don’t always want to be touched even if it’s by someone you love.”

The second book dealt with diversity—mostly racial/ethnic diversity, but also featuring differences dealing with disability. God Made Me and You is a celebration of the differences in the people God has created.

The third book dealt with special needs. God Made Me Unique, written by Joni and Friends, took on the difficult topic of special needs, teaching children that God has created everyone special with a purpose in his Kingdom.

So this series is no stranger to difficult topics and has always managed to approach them in careful and nuanced ways that remain appropriate for children. In God Made Boys and Girls, New Growth tasks Marty Machowski with writing God’s gift of gender in a way that children can understand.

And while this book isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be from page one, neither does it live up to the carefully thought out and nuanced takes that I had come to expect from this series. Page one has a girl named Maya declining an invitation from the girls to jump rope to instead play football with the boys. As a matter of fact, as one teacher silently notes to himself, Maya is better than the boys at all the boy-things they are doing.

Yikes. Quite heavy-handed on the gender stereotyping. Cringe. Cringe. But…turn the page. One of the boys tells Maya:

If you keep playing with the boys, you will turn into a boy!

That’s not what Maya wants, so she asks her teacher if that’s true.

“No,” Mr. Ramirez replied. “That’s not true. Girls can’t turn into boys. God made them girls for life…”

And this jumpstarts the lesson for when they are back in the classroom. In a simple and understandable way, Machowski illustrates how girls have XX chromosomes (what he calls “a gender code”) and boys have XY. He goes back to creation—to Adam and Eve—to show how God created male and female to complement one another.

He then tears down those gender stereotypes I was afraid he was going to affirm on page one. Some girls like to sing and dance. Some like to run and climb trees. Some like to cook and others like to fix cars. And the same is true for boys! This is a powerful lesson: what we do or like or think is not what determines our gender. It’s really the highlight of the book and intended to be the story’s main point.

From here, the story parlays into one of salvation and how anyone who follow Jesus can be saved and forgiven. It’s not directly tied into the concept of gender—or gender dysphoria, thankfully—and would be sort of a weird aside except that it’s just part of the idea that you need to throw the salvation message into every Christian teaching.

The very last page touches on gender dysphoria, simply saying that “We should show love to people who might be confused about their gender and about how God made them.” Certainly not a bad thing—much better than a whole of Christians do—but the expectations of this series were so high that I was disappointed that Machowski did not tackle the concept of gender dysphoria in more detail.

And this is a topic that Christians have to consider. I work at a Christian pre-school and one year, there was a biologically male student whose parents were raising him—in dress, name, and pronouns—as a girl. It was a very confusing time for their class.

The Parent’s Note afterword does get into the concept of genetic disorders and how that affects gender, but it needed to somehow be incorporated into the main text of the book. There needed to be an understanding that there may be biological or psychological reasons—genetic and otherwise—that cause an individual to want to present as a different gender.

It’s a complex topic and I’ll give Machowski credit for what this book tries to do. If I had an easy solution for how to incorporate a real and robust discussion of gender and sexuality in a children’s book, I’d hit him a bit harder for not doing it. But seeing as I don’t have a better solution, I find it difficult to criticize what he’s done.

In the end, though, that makes this book not so much about gender as it is about gender stereotypes. And it thinks by talking about how we shouldn’t stereotype genders, we’re also talking about gender itself, and that’s not quite the case. So my thoughts about this book are complex and complicated—hence the almost 1,000 word review—but so is the subject matter, even more so when it’s being presented to children. God Made Boys and Girls is a good conversation about removing gender stereotypes; it is not as good a conversation about gender itself.