Raising Kids Beyond the Binary: Celebrating God’s Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children – Jamie Bruesehoff

Raising Kids beyond the Binary: Celebrating God’s Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children by Jamie Bruesehoff
Published by Broadleaf Books on September 19, 2023
Genres: LGBTQ+, Non-Fiction, Parenting
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Dare to dream of a church and a world transformed by the bold celebration of transgender and gender-diverse children.
The debate around transgender children rages, with some Christians being the loudest voices against loving and supporting these young people. So, now more than ever, people of faith need to be grounded in God's call to love and affirm young people in who God created them to be. Raising Kids beyond the Binary bypasses the sound bites to give readers a vivid picture of who transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive young people are and what they need to thrive.
Drawing on the author's experience as a mother walking with and learning from her own transgender child, as well as working with hundreds of families across the country doing the same, this book helps parents navigate the emotional, spiritual, and logistical landscape of raising a gender-diverse child.
Grounded in the unequivocal truth of God's deep love and limitless creativity, this book compels readers to move past "all are welcome" to loving and celebrating transgender and gender-diverse youth in the brilliance of their uniqueness, the wisdom of their self-awareness, and the joy of their authenticity. Faith leaders and adults who work with youth will also find the book a helpful tool for gaining insight and building safer and more welcoming congregations for these children.
Rich with personal stories, research, and practical steps, this book dares to dream of a church and a world transformed by the bold and joyful acceptance and celebration of transgender and gender-diverse children and youth. These children need us, and the world needs them.

It is no exaggeration to say this book will save lives. Using practical wisdom from her own journey of parenting and advocacy, Jamie Bruesehoff offers readers a personal, practical, and holy perspective on raising and celebrating transgender and gender-diverse children. Raising Kids Beyond the Binary is part memoir, part parenting book, and part social advocacy and exhortation. You may think “I don’t have a transgender child so I don’t need this book” but if you work with kids, work with people who have kids, or simply want to have an informed opinion on one of the hottest “culture war” issues, you need this book.

The introduction to Raising Kids Beyond the Binary begins with the frankly devastating words “Church was the only place where I ever told my child that she could not be her true self.” In that sentence, we get a good idea of the tone and perspective of this book.

First, Bruesehoff writes from a Christian perspective. This is important. When the strongest and loudest voices against the acceptance and inclusion of transgender people also claim the name and voice of Jesus, it is imperative that there are those who counter those voices using the same name and paradigm. It sets the foundational ground rule that, unlike what some may claim (both Christian and non-Christian), there is a path in Christianity that does not make you choose between your gender identity and Jesus. This book is written from the perspective of a Christian parent (one who has a seminary degree and has worked within the church!) and its primary audience is Christian parents.

Second, Bruesehoff acknowledges that the church has not made things easy. This is also important. Churches love to say they are places where people can be family, be vulnerable, be honest, and take off their mask—but the truth is that a lot of people wear a lot of masks to church and hide who they really are for fear of judgment. There was a willingness to accept their daughter’s gender creativity or breaking of social norms within the house. Wear all the dresses and pink ribbons you want. But in church, it’s time to be conformed to the person the church thinks you ought to be.

Third, when Bruesehoff talks about her daughter’s earliest years, she continues to use the true language of her gender identity. There is no language such as “She was born a boy” or “She was biologically male” or even “presents as male.” It’s the simple truth of as, Bruesehoff states in the book’s next two sentences “My oldest child, Rebekah, is transgender. When she was born, we all thought she was a boy, but she deeply knows herself to be a girl.” It is not that her daughter changed, but that everyone else’s thinking needed to change—that they needed to look beyond biology for the true self.

And, if you’re like me—if you came from a conservative evangelical background, even if you’ve moved significantly away from that—there’s probably warning klaxons ringing in your head about what I’ve said so far. Raising Kids Beyond the Binary realizes that and takes a tone that is calm, nonjudgmental, and clear. Bruesehoff isn’t here to counter the culture war by fighting, but by educating. Some won’t listen. Some won’t care. That’s not Bruesehoff’s audience. But for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, in the chapters that follow Bruesehoff offers a solid and clear medical and theological case for acceptance and inclusion.

There’s so much more I could say. I’ve expended the length of a normal review on just a breakdown of the first sentence. Raising Kids Beyond the Binary spends a whole chapter defining terms and explaining why correct use of these terms matter. Knowing the difference between “gender identity,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation—things that get conflated and make gender seem like its about sex (and therefore sexualizing transgender children) is crucial to having good faith conversations about transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse identities.

Bruesehoff spends a few chapters on the difficult issue of transitioning and moving your children into a gender expression outwardly that aligns with them inwardly. How do you tell their friends? Your friends? Their school? What if there’s pushback? How do you know you’re doing it right? What if your child changes their mind in a couple of years? What if they’re cisgender but just don’t fit narrow gender stereotypes of society? Then, when they’re older, how do you begin to handle medical transitions such as hormone blockers or gender-affirming surgeries? How do you keep your transgender child safe? How do you keep yourselves safe from claims of abuse? These are all questions that Bruesehoff faced and all questions that Raising Kids Beyond the Binary answers. For myself, I had lingering questions and concerns about hormone blockers and puberty that this book answered and clarified for me.

As a result of reading this book, I, as a parent, am more prepared to handle the development of my children’s burgeoning gender identities (no matter what that identity is).

As a result of reading this book, I, as a pastor, am more prepared to talk with parents about their child’s gender identity and walk with them through their child’s development.

As a result of reading this book, I, as a youth pastor, am more prepared to talk with children and teenagers about their own gender identities and development.

As a result of reading this book, I, as a public theologian, am more prepared to talk about the biblical case for acceptance and inclusivity and about a God who themselves transcend gender.

As a result of reading this book, I, as a human, am more prepared to consider ways in which I myself fit into the narrow societal stereotype of my gender expression and sexual orientation.

Jamie Bruesehoff has written a life-changing and life-saving book. If you’re a parent, a pastor, or just simply human you can learn from her wisdom and experience.