Raising Kids Beyond the Binary | A Conversation with Jamie Bruesehoff

Growing up in conservative evangelicalism, I had always been taught that a transgender gender identity could not be part of a Christian worldview. However, when I began to actually critically think about the theological arguments made to uphold this belief, I found that they didn’t really hold up to scrutiny. In 2018, I read a Facebook post  by Asher O’Callaghan that challenged the binary as part of the “creative order.” O’Callaghan notes that while God created night and day, those distinctions are not binary. In fact, we marvel most at sunrises and sunsets. That theological reflection led me on a journey of learning that continues in this conversation with Christian LGBTQ+ advocate Jamie Bruesehoff. Jamie has a way with words and her clarity of conviction and passion brings a lot of grace and love into a conversation so often characterized by hate and vitriol. I loved this conversation with them.

The Conversation | Jamie Bruesehoff

This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Josh Olds: So just to begin, for any listeners who are not familiar with your family’s story, give us an overview of what that is.

Jamie Bruesehoff: I am the parent of three spirited children who all have big personalities, they are 17, 14, and 9. And my oldest child, my daughter Rebecca, is transgender. And so that means that when she was born, we thought she was a boy. But she deeply knows herself to be a girl. And she’s been living as herself out in the world since she was eight years old. In walking with her on this journey, and getting to understand what it means to be transgender, and how best to support her and then educating the people around us about what Rebecca needs to thrive in the world, we kind of found that our circles of advocacy and education just got bigger and bigger. So it started with our family, and our community and her school, and then just went from there. And so we kind of stumbled into this work of public advocacy. This being what our family does, and what I do for a living. And we’re also a family of faith. Rebecca’s dad is a Lutheran pastor, and I have a lot of experience working in the church. So we come to this as people living at that intersection of LGBTQ+ identities and Christian faith.

Josh Olds: I think a fundamental question, especially for someone who is a Christian, who is coming from a tradition where either gender identity was not talked about, or if it was talked about it was talked about in a negative light…How do you align transgender or gender diverse identities with your Christian worldview?

Jamie Bruesehoff: I think for us uniquely, this was not a plane of struggle for us. Our personal story with Rebecca, she was really young and she – before we came to understand who she was – she went through a pretty intense period of struggle of anxiety and depression. And she didn’t say it was about her gender, we were still finding language and all of that. But eventually, as we were peeling back the layers of the mental health crisis she experienced with the support of professionals, it gave her room to unpack her identity. And so, as we understood Rebecca to be Rebecca, and she went out into the world as herself, we saw her step into the fullness of her identity, and that joy and that confidence, and saw her light really explode. And in that moment, as parents and as people of faith, it was very clear that this is who God created her to be. Because I think when we live in alignment with who God created us to be that shows in the way we navigate the world and the impact we can make…I’ve learned this from from trans theologians especially, but as we look at that God created male and female, God created day and night, it doesn’t mean that sunrise and sunset that dawn and dusk don’t also exist. And so understanding that God is much bigger than the boxes we want to shove God in and that God’s creation is much more diverse than I think so many, so many of us were raised to believe.

People of faith are doing the loudest and most significant harm to this community, personally and politically…And so at this moment, we have to be boldly, loudly and joyfully, celebratory and affirming that transgender people were created in the image of God to be who they are.

Josh Olds: What can churches that are wanting to be affirming, inclusive, protective do to create that space of inclusion and affirmation and protection?

Jamie Bruesehoff: The very first thing that churches can do is say that we can’t be silent. People of faith are doing the loudest and most significant harm to this community, personally and politically. And so there are lots of folks that are like, “Well, I’m not like that,” or “My church doesn’t say anything bad.” Well, that’s great, but not enough. Silence is complicity. And so at this moment, we have to be boldly, loudly and joyfully, celebratory and affirming that transgender people were created in the image of God to be who they are. And so saying, the quiet part out loud is really important…[Christians need to advocate] as a person of faith. You’re not doing this in spite of your faith, but because of your faith. Because lots of people are saying, “We’re fighting against trans rights in the name of Jesus.” And so for those of us who know that that’s not aligned with who we know God to be and what our faith tells us, we need to say that part out loud too.

The Book | Raising Kids Beyond the Binary

Read our full review here.

Dare to dream of a church and a world transformed by the bold celebration of transgender and gender-diverse children.

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 listeners 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.

The Author | Jamie Bruesehoff

Jamie Bruesehoff is an award-winning LGBTQ+ advocate, nationally known speaker, and mother of three, including a transgender child. Her family and work have been featured by media outlets and organizations around the world, including Disney, NPR, Good Morning America, USA Today, The Today Show, CBS News, Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and The GenderCool Project. With a master’s degree from The Lutheran Theological Seminary-Gettysburg and twenty years of experience working with youth and adults in and outside of the church, she strives to create a world where LGBTQ+ young people thrive. She lives in New Jersey with her spouse and children.