This post originally appeared on May 3, 2012. It was the only way that I could respond to the words said by Sean Harris to his congregation about kids who don’t meet gender norms. My own children fit almost no gender stereotypes, so his words hit especially close to home and it broke my heart to think that my kids could ever hear that at church. But please know that these words are for whoever needs them, not just children. You are loved.
Do you know that you are dear? If you hear nothing else, read that and hold it in your heart. Keep it close, because I know you may have heard that you’re not dear. But with all of my heart today, I want you to know that you are.
I’ve listened to the words that your pastor shared with your parents and I just want to hold you. I want to hold you if your parents take his advice and hurt you because of the way that you are. I’m so sorry that you are enduring abuse at the hands of people who have been entrusted with the position of caring for you. You are a treasure and a gift and should be treated as such. Your mannerisms, your sexuality – none of these should detract from the love that your parents show you.
Even if they don’t hit you, I want to hold you because those words damage without any direct action. Hearing that you “need to be attractive” if you’re a girl can hurt you if you don’t feel like you’re attractive enough. Hearing that you have to dig ditches if you’re a boy may cut at you, especially if that’s not your idea of a good time. When the way that you look or the things that you enjoy or the people you love are criticized by your pastor, the shame of that goes deep.
But, my dear child, please know that love goes deeper.
You are not a cockroach. You are not a problem that needs to be fixed. Your value is not based on your looks. Your worth is not tied to your ability to do “manly” things.
I’m sorry that this is a lesson that you’re being taught at church. In a place where you should be loved, you are taught that you are unlovable. In a place where your unique gifts and abilities should be celebrated, you are taught that you must fall within certain parameters to receive praise. In a place where you should never have to earn love, you are taught that receiving love depends on your behavior.
Dear child, you are beautiful just the way you are. Not because you look or act a certain way, but because you bear the image of God. He delights in you. He sings over you. He dances because of you.
He loves you. I love you.
If I could hold you right now (and oh, I want to hold you right now), I would whisper that to you over and over.
He loves you, I love you, we love you. You are loved.
Dear child, I’m telling you that today. And if you need to hear it years from now, I’ll say it again.
Because no matter your age, you are, and always will be, a dear child.