Floundering Parents: Gender Identity

In April General Conference of 1981, as a 5-year-old child sitting on the floor playing with my sisters I didn’t notice when Boyd K Packer declared:

One cannot degrade marriage without tarnishing other words as well, such words as boy, girl, manhood, womanhood, husband, wife, father, mother, baby, children, family, home.”

Fourteen years later as I began my sophomore year of college, I ignored my Bishop as he read these words from the first presidency and counsel of the 12 apostles:

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

Three years later as a young married woman and new mother to a three week old daughter, I didn’t give much thought as Boyd K Packer declared:

In the home and in the Church sisters should be esteemed for their very nature. Be careful lest you unknowingly foster influences and activities which tend to erase the masculine and feminine differences nature has established. A man, a father, can do much of what is usually assumed to be a woman’s work. In turn, a wife and a mother can do much—and in time of need, most things—usually considered the responsibility of the man, without jeopardizing their distinct roles. Even so, leaders, and especially parents, should recognize that there is a distinct masculine nature and a distinct feminine nature essential to the foundation of the home and the family. Whatever disturbs or weakens or tends to erase that difference erodes the family and reduces the probability of happiness for all concerned.”

Not until 2009, when my husband started encouraging me to read news article after news article about the erosion of the family did I wake up and take notice to what the Prophets' have been declaring for many, many years.

tarnishing other words… such words as boy, girl, manhood, womanhood…

Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

Be careful lest you unknowingly foster influences and activities which tend to erase the masculine and feminine differences.

The world did not listen in 1981. Marriage slowly continued to erode. Men and women decided that the “until death do you part” or “For time and all eternity” was not an important part of the marriage contract. No fault divorce spread like a disease and brought with it much more infidelity and carelessness. Marriage eroded. Men and women decided they did not need that piece of paper to live as a married couple. Words such as “boy” “girl” “manhood” “womanhood” began to tarnish.

The world took little notice when in 1995 the First presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles declared that “Gender is an essential characteristic…” And marriage continued to erode as men and men and women and women decided they needed that piece of paper.

Mothers and fathers did not listen when in 1998 President Packer warned, “Be careful lest you unknowingly foster influences and activities which tend to erase the masculine and feminine differences.”

And now in 2013 many people do not realize that a prophecy is being fulfilled before their very eyes.

As we hear the news, read books on parenting, and form families, one can note that there really isn’t much left to the definitions of boy, girl, manhood, and womanhood-- Gender Identity has taken the place of Gender in society. Separate roles of men and women are scorned as old fashioned and bigoted.

This very summer California passed a law that allows all school children to choose sport teams and use bathrooms and lockers rooms according to which gender they feel.
It is celebrated when a family allows their son to dress in girl’s clothes and play with dolls. Yet a family that dresses their daughter in girly clothes and encourages her nature to nurture with dolls is criticized as enforcing old fashioned gender roles.

This very summer in the heart of New England boys between the ages of six and thirteen attended a summer camp where instead of boating, camping, and hiking, they polished their nails, put on make-up, dressed in evening gowns and held a beauty pageant.

All over parents are floundering. A couple in Colorado took their son, Coy Mathis, to a psychiatrist because he played with his sisters dolls and liked a pink blanket. As a 6 year old, Coy lives a life as a “girly girl”, and has successfully sued to be completely accepted as a girl in school. He uses the girl’s bathrooms and is treated as a girl.

A family in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada is giving their eleven year old daughter hormone blocking injections to stop puberty with the plan that at 16, she will be ready to have gender reassignment surgery to become a man.

 These are extreme examples of parents floundering. I have seen many non-extreme examples among very good parents. One friend of mine repeatedly told her friends that her 18 month old son was gay because he cried easily and liked to wear his mother’s shoes. She was a new mom and was worried about these things. Another friend worked tirelessly to get her “girly girl” daughter to choose gender neutral clothes and to play with the boys. She thought this would help her daughter become more athletic and competitive.

As a young mom, I worried that if I told my son that he should not wear princess dresses that I would be ruining who he was meant to become. I have learned differently. That was the voices of the world speaking to me. The voices of the prophets are:

Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

Be careful lest you unknowingly foster influences and activities which tend to erase the masculine and feminine differences.

From The Family: a Proclamation to the World, I understand that the gender my children were born with is who they really are and who they are meant to become. I understand now that as a parent I need to teach my sons to become men and my daughters to become women. Through revelation from God, we have been given a clear guide of how to raise our children. We can know who they are and who they are meant to become. We can teach our daughters to be nurturers. We can teach our sons to provide and protect. Indeed, it is our duty to ignore those mocking fingers from the great and spacious building, hold to the iron rod, and bring our family to the tree of life.

Diane Robertson

Diane blogs about her family at The More the Merrier. She is a writer at the United Families International Blog.

I can always count on Diane for being bold in speaking hard truth, which is why I appreciate her accepting the invitation to help with our Family Proclamation Celebration. She is vigilant is defending the family, and devotes much of her time writing on the topic. She is well versed in the most critical social issues surrounding marriage and family, and coupled with her faith in Jesus Christ, Diane is a force for good to be reckoned with.

Make sure to visit Chocolate on My Cranium or Mormon Mommy Blogs to read some of the great posts that were shared during the Family Proclamation Celebration! (Tomorrow I'll post the final guest blogger for our Celebration.)

Kathryn Skaggs

Photo Source: LDS.org

NOTE: As this post was written by our guest blogger, and she needs to move on to other things, comments are now closed.


  1. Diane, thank you so much for this powerful post. I loved that you brought forth that prophetic quote by Pres. Packer. Wow. I just checked out the United Families International blog and love it. I met Kelli Houghton at the recent World Congress of Families and was really impressed with UFI's mission and work.

  2. I really liked this. Thank you for posting. I have three sons. It's easy to get worried in our gender confused world, but I know my boys are meant to be boys. So, even if some day one or more end up being gay, I will know that I've done my best to teach them correct principles in a loving way.

  3. You are lucky that your body and spirit match. Some are not as lucky.

  4. It is so sad (and angering) that Satan takes normal behavior and turns it into something ugly. Some boys like pretty things - one of my four liked to put on jewelry as a little boy. I didn't make a big deal of it and he eventually outgrew that phase, but he still likes pretty things, you should see his car! He also is the only one of our four sons to ask for a doll to play with. He is tender and loving, good with children and I know he'll make a wonderful father. Our daughter when through a phase of hating to wear dresses, she didn't want to be mistaken for a "silly girl". She outgrew that, thankfully, and now that she's in the Air Force and among males all the time, she loves to wear her uniform skirt to distinguish herself from the rest of the "guys." Most of us explore different personas as we mature, but having been taught eternal truths we come around right in the end. I too am so grateful for the teachings of living prophets and apostles. All the world's ills could be solved by learning and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks so much for this wonderful and powerful post.

  5. Kathryn, I appreciate your thoughtful comments and constant defense of the traditional family. I currently reside outside of the US while serving as a missionary, and so I have not stayed very much involved in anything on the internet or up to date on current issues. However, my daughters have been telling me about the women and the priesthood issues taking place right now. After reading up on it, and reading what you had written about it, I felt compelled to write my response as well. I haven't posted on my regular blog for a year, but posted last night. I would appreciate you reading it, if you have the time. Thanks. It is found at www.joy4yourjrney.blogspot.com

  6. When my 3 year old son liked to play with a pink "My Little Pony's" I didn't have a problem with it and bought him one because it was a horse after all. But my 3 older daughters would not tolerate him playing with that and got rid of the horse. That seemed extreme to me but today as he is a very masculine preteen boy who is ecstatic that he has the first hints of a mustache I realize that small seemingly insignificant preferences can start to grow and take a road that could be hard to turn back from. In their formative years it is so important to gently guide them in the way they should go. I'm grateful for my daughters' insight that I didn't have at the time.

  7. This is a wonderful and insightful post. I know some people's body and spirit do not match, and it is a sad thing to have to bear as are many of the other trials that the Lord sees fit to challenge us with to make us stronger. However, in this day an age, there are many who succumb to the "expert advice" of those in the great and spacious building. They fear shepherding their children will be stifling. They think that a temptation not acknowledged and accepted is denying your "true" self when in reality the true self is the one that can resist the temptations that are presented and still be virtuous. I have a son that from the time he was a toddler, he would stop whatever he was doing in sacrament meeting and stand in the middle of the aisle when someone would sing a solo or play an instrument in church. I recognized this as an appreciation of something beautiful that my other children had not yet realized. In other circumstances his love of music and dislike of athletics could have been an "opportunity" to steer him away from his masculine role and encourage some kind of gender confusion. Today he is in several choirs and a symphonic band. He is also very aware of who his is and who his Father in Heaven intended for him to be. Coming from a family that was seriously damaged by the effects of a parent who chose an alternate lifestyle over his own children, I have a unique perspective. Failing to heed the counsel of our prophets on this subject will be the downfall of the family. We can love those who are challenged by same sex attractions without condoning and encouraging just as we can love those who struggle with addictive behavior. We all have our cross to bear. Some will become stronger because of it. Some will bow and break.

  8. This is one of the most wrong-headed things I've read in a LONG time. People are not born as a gender, they are born as a sex. Gender is a cultural construct. Some cultures have more than 2 genders. What about a princess dress means that a boy is not a boy or that he won't grow up to be a man? You're looking at gender through a very biased point of view that is not based on reality.

  9. I love this!!! Great quotes, great insight. I could not agree more. We find out next week what our baby will be and I plan to raise it in the gender role it was destined for.

    1. Thanks, Congratulations on your baby.

  10. Visibly identifiable intersex and transgender births occur in at least one in one thousand births. When you factor in chromosomes, hormones, and other biological gender determining components, the number of non-cis-gender births increases.

    To point fingers at other Children of God, and their parents; accusing or implying that their parenting efforts are unholy or wrong because they do not ascribe to a letter/guideline (NOT doctrine) written by 15 NON scientists--is certainly not what i would expect from a truly well behaved Mormon woman. I would expect Christlike love, and a restraint from judgment.

    The leadership of the LDS Church (of which I am an active member) have been wrong before in matters of human value--for example the doctrine of Blood Atonement in the case of interracial marriage.

    This is a regrettably public example of narrow-minded lack of any attempt to educate oneself.

    Should anyone like to learn more about transgender and intersex matters, I can recommend that you watch "Me, My Sex, and I" a BBC documentary that explains some of the science.

    1. I believe the"15 non-scientists" because they have been called as "Prophets, Seers, and Revelators" . I believe them and I sustain them. If I have a question about the validity of what has been said by the prophets and apostles, I have a right to ask God for a confirmation of the truth. God has never failed me, nor have the prophets of God. Science fails and changes all the time. The science of nutrition comes to mind, but it is not alone in constantly changing.

      I think that just because there is an exception to the rule (I assume you are referring to klinefelter syndrome and non-klinefelter xxy syndrome) does not mean that the rule does not stand for the majority. When people teach only the exception, no one has the opportunity to learn the truth.

      Joseph Fielding Smith said, "I am now speaking of the normally healthy man and woman. But, that there are weak and sickly people who in wisdom, discretion and common sense should be counted as exceptions, only strengthens the general rule."
      --Elder Joseph Fielding Smith ("A Vital Question," IE1908Oct:1959-60) TLDP 529

      Given that gender is so very important to the confused and such an emotional topic for pretty much everyone strengthens the truth that Gender is an essential characteristic of premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

    2. Nope. Sorry. One has to choose. One cannot both believe:

      "What I the Lord have spoken I have spoken, and I excuse not myself, and though the Heavens and the Earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled. Whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants it is the same."

      and also believe that modern prophet, seers and revelators are subject to censoring by the scientific community at large. They are irreconcileable ideas.

      This post and its responses remind me of Joseph Smith's statement that "Truth and error, good and evil cannot be reconciled." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith page 325). Sadly many members these days find themselves awkwardly feeling obligated to reconcile truth with error, and good with evil. They even feel guilty if they cannot achieve it. But in the same breath Joseph Smith also declared "Wherever light shone, it stirred up darkness" and this will never change. Thus apostles have exhorted members to not "try to serve God without offending the devil" (Marion G Romney, James E Faust, Joseph B Wirthlin).

      In fact Elder Faust stated "The Church’s stand on homosexual relations provides another arena where we offend the devil. I expect that the statement of the First Presidency and the Twelve against homosexual marriages will continue to be assaulted. Satan is only interested in our misery, which he promotes by trying to persuade men and women to act contrary to God’s plan. One way he does this is by encouraging the inappropriate use of sacred creative powers. A bona fide marriage is one between a man and a woman solemnized by the proper legal or ecclesiastical authority. Only sexual relations between husband and wife within the bonds of marriage are acceptable before the Lord.

      There is some widely accepted theory extant that homosexuality is inherited. How can this be? No scientific evidence demonstrates absolutely that this is so. Besides, if it were so, it would frustrate the whole plan of mortal happiness. Our designation as men or women began before this world was. In contrast to the socially accepted doctrine that homosexuality is inborn, a number of respectable authorities contend that homosexuality is not acquired by birth. The false belief of inborn homosexual orientation denies to repentant souls the opportunity to change and will ultimately lead to discouragement, disappointment, and despair."

      Thus one has to choose. One cannot have it both ways. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    3. Thank you Diane and ID (above). I believe that as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I must choose between the philosophies of the world or the words of our 15 prophets, seers and revelators. Either we believe them and their inspired words and teachings and that they are literally mouthpieces of the Lord Himself, or we do not. It's really that simple!

  11. I am sorry. But this is very hurtful. I have a Son who aligns with the "Male Role and identity" I have a daughter that aligns with the "Female Role and identity". I also have a beautiful transgender daughter (born male). They were all raised the same. You have no idea how painful this journey is for not only the parents but more importantly the child. It seems you have not read the churches stance on transgender persons as well. Nor do you have any understanding of science behind it. Please don't assume that my child is Satan's grasp, or that I as a parent failed to indoctrinate my child in the ways of manhood. You isolate and condemn those who are suffering and struggling.

  12. I also want to add that I treasure both the stereotypically masculine and feminine qualities I express and have developed here in mortality. I treasure both the stereotypically masculine and feminine qualities in my husband as well. Jesus, who also had many traits that are both stereotypically masculine and feminine told all of his children -- both male and female to strive to be as He is. I wonder what kind of beautiful talents and traits we might suppress when we try to promote a culture that tells little boys not to nurture a doll. I am grateful that when I didn't want to dress girly when I was young, that my mother took pains to buy me clothes for a year or two that were sort of gender neutral. She never shamed me for being a tom boy growing up and supported my interests in sports and music-- I sing and compose and write but I don't have a stereotypically feminine voice -- it didn't matter to my mother, my mother loved my music. I strongly believe that it is the Spirit that teaches each of us the gospel and the plan of salvation and develops in us the desire to have an eternal family -- teach correct principles and let people govern themselves -- it is such a simple and profound concept to me. Passing judgements and instigating rigid rules about what children play with, I fear begins to resemble something closer to the tedium of the law of moses.

    Children who present with strong feelings of being the opposite gender I imagine need careful loving parents who seek prayerful guidance from the Spirit on the matter that includes an age appropriate respect for a child's agency. I imagine each also needs an LDS community who offers genuine warmth and sensitivity no matter where one is at in their journey as advocated by our LDS leaders most recently on mormonsandgays.org I think we need to be cleaving to the most recent words of the brethren on these matters.

  13. I wanted to share the words that a Prophet of God, President Gordon B. Hinckley, used to preface The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

    "With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history. I now take the opportunity of reading to you this proclamation:"

    I seem to see a lot of sophistry passed off as "truth" within our own membership (and especially the world). I also love that a prophet of God said that The Family: A Proclamation to the World is a "reaffirmation of doctrines." This means that the words in it--all of it---are not just nice "opinions" but truth completely reaffirmed by the Temple and the Plan of Salvation. Everything in the temple teaches us about the family and the nature of gender identity, men, women, doctrines about marriage and everything else the Lord wants us to know in order to navigate through the false doctrines that the world teaches.

    In summary, everything in the Temple reaffirms The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The more time I spend in the Lord's House, the more this inspired proclamation of our standards, doctrines and practices helps me to to have a stronger testimony and desire to follow His doctrine on the family.

  14. Beautifully said, Diane!

    Gender is not about following the world's definition of what the world says it means to be male or female. It is about WHO WE ARE, not about what we do, such as playing with dolls or being interested in sports. It's about being a son of God and being a daughter of God.

    Gender is our innate nature. It is where our divine callings reside.

    A male does not have to like sports to be a man. A female does not have to love dressing up in ballgown to be a woman.

    The Lord's plan for His children is so much more. Only males can fulfill the divine role of Father. And only females can fulfill the divine role of Mother. And we need BOTH genders equally. A woman can never be a father. A man can never be a mother. The Lord has designed and proclaimed it so.

    I sustain and love the Brethren who fulfill their roles as the Lord's servants. God will ALWAYS know more than societies, philosophers, and scientists. And He will let His servants know what His law and plan are.

    I am so grateful to be a daughter of God! I know that my gender is eternal, and that I am fulfilling my divine destiny and purpose as a woman. I am also thankful for the continued guidance from the Lord through His servants, the prophets and apostles.