Ben Carson, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, came under attack last week from some politicians, the media and other activist groups for remarks he made to HUD staff members about men gaining access to women’s homeless shelters.

Carson was discussing with staff members a policy implemented by the Obama administration, the Equal Access Rule, which added “sexual orientation and gender identity” to federal housing non-discrimination regulations. In a note explaining the incident, Carson explained he simply relayed concerns to his staff from women’s groups. These groups said shelters were facing difficulties because the policy required them to allow men who claim to be women access – without questions and regardless of their physical appearance.

Sixty years ago, this wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar. Even twenty or thirty years ago, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Most people would’ve thought, “Of course we have separate private spaces for men and women – showers, restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms and yes, homeless shelters – because men and women are different.” And many would’ve felt concern for the mental and physical health of a man who claims to be a woman and thought, “Maybe we can provide a safe place for this homeless man without endangering women.”

Although many still think this way today, gender activists disagree and are aggressive in pushing a different ideology – the belief that gender is fluid and that there are a multitude of genders. Carson’s staffers leaked the alleged quotes to journalists who were quick to report the story. Then, activists and leftist politicians denounced Carson – even before all the facts were clear.

Carson’s story is just one of many demonstrating how gender ideology has come to affect every area of American life – from education to business and from entertainment to politics. In addition, it shows the hostility from many groups toward those who believe there are two sexes – male and female – not a host of “genders.” Given this, it’s important for Christians to understand the issues and respond with courage, wisdom, truth and kindness.

But before we get into how to respond, here are a few more examples from just the past month illustrating how gender ideology and activism have grown, widely influencing our culture and affecting our families.

  • Marilyn Synek, a communications specialist for the Focus-affiliated Nebraska Family Alliance (NFA), was enjoying coffee and crepes at a café. A transgender-identified employee recognized Synec’s work in support of marriage, family and life, began cursing at her, and demanded she leave. Synek posted about the incident on Facebook and received some support – but also hateful messages and graphic death threats. Though the café employee was fired, the owner, Jason Anderson, smeared NFA, saying the organization was a “direct threat to her life and to the entire LGBT community.”
  • The New York Times published a full-page ad announcing that all their reporting is filtered through the lens of gender ideology. The ad said: “We want gender coverage to exist across sections, platforms, and subject matter. It is a lens through which we cover the world. It’s all part of our larger mission to pursue the truth, shine a light on overlook stories, and hold power to account.” The statement was signed by Jessica Bennett, Gender Editor. In an interview announcing her hiring two year ago, Bennett made plain that “gender” includes not just being male or female, but “gender identity” and “gender fluidity.”
  • Media outlets trumpeted a report from the journal JAMA Psychiatry with headlines like, “Psychiatrists find gender identity ‘conversion therapy’ leads to suicidal ideation.” The “study” was produced by researchers from Boston Hospital – which has one of the oldest clinics for gender dysphoric children – and The Fenway Institute – an LGBT advocacy group. They looked at data from a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, yet another activist group. Mark Regnerus, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin explains how deeply flawed the study is in its design, methodology and conclusions. Yet few journalists reported this or questioned the results.
  • A Catholic hospital in California was sued for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on a woman who believes she’s a man. The lawsuit against Dignity Health was dismissed on religious freedom grounds, because the hospital was following Catholic moral teaching. But as lawyer and bioethicist Wesley J. Smith writes at National Review, the case was reversed by a Court of Appeals. The court pointed to a California Supreme Court decision that said “ensuring full and equal access to medical treatment” justified the violation of religious freedom.

More examples could be cited, but that would belabor the point. The question for Christians is, how do we respond to those who’ve embraced this gender ideology? 

First, it’s important for us to understand what gender activists believe. Here are a few helpful articles, broadcasts, books and resources that explain gender ideology:

Second, we should respond with hope and compassion. It’s important for Christians to weigh in on topics like this with grace. Both Carson and Synek responded honestly and graciously when they were maligned and attacked. Here are resources that encourage us to respond similarly. 

Third, in a world of confusion, we encourage believers to communicate with others the truth about God’s design for sexuality. This is especially important within our families and churches. It’s no longer a question of will our children encounter this teaching, it’s a matter of when they encounter it. Be prepared for this in advance. 

  • Talking to Your Children About Transgender Issues – Transgenderism is tough enough for adults to understand. When our children encounter these gender-confusing messages, what do we say? This article gives guidelines and suggestions for dealing with this difficult topic.
  • When Transgender Issues Enter Your World – This free resource helps you understand transgenderism in the culture and explains the Christian perspective of “gender ideology.” It offers guidance for how to respond well when transgender issues affect your child’s school, your private space or your family.