I am getting ready for an upcoming conference. I’ll be in Nashville next week at the American Association of Christian Counselors’ World Conference. I have two main things going on: a three-hour pre-conference workshop and a regular workshop. The pre-conference workshop introduces people to the three frameworks I first discuss in the book, Understanding Gender Dysphoria, as well as the Christianity Today article on the transgender phenomenon. Those three frameworks are: Integrity, Disability, and Diversity. I’ll go over these three frameworks and the begin to make application to both sexual identity and gender identity concerns. Then I will move toward case discussion, so that we can consider together the ways these frameworks can inform counseling services.
The regular workshop is on working with Christian parents when their children come out. This is based on working with families over the past 16 years and research we have been analyzing from studies conducted through the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity and through a project headed up by The Marin Foundation. I’ll be making three main points for practical application: map the terrain, recognize the developmental context, and construct a scaffolding for family care.
Ok, it’s this regular workshop I wanted to reflect on a little. There is a curious and somewhat concerning trend I see at professional conferences. Many professionals attend, of course. But I am seeing a remarkable increase in the number of non-professionals who attend in an effort to get help. Let me be clear that I am not critical of this. My heart goes out to these parents and families. What I am saying is that there does not appear to be sufficient resources for the many families who are confused and hurting and trying to find a way to navigate very difficult circumstances. My observation has been that they do not know where to turn.
I’ve wondered whether the closing of Exodus International a couple of years ago, coupled with recent political developments (e.g., SCOTUS ruling) have left Christian parents feeling ill-equipped to know how to respond or where to go for resources when their son or daughter comes out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. I do think many parents feel confused and unsure where to turn, but they do not seem to have resources local to them that they can rely upon to help them navigate this terrain. Perhaps many churches and ministries, too, feel unsure how to be a resource to families.
I tried to develop my workshop with an understanding that there would likely be people who are actually dealing with these challenges currently. I think that is a good principle to follow anyway–to assume that the persons you are discussing in a workshop are in attendance. To demonstrate respect for them and for their circumstances.
I am looking forward to the conference. I often find it to be an encouraging time. I hope it will be encouraging to both professionals and non-professionals who may be in attendance.