Families are strengthened when parents understand that there are basic differences between girls and boys and that these differences are good and necessary. There are sex differences "hardwired" into children before birth, and ignoring or mixing up those differences can create problems for them as teenagers and young adults.
Gender problems have been very much on my mind lately. I know several young people who consider themselves to be gay, and I recently learned of an additional one. My heart goes out to these young people and their families because the situation is difficult for all involved. I believe that this particular social problem came out of the atmosphere of the 1970s and 1980's when the ones I am familiar with were born and reared. I believe that many young people become involved with homosexuality out of curiosity or being introduced to it by an older person or someone they admire and want to be like. At any rate, the acceptance of same-sex relationships by society seems to increase the numbers of those who become involved in it.
Back in the 1970's when my older children were born, parents were told that boys and girls acted differently because adults expected them to act differently. We were told that parents created and reinforced the differences in children. Being a new mother, I wanted to care for my children properly and to teach them appropriately, but I didn't really believe the experts. What they were saying didn't make sense when compared with what I was personally seeing, and I decided to perform my own experiments with my children. My husband and I had two little girls followed by a boy, all in a three-year period, and we could see from the beginning that our son was much different that our girls. We purchased dolls and other girl toys as well as same-sex toys such as puzzles and games. When our son was born, we purchased cars, trucks, and other boy toys. All the toys were together in the family room, and the children could choose which toys they wanted to play with. I noticed that without any prompting, our girls usually chose the dolls, dishes, and other feminine toys while our son usually chose the cars, trucks and other masculine toys. They all enjoyed the sex-neutral toys. Our son seemed to always put a masculine touch on whatever he did, and our girls were more feminine. When our son wanted to join the girls at their Barbie parties, he brought his Heman characters to play with - and no one seemed to consider that strange at all. Today the girls are still very feminine while our son is very masculine, and all are happily married.
As we added more children - another son and two daughters - they followed the same patterns in their own individual ways. All of the children were given opportunities to play the piano as well as to play on sports teams. Some excelled in some areas while others excelled in other ways. All were good students. I cannot take credit - or blame - for the adults that my children have become because I simply allowed them to be themselves and loved them for it.
I believe that gender truly matters. I believe that we are sons and daughters of God and that He has an individual plan for each one of us. I believe that homosexuality comes from Satan because it is exactly opposite from what our Father in Heaven desires for His children. We all lived as sons and daughters with our Heavenly Father, and we had no confusion then about whether we were male or female. It is only in this world that there is confusion about our roles. I believe that Satan introduced same-sex attraction in order to destroy the family unit. We know that our families are the basic units of society and that society cannot withstand the destruction of its basic unit. The work of God depends on the success of that basic unit. If the basic unit is destroyed, then the work of God is easier to overthrow.
The doctrine of the family was stated clearly in the Proclamation on the Family, which was first introduced to the women of the Church on September 23, 1995, and then given to the entire Church membership the next week. "We the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
"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.
"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
"The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
"We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God's eternal plan…."
The family Proclamation continues in describing the duties of husbands and wives to each other and to their children. "Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children." "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens… [and] will be held accountable before God for the discharge of theses obligations."
The Proclamation tells us that the "family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." Husbands and fathers have the basic responsibilities to preside in the home, to protect their wives and their children, and to provide for their temporal needs. Wives and mothers have the primary responsibility to nurture the children and support husbands and fathers in their duties. "In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners" and to make the necessary adaptations brought about by disability, death or other circumstances.
With the background of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the clearly stated principles found in the Proclamation of the family, I feel strongly that gender is very important. We must not become confused or allow our children to become confused about gender.
Same-sex marriage has been approved by several state legislatures while the voters in the majority of states have voted it down. Since New York legalized same-sex marriage, pressure has been building for the producers of Sesame Street to use the children's television show to advance same-sex marriage. Bert and Ernie have been sharing the same bedroom with separate beds for many years. The creators have always said that the friends are gender neutral, not homosexual, but same-sex marriage advocates are pressuring the producers of Sesame Street to have Bert and Ernie tie the knot on the show. We have no idea of the problems such an example would bring into the lives of still more generations.
Gender is important in more ways than just sexual orientation. Our gender is involved in all we do: learning, reading, hearing, thinking, etc. I own a book entitled Why Gender Matters, written by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D., with a copyright date of 2005, and I highly recommend this book to all parents, grandparents, and teachers. I found it to be very interesting and informative about gender matters. It confirmed to me that children suffered much by the theories of the past thirty-five years. "There is more at stake here than the old question of nature versus nurture. The failure to recognize and respect sex differences in child development has done substantial harm over the past thirty years…" (p 7). The author maintains that many problems are caused in the lives of children because adults do not understand the "hardwired differences in how girls and boys learn." He explains that boys and girls hear differently and some boys who exhibit attention deficit disorder may be reacting to the fact that they can "barely hear the soft-spoken teacher." The author maintains that problems with school dropouts, alcohol and drug abuse, teenage sex, and other problems can be traced back to the fact that the "innate, biologically programmed differences between girls and boys" are not recognized and that "many administrators and teachers don't fully appreciate that girls and boys enter the classroom with different needs, different abilities, and different goals" (p 9).
Dr. Sax described how he had "been invited to schools around the United States and Canada to speak to teachers about differences in how girls and boys learn. I've been struck by the similarities between good teachers and good parents. They both stay up late at night agonizing how best to help a child. They both may shed tears when they tell me how they've struggled with a particular child. Good teachers and good parents both understand that every child is unique. Both want to help every child achieve his or her full potential. Teachers and parents are partners in helping each child grow up to be the woman or man that child was meant to be" (p 10).
The author explains that boys and girls not only hear differently, but they see differently. Their brains work differently, and they feel differently. They enjoy reading about different subjects. Dr. Sax even addresses sex differences versus sexual orientation. "Basically, I will argue that sex differences - female compared with male - are far more profound than any differences attributed to sexual orientation….
"My bottom line is that sex, female or male, is more fundamental than sexual orientation, gay or straight. A lesbian girl and a straight girl have much more in common with each other, as a rule, than a lesbian girl has in common with a gay boy - in terms of how they learn, how they play, how they fight, and how they relate to their friends, to their parents, and to the world in general" (pp 36-37).
I strongly recommend Why Gender Matters to anyone and everyone who deals with children and teenagers. Our boys and girls are different, and their differences are good and necessary. It is particularly important that parents understand the differences between males and females and use those differences to help their sons and daughters to reach their full potentials as adults.