When Your Adult Child Identifies as Transgender: 3 Moms’ Stories

If you’re familiar with Jesus’ parables at all you’ve likely heard the one about the prodigal son. Perhaps you’ve taught it to your kids, focusing on each son’s narrative arc and attitude. But have you ever noticed the story doesn’t start with the sons? That detail caught my attention when I opened my Bible to Luke 15 a few days ago. Look at what verse 11 says: “A man had two sons.” 

The first character mentioned in the parable is the parent. As you reread the story, put yourself in the shoes of the father longing for his son to come home. You’ll notice that once the prodigal son leaves home and travels to “a distant country” (v. 13), the camera follows his perspective. While the prodigal son squanders his estate in foolish living, the reader doesn’t know specifically what the parent was doing or how he was feeling. Although the father is silent for several scenes, you can imagine some of what was happening at home. Picture a parent:

  • On his knees, praying for his child to come to his senses. 
  • Quietly explaining to his friends and family where his son has gone.
  • Sitting on the bed where his son once slept, weeping in the empty space, grieving over the choices his son has made.

It’s not just an ancient parable—it’s a present reality for many parents. Right now, three Revive Our Hearts Ambassadors are in the middle of prodigal stories of their own. As moms, they have one or more children who have chosen to turn away from their faith to embrace a transgender lifestyle. Due to the sensitive nature of their current circumstances, the names of the Ambassadors and their children have been changed. 

The three women—‟Denise,” “Sharon,” and “Tanya”—have chosen to share openly about what it’s like to live in the center of the story. They don’t know yet how their prodigals’ stories will be resolved, but they are seeking to walk through each scene with grace and faith that God still reigns, His Word still rules, and His hope endures through every heartbreaking twist and turn. 

Meet the Families 

Sharon’s daughter “Lauren” was in her second or third year of college when it became clear she had stopped reading the Bible and attending church. She began taking more steps to be independent from her family, and each step she took was also a step away from God. Lauren has legally changed her name. She identifies as “neuroqueer” and now uses different pronouns. She has recently started taking hormones to aid in her physical transition from female to male. 

Tanya’s son “Jordan” made a profession of faith in Jesus at a very young age, but throughout middle school, Jordan’s family became concerned that his actions did not match up to that decision. In high school, Jordan started sneaking out of his window late at night, and not long after, Tanya discovered Jordan was involved with another boy. Now as a young adult, Jordan does not wish to remain in contact with his parents. He has moved out of state, and Tanya has seen on his social media account that he wears makeup and feminine clothing and lives a lifestyle contrary to God’s Word. 

Denise’s daughter “Emily” was in her late twenties, living and working in another state, when she told her parents she wanted to talk to both of them on the phone. Once Denise and her husband were on the line, Emily told them what she had come to “know” about herself: that she was really a man. Denise and her husband were shocked. Emily had been homeschooled and then attended a Christian school. Throughout her childhood and teen years, she had participated in church, gone on mission trips, and was a regular part of outreach activities.

“The saddest part was not simply her rejection of her gender,” Denise says, “but that it had led to her rejection of her Creator. She no longer believed what God said was true.” Denise’s husband tried to talk to Emily about the Lord and how He made her, but her mind was made up. Emily soon wrote a social media post sharing her news. In the announcement, she told the world that she was gay, as she felt that admitting publically to being transgender would be dangerous. Emily told her parents what many other moms have heard as well: if her family did not accept her new identity, it was evidence they did not really love her. 

Q: In the aftermath of the initial announcement, a mom may be left overwhelmed andwondering whether it’s okay to even question her adult child about why he or she has walked away from the family’s values. What would you say to her?

Sharon: I would say, yes—do it after seeking God for wisdom. Make sure your words are coming from a heart that has been bathed in the grace and truth of your Savior. 

[We see in Scripture that] God has always asked questions of His people when they think they know better than Him. After listening to my daughter, I asked her questions like, “When was the last time you read the Bible?” “Have you looked for advice in places other than from college friends and peers?” Our adult children are image bearers of God; we should ask questions with love and respect. 

As moms, we get emotional. You will say things that you wish you hadn’t, or you will say them at the wrong time. Run to the cross when you do.

Denise: I believe it must be discussed. The LGBTQ group spreads many lies, not simply about gender but about truth in general. They teach that when people do not accept your new identity, it means they hate you. Some even refer to this lack of acceptance as “child abuse.” This thinking can ruin any relationship you have with your child unless it is challenged. I think we need to listen to our children and let them know that we hear what they are saying, but we also need to explain that we have a different view. We need to explain that just because we disagree does not mean we hate each other. 

Q: Have you chosen to use your child’s preferred pronouns or new name? Why or why not?

Sharon: I have decided to not use the name she has chosen for herself or the pronouns she asked me to use. I see her as a gift from God; she is a female made by Him. 

Tanya: My son has not decided to change his name, but if he does, I will continue to call him by the name we gave him at birth.

Denise: Our daughter has legally changed her name, but we still call her “Emily” and refer to her as female. To act as if she is male would be a lie. We know that it was no accident that God created her female. Although she is confused about that, the reality remains. 

I recently read an example explaining this. If a girl with anorexia thinks she is fat—if she believes it with her whole heart—would you affirm that belief, or would you tell her the truth? Most parents would be honest in that case. But in the case of gender, society has said that when you don’t call these children by their preferred (incorrect) pronouns, you are damaging them. I believe that we cause damage by affirming the lie they believe in their head.

Q: How do you explain the situation to friends and other church members? How much would you recommend a mom share with others when reaching out for prayer and support?

Denise: I do not share this situation publicly because my daughter has asked us not to. She is very fearful because she believes that the general public is hateful toward people like her and would like to harm her. But we have told our family and many friends who faithfully pray. A mom in this situation really needs prayer:

  • For this to not overwhelm her.
  • That this will not derail her marriage. 
  • That her words will be wise and loving. 
  • That she will be able to relinquish her child into the hands of her heavenly Father.

Sharon: I would recommend that moms in similar situations be honest and share according to each audience and level of intimacy. Share from the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Share to remember you are not alone in this.

There are so many other moms out there suffering alone and in silence, and they need to hear how the Lord is holding us during this time. Other women need to hear that the presence of our Savior is with us in the furnace and the lion’s den, and we need other women to help us carry the heavy load of a prodigal son or daughter. 

Q: How have you handled criticism or negative reactions from family members or friends? How do you personally fight against feelings of shame?

Tanya: I have lost some friends along the way. My sisters and I are not on the same page, which has caused some distance. But I handle adverse reactions and fight against feeling ashamed by being rooted in God’s Word. I have one person I need to answer to: God, my Lord and Savior.

Denise: Overall, our friends and family have been very supportive of us, but some have felt we should be more supportive of our daughter’s new lifestyle. We have refused to do this—even if it hurts her feelings—because it would reflect a lie. Truth matters to us. 

When a child walks in any sinful path, I think it is good to examine our parenting to see if we have hurt the child or were neglectful in our parenting. We are all sinful parents and sometimes we need to apologize. It is very easy to feel we have caused this situation in some way, but since we know that God gives each person the free will to love or reject Him, we cannot take the entire blame for our child’s decision. 

Sharon: At the beginning I did not say anything and did not want to hear comments from others. 

I would say that feelings of shame are inevitable and learning how to deal with them biblically is vital. The local church is key in this process. The best way I’ve found to fight feelings of shame is to remind myself of the gospel and to remember that at the cross Jesus took my shame (Heb. 12:2).

Q: If you have been able to maintain a relationship with your child, what has that looked like?

Tanya: At the moment, our son does not want anything to do with us. He knew from a very young age that in our home we were going to serve the Lord. We have and will always point him to Christ. There is no greater love than God’s love. He was told daily that we love him, but that we cannot accept his sin. We will always point him right back to God. He has told us that he does not believe what we believe. When he left our home, I told him that I would always love him and, as his mother, I will continue to pray for him until my last breath.

Denise: Unlike many parents, our daughter has been willing to maintain a relationship with us. We try to help her with physical needs, encourage her, spend time with her when we can, and send birthday cards and care packages (which can be tricky since her name at her address is different now—but it always seems to reach her with her given name).

It is most difficult to spend time with her at larger family gatherings because some people call her a male name and some a female name. We have even had two sets of place cards for her at a dinner. We try to always extend grace and not be offended by people who don’t share our view. But our view is not our preference; it is based on God’s Word. For that reason, we don’t feel we can change it simply because it is unpopular. 

Sharon: Our relationship and communication has been off and on. During the times we have been in communication, I constantly pray during our conversations. I’ve reminded myself from the beginning that my job is to remain faithful to Jesus. I also remember that “anything that makes me need God is a blessing,” as Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says. I call my daughter “my blessing.” 

Q: How do you communicate that you still love your child without affirming her lifestyle?

Denise: We help her with things like her car, we take her out to lunch, or we give her items she needs (like furniture). My husband and I live eight hours away from her, but her sister lives close and does her laundry for her and invites her to meals. 

Sharon: I respect her. When I do share about our story, I don’t ever want to slander her or say hurtful things. And I have found that to wait on the Lord is to love her. 

Are you currently waiting on the Lord because of a prodigal child? Come back Monday for the rest of this interview. Revive Our Hearts Ambassadors Denise, Sharon, and Tanya will be back to share the truth from God’s Word that they are clinging to, some of the prayers they’re praying for their prodigal children, and where they find hope when the situation doesn’t appear to be improving. 

If our content on issues of gender and sexuality is a blessing to you this month, would you consider paying it forward by becoming a Revive Partner? Join this team of monthly supporters who give to (and pray for!) the ministry, making articles like this possible. If you’re already a partner, thank you! Your support makes our ministry possible. 

About the Author

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep

Katie Laitkep was working as a hospital teacher when God called her to join Revive Our Hearts as a staff writer. She serves remotely from Houston, Texas, where God sustains her through saltwater beaches, Scripture, and her local church. Katie's … read more …

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