'Modern Family' debuts transgender child character

An 8-year-old girl who lives as a transgender boy appeared on the Sept. 28 episode of ABC's "Modern Family," portraying a transgender friend of Lily, the daughter of the show's leading gay couple.

"Modern Family" Director Ryan Case identifies the show's first openly transgender actor on Twitter, saying, "He's 8 years old, from Atlanta, and just happens to be transgender. He plays Lily's friend Tom in this week's Modern Family."

Jeff Johnston, issues analyst for the marriage and parenting group Focus on the Family, told Baptist Press the episode would likely confuse children.

"Kids aren't equipped to sort out that kind of falsehood from the real truth," Johnston said. "And in this case this is especially sad because this is a child, this is a little girl who is trapped in a false identity and for whatever reason, she has rejected her girlhood and believes she's a boy or wants to be a boy, and her family and now the producers of the show are affirming this little girl in a false identity."

The debut of a transgender child on the show, Johnston said, is part of a broader cultural push throughout entertainment, education, news and politics to further the transgender "ideology that says that people can switch sexes ... but the ideology also says that there might be a wide variety of genders."

Washington state, Johnston noted as an example, has a new recommended curriculum that kids should be taught in kindergarten that there are a wide variety of gender identities.

In the Sept. 28 episode, "A Stereotypical Day," the show's gay couple, Cam and Mitchell, overhear Lily insulting Tom during a sleepover and interject to the children a lesson about acceptance, The Associated Press reported.

"I'm sure there's a lot of kids that watch this show," Johnston said. "Christian parents need to be careful about what their kids are seeing and about the messages that they receive from the culture."

He recommended FOTF free online resources for parents concerned about the issue, including "Talking to Your Children About Transgender Issues," which gives simple suggestions about dealing with the subject if your children are exposed to the topic.

"The first step would be to teach your kids the truth," Johnston said, "that God created humans male and female in his image as boys and girls and men and women. And, yes, some people get confused about this and we want to love them, but we don't have to agree with them about this issue."

The continuing "Modern Family" storyline, now in its eighth season, is confusing to children, Johnston said, as it features a gay couple with a female daughter who now has a transgender friend.

"We want our children to know that a family is started when a mom and dad come together in marriage and begin to have children. And marriage is what unites the mother and the father with the children that they have," Johnston said. "When same-sex couples are portrayed on television, and transgender children are portrayed, it's confusing for kids and it teaches them something that's not good or true, and it's not the way God designed things to be."

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP (bpnews.net) reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.

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