An Open Letter to Sunnie Kahle (and Christian tomboys everywhere)

Dear Sunnie,

You don’t know me, but this morning I read an article about you. (You can read it here:  ) Ever since then you keep crossing my mind. As I went around town today in my jeans and button-down shirt and sweater, I thought about you. As I came home from the gym tonight, I prayed for you. And all the while, I wished I could write you a letter…the kind of letter I wish someone had written to me.

This is me when I was a few years younger than you.

This is me when I was a few years younger than you.

I don’t know how to get one to you, though. I thought about trying to send it to your grandparents for them to read to you, but I’m not sure if it would make it there. So instead I’m writing this and posting it on my blog. Maybe somehow these words will find their way to your grandparents and they will share them with you. Or, maybe years from now you’ll find them online, and know that a lot of people were thinking about you today.

I read this morning that Timberlake Christian School, your school, has asked you to leave. The reason why, they say, is that you are not following “Biblical standards”. They say that you should be wearing dresses, and letting your hair grow out, and acting more “like a girl”. And they are saying that unless you do those things, you can’t go to your school anymore.

You are eight years old, and this probably sounds pretty silly to you. Don’t worry; I’m 37 years old and it sounds pretty silly to me too.

I’ll bet that I was a lot like you when I was eight years old. I didn’t like dresses. I liked playing football and collecting baseball cards. My favorite things were airplanes and science kits. And I liked cutting my hair short.

A lot of people called me a tomboy. I think they meant that as an insult, but I actually thought that was pretty neat. Maybe you do too. Or maybe you don’t. Which is okay, because if you don’t you can call yourself whatever you want. You get that choice, just like you get to choose what kind of clothes you wear, and what hobbies you like.

But here’s what bothers me most of all, Sunnie. These people who are saying you can’t go back to school with your friends are telling you that Jesus is the reason. Like you I was raised in the South. I spent the first part of my life in Virginia, just like you. And my parents always taught me to respect adults. But I was lucky because my parents also would tell me that sometimes adults are wrong.

Sunnie, the adults that told you that Jesus doesn’t like the way you dress, or that Jesus wants you to act “more like a girl”? They’re wrong.

Jesus does love you, Sunnie. You know how I know? Because Jesus loves me too. And Jesus loves everyone like us, who grows up preferring shorts to skirts, and jeans to dresses. Jesus loves us when we cut our hair short. Jesus loves us when we out hit the boys in baseball. And Jesus loves us when we don’t want to wear a pink bow in our hair.

The pastors at your school may disagree. That’s okay. Tell them that there are pastors out there who think that they are wrong about Jesus. I’m one of those pastors. And if you came to my church, or the churches of a lot of my friends, no one would say a word about what you were wearing or what your hair looked like. (Actually, we might…we might tell you we like your sneakers or your t-shirt…but that’s it.)

Sunnie, I don’t know who you’ll grow up to be in ten years. I don’t know who you will love, or what you will be like then. And that stuff doesn’t matter right now. Know why? Because you’re eight, and you have plenty of time to figure it out on your own time. No one else gets to do that for you.

So, Sunnie. I hope you keep being you. I hope your grandparents keep being incredible. And I hope your friends’ parents tell them that you had to leave school not because you did anything wrong, but because the school did something wrong.

But most of all, Sunnie, I hope you know that God loves you. God loves you so much, and God loves you exactly as you are now, and exactly as you will be. Never doubt that, no matter what people say or do to you. Just like they don’t get to tell you how to dress, they don’t get to take Jesus away from you either.

Keep being awesome, Sunnie.

Pastor Emily C. Heath


Update 3/26/14: Within about two hours of this blog post’s publication it found its way to Sunnie’s family and it was read to Sunnie. To those who made that happen, thank you.

Additionally, a number of people have commented or emailed saying the “true story” hasn’t come out. There have been both insinuations and outright assertions about Sunnie and Sunnie’s gender identity. Of course no evidence that their assertions are true has been presented. But, even if it were, here’s my question: Why does it matter?

If Sunnie, or any child for that matter, is trying to figure out who they are, why wouldn’t Christians want to support them? I think people have expected me to say, “Oh…well in that case…throw Sunnie out!” Really all I can say is clearly that school, a school that could not support Sunnie the way Sunnie needed to be supported, does not deserve to get to claim someone as brave as Sunnie as a student.

I believe Jesus said, “suffer the little children to come onto me” and not “suffer the little children to come onto me…but only if they are gender conforming”. I think a school that truly sought to follow him would do the same. But, that’s just my opinion. And, really, this has always just been about supporting Sunnie.

206 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Sunnie Kahle (and Christian tomboys everywhere)

  1. Thank you for reassuring Sunnie that God loves us no matter how we look or how we act. The school did Sunnie a great disservice and that is a shame. I hope and pray that she gets a chance to read your blog. God bless you!!

  2. know your facts. the school did NOT ask her to leave. the grandparents took her out of the school when the school said she must abide by their rules (as it is a Christian PRIVATE school. While you are correct that God loves her and she is precious in His sight, you are INCORRECT in your assertion that she was drummed out. this is why people need to stop jumping to conclusions and mind their own business.

      • No, you are wrong. They were given an ultimatum. Abide by the rules, or leave. That is not TCS’s ultimatum. That is SOCIETY’S ultimatum. NOWHERE on the FACE OF THE EARTH can someone rationally believe they can violate rules and have it be accepted without recourse! Timberlake DID NOT KICK HER OUT!
        Jeff Abbett, administrator of Timberlake Christian Schools, sent WDBJ7 the following statement Tuesday afternoon:
        “We are heart-broken that Sunnie’s grandparents have made her the subject of a public discussion. We regret that they made the decision to withdraw Sunnie immediately from Timberlake Christian Schools.
        For confidentiality reasons related to a minor, it is not possible for us to explain in full detail the volume of documentation we have concerning the situation that the grandparents have made public. There is much more to this story than has been revealed related to Sunnie and the classroom environment. Our documentation shows a significantly different narrative than the one portrayed in the original news report.
        You can be assured that we have cared for Sunnie and worked with her grandparents for several years to assist them. Our TCS teachers and administrators love Sunnie and we can assure everyone that this has never been an issue of hair length or boots as it has been portrayed. It has been our constant desire over the last several years to work with this family and to shepherd this precious little girl in a way consistent with traditional values.
        As a private Christian school, we have the responsibility to all our students to assist parents to instill the Christian values upon which our school is founded.
        We reiterate that the decision to remove Sunnie was entirely that of the grandparents.”
        Emily-you are entitled to your own opinion. You are NOT entitled to your own facts. And the fact is-you are wrong.
        And Rose-If you are looking at anyone one but Jesus as an example to live by, then you are lookin in the wrong place.

        • Well, Ben…it sounds like you want to believe whatever you want to believe. That’s fine. But, as you said, you can’t make up your own facts. The school gave her an un-Christian ultimatum. The fact you are defending it tells us all we need to know about your own values.

        • I’d also love to know exactly which school rules she violated? It sounds like they just decided they didn’t want a tomboy in the school, and their talk about “shepherding” her was all about making sure she didn’t “look like a boy”.

          • The little girl was following the school dress code, which allows trousers, tee shirts and shirts for both boys and girls, and only bans ‘disruptive’ hair styles. Her hair was obviously not disruptive; it is well inside cultural norms and was accepted during the previous year. She was held to an unwritten standard, with a written standard in place; hopefully a lawsuit will end this school from judging children by their physical appearance, and secure a sum that will put her through college in the future.

          • wait wait—if you don’t know why she was “kicked out” as you call it, then how do you dare write a letter telling her the folks that did it to her are wrong?! O wait–Its because you jumped to a conclusion without knowing the facts of the case…that’s right, I forgot.
            But to help you out, I’ll let you know the child has behaved in a manner inconsistent with TCS rules for a couple of years now. This is NOT a new issue. Apparently she has made comments regarding gender or sexuality that have disrupted the class environment. An 8 year barely knows how to SPELL sexuality, much less knows enough about it to discuss it in school. She has also demanded to use the boys bathroom even though she is a girl.
            Now, as you said to me, you can think what you want to; and you have every right to. But when you practice willful ignorance deserve every bit of ridicule you receive. That not only goes for people who soapbox in foolishness, but those that blindly follow them as well…
            So, I’m done. It’s obvious there is no desire here to actually seek the truth and find out what actually has happened, but rather hold on to 1out of context detail as stupid as hair length.
            You’ll excuse me for not hitching a ride on this particularly tone-deaf band-wagon.

              • Unfortunately for you, a Christian school can welcome a child and love her without accepting everything that she does, particularly when it disrupts the school and the other children. The school, as verified in documentation shared by the grandparents, has worked with this family for years trying to help them resolve these issues.

                To be a Christian, one doesn’t conform God to man’s sinful desires, man conforms himself to what God desires. To twist God’s words to conform to your own sinful ways is not Christianity. It’s a perversion of the Word of God.

                • If the school isn’t helping other students to accept Sunnie without being “disrupted” then the school isn’t very good at doing its job.

                  It’s clearly very important to you to believe what you want about this. That’s fine. But you aren’t preaching the Gospel of Jesus that I know, and you’re not going to get a lot of support for your views here.

                  • Ben, you do realize that your company’s ip address is showing up, right? I’m not trying to be a jerk, but if I were them I wouldn’t want my employees spending company time writing comments that trash an 8 year old. No one here is going to agree with you, so this is sort of pointless.

            • Ben, you and people like you are the reason I know longer believe in your kind of Christianity. The flagrant intolerance and lack of compassion by you and those like you make me wonder what Christianity is really about. As Pastor Heath so eloquently put it, Jesus doesn’t care about how you dress, wear your hair, hobbies you have etc. What does matter to Jesus is how you treat your fellow human beings. I gave up Christianity 40 years ago because this was the attitude then and I see much hasn’t changed. Oh and by the way, I am from Amherst VA but now living in CO and I am so ashamed of that area when I hear people ask in wonder.

              • show me where in the Bible Jesus called us to be tolerant and I will admit that you are completely right about Christianity. See, thing is, you CANT, because He DIDNT. Jesus said NO ONE gets to Heaven except thru HIM…sounds pretty intolerant of any other faith or line of belief to me. His statement was absolute. Jesus did not say, go into all the world and be tolerant of all people. He said PREACH THE GOSPEL and the GOSPEL does NOT teach TOLERANCE.
                So, you are correct, I am NOT a tolerant person…because I am not CALLED TO BE. You seem to think that calling me names will hurt my feelings and make me feel bad…it actually makes me feel great in knowing that people do not see me being a namby pamby and allowing every to say what they want to about my God and believe what they want because its all ok.
                Not all of us are going to Heaven, and the ones who pervert God’s Word will be some of the first in the line to Hell.

                • Ben, give it a rest. You’ve been commenting on this page for two days.

                  The Jesus you think you know is VERY different from the one I learned about reading the Gospels. Coming here and making threats about people going to hell is not only unwelcome, but it is a step too far. So, your soapbox is gone. You are banned.

                • By the way, I can see from your ip address that you are from Lynchburg, Virginia. That makes me wonder if you are employed by or affiliated with the school in question. That also makes me curious about the inside information you claim to have. I certainly hope you are not one of her educators.

                  • Ben has been blocked. Not because of his opinions, but because of the abusive way he was sharing them. (Telling people to “shut up”, etc.) He then tried to keep adding comments by registering them under a different email address. I’ve blocked that one too. Sorry that anyone was subjected to that under this page.

            • All you’re doing is demonstrating, by speaking on the school’s behalf as obviously staff of some type, is what kind of buffoons make decisions at that school.

        • HEY BEN…..PISS OFF!!! I personally know this CHILD & the situation.YOU r the reason ppl should mind theor business.

        • I get what you’re saying here. The issue is they released this AFTER the letter her gaurdians received in the spring was released. They chose to pull her from the school because the letter said she would not be allowed to re enroll in the fall because she is a girl who looks like a boy. It’s all in print. The two letters from timberlake cancel each other out, obviously the press release was the lie. Of course, there’s no need to keep your facts straight when you’re a private school. They have the right to enroll or expel whomever they please with no legal recourse, no matter the moral results. And sadly, parents will continue to enroll their children there.

        • My nephew attends this school. They have to wear uniforms while at school. It boils down to her “looking like a boy” because of her short hair. If she chooses not to wear dresses and such outside of school, that’s her own business, not the school’s. She hasn’t broken any school rules as far as her appearance goes. They have no right to tell people what they should look like and for ANY adult to try to teach children that they have to look a certain way or fit into specific gender roles to be accepted is both ignorant and unforgivable.

          • Why does the school want to sexualize little girls anyway? The girl looks more asexual than anything. I think they are full of it that she looks like a boy. She looks like neither and that’s okay at 8. It seems like the Christian school is attempting to apply adult values of womanly modesty and sexuality on a little girl, prematurely.

      • Emily,
        Based on the letter, it seems that she “violated” the portion that states “or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school.” However, I feel that this portion of this contract is terribly vague. In my opinion, it essentially says “Our school can do whatever we want,” which is completely unfair.

      • Reading “the press” gets you in trouble. They took an angle, a wrong one here as the information from the school mentioned nothing about her dress or hair length, and ran with it, spreading disinformation.

    • Ben; You’re the one who needs to learn the facts. If you’re an example of today’s Christians, I think I’ll change religions. Ignorant comments like yours are the mani reason so many people are leaving churches. You’re driving them away.

    • Ben: The child was set up to fail. Suppose the family decided to obey the ultimatum. Her hair could not have grown out quickly enough by the next school year to be “feminine” enough, especially if she has naturally fine hair. In a sense, she was forced to leave. Her grandparents did the right thing taking her out early.

      • The letter mentioned nothing about hair length. This girl was under counseling for “gender confusion”, she thought she might be a boy. The school does not agree with gender choice, they believe that when God installs your plumbing He didn’t make a mistake. She couldn’t get over that, and they were asked to either comply with the rules or not re-enroll.

          • It might not matter to you, as you obviously have the same issue. It does matter to true Christians. Set up your own private school for those with gender identity issues, invite them all to your school, and go forth and be merry. I fully support that. What I don’t support is you trying to undermine the rules of a private Christian school … rules, which, I might add, the grandparents were fully cognizant of when they enrolled Sunnie in the school. When the school refused to conform to non-Christian ways, they then saw fit to go public with this child’s problems, trying to point the fingers at the school as being the bad guy. This child has issues, and it’s no small wonder why.

            • Awesome! A layperson insinuating that a PASTOR isn’t a true Christian. Well…no surprise coming from anyone from TLC or the Lynchburg area. And I can say that with a mouth full of facts, because I’ve lived in the Lynchburg area for over 40 years.

              TLC’s stance is bigoted, plain and simple. B-I-G-O-T-E-D.

              Don’t even get me started on the quality of the education…which is laughable AT BEST.

        • When God “installs your plumbing”?? I certainly hope that you understand that “plumbing” and “sexual reproductive organs” and “gender identity” are three different things. (Plumbing, for one, has to do with your toilet.) And Chris, I hope you have just as much of a problem with anyone who dyes their hair, paints their nails, gets botox, wears contact lenses, wears makeup, shaves – all of these practices have to do with altering your appearance and changing what God “installed”. You don’t, though, because none of those activities stir up your fear of girls dressing like boys or boys dressing like girls. Just call your fear-based bigotry what it is and stop pretending it has anything to do with Jesus.

  3. I am sunnie kahle’s greatgrandmother. she was just read your letter. everyone in our family teared up. god put the burden on you to write your letter.thank you for your prayers. a Christian school local called me today and said sunnie was welcome to finish her year out in their school. god is great. we love him so. again , thanks………doris thompson

    • Dear Ms. Thompson,

      Thank you so much for letting me know! Please tell Sunnie and everyone in the family that she is in my prayers, and the prayers of many, many others. If there is anything we can do to show her our support, please let me know!

      Peace of Christ,

    • Me and my wife and 4 daughters are with and behind your family sunnie is beautiful just like she is ,,stay strong and know for every negative comment there are 5 to that one that are positive ,,great read Emily c heath great job and thank you from my family to all of yours

    • Hi! I am a former Christian school kid who also took heat for not being feminine enough. So grateful that Sunnie has a supportive family. I hope she is treated well at her new school. Lots of hugs to her!

  4. Pastor Heath God Bless you for your kind words, I believe that Jesus and his father love us all as we are. I can not believe true Christian’s would use verses from the bible to condone cruelty and pain to one of Gods children.Your a true disciple of our Lord and your words will be a comfort to Sunnie and her family.

  5. My question is…what about Jesus…He and all the other men wore dresses! So who is to say which dress code is correct. Should we go back to men wearing robes and all wearing their hair long!?

  6. This story really upset me this morning when I saw it on the news. I am so happy you have shared this with this child and I hope many more children see this and know that God loves them just as they are. Your message has really made my day. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for your good words, Emily. Proud to be a fellow pastor with you. (And one of those friend pastors who would be proud to have such an amazing family at our church… if we weren’t 100’s of miles away.)

  8. SOOOOO glad you wrote this. Soooo glad Sunnie was able to read it. Congratulations to Sunnie’s Grandparents. The oneness of God wherein we are all connected is healing.

  9. A friend of mine shared your letter and I was very impressed. The thing that continues to amaze me with “Christians” is that they want to forget any scripture that might show them in a bad light. “Judge not lest ye be Judged”. Children should be allowed to be just that CHILDREN! what they ware the lenght of their hair what activities they enjoy as long as not harmful to themselves should be encouraged and enjoyed. Luckily my mother felt this way. As a young boy I had LONG hair in a day when other would make snide comments about it. What they didn’t realize was that all males on both sides were bald as adults and i figured i mightas well enjoy it while i had it because it would be gone shortly and it is. I also loved cooking and now I am one of the main cooks at my church and take care of food for Navy ships.

    Leave the little girl alone and let her grow into the wonderful adult that she will with fond memories of childhood and worry about your own self!

  10. I seldom respond to blogs/posts but felt compelled to comment on this issue. Thank you, Pastor Heath, for taking the time to write such a loving letter to Sunnie, and more importantly, I thank the grandparents for loving their beautiful granddaughter and for removing her from the horrible bigotry of the school involved. These saints should be ashamed. Each and every one of them!

    • But why should any of those things, of true, mean that the child should be removed from the school? They shouldn’t. This is further indication of how wrong the school was in this case.

      • When this child’s problems become a problem for the other children enrolled in the school and the school itself because she is acting in violation to the rules, the child should be removed from the school. The school was completely right in this case, and the grandparents were fully right in removing her from the school.

        • What rules did she violate? According to both the letter from the school to the grandparents and the school’s initial statements to the media, the request that she not be re-enrolled had nothing to do with either her academic performance or her cooperation with school rules.

        • Obviously Linda Marie is a parent of another child in the school who doesn’t want her children or other children being corrupted by an apparently transgender child. The fear runs deep in the adults in that school. The parents, the administrators. They greatly fear anything that doesn’t fit into a narrow definition of Christianity. It’s a community of narrow-minded thinkers, obviously. They want their kids to live in a protected bubble removed from the real world and anything that threatens that, like an innocent 8 year old girl with profound sensitivities and insecurities, is to be SQUASHED. It’s a self-serving world. Really caring people are few and far between and unfortunately this little girl gets the brunt of the ugliness. Poor thing.

      • My impression from reading those letters is that the administrators of the school are dishonest and only concerned with themselves. There appears to be *no* love here for Sunnie. I say this because they suggested she leave for various reasons then turned around and stated that they regretted the quick removal of the child, despite having requested it. They wanted her to stay until the end of the school year, for what purpose?

        The grandparents were right to remove her immediately from such a hostile, unwelcoming environment. It demonstrates that the grandparents are concerned about Sunnie’s well-being. That hostile environment could damage her on an emotional and psychological level for the long term and the grandparents were only protecting her, something the predators at that school clearly didn’t consider when expressing regret at her immediate removal.

        If the school “loved” her, as they claim, they wouldn’t wish to subject her to the damaging situation she is was in at the school. There is no love. There are only LIES. What would Jesus say about someone who professes love as a cover for their indifference and hate? How can the admins of this school even call themselves Christians?

        The administrators of this school know that their quack policies come before the truth, compassion or love. And *that* is very clearly *not* living a biblical lifestyle.

  11. Thanks Emily!! I am from the same area of Virginia as Sunny…people are outraged here about this and saddened that once again Christians have “shot themselves in the foot…” I was raised (in the south) to love everybody and that it is what I am teaching my grandchildren to practice in word and deed….:)

  12. HEY BEN…..PISS OFF!!! I personally know this CHILD & the situation.YOU r the reason ppl should mind theor business.

  13. I graduated from this school and went to the Church this school is a part of most of my life…and I do not doubt they would do something like this. They are MUCH more concerned with the “rules” and “regulations” that they call biblical rather than showing the one true theme throughout the Bible, which is God’s love. Jesus Christ was much more concerned with showing God’s love to others than he was with following the religious regulations of the time…this is why he was called out by the Pharisees for performing miracles on the Sabbath. The rules were not what was most important to him, it was showing the love of God to mankind. He spent His time on earth with the thieves, the beggars, and the prostitutes. No judgement, just love. We are not here to judge others, that is God’s job. We are here to love others and never exclude them based on gender, race, or lifestyle. A private school can make up their own rules and has every right to ask someone to leave if they do not follow these rules…but the problem for this school is they are calling themselves a “Christian” school and claiming these rules as biblical. It is tainting the Christian title and turning people off rather than spreading love.

  14. I don’t usually post on comments, but I wanted to show my support for Sunnie. Thanks to Pastor Emily who wrote such kind words and set the record straight. I am a Christian, and I totally agree. Sunnie is beautiful, and is having fun, and should be able to play with her friends, and have the ability to be who God created her to be. God did not make a mistake. He gave her those gifts. I hope she uses them, and finds peace being who she is and realizes she can trust God even though there may be poor representatives around. I know when I was young I was a tomboy. I have been a tomboy most of my life, and now I have two children, and my daughter is not a tomboy .She is exactly the way God created her. I celebrate her, and I celebrate Sunnie. As we should. God gives us children as beautiful gifts. Gifts that we should never ever take for granted. Whether they are our children or not. If you respect the LORD then you should realize he put us all here. When you hurt a child you are hurting someone that the LORD put on this earth. I believe he has said pretty clearly, we should be protecting and loving our children. All of them. Sunnie you are marvelously created. Always remember. You can count on this. God loves you. You can trust HIM. He is your protector, and defender. He is always by your side. To the Grandparents, I hope you know that you are doing a great job. You obviously love her very much. She is very blessed to have such supportive and loving grandparents. God Bless you and your family. I pray something more wonderful comes out of this then you could ever imagine. Much love from a fellow tomboy.

  15. Pastor Emily, Sunny, and her family… John 3:16 simply states that “For God so loved the world…” There were no clauses, no exceptions, and certainly no gender based dress code. God bless you, Sunny, for being who you are, God loves you that way. God bless you, Sunny’s family, for raising Sunny in the manner in which you are, teaching Sunny to love God and to love herself. And God bless you, Pastor Emily, for reaching out to this family and reminding them of the true meaning of Christianity.

  16. Emily, I do not wish to argue or anything of that nature. However, I live in Lynchburg. Just minutes up the street from TCS. I actually attended TCS as a child. I also happen to know the family of Sunnie. There is so much more to this situation that no one knows. I know you don’t know me and I know that what I say probably doesn’t mean much to you and that is fine. Just please know that there are two sides to this story and TCS is not to blame. When a parent enrolls their child at TCS they agree to certain terms, rules, etc. They signed those forms knowing what they were agreeing to and then deliberately broke those rules. The same thing would happen to a child at a public school if they were to break the rules. If a student were to harm another student, or if a student were to disrespect a teacher or an administrator, there would be consequences to those actions. Are we free to do, say, dress, look like, and act as we please? Yes. Are there consequences to our actions? Yes. That’s all that has happened here. A child has broken the rules. The school has enforced it’s policies, the policies that the grandparents signed and agreed to when they signed Sunnie up for TCS. Again, I don’t want to cause any trouble or arguments. Just thought I would try to shed some light on the the other sided of the story.

    • This girl was adopted by her grandparents. I presume she already has some serious stress in her life. No compassion. She needs good friends. People who will love her unconditionally. That is what Jesus does, and that is the only thing that made a difference in my life. Plus the prayers of loved ones. You could love her unconditionally, and pray for her. God answers prayer. Wonder what the people in this church would think of Mary Magdelene, or the sinners that Jesus hung out with if they had been alive when Jesus was here. Read the bible. It’s an eye opener. Her grandparents did the right thing. They are asking for help and support. They are not making a public spectacle or behaving badly. Anyone who thinks they should keep this so called “private” information hidden is exposing their own bigotry and religious spirit. Sorry but true. There is no shame in asking for help, getting help, or anything similar. The kid should not be punished for having struggles in life, but when those around them, can’t do anything but judge it kind of explains why the kid is struggling to begin with. In a Christian church no less. You should be wrapping your arms around this child and making her feel safe and loved. I think everyone on this wall who believes in the power of prayer should pray for her, that God puts the right people in her life, and she finds peace. Christ’s agenda.

      • I just want to clarify two things:

        1. Timberlake Christian School is not a church, it is a school, an education environment, which has certain rules, rules that, I might add, the grandparents agreed to beforehand.

        2. If the grandparents had not chosen to go to the media with this issue, none of us would even know about it. The grandparents themselves have made a public spectacle of this issue. Sunnie certainly didn’t need the added problems of everyone in the state of Virginia and nationally knowing about her gender identity issues. Now, how is this going to help her at all?

        • Sunnie doesn’t have “gender issues”. Sunnie is a beloved child of God whose gender may be more complex than yours. And that’s okay.

          And how with this help Sunnie? By making Sunnie know that there are a lot of people of there who think Sunnie is perfectly normal. And for all the kids out there like Sunnie? They’re great too. And now they know that.

        • This will help her know that she is not alone. She has people on her side. There is no shame in struggling, and it’s safe to call on the name of Jesus for help. Something that “school” should be teaching her. It’s a shame that the community she has grown to love and trust is punishing her for having difficult circumstances. Circumstances she has to face now in a community of judgment and rejection. At the age of 8.

          If you are calling yourself Christian you should be helping the sick, the wounded, the broken, the poor, the needy. Whether you are a school, pastor, church, or person. Seems to me this school calls themselves educators but are in need of some education.

          John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”
          1 John 3:17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
          Romans 15:1 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
          Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

          You should help this child, and keep helping her. That’s how God saves us. He never gives up. He keeps loving us till we finally see.

    • According to the actual letter submitted by TCS to Sunnie’s grandparents, Sunnie did NOT violate any rules. When you say “so much more to this situation that no one knows” you are apparently including TCS in those who don’t know much about the situation. According to both the letter they sent and initial comments to the news media, TCS has stated that this has nothing to do with either her academic performance OR her cooperation with school rules.

      As a private school, TCS is well within their rights to ask her to not be re-enrolled if she will not live up to their criteria for what makes a girl a girl. Many of their defenders have pointed that out as if that makes some kind of a difference. Just because they have the RIGHT to do something, doesn’t make it RIGHT for them to do. Those who believe we should teach children to be comfortable and happy with who they are, instead of demanding they live up to some other person’s expectations, have the RIGHT (maybe the RESPONSIBILITY) to speak up and say as much.

    • The point is that the “rules” that the school says she has broken are morally and ethically repugnant and truly UnChristian. The Jesus of Scripture did not put forth a single qualification necessary to be deserving of His Love. It is time to stop sheltering viewpoints that are abusive, morally bigoted and spiritually contradictory under the guise of “religion.” Discrimination due to gender identity is wrong in a society of Christians or non-Christians, whether or not it’s codified in the arbitrary rules of a school. Sunnie and her family may well have broken a rule of this school, but what society is objecting to is the idea that those kinds of rules even exist because they are wrong. They are the antithesis of Christ’s message.

  17. Thank you for your letter. I will be praying for Sunnie to be happy. I am a 47 year old Christian tomboy who still likes to dress like a boy and my hair keeps inching it’s way shorter and shorter. I have informed my family and friends that if they see me in a dress to get me to a hospital immediately because I have completely lost my mind. When I was growing up a tomboy was just a tomboy and nobody really made a big deal about it. Why have people become so judgemental and less and less accepting of other people’s differences? Having everyone the same would be boring.

  18. This was and should have remained a private matter between a private Christian school and the grandparents of this child. Since the parents saw fit to make a public spectacle of themselves, they have inadvertently put this child up as an offering for the pro-gay agenda. Shame on them and shame on you.

    The grandparents signed a contract when enrolling their granddaughter in the school, there were on-going issues, and the grandparents decided to take their granddaughter out of the school. This is not a government school that has to accept everything, and the grandparents had the right to pull their granddaughter out.

    You are 37 years old and are adult enough to make your own decisions for your own personal life. God gives you that freedom. Don’t try to use this child to support your own agenda by trying to appear to support her.

    • The grandparents have every right to make this public. The school is embarrassed because it was and they should be. A problem cannot be corrected if it is hidden. Sure this school has rules but that does not mean the rules couldn’t or shouldn’t be changed. I believe this rules need to be changed. What I see are some very bigoted, narrow minded, closed minded, self -righteous people that projected those prejudices on this child.

    • Oddly enough, “It is a private matter” is exactly the response my aunt received from her bishop, archbishop, the police and her friends when, thirty years ago, my cousin was repeatedly raped by their parish priest in Boston. Shaming and demanding silence is an age-old tactic of religion, and we’re all tired of it. Theists can no longer enforce silence on their victims.

  19. Oh, forget you and your support of the fallacy that a “private company” (which is what this school is) should be able to lay down discriminatory rules and get away with it. No-one took the school to court. The opinion of those adversely affected by their shitty rules was made known. I’m tired of the whiners who think bad behavior (such as displayed by this show in the mask of “Christianity”)being brought to light is unfair.

    Just because it was legal for the CEO of ChikFilA to send chunks of his profits to Uganda to support the death penalty for gays as a tax writeoff didn’t make it wrong for people to say “OK, I won’t give you any more of MY money, then.”

    The bigotry Boy Scouts is finally being toppled. Salvation Army nearly went down in flames. It’s time for people to stand up and say “this is wrong” whether it is in a contract or not – and NO reason why everyone should sweep it under the rug.

    Yay Sunnie. Yay her family. Yay pastor Emily. Boo on the school. I’m glad I know how hateful it is so i can help warn people away. And of course they withdrew her – who wants their kid in a place where she’s already been told she’s not welcome – even if they weren’t going to actually ban her until next year? Forget THAT and forget the people in this trhead who think attacking a kid because of some vague line in a “contract” is cool.

    I’m an atheist. My son went to private PreK in a church. You now how many we discarded until we finally found ONE that didn’t insist on us signing a statement of faith? Who didn’t mind that we were atheists, or that my little boy has two mommies? A LOT. Of course, we live in the South, so hate like this from “Christians” is what we expect. Sad.

  20. The school was well within its rights, of course, to enforce its own rules. But there is nothing wrong with exposing what those rules are.

    And what is clear that a gender-non-conforming child is not welcome at this school. A CHILD. Noted.

    Most of us do not find that a particularly Christian rule. In fact, we see no evidence that Christians are required or entitled to judge the gender conformity or non-conformity of others. Most of us see the great Christian commandment being to love one another, and we do not find this action to be particularly loving.

    Even if it is legal. If the school is embarrassed, well, they should be.

    So good luck to Sunnie and her awesome grandparents. Shame on narrow-minded folk who pretend that their narrow-mindedness is justifiably “Christian”. But there are lots of open-minded Christians out there who would welcome Sunnie’s family to their schools and faith communities.

  21. This letter to Sunnie is absolutely beautiful! Thank you for showing the good in Christians and the love of our Savior for everyone. As a former student of this particular school, a parent of my own children and an educator, this whole story has just made sad! In a time when we need to uplift each other and especially guide our children, it breaks my heart to see something like this and its even more difficult when its here in my own community. Thank you for reaching out to this child and family! Thank you for showing even me as an adult that there are still good people in this world!

  22. Yes, congratulations to the grandparents for making a public spectacle of themselves and this child’s problems. She’s already in counseling because her grandparents are aware of such problems. Now, they’ve added insult to injury.

    Like it or not, one’s religious freedoms do not end because of another’s declaration of equality. There are plenty of avenues for equality among the masses, but what you don’t have a right to do is undermine another’s beliefs.

    If you don’t like the school’s rules, don’t enroll your child there.

      • Beyond reprehensible.

        And where is anyone’s religious liberty being infringed? Saying “you suck” isn’t infringing anyone’s rights. For crying out loud. “Christians” have the right to be jerks, sadly. We have the right to call them out on it. End of.

      • Unfortunately for Sunnie, her grandparents contacted WSET 13, a local station; and during the interview with WSET, this information was freely shared with the public. So, no, I’m not claiming inside knowledge of anything. This is information that the grandparents shared with the school and then freedly shared with the public. Since you don’t know all of the facts in this case, you clearly aren’t aware of this.

        It is indeed reprehensible that the grandparents would out their granddaughter for being in counseling for gender identity issues. I would have never done this.

        • No one has been able to provide a link that backs up what you are saying. But, even if they did, so what? If it’s true, why should Sunnie be pushed out of school for being in counseling and asking hard questions? Jesus said “suffer the little children to come onto me” not “suffer the little children to come unto me, but only if they are gender conforming”.

    • I certainly wouldn’t enroll any child of mine there, not after reading about this. Just because the school has the legal freedom to do what it did, that does not mean it shouldn’t be called to account for having the rules it does or for how they enforce them. It’s like freedom of speech. It includes the freedom to say what you want but also the freedom of others to respond. No-one is undermining anyone’s beliefs. What we are doing is called “disagreeing” and “challenging.” Many of us responding are Christians and I, personally, am aghast that any school would call itself “Christian” and behave in this fashion. I hope the administration at the school can take this as a wake-up call to examine their consciences.

    • Sunnie doesn’t have a problem. The school has a problem. Sunnie is a Child of God. The school is governing according to prejudices of Man, not according to the Word of God.

  23. Thank you so much for your letter to Sunnie. I hope someone shares it with her now, and in the years to come. I was a tomboy, am a tomboy, and will always be a tomboy. My path also led me to being a mom (luckily of two boys! Not sure I would have known what to dowith girls…). I still find myself judging my tomboy-ness against all those other moms who are dressed trendy with makep on and the long hair. Why? I’m not sure. I just do. I pray your letter to Sunnie will help her celebrate who she is both now and in all the years to come. To live like Christ is to love like Christ; with no reservations or judgements.

    Again, thank you so much for your moving letter. I thank you on Sunnie’s behalf, on behalf of the little girl I used to be, and on behalf of the tomboy I still am.

    C. Morgan

  24. I was one of those little girls too, and after leaving the church at about 15 I’ve struggled with the concept of god (how I spell it) and god’s love for me. Thank you for doing this for Emily, and all of the little girls out there who need to know that they’re fine just the way they are, even if they’re all grown up now. 🙂

  25. I go to the other Christian school in this town and I would just like to say that there is sooooo much more to this story than what the MEDIA has published. It is a great Christian school that upholds biblical morals. For one, they did not kick sunnie out, her grandparents removed her. TCS has worked with her and her family for several years encouraging them and reaching out to them. In no way did TCS tell Sunnie that she wasn’t loved by God because of the way she dressed. Everyone please remember that the media twists and turns things to make a good story and especially give a bad name to Christians these days. Please research this story more and do not be quick to make judgements when there’s more than meets the eye. Thank you.

      • I do not even know the extent of this story, Ms. Heath. But I do know what the media can do and I was just suggesting that people not jump to conclusions and they look at the story from all sides and perspectives. TCS could not give a full description of what was really happening because it was dealing with a minor. I’m not saying anyone is perfect here, none of us are. Let’s keep in mind our own faults here too people.

  26. Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

    This means we should care about each other, and help each other. That is what Christians are supposed to do. Love like Jesus.

  27. Makes me wonder if all the women teaching and working in the school wear their hair long and wear dresses or skirts to school everyday. Hum? Do they not wear shorts in the summer cause I can tell you that summer in Lynchburg can be hot. What allows them to cast stones? Oh wait, they think they are above reproach. I worked in the public school system for more than ten years and am an Army vet of the Iraq War. I’m also Catholic in a predominately Baptist town. One of the first questions I get when I meet someone new is, What church do you attend?” The looks I recieve when they figure out I’m Catholic are incredible. One would think I was Satan. I’m fully aware of people’s bigotry against those who are different. We may not know the ‘whole’ story, but I think we have enough information to know that this school is archaic in its thinking and practices. I feel for this little girl. She and her grandparents make me proud to have fought for the freedom of our country while TCS makes me ashamed.

  28. Beautifully written, Pastor Heath. Your gentle words are like a sun. I can feel their warmth from here. It sounds like Sunnie and her family can too. You’ve done a wonderful thing here.

  29. Does this “private” school receive any tax money in the form of vouchers or other? If so, the tax paying public has every right to call this school out on its shameful behavior. I, for one, am tired of religious exemptions, bigotry, and pathetic attempts to justify bad behavior by using the religion card.

  30. I’ve never been so touched by a letter before. I haven’t heard about this story, it’s not in my neck of the woods but I wish every school was sent this letter. Most of all, I wish I read a letter like this when I was eight. I didn’t have short hair but I played sports with the boys and liked to collect hockey cards. I feel for this girl and hope she gets to see this letter.

  31. Last time I read the Bible, girls weren’t usually given an education, there was no gym class, and there were sacrifices instead of multiplication tables. Are they going to change the curriculum to those standards to be more Biblical? I seriously hope they change their rules, because honestly it’s reflected badly on them so far and it’ll reflect worse as time goes by.

  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Wonderful, inspiring words. A warmth exudes from them that shows how heartfelt they are and how a genuine an individual you are as well. Thank you for posting that so that not only may that little girl and her grandparents benefit, but so many others as well. I will be sharing your words with others because love such as your words express, should be shared. Thank you again.

  33. I thought God made everybody in His image? So, either He represents wondrous variety and we are all perfect just the way we are or God has major self-esteem issues that have culminated in sadistically abusive creative behavior.

    I’d like to be a fly on the wall of THAT Christian school board discussion.

  34. Dear Emily–Thank you for your kind words. I believe that kindness brings healing and makes new paths possible. Made in the image of God, we create the world with our words and yet too often we forget the power words have to heal or harm. In the comments on this blog, on other articles about Sunni and in other articles I have been reading yesterday and today on topics along this vein, I have been appalled by the sharpness of words that people throw out at strangers. I deeply appreciate the kind words you offered for Sunni. Thank you.

  35. I just wanted to reach out and commend you for such a worthwhile and beautiful letter. Even though I was girlie early-on (The Palmolive commercials with Madge the manicurist were my favorite “tv shows.”), I struggled as a child to know that I was OK as a person. I was bullied for not being pretty enough, for being awkward, and because I had a parent who had died. Having loving teachers and a wonderful school to support me, and to encourage me to be my best self was part of how I came through. ALL CHILDREN deserve the support and care of the adults around them, which to me includes not sexualizing an eight year old!

    The part of the school’s letter that made me want to throw-up a bit was all the anti-GLBTQ scripture quotations. Where was the “love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself” quotation? Adult confusion about the plethora of gorgeous unique people God has created–black, brown, white, gay, straight, transgendered, queer, fat, thin, tall, short, etc., etc., etc.,–has not one thing to do with this little girl’s own identity. She is allowed–like all of us–to discover herself in her own time and in her own ways. What in the world makes us think that God only makes two kinds of people–straight boy and straight girl? God! God, who is so astoundingly creative She cannot help herself but create each one of us with unique everything. God, who is so astoundingly creative She cannot help herself but to create millions of flowers of every kind and fragrance.

    Let this little flower be exactly who God made her to be. Anything less is about the adults’s fears and not about this precious child.

  36. Amen sister. We cannot tolerate this treatment and let people pretend they did it for Jesus. Side note, if you’d ever like a guest contributor spot on The Other Christians blog, we’d welcome you. Theotherchristians.wordpress.cM

  37. Gosh I wish I lived near your church ;_; (I’m from Australia) I live in the closet about being a transwoman.. I know Jesus loves me because God made me like this, but I keep it to myself and Him because I know people react like this school has to gender-non-conforming people, and I don’t want to ruin the lives of my children and family by bringing this hate on them. Your kingdom come Lord, I’m so tired of this fallen world ._. Thank you so much for writing this letter to Sunnie, everyone needs to know Jesus loves them.

    • To all the people here who demand that ‘God made Sunnie a girl’ .. Now I don’t want to say anything about Sunnie’s gender identity, because I odn’t know her, but have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps God made her trans gendered? Maybe gender isn’t binary?

      Yes Genesis states that he made them ‘man and woman’ (before you go quoting that at me), THEM, Adam and Eve, them specifically.. but there are dozens of hair colours, and Adam and Eve didn’t have them all right? there are many colours of eyes, and they didn’t have them all? There are many colours of skin and they didn’t have all of them at once? so maybe within the first people there were different genders that they didn’t display?

      I’ve struggled with these things for a long time, and in the end I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps God makes people differently because He likes variety? He is a creative God? Perhaps it’s because when we who have non-binary gender identities struggle through all of the HATE* from other Christians and the world we bring glory to His name when we hold fast in Jesus?

      Why did God allow Nick Vujicic ( to be born with no arms or legs? Adam and Eve had arms and legs!

      Perhaps because some people are different, some people have their own struggles, some people glorify their savior when they make it through despite all of these challenges, worshipping him all the way.

      And finally, if you’re one of the people posting so angrily here (Ben?), if you are a Christian I just ask that you check your heart right now, are you being meek and humble? are you showing love with your words? who exactly are you so angry at and why?

      * see 1 Cor 13 for some tips here folks, it’s for more than just weddings and funerals.

      • Melanie,

        Thank you! That is a gorgeous response. I was raised Christian (Catholic) and even though I moved away from that, I remember being taught that we were all “made in God’s image.” So perhaps God is intersex? Is it possible God isn’t a straight, white male? Maybe God isn’t cisgender! The prejudice I see coming from “Christians” on a regular basis is astounding. My heart breaks for you that you feel it necessary to hide an integral part of yourself. That’s a solitary hell people shouldn’t have to experience, especially when you’ve done nothing wrong.

        There was a case similar to Sunnie’s in Maine, that also centered around a private (though not Christian) school. The arguments and uproar were the same. It’s a “school, and the other kids shouldn’t have to be exposed to that disruptive blah blah etc.”

        With the numbers of agonized kids resorting to suicide rising, one would hope that people could find a way to open their hearts, instead of shutting them while sticking their fingers in their ears muttering ‘I don’t wanna hear it.’
        Thank you, Rev. Heath for being on the side of the angels.

        – Kit

        • Thanks Kit! I realise that I might have come off sounding very harsh, I’m no better than anyone and there ARE lots of lovely people in the church who are full of love and grace towards all of His children.

          I just wanted to say, God refers to Himself as a He, and I’m all for using the personal pronouns someone chooses for themselves!

          However out of God came all people, men, women, intersex etc, and He shows all of the best aspects of fatherhood and motherhood combined in one perfect thing called Love.

          In the end God’s unfathomable nature probably surpasses our earthly concepts of gender, yet He is at the same time in the business of wanting to have a personal relationship with us, and He has chosen to represent Himself to us as our Loving Father ❤

          – Mel

          • The original scriptures referred to god using *both* male and female genders — the references to any female-gendered actions such as giving birth — “bringing forth” the world, for example, which was definitively written in the feminine mode — were either deleted or changed to the masculine when the bible was copied over into Latin, English, etc. Oops, huh?

              • I’ve heard this said many times before and I’d love to see some evidence of it, because it would be quite a revelation if it is true! Also the idea in general that the Patriarchy has altered the bible texts.

                Unfortunately I don’t read ancient Hebrew/Greek/Arimaic (yet!) so I cannot confirm or deny for myself. However I have two doubts that come up in my mind whenever I think on this issue, as well as a general assurance everything is ok even if it IS true. One of my thoughts is worldly and the other spiritual.

                Firstly my worldly doubt:

                I can absolutely agree that when the bible was translated into English first by men between 1100s and Wycliffe in middle of the 1300s, and later the more popular KJV in 1611, members (men) of the church, which was a major patriarchal powerbase, could likely have altered the text as it was translated.

                However since then and especially in recent decades there have been many translations to English from ancient texts which have not referenced older English bibles. Some of these translations (ESV and to some extend the NIV) have sought after more inclusive language while accurately representing the original intent, such as replacing ‘man’ with gender-nutral language such as ‘humankind, people’, in the context of ‘man the species’ ranther than ‘men’ (gender).

                These newer translations, still refer to God as Father, in the masculine sense, even with the purpose being to make language more inclusive.

                Secondly, my spiritual doubt:

                (I realise this goes beyond the secularist/worldling’s argument so if you fall into that camp you can probably stop reading here).

                If we agree that the bible is the inspired word of God, and that God is all powerful, then surely we have to agree that the word of God, to a large extent, the true meaning of the gospel, as revealed to the believer by hearing the Word and by the revelation of the Spirit, is protected by it’s Creator?

                God has chosen the written word to convey His will for humanity, I don’t think that He would allow it to be corrupted to the extent that it masks such a major feature of His person?

                What personally comforts me:

                The truth of the gospel message is hidden from the world, it cannot be understood unless revealed through the working of the Spirit. Even if the Word of God was corrupted for the benefit of the patriarchy, we are given the Spirit of God, who can descern between what is from God and what isn’t. There is so much evidence in scripture that our God cares for, puts as much of his love into and trust into women as much as men, that I have no fear that our Father has a favourite gender or is biased in any way. Those ideas are legalistic and from man’s interpretation of the word.

                And one last thought that warms my feminist heart:

                Dear Patriarchy, you’ve put women in the servant role for thousands of years, well consider this: Jesus made it pretty clear that the meek shall inherit the earth. Mark 9:25 says ‘Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”‘ .. Jesus has always had a way of turning the worldly order on it’s head like that 🙂

                Best wishes,


                • I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint that the bible speaks equally to all of humankind regardless of differences such as skin color, gender, dress, etc. The crux of the problem I have with how this school treated this child is just that , thus demonstrating humans have a bit of a way to go to understand that God does indeed love all of us equally, regardless of how we dress or wear our hair.or who we love.

  38. I drove a school bus in a public school district for 20 years. Believe me when I tell you…bullying is real. More kids die of suicide than ever before…..due to bullying from other kids at school…..”other kids”, not the administration. This precious, sweet baby has had adults she relied on tell her that she is not good enough for their school….this is bullying in the worst form.

  39. Any school who doesn’t allow girls who don’t “dress enough like girls” for them isn’t a place I’d want my daughter, anyway. God doesn’t care if she wears pants or short hair or feels more masculine than feminine. Those feelings are the result of chemical and hormonal levels in our bodies…Our bodies that are so fearfully and wonderfully made. She’s perfect the way she is.

    • Also, if the school knows of other children treating her unkindly and making fun of her because of this (it was stated in the letter that was from the school), why are those bullies not asked to leave the school for violating the code of ethics? Why is not dressing “girly” enough an offense that warrants dismissal, but hurting others is allowed?

  40. I don’t see removing a child from a school (regardless of what reasons, and what type of school it is) is a wise way of naturing children.

    Schools are supposed to nature, not to decide which is good egg and rotten egg, then cast out those that aren’t seem to be successful or “good”.

    How are the children in that school going to be loving to people who are different (in anyway) from them, when school is already instilling ideas that “if they are different, they don’t belong to your world”?

    But, God didn’t do that to us. We are always naughty and don’t follow his rules, but he still loves us and welcome us to be part of his world, his kingdom, his family. Then, who are us, to judge others, when the grace is given from God himself to all of us.

    May I wish all the good blessings to Sunnie and her family members and all the supportive people in building a bright future for Sunnie. People can be ignorant and say things that hurt other, don’t get upset, God is loving and forgiving.

  41. I think this little cherub is lovely
    She’s very sweet to look at
    Since when did pretty or feminine in society’s view equate to pink and dresses always
    I’m genuinely afraid we may have lost the plot as a community
    When did not being in a dress for a little girl mean you were transgender or gay
    Life is hard enough for our children today come on people really
    God love her and all of the people who walk the talk of love support nurture and cherish
    Not just talk talk talk
    I wonder where bullying comes from NOT

  42. Pastor Emily C. Heath,

    Personally I don’t believe in god so I’ll respond to this post the way I would any other related to discrimination. Simply put, the school is wrong, the pastors are wrong, and anyone who is ignorant enough to tell a child (or any other person) how they should look, what they should believe, or who they should love is wrong.

    I find it amazing that the human race has been able to come this far and we can still find people who discriminate others of the same species, why can’t we get beyond this? One thing that really sent the point home for me was this:

    The first time I was in the middle east I was walking through a shia’a neighborhood (which, by the way, was off limits) and I saw a small group of Bahraini children playing in front of their house. The game they were playing was what I always called a “hand-slap” game – something similar to “patty cake,” or “Miss Mary Mack,” obviously I didn’t understand the language (Arabic), or what the song was about, but what I did see was that people are the same everywhere. Children simply want to have fun with their friends and develop into the people they will become, and adults strive to create a better life for their children. To me that is the most fundamental thing there is in life, your religion, gender, nationality, sexuality, etc. in the end is all meaningless.

    Hopefully this post made some sort of sense and that you understand my point of view. I’m glad you took the time to respond to the negativity thrust upon this young girl and hope that people learn to become more accepting.

  43. Danke! Thank you, amazing text, amazing letter, danke from Switzerland. I am a Rev., too, love sneakers and hoodies and fully agree.

  44. I found this and in so many ways her story, and apparently yours, mirrors my own. It wasn’t a school but family that told me to “be normal”. I went to a Christian school as well. Thank God they just let me be (the administration that is, the students still daily reminded me of my outsider status).
    Here is something to consider in all of this: if people are not BORN gay then what is the threat of letting an 8 year old just be who they are on their path to sexual “normalcy”? But the outcry is clearly in indication of the betrayal in philosophy and theology; this school and people like them do believe something is in borne. Rather than continue to fight in such a fruitless manner, can’t Christians fall before Christ and ask for HIS wisdom?

    Thanks for this post. 🙂 (glad to know I wasn’t the only girl in the 1980s trading topps)

  45. What a pity. There are enough problems in life without creating new ones for little children.

    As a second-grader at Sts. Peter & Paul elementary, I realized I was different than my classmates, and at the time, I thought that I was likely the only person in the world like me, so I pretended.

    I continued to pretend all the way through high-school, was voted by me peer to be their V.P. in both our junior and senior years, was captain of the football team, and still, I new I was different, although I now realized that I was not the only one. I didn’t know anyone like me in our small town, but had read about others in cities to which I’d not yet traveled.

    Our numbers seemed to be not only small, but hated, detested. So I continued to pretend.

    In fact, the Pew Research Center studies have shown that non-believers are the least trusted in society. So many still believe that just because we don’t believe in god, we are somehow, immoral and untrustworthy.

    No one should have to hide who they are. No one should be indoctrinated as a child.

  46. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been following this news story in the local media, and I’m appalled at the abusive comments people are leaving on the news sites about this child and her family. I actually attended the school in question for six years. To say that those were not good years for me would be an understatement, and my experience there played a major part in me leaving the Christian faith altogether. I’m so glad your message of love and compassion reached Sunnie and her family.

  47. Good work, Pastor Emily. While it’s true that we don’t have all the facts, you’re right in saying we need to keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing, according to Jesus, is compassion. Unfortunately, controversies like this tend to get people’s blood boiling, and that’s when sin gets added to sin. I pray that people won’t pile judgment upon judgment in this case. The last thing we need is more pointing fingers.

  48. Dear Pastor Heath,
    I found the article about Sunnie on Facebook today. Right beneath I found a link to your Blog. I was raised christian, today I follow the Way of the Buddha, but when I read about that little girl, this instantly crossed my mind: Matthew 19:14
    New King James Version (NKJV)
    14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

    When I read your Blog afterwards, I was relieved, all is not lost. Thank you so much for saying this.

  49. What a beautiful open letter. If more Christians (and especially pastors) were more like you, I might still be one (but that’s a whole ‘ other story).

    Btw, my beautiful redhead Irish wife of 20 years was a big tomboy as a kid. It has turned her into the tough, smart beautiful woman I am proud to call my Better Half. You go, Sunnie!

  50. Pingback: An Open Letter to Sunnie Kahle (and Christian tomboys everywhere) | foodlestooks

  51. I believe the school was very wrong in this case, and the grandparents are the truly accepting party. But you are jumping the gun in offering your “support” b/c you are obviously linking it to being gay, as you yourself are, which means you are projecting your adult experience onto a little girl you don’t know at all. She does not need LGBT support at 8 yrs old, she just needs parental and teacher unbiased generalized love and support (which her grandparents seem to provide just fine without LGBT interference). Just because you were a tomboy and are now gay does not mean Sunnie will turn out gay. Many tomboys, like myself, grow up and accept their female gender just fine, even if never becoming “girly”. But nowadays such a child will all too likely be directed to adopt a gay identity rather than letting the question remain neutral or develop according to the child’s personal timetable.

    Your support is not “support” it is a gay oriented “influence” ; an opportunity you’ve seized and publicized (via a letter to the family) for YOURSELF, not for Sunnie, to justify your place in society-a place which IS perfectly justifiable, but you do not need someone else’s children, who are still in formation, to shore it up.

    Parents do not appreciate “support” from other adults who try too quickly to assume and support “gayness” in THEIR child, and interfere with their family privacy “on behalf” of a child whose sexuality is still off the radar and under development. Why do you think you are immediately qualified to speak for her and to influence her with your letter of “support” just because you are in the LBGT camp? Why are you any more qualified than a than a former tomboy, straight, but not girly woman (and we don’t project, we let kids be kids). Yes, you are projecting. Not fair to the child, and this is exactly what parents perceive as a gay agenda- targeting their not necessarily fitting-in children. You are not helping the LGBT side.

    • Um, I have no clue what Sunnie’s sexual orientation or gender identity may be. And, I don’t care. Plenty of tomboys grow up to be straight, plenty of non-tomboys grow up to be gay. And Sunnie’s family has already contacted me to thank me for my support. So, perhaps you are the one projecting?

  52. Thank you so, so, so so much. That last part really touched me.

    After the whole ordeal with the little boy (Grayson) wearing a My Little Pony backpack to school, I have been speaking to all kinds of different people about their views on it. Sadly, 99% of the people who say he should “act like a boy and like boy things” and have literally said the words “I won’t let my son play with/like/do ‘girly’ things” (and vice versa) use “I am raising them to be the way God intended.” I don’t think they understand how much telling children their natural self is wrong harms them. I’m overjoyed there are people like you out there.

  53. There has been a lot said in the comments, on both sides of this argument. I would just like to say, as bit of a tomboy and a life long atheist, this letter has given me renewed faith in the religious community. So often, I read articles and posts vilifying anybody who is slightly different, but very rarely do I get to read an article that expresses Christian charity so warmly.
    For all those who have had a go about this letter, why not take a look at the bare bones of the situation?
    At the end of the day, she is an 8 year old child…she has the right to grow up with a positive self image and also to get to know herself on her own time, something that most of the people involved in this discussion were probably lucky enough to be afforded!
    I would also remove my child from that situation as quickly as possible, would you want your child exposed to this level of negativity?

  54. Thankfully, in God’s sight, our identity lies not in our physical appearance and other human measurement standards. 1Samuel 16:7 – For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

  55. Reblogged this on stumpthesquirrels and commented:
    My husband attended Timberlake Christian Academy as a child. Upon hearing this, he was stunned into shamed silence. The fact is, we can each have individual thoughts and feelings, but imposing worldviews upon children in your care and shunning them for not conforming to those views is not a service to anyone. I appreciated the kind and absolutely true words of this pastor to Sunnie. Having done untraditional activities such as tractor pulling as a kid, I appreciate kids who still do what they want to do and are unafraid to be different. May my children be this free one day.

  56. To all the grown-ups who are trying to tell Rev. C. off for supporting this child, or who say “there’s more to the story” as though this were news (everyone has a complicated story):

    This is an 8 year old kid.

    Do you remember being 8? I do. I thought I was so grown up, but I was still so dependent on my parents and the adults around me. When an adult told me I was bad or wrong, I believed them because they were the adult. When an adult praised me, it was the best thing in the world.

    Whatever you think about the choices her grandparents made, or the school made, and regardless of who you might be friends with at that school or in town: this is a child. She deserves to be loved. Even when she makes mistakes. God loves us even when we make mistakes, and when we do things right.

    Be gentle with the child. Don’t attack her to preserve your own skin.

  57. Pingback: 37. Kapitel – Gender Studies II – Anatols Abenteuer

  58. Beautifully said! I hope these words can reach her! And maby some of the adults that were on board with the expelling! Wh [ are we to say what should and shouldnt be done….no one only Christ can see the hear of a person! A beautiful leter!

  59. She was drummed out and her offence appears to be that she was not girly enough for the Christians! And Christians wonder why the tide of popular opinion is moving rapidly away from the current guardians of what it means to be true believers.

  60. Beautiful post. I was just like Sunnie when I was a little girl. I wore boy’s clothing, tagged along with my older brother and his friends, was always getting dirty, cried and screamed when my mother wanted to curl my hair and put bows in it… I just wanted to be outside, would rather be riding horses or playing with dogs and plastic dinosaurs than doing anything else. It was tough. I didn’t have a lot of girl friends. Most of my friends were boys. Which has its positives and negatives. A lot of teachers in school would express concern, or mistakenly think I was a boy at first. But it gets better. It really does. Through it all, I was myself, and my parents, especially my mother, always encouraged me to be myself. That’s what is most important. Keep your head up, Sunnie. You are beautiful.

  61. Dear Reverend, thank you for the letter you wrote to little Sunnie. Such a nice, human and warm letter. God bless you for writing it.

  62. I guess a lot of so-called ‘christians’ would judge and condemn the Apostle Paul for these words, ” 1Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”

  63. Thank you for writing this beautiful and encouraging letter. I don’t share this difference with you and Sunnie, but I appreciate it deeply. I spent 31 years as a teacher in middle schools and high schools. I saw a number of children with gender-identity issues. And the worst part of that story is that is always the “other” who judges and tells the child that they are wrong that makes this an issue. And sometimes that judgement leads severe depression and suicide. What you have done in this essay is to use healing words, as the Bible recommends we do. Bless you for being a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

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