June 15, 2015 (ThePublicDiscourse) — Through his executive appointments, President Obama has helped expose American schoolchildren to activism that places them at risk.
On May 19, 2009, a few short months after his inauguration, Obama gave the green light to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to appoint Kevin Jennings to a top position to influence school policy: the post of Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, also known as the “safe schools czar.” Jennings, a powerful LGBT rights activist who is himself a gay man, was the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN is one of the largest LGBT activist organizations in the nation and is devoted to promoting homosexuality in K-12 schools. Jennings served as “safe schools czar” from 2009-2011.
Given his connection with the organization, we should not be shocked to discover that GLSEN received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control in 2011 for $1.425 million over five years to promote the LGBT agenda in public schools at taxpayers’ expense. Through these publicly funded in-school programs, kids are being bombarded with the message that same-sex attraction and gender-identity confusion are innate and therefore not changeable.
Those who design these programs probably believe that they are offering hope to children who may feel different, flawed, or unlovable. They believe that if they affirm children’s LGBT identities as something positive, something that makes up the core of who they are, the children will fare better.
This is not the case. No matter what well-intentioned teachers and administrators believe, these programs ultimately entail an agenda that hurts kids. The messages these programs send do nothing to combat the tragically high suicide rates among the LGBT community. Data indicate that kids are actually put at risk when schools encourage them to identify themselves as gay or transgender at an early age. For each year children delay labeling themselves as LGBT, their suicide risk is reduced by 20 percent.
I’m passionate about this issue because I was a trans-kid myself. I know how easy it was for my grandma to manipulate me into thinking I should change genders. Young trans-kids need to know they were not born that way, and that most will no longer have a desire to change genders once they grow into adulthood. Parents need to know that up to 94 percent of school-age kids who identify as transgender will grow out of their desire to change genders as adults—if parents and schools stop encouraging them to internalize and publicize their LGBT identities.
The Power of Childhood Influences
I’m not sure we truly understand how easily young people’s thinking about gender identity can be influenced by parents, television shows, and teachers who encourage them to explore new genders. During early childhood development, kids learn gender roles from observation within the family setting, peers, television, and school. They use their imagination, actions, and language to play-act what they see.
GLSEN capitalizes on the impressionable, imaginative nature of young children by designing and implementing programs for children as young as kindergarten. Consider their toolkit for elementary educations, Ready, Set, Respect! GLSEN knows that the elementary years are a prime opportunity to encourage kids to reject the values of their parents. The handbook outlines a variety of activities that gradually introduce and reinforce the messages that gender is a social construct, that moms and dads are interchangeable, and that anyone who says otherwise is hateful and prejudiced.
Along with lessons designed to help kindergarten through fifth-graders to “explore the definition of a family and to understand that there are a variety of family structures” and to “challenge their own and other’s [sic] assumptions about gender and gender roles,” the guide recommends a variety of books and videos to help cement the lessons. Asha’s Mums, for example, teaches third- through fifth-graders that “having two mums is no big deal.” An additional discussion guide goes into greater detail about books such as And Tango Makes Three, which is recommended for pre-kindergarten through third-graders:
This book talk is designed to help students realize that there are different family structures including families led by LGBT parents. This is the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins who share a nest like other penguin couples, and who are given an egg in need of nurturing. . . .
Conclude by telling students that Tango’s family is just one kind of family. Ask them if they think there is a certain number of kinds of families and how they know that. Let students know that through your life you have discovered and met and continue to meet different kinds of families and that you’re not sure there is a certain number of possibilities.
Other books, such as 10,000 Dresses and My Princess Boy, are listed as resources to help children who are “Exploring Non-Traditional Gender Roles.” While parts of the lesson plans are correct and even healthy (yes, girls can climb trees and boys can play with dolls), encouraging cross-gender identification at such a young age can have painful, long-lasting consequences. Inadvertently manipulating the minds of young people by suggesting that their “real” gender might not match their body can shape how they think, feel, and behave for years to come.
As someone whose grandmother lavished me with affirmations as she cross-dressed me as a girl, I am concerned by the growing trend in schools of encouraging kids to change genders. The activists have convinced the parents this will do no harm. I have traveled this path, and I can tell you: childhood influences matter.
Events and “Research”
GLSEN website provides an LGBT inclusive curriculum to help educators develop lessons that include “positive representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, history, and events.”
The GLSEN student calendar for grades six through twelve is full of events and suggestions for how to celebrate them: LGBT History Month, LGBT Pride Month, National Coming Out Day, and Ally Week, which is touted as “a week where we can have vital conversations to move the movement forward toward our collective queer liberation!”
What other external organizations are granted access to shaping school curricula and activities? I would venture to say that GLSEN is one of the most provocative. Parents take note: the organization aided by taxpayer funds and influencing schools is the one devoted to the LGBT cause.
In order to justify the need for LGBT curricula, clubs, and programs to be included in the classroom, GLSEN often cites the National School Climate Survey, which they conduct every two years. References to the survey are peppered throughout their educator’s guides, student programs and campaigns, and press releases, with such phrases as “Research shows . . . ” The problem is: the sampling is flawed.
Basic principles of statistics and probability state that generalizations about a population from a sample are valid only if the sample is representative of that population. Random sampling is the best way to do that. Read the survey and it’s obvious that the sampling is not random and not representative of US students. In fact, it is a “self-selected” sample, which means that anyone can elect to take the survey, which is freely available on their website. For example, a transgender man in his seventies can fill out the survey posing as a student, which I did to illustrate how flawed the selection process is. The problem of self-selection is that such polls are biased toward people with strong opinions.
Politics, Bullying, and the Science of Sexual Orientation
These problematic school programs are both a symptom and a cause of our culture’s continuing confusion about gender and sexuality. When it comes to the nature of sexual identity and orientation, scientific studies with findings that run contrary to the party line are squelched or dismissed out of hand. Researchers who dare to follow where the data lead and to question existing premises are lambasted and risk being professionally marginalized.
One example of this is the bullying of Dr. Robert Spitzer, a leading figure in the study of homosexuality. Spitzer’s work was embraced and celebrated by LGBT rights activists until he authored a study in 2003 called Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation? 200 Participants Reporting a Change from Homosexual to Heterosexual Orientation. The study abstract finishes with the line: “Thus, there is evidence that change in sexual orientation following some form of reparative therapy does occur in some gay men and lesbians.”
Here was a case of a prominent scientist following his curiosity, challenging position statements about reparative therapy (also known disparagingly as “conversion therapy”) made by major mental health organizations in the United States, and publishing the objective results of what he found. For this, he was attacked mercilessly. After nearly a decade of public, personal, and professional assault, eighty-year-old Spitzer recanted his views in May 2012 and issued a letter of apology to the gay community.
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Now, President Obama is advocating a ban on psychotherapy that suggests sexual orientation and the desire to change genders are themselves changeable. His administration has issued this statement: “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”
More research needs to be done into the nature of sexual orientation and sexual identity. However, current research suggests that by intervention and encouragement, school programs designed by LGBT rights activists are encouraging children to self-identify in ways that are harmful to their psychological well-being. Rather than allowing the scientific community the space to objectively study these issues, and giving members of the psychiatric profession room to respond to the freely stated needs of the children who come to them, politicians who are hungry for public approval are zealously working to outlaw appropriate and effective psychotherapies for kids who want them.
It’s Time to Protect Our Kids
I understand the impulse that probably motivates many people to encourage young children to embrace an LGBT identity. After a lifetime of feeling like “a woman trapped in a man’s body,” I underwent gender reassignment surgery and lived as a woman for years. I was convinced that this was the right decision, and that this was an option that everyone should have for the sake of their happiness and psychological well-being.
I was wrong. My gender change only brought temporary relief; it did nothing to combat my underlying psychological disorder. My suffering brought me close to suicide. Years after my gender change, I underwent traditional therapy and successfully restored my masculinity and my sanity. Effective psychotherapy and my faith proved to me that changing genders is not a medical necessity.
I have written extensively about the lack of evidence that changing genders is medically necessary. What I didn’t expect was for the State of California to agree with me. On May 5, California officials asked a federal court to block a judge’s order that the state provide sex-reassignment surgery for a prisoner. The state officials argued that “no treating physician has ever determined that reassignment surgery is medically necessary [for the prisoner in question].”
The State of California is willing to argue for protecting a prisoner from unnecessary surgery, but the same state is unwilling to step in and protect the personal privacy of non-transgender school children in restrooms and locker rooms. With Assembly Bill 1266, California became the first state in the nation to require public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and participate on sports teams matching the gender with which they identify, rather than their biological sex.
Homosexuals and transgendered people, like all other citizens, should be protected by law from violence and abuse. But that doesn’t change the principle that parents should have access to public education for their children that does not push an ideological sexual and political agenda based on a vision of the human person that many parents deeply disagree with, especially when significant evidence suggests that the messages embedded in these school programs can be harmful to children.
Control of schools should belong to parents, not to the federal government and activist organizations such as GLSEN.
Walt Heyer is an author and public speaker with a passion to help others who regret gender change. Through his website, SexChangeRegret.com, and his blog,WaltHeyer.com, Heyer raises public awareness about the incidence of regret and the tragic consequences suffered as a result. Heyer’s story can be read in novel form in Kid Dakota and The Secret at Grandma’s House and in his autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith. Heyer’s other books include Paper Genders and Gender, Lies and Suicide. Reprinted with permission from The Witherspoon Institute.