Parents preparing pre-teen

Some of these parents need professional help more than their gender-diverse children do.

A sad, yet obvious, flaw in parenting.

Friday, Heritage Foundation is running with Parents Across Country Sue Schools Over Clandestine Gender Transitions. “Across the country” really means two sets of parents. One in Florida. Another in Wisconsin.

The complaint is that schools have given students the right to determine preferred pronouns. The religious right insists on coupling this to bathrooms in order to make odious — and demonstrably false — claims about the safety of girls. It’s just pronouns. That is all that is required to make religious zealots irrational.

I have no interest in autopsying the Heritage Foundation’s blog post. Their goal is to discredit gender affirmation in service to Christianity. Furthermore, they are pursuing their agenda in the dishonest guise of parental rights.

Similarly, let’s put students’ privacy rights aside for the moment. There are more important issues.

Let’s start with the basics. If a child or adolescent is gender incongruent (to some degree) in school while hiding the condition at home then that depicts a flaw in the parent/child dynamic. It means that the kid does not trust their parents. That distrust is far more important than preferred pronouns.

Instead of litigation, the parent should immediately — with professional help — find out why their child does not trust them.

The distrust could be the result of a misunderstanding. It could also be because parents have made statements or have religious beliefs that are a challenge to their child’s sexuality.

“… respecting confidentiality might provide more information in a more timely fashion to parents than would be the case if the student were to stay silent.”

Figuring out what to do with parents who favor Bronze Age scripture over medical science is a bewildering task. Remember that about 40% of homeless youth are homeless because they got “kicked out when they came out.” That is a national tragedy.

Furthermore, the school is supporting the child’s gender identity. That’s a good thing for both the kids and their parents. Research demonstrates that children who are supported in their gender identity have levels of anxiety and depression at, or close to, levels experienced by their cisgender peers.

Ideally, that support should be present in both school and at home. Nevertheless, support from school alone is certain to reduce suicidal ideation.

It is the parents who have a problem if they cannot accept their offspring’s sexuality. The kid is just someone who happens to be different from most other kids.

School administrators are in a difficult position. How ethical is it to disclose information to parents that might put students in danger? A discussion about sexuality should be at the time and place of the child’s choosing.

Moreover, by respecting student confidentiality the child is encouraged to discuss their situation and their feelings with school counselors. Over time a counselor might be able to work out, with the student, a plan for how and when to discuss their sexuality with their parents.

In other words, respecting confidentiality might provide more information in a more timely fashion to parents than would be the case if the student were to stay silent. Furthermore, the student will stay silent if he or she knows that the school will not respect their privacy.

Then there is the issue of what difference does it make?

“Affirming someone’s gender identity does not change the gender incongruence. It only eliminates the “the dysphoria” (a profound sense of discomfort) from the equation.”

It seems reasonable to hold the opinion that parents who sue schools over gender affirmation are probably not very tolerant of having a transgender child.

If the school informs them that their kid has a preference for pronouns that is inconsistent with their natal sex, what exactly would the parents do? “If only I had known” with this group of parents suggests that they could take actions to prevent their child from having gender dysphoria.

I think that we can safely assume that these parents are more inclined to consult with a priest than an eminently qualified clinic psychologist or psychiatrist.

Furthermore, some of these folks might believe that, by not affirming their gender identity, the child would not become transgender. That is based on nonsensical gibberish from the religious right.

Some people have a medical condition. Gender dysphoria. Moreover, the condition is nondiscriminatory. Very pious people experience the condition just as atheists do. Gender affirmation mitigates the symptoms of the condition (often a combination of depression and anxiety).

Affirming someone’s gender identity does not change the gender incongruence. It only eliminates the “the dysphoria” (a profound sense of discomfort) from the equation.

In my day, coming out or being discovered as gay risked — for some kids — being shipped off to a conversion camp. I was in a conservative prep school. Had I come out, I would have been on the next train back to New York (from whence I came), never to return to the school that provided me with so much.

“If the issue is Parental Rights™ then some parents need to come to terms with the fact that their kids do not trust them.

Today, transgender kids face very real fears of parental rejection and other consequences.

Public schools should have a very simple mandate. To act in accordance with the best interests of of students; first, last and always. Parental interests should be subordinate to parental interests.

In the Heritage Article which came from the Daily Caller, anti-LGBTQ warrior and lawyer Vernadette Broyles is quoted as saying:

This sort of thing is metastasizing like a cancer underneath the surface around the country.

Working with ADF, Broyles is a proven piece of anti-LGBTQ work. She is also fear mongering.

About 1.8% of all minors experience some degree of gender dysphoria. For most of those kids the condition resolves. Of those that remain, only a tiny percentage is likely to be cisgender at home and transgender in school.

Furthermore, that discordant condition is likely to be temporary. Once/if kids fully transition it seems nearly impossible to keep that from parents.

If, as Ms. Broyles claims, there is a metastasizing cancer, it hasn’t spread very much considering the minuscule number of instances. Moreover, it is nothing that schools are doing. Rather, it is the result of a combination of factors:

  1. Children, who would have eventually become transgender, transitioning at an earlier age in accordance with the findings of medical science.
  2. The Obama era guidance regarding the treatment of trans youth in public schools. That was the starting gun which created a conservative Christian frenzy.
  3. The relentless promotion of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in an effort to defend scripture.
  4. Widespread ignorance as a result of the large and coordinated anti-trans campaign.

“Public schools should have a very simple mandate. To act in accordance with the best interests of of students; first, last and always.”

Yet, at the end of the day, the science remains the same. Gender-affirming care underpins the clinical practice standards of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We should be thanking knowledgeable school administrators for supporting the needs of students in a manner that is in accord with medical science.

If the issue is Parental Rights™ then some parents need to come to terms with the fact that their kids do not trust them. Doing so might require professional help. Trans youth are vulnerable. Parental support is not an option.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.