by Karen R. Effrem, MD
In good news this week for student privacy and safety, the Trump administration announced it would be dropping objections raised by the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) to a nationwide injunction from a Texas judge against transgender student access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to gender identity instead of biological sex. Oral arguments were to have begun this past week in the case, the first time federal courts have been asked to review whether laws prohibiting sex discrimination also apply to gender identity, a subjective and changeable construct. A preponderance of research shows that most gender confused youth return to identifying as their biological sex by adolescence or early adulthood.
The move by Trump was widely cheered by groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who said:
This is good news for the privacy, safety, and dignity of young students across America. The Obama Administration radically distorted a federal law that was intended to equalize educational opportunities for women and misused the law to place members of the opposite sex into students’ private facilities. Today, the Trump Administration took the first steps to end that error.
While a number of other cases involving this issue are still pending across the country, including G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board which is set to be heard by the Supreme Court next month, this is not the only way in which transgender ideology has begun to intrude upon schools. Lesser known, but perhaps more troubling, is the move towards federal social emotional standards, especially those for children as young as preschool age.
The Head Start Performance Standards, recently approved at the end of the Obama administration, require the Head Start Child Outcome Framework and include completely inappropriate “Baby Common Core”–style standards. These contain a whole section of social emotional learning standards, including one on gender identity affecting 3-5 year old children:
This standard goes beyond having children identify their biological sex, an objective physical characteristic, but rather embroils them in the complex and controversial issue of gender identity. The gender-identity issue has been central for a long time in Head Start, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the many state standards based on both. The curriculum Making Room in the Circle: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families in Early Childhood Settings defines gender identity as follows:
“… a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, or something other or in between. Because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others.” (Emphasis added.) [The same definition appears in The Policy Institutes of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, p. 8]
NAEYC also foments gender confusion by encouraging cross-dressing by young children in its curriculum titled Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves:
Some of the favorite costumes in the center are made from women’s skirts. Small slits cut just under the waistbands for the children’s arms let the skirts become super hero capes, princess gowns, doctors’ uniforms – anything the children want them to be. One morning the teacher puts out some of the costume skirts. Brad puts on the red one, but Victor hesitates. He reaches for the bright turquoise satiny one. “Is this a boy’s costume?” he asks. “Are you a boy?” the teacher responds. “Yes,” he responds soberly. “Then if you wear it, it’s a boy’s costume,” she says. Victor’s face brightens and he puts it on and with arms outstretched swirls around with delight.
Without asking why childhood innocence must be breached to discuss these issues at all, NAEYC also recommends using anatomically correct dolls to guide the conversation:
Many programs use anatomically correct dolls. Some put the dolls out for children to play with freely; others use them in persona doll stories to help children explore issues of gender identity. These stories also provide teachers opportunities to use anatomical terms in a matter-of-fact way. Sometimes a family may object to your using an anatomically correct doll with their child. If this is an issue in your program, having respectful conversations with the family can lead to a third space solution (as described in chapter 4).
While parents deeply concerned by this ideological agenda have some reason to hope for relief from the Trump administration, it is worth noting that new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has a complicated history on the issue of transgenderism. As The New York Times reported last month:
Ms. DeVos’s personal experience with the debate over gender identity and bathrooms dates back decades. As chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, she came to the aid of a transgender woman who wanted to use the women’s restroom at a call center, upsetting some of the other women there, according to two associates at the time — Mr. McNeilly, who was the party’s political director, and Eric Doster, the general counsel…’ A lot of the co-workers weren’t happy with it. But that’s who Betsy is.’
With Head Start reauthorization coming up soon, let us hope that DeVos cares more about protecting the innocence, hearts, and minds of young children than she does about the political agendas of adults.
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education via Flickr, CC BY 2.0