by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Part I of this two-part article laid out reasons why North Carolina should not include gender identity in the revised Healthful Living academic standards. Part II provides yet more reasons for not changing the standards in this controversial area.
Fueled in part by the need to respond to the high suicide rate among transgender students, schools in North Carolina and across the United States continue to adopt policies affirming gender identity and gender ideology, despite evidence that questions whether such policies actually increase rather than decrease suicides. As these policies proliferate, the many contradictions and conflicts of the gender identity movement have begun to emerge. Even if media and even scientists are reluctant to discuss them, we cannot be. Let’s explore a few of the most significant.
At the heart of gender identity advocacy is the unquestioned right of every person to be “who they really are.” If a boy says he feels or identifies as a girl, transgender advocates say those feelings must be validated. Policies based on validating and affirming a child’s feelings of being a different gender have significant consequences and raise other important questions. For example, what about a child who says he feels like a wolf? Should he be affirmed as a wolf? If not, why not? When did feelings (which could be temporary as a child matures) become how adults establish the fact of someone’s gender identity? Why do feelings determine gender but no other attributes? Why accept transgender feelings as “reality” but not trans-racial, trans-species, and trans-abled feelings as reality?
But there are other issues that simply don’t make sense. Gender activists separate sex from gender and refer to gender as merely a social construct. They will often say a transgender individual was born a man trapped (gender identity) in a woman’s body (sex) or vice-versa. If gender is a social construct, how can gender identity be innate and immutable?
Gender identity activists hold two conflicting views of truth simultaneously. They subscribe to the notion of objective truth about gender identity but also believe that truth is whatever the person says it is at any point in time, regardless if it conflicts with a prior or future assertion. Finding your “true self” is an important quest to affirm gender identity, as long as that choice conforms to the enforcement of a radical transgender ideology.
If you think gender identity activists are asking to have it both ways, you’re not alone. Ryan Anderson captured the significance of these contradictions when he wrote:
Which is it? Is our gender identity biologically determined and immutable, or self-created and changeable? If the former, how do we account for people whose gender identity changes over time? Do these people have the wrong sense of gender at some time or other?
And if gender identity is self-created, why must other people accept it as reality? If we should be free to choose our own gender reality, why can some people impose their idea of reality on others just because they identify as transgender?
The questions only continue, demonstrating the issue is so deeply unsettled as to necessitate leaving it out of Healthful Living academic standards. Meanwhile, the flurry of legal and policy proposals to protect those who do not readily fit into existing gender categories continues, at a time when it seems nearly impossible to agree even on a definition of sex or gender.
American jurisprudence has long had a healthy respect for the rights of parents to direct the upbringing and education of children. In Troxel v. Granville the U.S. Supreme Court held that the “Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody and control of children.” The North Carolina Supreme Court has reflected that same reverence for parental rights. In 1994, the North Carolina Supreme Court underscored the scope of those rights when it held in Petersen v. Rogers that, “absent a finding that parents (i) are unfit or (ii) have neglected the welfare of their children, the constitutionally protected paramount right of parent to custody, care, and control of their children must prevail.”
For most of our history, parents and schools have had a largely respectful relationship towards each other. The proliferation of parental consent forms ranging from the administration of medications to granting permission to participate in sports or attend school field trips attests to this respect and the abiding importance of parental authority.
In recent years, however, schools’ deference to paramount parental rights has begun to change. The proliferation of policies inquiring about preferred pronouns or requiring schools to affirm gender identity transitions without the knowledge or consent of parents is undermining that trust.
When parents learn that gender activists are circumventing their authority, they are outraged. They ask: What can they do?
Educators, school boards, and policymakers need to be held accountable for decisions that endanger the lives of students and undermine the role of parents. Parents have several options to help improve this situation. First, they can voice their objections to local administrators and members of the school board. If those groups are unresponsive, parents can file a legal challenge. A lawsuit could offer . a highly effective, albeit limited solution to these problems. .A better and more effective long-term solution, however, is a legislative one.
Legislation requiring parental notification before any minor can change their gender identity or receive any medical or therapeutic care or services would go a long way toward bolstering parental rights. Parents’ Bill of Rights (PBR) legislation have become popular tools for codifying parental rights in key areas, such as the right to direct the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health, the right to expect transparency when dealing with the child’s teachers and schools, and the right to direct how and where a child is educated.
According to FutureEd at Georgetown University, 84 PBR bills have been introduced in 26 states since the start of 2022. Earlies this year, a similar bill was introduced and approved by the North Carolina Senate, but it failed to reach the floor in the House. Many remain confident that growing parental outrage at schools’ disregard for their rights will help fuel a legislative victory for a Parents’ Bill of Rights in North Carolina in the near future.
The discussion of transgender issues frequently centers around the discussion of rights. Enforcing prevailing norms and values is the right of every parent and society, and a requirement of every culture that wishes to replicate itself to the next generation. People who struggle with gender identity and dysphoria deserve love, respect, and help as they struggle with significant sexual identity questions. Nevertheless, with respect to children with these struggles, refusing to affirm the untested ideas and practices of the small percentage of the population who are gender identity activists while upholding existing sexual norms and parental rights cannot be viewed as discrimination. Instead it is an attempt by a free society to defend the values and standards that form a free and thriving, ordered society, and defend children as well.
Gender identity advocates urge schools to affirm students struggling with gender identity because, they say, doing so is the only way to combat their high suicide rates and mental health concerns. Recent research, however, has raised significant questions about such a broad assertion — not just that it is untrue, but more importantly that it may yield the opposite effects and worsen suicide rates and mental health problems. These developments no doubt contributed to the United Kingdom’s recent decision to shut down gender-affirming procedures for children. In context, these decisions show just how radical the U.S. policy of providing gender-affirming procedures for children is, as well as how advocates are ignoring the growing body of research that undermines their case on suicide rates and puberty blockers.
These facts alongside glaring contradictions of gender identity advocacy and the continual erosion of parental rights provide yet more compelling reasons why North Carolina should not include gender identity as part of the Healthful Living academic standards.