by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Part One of this two-part article discussed the major strengths of Senate Bill 49, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, and how the tenets of gender identity are at odds with scientific realities.
This part highlights yet more of the inconsistencies and science denialism inherent in gender identity ideology and how parental rights are the first casualty in the debate over how to address the growing number of students with gender dysphoria.
The legislation’s detractors have largely focused their objections around two provisions: one requiring schools to share with parents all information about their child’s medical, health, or psychological condition, and the other prohibiting instruction on gender identity in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Critics say such policies target LGBT students and could endanger their health and well-being (some of this criticism can be found here, here and here).
SB 49 is meant to empower parents to make medical and psychological decisions for their child. The legislation reaffirms parental rights and authority over medical decisions because the tenets of gender identity are problematic and require adherents to separate themselves from the facts of science.
Advocates of gender identity believe children, adolescents, or adults can experience feelings that they do not like their body, that it doesn’t fit who they are, or that there is a disconnect between reality and who the person’s idea of who they are. This lack of integration between body and identity was originally called gender identity disorder (GID). Until recently individuals suffering from GID would have been viewed as suffering from a disorder and in need of psychological help.
Rather than refer questions of gender to basic biology, advocates of gender identity assert that gender is based on one’s internal sense of gender and how one feels about being a man or woman. That is, men or women who identify as the other sex should be considered of that sex, even though biologically they are not.
Science teaches that every person has a sexual identity based on biological sex. The idea that individuals could possibly have a gender based on their gender identity that supersedes their gender based on biological sex is an idea most people find difficult to fathom, much less embrace.
In 2013 the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) replaced gender identity disorder (GID) with a new diagnosis called gender dysphoria. The DSM acknowledged that one’s identity and feelings of being disconnected with one’s biological sex are pathological but — most significantly now viewed GID as normal.
None of these changes would have been possible without intense political and social pressure on psychological and medical organizations. The pressure radically changed how these organizations treat anyone who claims an identity at odds with biological sex. Today, most health professionals treat individuals who experience an identity at odds with their bodies — that is, their gender identity — as normal and part of normal human variation.
Our schools have a growing number of children who say they don’t identify with their assigned (biological) sex, wish to be known by a different pronoun or name, and even consider gender-affirming care.
How educators address gender dysphoria is an issue that has divided the public and families. Regrettably, school administrators in a number of districts have opted for policies that have limited or violated parental rights concerning the issues of consent and notification It was in hopes of reasserting parental authority over medical issues that helped mobilize and create Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation.
Activists continue to assert that students who identify as someone other than their assigned sex must be respected and encouraged in this change. In fact, health professionals are encouraged to validate or affirm such individuals and provide aid so the individual’s body matches the new identity. They assert that to do otherwise would jeopardize the students’ emotional and mental health.
Recent research has raised questions about the outcomes and value of care to affirm one’s gender identity, often called “gender affirming care.” Some research suggests that instead of reducing suicide rates, gender affirming care had the opposite effect and increased suicide and mental health problems among students with gender dysphoria. A recent study by Jay Greene of the Heritage Foundation found that easing access to cross-sex treatments without parental consent significantly increases suicide rates. Another study by Greene found that studies that found “gender-affirming interventions to prevent suicide failed to show a causal relationship.”
Last summer, Tavistock Clinic, Great Britain’s largest gender-youth clinic, was closed after an independent review deemed the treatments unsafe. Tavistock is now the subject of a class action lawsuit brought by 1,000 families who accuse the clinic of medical negligence. Other European nations are also restricting gender affirming care because of uncertainty, lack of results, or undesirable outcomes. These developments leave the United States as the only country to still actively seek gender-affirming care for children experiencing gender dysphoria.
Of course, prohibiting instruction on gender identity in early grades and restricting gender affirming care are not the same thing. Nevertheless, it is not a large or difficult step from one to the other.
While instruction in gender identity often has questionable outcomes, fundamental questions about gender identity remain unanswered. What does it even mean, for example, for someone to feel like another gender? And no matter how compelling the answer, it doesn’t address a very important issue: Do our feelings determine reality? Just because a woman “feels” like a man, does that make her a man? If I feel like I’m 25, am I, even if I’m 50 years old? If a short man identifies as 6 foot, 9 inches, will that make him a better basketball player?
These questions of whether one’s feelings determine one’s identity are important with significant ramifications. Gender identity advocates seem to be happy to just keep ignoring them, however. Ryan Anderson talks about these questions and contradictions in his excellent book, When Harry Became Sally, Anderson writes:
If those who identify as transgender are the sex with which they identify, why doesn’t that apply to other attributes or categories of being? What about people who identify as animals, or able-bodied people who identify as disabled? Do all of these self-professed identities determine reality? If not, why not? And should these people receive medical treatment to transform their bodies to accord with their minds? Why accept transgender “reality” but not trans-racial, trans-species, and trans-abled reality? The challenge for activists is to explain why a person’s “real” sex is determined by an inner “gender identity” but age and height and race and species are not determined by an inner sense of identity.
The issue of how schools should address the increase in gender dysphoria has divided much of the public. Most North Carolinians, however, still believe parents should be involved at every point and have access and be involved in any medical decision-making A September 2023 Civitas Poll found about 86 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “Parents have a legal right to all medical and psychological information about their child.” Only 7 percent of respondents favored not telling the parents, because they might not support their child’s change of gender identity. Another 7 percent of respondents were unsure.
SB 49 would reaffirm parental rights and specifically give parents decision-making authority regarding all psychological medical questions regarding their child. Evidence discussed here shows gender identity to be at odds with scientific facts and the fundamental concept of parental authority.
These developments certainly help to justify the aims of SB 49. They also build a compelling case for why instruction in gender identity ought to be prohibited. Embracing the tenets of gender identity jeopardizes the health and well-being of students that public schools are duty-bound to protect. Gender identity ideology undercuts the rights of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children.
Because SB 49 would protect the best interests of all students, including those advocating gender identity, and would reaffirm the enduring right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, the case for SB 49 is a strong one.