Right-wing media freaked out about a trans-inclusive curriculum, with Fox's Laura Ingraham falsely asserting that allowing children to determine their own gender identity is “child abuse” and will allow children to choose to have “sexual activity.” Ingraham’s comments were in response to a New York City public school teacher’s use of a curriculum that asked young students to affirm others' gender identities.
The curriculum was drawn from the Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, which has taken place during Black History Month in classrooms across the country and seeks to “affirm all black identities by centering black voices, empowering students and teaching about black experiences beyond slavery.” The week-long event references the Movement for Black Lives’ guiding principles, including the principle of being “Transgender Affirming”:
Transgender Affirming is the commitment to continue to make space for our trans siblings by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-antagonistic violence, while doing the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk.
“Everybody has the right to choose their own gender by listening to their own heart and mind. Everyone gets to choose if they are a girl or a boy or both or neither or something else, and no one else gets to choose for them.”
Following right-wing media outcry, Ingraham falsely claims affirming trans identities is child abuse and sexualizes children
Ingraham discussed the issue during a segment on her Fox Nation show, claiming that the teacher was committing “child abuse” by allowing her students to have the agency to determine their own gender identity. She also fearmongered that affirming a student’s gender identity would allow them to "choose when they can have sexual activity.”
Ingraham routinely uses her platform to promote hateful anti-trans misinformation and has previously suggested that if young people can be openly trans, children will soon be able to give “consent for sexual activity.” Ingraham’s claim mirrors the false right-wing narrative that exposing children to LGBTQ people will sexualize them.
During the segment, Ingraham also claimed that groups like Black Lives Matter “that have burrowed into the school system have had an agenda from day one,” continuing that “they want to destroy the traditional family.”
Several other right-wing outlets picked up the story, including TheBlaze and The Daily Caller, which has published writers with white supremacist sympathies and ties in the past. PJ Media described the week as “indoctrination and anti-white bigotry wrapped in a rainbow flag” and “any parent's worst nightmare when it comes to the political indoctrination of children in the name of diversity and acceptance.”
An op-ed in the New York Post vilified the events’ racial justice focus and claimed the curriculum was “racism and victimhood, plus transgender and ‘queer’ rights, with a heavy dose of political indoctrination in the mix.” The conservative group Independent Women’s Forum similarly claimed that students were being “thrown into gender wars maelstrom.”
Affirming trans students’ gender identity is a life-saving practice that has long-term positive outcomes
Affirming trans and gender-nonconforming students is necessary for young students to thrive and is supported by leading educational organizations. The National Education Association recommends that educational institutions “accept a student’s assertion of the student’s gender identity and not require any particular substantiating evidence,” among other affirming policies, as does the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Research shows that transgender youth are best able to succeed when their teachers and families accept and affirm their gender identity, which has been proven to reduce their risk of experiencing depression, homelessness, and suicidal ideation.
Moreover, the right-wing claim that “these kids are too young to fully understand their own bodies” is in direct contrast to the science that shows that trans children sense their gender identities at a young age. According to the American Psychological Association, “children usually have a sense of their gender identity between age 2 to 5 and they typically become cognizant of their sexual orientation around age 9 or 10.”
Trans students face rampant discrimination at school in the U.S. According to the 2017 National School Climate Survey by GLSEN, a leading LGBTQ educational organization, nearly 85% of trans students and 76% of gender-nonconforming students were victimized at school for their gender expression. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trans students are also at greater risk of violence, substance abuse, and suicide compared to their cisgender peers.