Conservative media are fearmongering over Washington state public schools’ new LGBT-inclusive education standards that aim to teach students “the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity.” Outlets are reporting that the state will soon begin to “teach transgenderism to kindergartners” and suggesting that Washington is promoting transgender “recruitment.” But education professionals and advocacy groups say students benefit from learning about gender identity at an early age.
Washington State Public Schools Introduce LGBT-Inclusive Sex Education Into K-12 Curriculum
Office Of Superintendent Of Public Instruction Introduces Gender-Inclusive Learning Standards. New guidelines introduced by Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction state that students will be taught to “understand there are many ways to express gender” beginning in kindergarten, and by second grade they will be taught to “understand the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity.”
[Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, March 2016]
Right-Wing Media Fearmonger That Washington State Will Teach Kindergartners “Transgenderism”
The Daily Caller: “Washington State To Teach Transgenderism To Kindergartners.” The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson reported that Washington state would begin teaching “transgenderism” to its kindergarteners, citing the inclusion of gender expression curriculum in education standards released by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Hasson reported on June 1:
By fall 2017 Washington state public schools will begin teaching gender expression to kindergarteners under newly-approved health education learning standards that designate sexual health a “core idea” of public K-12 education.
While some aspects of sexual health aren’t taught K-12 (HIV prevention begins in fourth grade), one component of sexual health titled “Self-Identity” begins in kindergarten, where students will be expected to “Understand there are many ways to express gender.”
The state’s health education glossary defines gender as “A social construct based on emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned biological sex.” Gender expression, meanwhile, is defined as “The way someone outwardly expresses their gender.”
These definitions differ from the state’s definition of “biological sex”: “Based on chromosomes, hormones, and internal and external anatomy.” [The Daily Caller, 6/1/16]
Rush Limbaugh: Washington State May Begin “Recruitment” Of Children Into “Transgenderism.” Radio host Rush Limbaugh used The Daily Caller’s article about Washington’s new education standards to suggest that the curriculum may have been designed to promote “recruitment” of children to “transgenderism,” which “might explain why they want to get started in kindergarten”:
RUSH LIMBAUGH (HOST): Washington state -- this is the Daily Caller -- Washington state is going to start teaching transgenderism to kindergartners. Washington state, I guess, is going to start acknowledging mental illness. Well that’s what the John Hopkins guy, the professor, says that this is, not me, the Johns Hopkins professor emeritus of psychology up there -- John McHugh, I think is his name --
Washington state health education glossary defines gender -- you and I think gender is male or female. No, no, no, no, no -- no longer, ladies, that's not what gender is. In Washington state, in the educational system, gender is, quote, “a social construct,” period. Meaning it’s a social idea. Somebody's idea -- came up with it. It’s based on emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics, which are attached to a person's “assigned” biological sex. Assigned? Who assigns? So a couple have a baby, it’s a little baby girl. Who assigned that that baby's a female? Who did that? Who assigned? Well you and I both know it’s God, but some might say the chromosomes. Some might say genes, but whatever. No, no, society eventually does, folks. That’s what society eventually says, that little girl’s a girl.
But what if that little girl emotionally isn't? See this is where we get into problems. The original assignation of female might have been entirely wrong. Even though it is a little girl, that doesn’t mean diddly-squat because we now have to factor in the emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to the biological sex, the assigned biological sex. Gender expression, meanwhile, is defined as the way someone outwardly expresses their gender. So we have gender, which is assigned, which is a social construct, which is based on emotional, behavioral, cultural characteristics. That’s gender. Now a gender expression, which is the way someone outwardly expresses their gender. And this is being taught to kindergartners. You wait ‘till they bring homework home.
“Mommy, mommy, I need some help, I need some help with gender expression, mommy, I'm confused.” Can you imagine what this is going to lead to? Of course they're not going to understand it. They’re going end up being confused and what’s the objective here? By third grade, still here in Washington state from their manual, by third grade students will be expected to explain -- this is now in quotes -- “explain that gender roles can vary considerably, and they will by third grade understand the importance of treating others with respect regarding gender identity.” And this is all taking place under the self-identity component of sexual health. And gender identity here is defined by the state as someone's inner sense of their gender. So, in the words of Thomas Friedman, if you've got balls and testosterone, you could easily be a female, depending how your inner sense of your gender is. And if you can be made to resent balls and testosterone, even though you have them, then you can learn to present. And they're getting all of this started at kindergarten level. What, recruitment? What’d you say, recruitment? Oh, recruitment. Hmm. Hmm. Recruitment. Recruitment. Interesting. Yes that might explain why they want to get started in kindergarten. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 6/3/16]
WND.com: “Transgenderism Added To Kindergarten Curriculum.” WND.com’s Cheryl Chumley cited The Daily Caller’s article to report that kindergartners “are going to be taught about the ins and outs of ‘transgenderism’ in Washington public schools.” From Chumley’s June 7 report:
Students as young as five years old – kindergartners – are going to be taught about the ins and outs of “transgenderism” in all public schools in Washington, beginning in the fall 2017 semester.
That’s according to the Daily Caller, which reported on the state’s new health-education learning standards, which have been broadened to include “gender expression” as a mandatory teaching.
The course comes on the heels of the open door bathroom and dressing room policy put forth by President Obama, through his Justice Department and Department of Education, that said public schools have to allow students to ability (sic) to visit whichever restroom they choose, based on their thoughts about their own sex that day, or else face loss of federal funding. [WND.com, 6/7/16]
Breitbart Reports Washington State Is Pushing Transgender Ideas On Kids. Breitbart’s Susan Berry reported that Washington state’s new educational guidelines are a “sharp departure from conventional education and civic norms” and said the standards “assume a significant number of boys will see themselves as girls, and a significant number of girls will see themselves as boys”:
The standards name “self-identity” as a topic of the “core idea” of the K-12 curriculum, and define gender as a “social construct based on emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned biological sex.”
That “gender identity” claim is a sharp departure from conventional education and civic norms, which assume that young people with male biology will and should see themselves as boys, and that young people with female biology will and should see themselves as girls. Those conventional practices are backed by science, statistics, experience and parental preferences. For example, national studies suggest that only about 1-in-2,400 adults switch their names from one sex to the other.
In contrast, the Washington rules fully implement the opposite ideas. The standards assume that a significant number of boys will see themselves as girls, and a significant number of girls will see themselves as boys, regardless of biology. The standards also embrace the political claim that the government, local community and people should fully accept children’s declarations that their biology and feelings of gender are disconnected, and also endorse each child’s personal sense of “gender identity.” [Breitbart, 6/9/16]
Anti-LGBT Group Cites Articles To Launch Petition Against “Radical Education Agenda”
Family Policy Institute Of Washington Launched A Petition Against The “Radical Education Agenda.” The anti-LGBT group Family Policy Institute Of Washington (FPIW) launched a petition to push back on “Washington's radical new education agenda.” The petition, which has nearly 3,000 signatures, urges signees to read more about the “overreach” at a FPIW blog citing conservative media fearmongering about the curriculum, and it links to The Daily Caller’s article. [ipetitions.com, accessed 6/10/16]
FPIW’s Blaine Conzatti: “Teaching Young Students About Gender Identity … Will Be A Confusing And Harmful Experience.” In a blog post, FPIW’s Blaine Conzatti claimed “parents should be concerned” about Washington state’s new LGBT-inclusive policy and that children with no “gender dysphoria may now be taught to question their own identity.” From his June 7 post:
Parents should be concerned. The latest science supports what we used to regard as commonsense – that teaching young students about gender identity and alternative sexual lifestyles will be a confusing and harmful experience for them.
Teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in schools normalizes the behavior. Once the behavior is normalized and students are told they can choose their own gender, we will undoubtedly see an increase in children pursuing harmful hormone therapies and irreversible gender reassignment surgeries.
If public schools rationalize gender dysphoria to young students, why are we to assume that more children won’t be subjected to the associated risks, as the statement by the pediatricians’ association suggests? Children who would have otherwise never “struggled” with gender dysphoria may now be taught to question their own identity.
Schools should heed the warnings from doctors and researchers. Children are harmed when they are taught that alternative gender identities and sexual orientations are normal. Conversations with children about gender identity and sexual orientation should be left to parents and doctors, not schools. [Family Policy Institute of Washington, 6/7/16]
But Education Professionals And Advocacy Groups Say Students Benefit From Learning About Gender Identity At Early Ages
Anti-Defamation League: Discussing Gender Identity Helps Students Develop Empathy And Feel Comfortable At School. A 2016 publication from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) details the benefits students receive from exposure to a curriculum that includes discussing gender expression and gender identity. Discussing the topics with students helps “build understanding and empathy” among students and helps “transgender and gender non-conforming students feel more comfortable in school and develop positive self-esteem”:
[T]he more opportunities transgender students have to discuss LGBT issues in school, the more likely they are to feel part of their school community, and transgender students who are “out” to most or all students and staff report a greater sense of belonging. It is interesting to note that most transgender students have talked with a teacher or a school-based mental health professional in the past year about LGBT-related issues.
This makes a strong case for the importance of discussing these issues in the classroom as well as preparing yourself for having one-on-one conversations with students. It is important on two levels: to build understanding and empathy among all the students about transgender identity and issues and to help transgender and gender non-conforming students feel more comfortable in school and develop positive self-esteem. Helping all students to be more knowledgeable, understanding and empathic serves all of us in creating safe, welcoming and more humane schools and communities. [Anti-Defamation League, 2016]
National Education Association Reports Trans-Inclusive Education Helps K-12 Students Focus On Learning And Feel Safe. The National Education Association, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union published a collaborative guide for supporting transgender students in K-12 schools that advocates “fostering gender-inclusive learning environments.” From the 2015 report:
Gender-based harassment and violence can be widespread in schools and affect all students, not just those who are transgender or gender-expansive. All educators — whether or not they have a transgender student in their school — can benefit from instituting better interventions when bias and bullying arise, and fostering gender-inclusive learning environments to preclude the need for such interventions altogether.
Students have all kinds of needs — whether they are gifted and talented, speak a first language other than English or are transgender — and schools have a duty to provide for these needs. Dispelling harmful stereotypes and prejudices of all kinds creates spaces where every student has the opportunity to learn and thrive.
When students are harassed or bullied based on their gender, or others’ perceptions of it, their learning often takes a backseat to worrying about which restroom they can use safely or whether they will face a bully on their bus ride home. As a result, students who face harassment are less likely to succeed academically. Bias-based harassment also increases the risk for problems like school absences, substance use and emotional distress.
Gender-inclusive messages encourage greater acceptance of diversity and discourage children from expressing judgments about people based on factors like race, class, sexuality, gender, family structure, ethnicity and religion. [National Education Association, 2015]
For Years, Right-Wing Media Have Been Using Scare Tactics To Attack Efforts To Make Schools More LGBT-Inclusive
Conservative Media Made It Harder For Nebraska Schools To Protect Transgender Youth. In 2014, conservative media had a meltdown over an effort by Lincoln Public Schools in Nebraska to train teachers about gender diversity. The misinformation spread by conservative media led district Superintendent Steve Joel to call a press conference, where he criticized conservative media outlets for peddling falsehoods about the district’s educational materials. While the district did not halt efforts to accommodate its diverse student population, Joel said he was worried the controversy created by conservative media might convince other schools to forgo efforts to accommodate and protect transgender students. [Media Matters, 10/17/14]
Fox News Launched A Fact-Free Campaign Against Protections For Transgender Students In California. In 2013, Fox News launched an aggressive campaign to smear a California law protecting transgender public school students from discrimination. The network's coverage of the law lacked commentary from experts or actual transgender people, and Fox's commentators manufactured wild horror stories based largely on transphobic misinformation. [Media Matters, 8/22/13]
Fox Host Martha MacCallum AND FRC President Tony Perkins Railed Against LGBT Tolerance Lesson. In May 2011,, Fox host Martha MacCallum invited Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBT hate group the Family Research Council (FRC), to discuss a gender diversity lesson at a California elementary school. Perkins accused the school of trying to “indoctrinate” children “into homosexuality.” [Media Matters, 5/26/11]