Washington State’s new health and physical education standards have provoked a strong backlash from parents and citizens who are outraged that children will be taught about gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation in elementary school. For example, children in third grade will now be taught that they can choose their own gender. Their fourth grade peers will learn about the spectrum of sexual orientation.
Astonished by what their children will be taught under the new standards, parents are left wondering whether public schools are the appropriate forum for dialogue about gender identity and sexual orientation – especially in elementary and middle school.
Parents should be concerned. The latest science supports what we used to regard as commonsense – that teaching very young students about gender identity and alternative sexual lifestyles could be a confusing and harmful experience for them.
The American College of Pediatricians warns against parents, doctors, and teachers encouraging children to undergo gender transition. “Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies, will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs.” The American College of Pediatricians likens the normalizing of transgenderism among children to “child abuse.”
Despite this, Washington’s public education system stands firmly behind its decision to push gender identity and gender expression on students as young as five years old, despite strong warnings from the medical community.
The vast majority of children who struggle with gender identity will eventually outgrow their confusion and accept their biological sex. According to statistics provided on page 455 of the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5, as many as 98% of boys and 88% of girls who struggle with gender dysphoria as children will no longer identify as the other gender after finishing puberty.
Gender transition, which is promoted as the solution to gender dysphoria, is also dangerous. Cross-sex hormones present unsafe health risks for the individual undergoing transition. These hormone treatments increase the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke, and cancer. When children undergo cross-sex hormone therapy, their growth is often inhibited and their fertility is often irreversibly impaired. The suicide rate among those who have undergone sex reassignment is twenty times higher than that of the general population.
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.
Teachers are rarely equipped to teach about topics relating to gender identity and sexual orientation. Requiring them to teach this information may also cause them to violate their own beliefs. Additionally, how can parents be sure that their convictions and values will not be undermined by what their children are being taught in school?
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.
This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/07/opinion-why-schools-arent-the-place-to-learn-about-transgenderism/.