WASHINGTON — Noted advocates for children and families are unmasking how transgender activism has entered the public school system, and urging Christians to put aside differences with ideological opponents to resist it. And, they say, they should resist this without employing religious arguments.
As part of the Family Research Council's annual Values Voter Summit, in a ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel Saturday afternoon before approximately 100 people, FRC's Cathy Ruse described the growing prevalence transgenderism and how it is affecting education policy in American public schools. Additional speakers included Peter Sprigg, another FRC fellow, attorney from the Virginia-based The Family Foundation's Josh Hetzler, Concerned Parents and Educators Executive Director Meg Kilgannon, and Elizabeth Schultz, a member of the Fairfax County School Board, who spoke in her individual capacity.
The panel noted that transgender activism and policy changes have taken off with rapid speed in recent years but is now being met with some governmental resistance since the election of Donald Trump last fall. That matters, several panelists stressed, because who implements policy and how the policy is implemented is as important as the policy substance.
They focused much of their attention on what has been occurring in Fairfax County as it is a populous, influential school district that neighbors D.C. and often serves as a model for districts across the country where educational best practices are first tested. Self-determined "gender identity" effectually replaced biological "sex" in official school guidelines there in 2015.
This new measure, which thereby allowed boys who identify as girls to access female shower facilities, locker rooms, and bathrooms, was voted in without any time for public debate and was adopted within a few short weeks, Schultz explained, who cast the lone dissenting vote against the change. By contrast, their school board has spent close to ten years discussing and experimenting with school start times with many surveys and studies done over many months.
Ruse said in her remarks that "activists get transgender mandates in schools by targeting the school non-discrimination policy."
"First, they claim that students are being harassed and so policies must be changed," she said.
But that is a deceptive tactic, she went on to explain, noting that when this issue came up in Fairfax County, a savvy parent submitted a FOIA request inquiring how many students who identify as transgender had filed complaints of such harassment. The school district was thus legally obligated to respond, and ultimately replied that they had in fact received "zero" formal complaints.
By eclipsing biological sex with "gender identity," a whole new category is created, Ruse said. And despite repeated assurances from the school board that nothing would really change, notable changes to student handbooks, sex education, and disciplinary procedures occurred. A student who posted on Facebook criticisms of transgenderism could warrant punishment by school officials under the new policy, she said.
"Gender identity mandates hurt all kids, not just those kids who may be gender dysphoric. Because these policies make them question their sense of safety, security, certainty and everything," Ruse continued, referencing a expert.
Kilgannon, who is a Fairfax County resident, noted she was stunned at the Board's swift move.
"The massive violation of public trust really cannot be overstated," she said, adding that if it can happen in Fairfax County it can happen anywhere. Yet in order to fight against this she recommended that conservatives and Christians avoid employing religious arguments because it is not effective.
"There is a mentality that people of faith should just go to religious schools and of course that is ridiculous because public schools are for everyone. But no one wants to hear predictable morality arguments," Kilgannon, who is Catholic, said.
Secular arguments based on biology and reason have a broader appeal and are more relevant, she stressed, citing her work with the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition. HATAC is an ideologically diverse group of women who have put differences aside to combat transactivism, that includes conservatives, radical feminists, lesbians, and others who believe the "gender identity" movement amounts to an erasure to women's rights and poses a grave threat to the physical safety of women and girls.
"America is not ready to give 15-year-olds double mastectomies because they feel trapped in their bodies. And no one is going to fault you if you want to want to wait a hot minute before you put an eight-year-old on puberty blocking hormones," Kilgannon said.
"Someone should do something about this, and that someone is you," she told those in attendance several times.
The Values Voter Summit, the largest annual gathering of social conservatives in Washington, concluded Sunday.