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Hidden in Plain Sight: Ignoring the Strength of Parents as a Political Constituency

There are two growing coalitions with a possibility of significant future political impact, both here in the US and internationally. One group is made up of health professionals, vaccine injured, and mandate opponents organized around seeking justice for the failed COVID public health response. The other group is comprised of parents, teachers, therapists, and others concerned with child protections organized around shielding children from the growing presentation of sex and gender in schools and society in general. I do not pretend at some special predictive power, but these two groups have important unique commonalities that speak to the possibility of longevity and growth. As mentioned, both are international coalitions, largely pointing to a battle against an opponent with globalist ambitions. The other commonality is that each is comprised of individuals across the political spectrum in each country in which they are taking hold.

Although both growing movements are most visible on social media, I encounter them most often in Twitter Spaces public forums, they are not creations of social media. To the degree that either movement is covered in the mainstream press it is done adversarially. Thus, it is easy to miss the appeal of the unique message behind each movement due to inaccurate media portrayal. Although the media may paint them both as some manifestation of far right ire, they are neither that nor the same thing. They are two different movements with separate and sometimes parallel goals. I will explore the specific conditions bringing each into being, the group focused on child protections here, and the group focused on public health justice in a future piece. It is easy to recognize the possibility of future solidarity between these two ostensible grassroots movements. 

One of the most common panaceas offered in Twitter Spaces against the growing incursion of sex and gender identity in public education is homeschooling. The impulse makes a great deal of sense. Much of the messaging from public school teachers' unions seems to be advertising for the growing movement for homeschooling. While the internet was the source of contagion for the initial wave of mostly white, mostly economically comfortable, mostly girls responsible for the 4000% increase in trans identification in the last decade, schools are the new source. There have been numerous anecdotes from parents learning that schools have socially transitioned their children to perform social roles as the opposite sex without parental input. Schools are offering "transition closets" to better help students perform their social transition. Gender and gender identity has been inserted into the curriculum along with pleasure based sex education.

In many ways this year's annual Pride celebration of gay, lesbian and bisexual identity, which is increasingly a celebration of trans identity, marked an escalation in the conflict over gender and sex in schools. For some reason not clearly explained anywhere, the celebration of adult sexuality by children was promoted as important to their well being and future empathy. There were videos from elementary schools of hallways and teachers festooned in rainbows and trans flags. There were neighborhood school pride parades. None of the celebrations made clear why children need to know intimate details of a person to show him basic respect and empathy. The fact that it is not about their interests seems clear to a growing number of young people. There was a remarkable exchange with international reverberations this past Pride month which has been something of a "shot heard round the world." 

A recording was made public of a conversation between Donna Starkey, a teacher at Rye College in Essex England, and her students. Starkey lambasts the students for making another feel bad by asserting that if someone thinks she's a cat it is a manifestation of mental illness. She then accuses them of mixing up sex and gender when they say there are only two genders because there are at least three sexes and if they cannot accept this fact they should choose a different school. She calls their views despicable. The reason that this resonates so much is that parents are seldom afforded such an unedited view into the classroom. It is a stark illustration of how captured our institutions are, especially our educational institutions, by an utterly meaningless and convoluted ideology. Parents are offended by the idea that students are punished for thinking independently and stating biological reality. They are alarmed that teachers seem to be the foot soldiers of this ideology. Like Starkey, they see that many feel that imparting the tenets of gender is more important than the cognitive development of their students. This helps to explain one of the most important factors behind why I see this burgeoning political movement as significant.

Every incident like the Rye College exchange inspires parents to look more closely at their own schools. Many are shocked by the sex and gender curriculum and books available to students when they look more closely. The concern seems to mobilize parents across the political spectrum from diverse religious backgrounds. During June, large protests broke out against sex and gender in schools in Ottawa led by Muslim parents. Parents protested in Montgomery County, MD against a rule to disallow students from opting out of sex and gender lessons. Parents with a large Armenian cohort from the Glendale Unified School District had several protests against Pride in school. All of these parent protests were met by Antifa counter-protestors escalating violence with the parents. Despite claims that these protests represent some far right white nationalism, they are led by immigrant families and opposed by mostly white activists from outside the school districts. Such diverse multicultural cross-political grassroots organizing occurring in multiple locations simultaneously is highly unusual. The diversity of the people coming together in solidarity for the protection of their children is another significant factor that speaks to the potential political significance of this movement. There is a growing awareness among parents that makes this movement more likely to grow rather than dissipate. When outside activists converge with violence and the FBI investigates parents as possible domestic terrorists for wanting to ensure age appropriate curriculum their children, they understand that they and their children are under attack.

States like California, Washington and Oregon have declared themselves transgender sanctuary states. These states welcome children from states that ban medicalizing gender dysphoria while ignoring extradition orders from those states for fleeing non-custodial parents and runaways. The California legislature is considering AB 957, which would force custody to the parent affirming a child's gender identity in a custody battle during divorce. AB 665, also under consideration, would allow children to emancipate themselves from their families to choose state custody to essentially undertake "gender affirming care." Children in state custody may have their "gender affirmed" without question. This may be achieved without parental access or knowledge. 

A similar bill was signed into law in Washington in May. SB 5599 allows adolescents to access "gender affirming care" by entering a juvenile shelter, while removing any obligation to alert parents. The bill makes it possible for a child's location to be kept from parents searching for a runaway. At the same time, Seattle public schools are teaming with gender clinics to offer services at school without parental knowledge or consent. These are just a few examples of the expanding legislative effort to separate children from parents who won't surrender their children to gender ideology. The subtext of this effort across the US, Europe,  Canada, and Australia is that protecting an expressed gender identity is more important than protecting the relationship with parents, maintaining a stable home, or even the physical well being of the child. Anyone who might elevate the future physical health of a child over his current mutable gender identity is clearly an enemy to this cause. If school is the front in a war against parents and their children, it is important to recognize that the war is expanding. This is another reason that this movement has significant potential for growth and longevity. It will become increasingly impossible to avoid the war simply by avoiding school.

Earlier in the month of July a video of an enraged father went viral. Speaking directly to the camera he tells the story of his wife taking his kids to their pediatrician who asked if they identify as a boy, girl, or non-binary. The doctor had worked with the boys their entire lives and had no reason to suspect that either was confused about his sex. 

This highlights something that is happening at scale among the most credentialed in the west. They are elevating this new popular metaphysical approach to humans over even their own knowledge and judgement, even when it is obviously wrong. They then expect the less credentialed, who are correct, to accept this abdication of judgement over their deep personal knowledge of their children. I am not even a parent and I find the idea deeply offensive. Parents, like the father in the video, are one interaction away from understanding that their children are endangered by sinister forces and ripe for effective organizing against those forces. While the growing movement of parents is still rather young and decentralized there have been efforts so effective they have already received reactionary backlash and hyperbolic outrage in the media.

In June The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the group Moms for Liberty an extremist anti-government organization. SPLC added Moms for Liberty to their list of extremist groups for the first time in their 2022 Year in Extremism Report. In it they say that Moms for Liberty "have quickly become one of the most recognized names in the anti-student inclusion movement." Moms for Liberty is considered anti-inclusion because they oppose the teaching of what is called Critical Race Theory (CRT) and LGBTQ topics. They are also accused of wanting to ban books. 

SPLC never explains why CRT or teaching LGBTQ topics is beneficial, the organization just starts from the assumption that they are vital and positive topics. CRT is not history, it is a specific interpretation of history that reinforces the importance of slavery as the most central element to the current understanding of the US. Not teaching explicitly about LGBTQ topics is seen as an attack on LGBTQ rights that never names an endangered right. Based on my own teaching experience, inclusion is not taught. It is a community value built on developing mutual empathy. Empathy is predicated on the truth that we are all similar in the most essential ways. It is through that understanding that we recognize that differences are less important than our essential similarities. The value of inclusion is that it provides each of us a mirror for better seeing ourselves and embracing what makes each of us unique. What SPLC calls inclusion is actually the opposite. Highlighting difference and essentially demanding that others respect that difference is a direct invitation for exclusion. Their accusation that Moms for Liberty wants to ban books highlights the most unexpected factor that ensures that this fledgling movement will grow, the unintended consequences of the Streisand Effect.

The Streisand Effect refers to the famous singer's attempt to remove a photo from the internet, driving interest and internet traffic to the photo. It was a photo of part of the California coastline which featured her mansion. Prior to her suit it had been downloaded 6 times, including by the singer. In the months following the suit the still widely available image was viewed and downloaded more than 400,000 times. 

Moms for Liberty began in response to the way children were harmed by the failed COVID public health response. They were opposed to school closures, and inoculation and mask mandates. Many parents became aware for the first time how much sex and gender was emphasized in the school curriculum watching their children participate in online school. When groups like Moms for Liberty are accused of wanting to ban books the accusers never name the books. It is an attempt to tie their actions to authoritarian governments that have burned books in the past. It is effective until one actually considers the books they want removed from schools and notes how sexually graphic many of the texts are. It is impossible to make a good faith argument for including a book like Genderqueer in an elementary school library.

Moms for Liberty's emphasis on local actions and elections is already showing positive results. A group of parents took over the school board in Chino, CA. This July they adopted a policy that parents must be informed if a child expresses a desire to be treated as the opposite sex. This parental notification is supported by 68% of California voters. Critics accuse the board of placing students at risk of potential harm from parents who don't support their gender identity. Gender identity is a subjective highly contested concept that is introduced as an idea rather than being an immutable human attribute. Students who typically are convinced they have a gender identity believe it corresponds with the opposite sex. The act of social transition, treating a child as the opposite sex, is a powerful therapeutic intervention. Teachers are not trained to administer psychological therapies. The effect of doing so risks making the gender identity a permanent idea the child has of himself rather than something he is likely to outgrow.

When one compares the statements and actions of bodies like the Chino school board and groups like Moms for Liberty to what they are accused of promoting, those groups appear incredibly reasonable and their accusers dangerously dishonest. 

There is probably no greater sign of the potential growth and longevity of this political constituency than how Moms for Liberty, an organization that began two years ago was able to attract, Trump, Desantis, and other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination to their convention this summer. Success breeds success. That potential will be fulfilled if they are able to force politicians across the spectrum to directly address their concerns rather than misrepresenting as politicians on the left do. The Labour Party in the UK now promoting positions on trans self declaration which they called extremely bigoted three years ago suggests it is only a matter of time.

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