’We remember that gender is not binary, right?” asks a teacher. Her fifth-grade students agree. She asks what that means. A student replies: “It means that there aren’t just two types of genders.”
This scene comes from “Creating Gender Inclusive Schools,” a documentary about an elementary school in Oakland as it receives “gender-inclusivity” training from the nonprofit Gender Spectrum, part of an attempt by gender activists to inculcate kids in their radical ideologies—and undermine parents.
The fifth-grade teacher in the documentary continues her lesson by drawing three spectrums on a white board and labeling them: biology, expression, identity. She asks the students to come to the front and plot themselves along each. “I was born as a girl,” one student says, “I usually express myself in the middle.” As for the third spectrum: “On the inside, I feel in the middle.”
Gender Spectrum is perhaps the most prominent organization providing resources on gender in schools. Not only does Gender Spectrum train schools to teach elementary-aged kids that gender is non-binary, it encourages them to keep skeptical parents in the dark about their Gender Support Plan and coaches school personnel to testify in custody disputes in favor of “affirmation,” i.e., pushing kids toward drastic treatments to alter their bodies to match their subjective sense of gender.
Its Gender Support Plan describes how a school will approach a student’s new gender identity. Many school districts use Gender Spectrum’s GSP or acknowledge it as a source, including Chicago, Albuquerque, and Milwaukee public schools.
Joel Baum, Gender Spectrum’s director of professional development, explains in a video that the impetus for the GSP is safety. The wrong pronoun, he says, can create a “hostile learning environment”; the wrong name “can be devastating for students.”
Thus, parents might have to be kept in the dark. “If the student doesn’t have an open relationship with the family,” then revealing the school’s plan “can be unsafe for them.” To remedy this, Baum recommends deceptive strategies, such as using one name for the students at school and another in parent communications.
Baum co-authored “Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools.” It’s recommended by educational authorities across the country, from the Washington state superintendent to the Virginia Department of Education.
“Schools in Transition” treats hesitancy about a student’s gender identity as prima facie wrong and potentially dangerous. A parent’s skepticism is “likely based on inaccurate or incomplete information about gender identity.” It recommends keeping the GSP a secret from these parents, but in the long run, teachers should educate parents: “Learning that transgender youth experience these behaviors as rejection, and that these behaviors can have serious consequences for their children, often helps families change their behaviors.”
The guide never considers that parents might know their children better than a school or nonprofit. Nor does it mention the potential harms of “affirming” care. Puberty blockers, testosterone and double mastectomies all entail huge consequences. For Gender Spectrum, it’s unsafe to question these treatments.
“Schools in Transition” urges teachers testifying in custody disputes to “highlight to the judge the importance of affirming the student’s gender identity.” Again, this isn’t open to question. Regarding messy custody disputes, “Schools in Transition” implies that a child’s gender preference is a reason to favor one parent over another.
Gender Spectrum also engages in massive professional development efforts. It boasts of having trained “educators who work with more than 3.2 million children.” In addition to school districts nationwide, this includes dozens of professional organizations such as the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the American School Counselors Association. This year, it’s providing a year-long program with the National Association of Independent Schools.
Many parents simply disagree with Gender Spectrum’s effective abolition of gender as a biological reality. They don’t want a “boy, girl, both, neither” sign in their children’s classroom. They recognize the damage that can result — and they don’t want to be kept in the dark. It’s time to take those concerns seriously.
John D. Sailer is a research associate at the National Association of Scholars.