gender kids drawing graffiti
© Mesamong/Getty Images
Like any religion, wokeness understands the need to convert children. The old Jesuit motto (sometimes attributed to Voltaire) was, after all, "Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man." And so I was moved but not particularly surprised by George Packer's tale of a progressive school banishing separate restrooms for boys and girls because this reinforces the gender binary. The school did not inform parents of this, of course:
Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals. Our son reported that his classmates, without any collective decision, had simply gone back to the old system, regardless of the new signage: Boys were using the former boys' rooms, girls the former girls' rooms. This return to the familiar was what politicians call a "commonsense solution." It was also kind of heartbreaking.
As an analogy for the price of progressivism, it's close to perfect. Authorities impose an ideology onto reality; reality slowly fights back. The question is simply how much damage is done by this kind of utopianism before it crumbles under its own weight. Simple solutions — like a separate, individual gender-neutral bathroom for the tiny minority with gender dysphoria or anyone else — are out of bounds. They are, after all, reinforcing the idea that girls and boys are different. And we cannot allow biology, evolution, reproductive strategy, hormones, chromosomes, and the customs of every single human culture since the beginning of time to interfere with "social justice."

It's also vital to expose children to the fact of their race as the core constituent of their identity. Here is an essay written by a woke teacher about the difficulty of teaching "White boys":
I spend a lot of my days worried about White boys. I worry about White boys who barely try and expect to be rewarded, who barely care and can't stand being called on it, who imagine they can go through school without learning much without it impacting in any way the capacity for their future success, just because it never has before.
This sounds to me as if he is describing, well, boys of any race. And when boys are labeled as "White" (note the capital "W") and this requires specific rules not applied to nonwhite boys, they often — surprise! — don't like it:
This week, a student spoke up in class to say that every time a particular writer talked about White people and their role in racism, he would start to feel really guilty, and it made him not want to listen ... I try to keep an arm around the boys who most need it, but it's hard, because I'm also not willing to give an inch on making my room safe for my students of color. It's not their job to keep hurting while White boys figure it out.
Children, in other words, are being taught to think constantly about race, and to feel guilty if they are the wrong one. And, of course, if they resist, that merely proves the point. A boy who doesn't think he is personally responsible for racism is merely reflecting "white fragility" which is a function of "white supremacy." QED. No one seems to have thought through the implications of telling white boys that their core identity is their "whiteness," or worried that indoctrinating kids into white identity might lead quite a few to, yes, become "white identitarians" of the far right.

One of the key aspects about social-justice theory is that it's completely unfalsifiable (as well as unreadable); it's a closed circle that refers only to itself and its own categories. (For a searing take down of this huge academic con, check out Douglas Murray's superb new book, The Madness of Crowds.) The forces involved — "white supremacy," "patriarchy," "heterosexism" — are all invisible to the naked eye, like the Holy Spirit. Their philosophical origins — an attempt by structuralist French philosophers to rescue what was left of Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s — are generally obscured in any practical context. Like religion, you cannot prove any of its doctrines empirically, but children are being forced into believing them anyway. This is hard, of course, as this teacher explains: "I'm trying. I am. But you know how the saying goes: You can lead a White male to anti-racism, but you can't make him think."

The racism, sexism, and condescension in those sentences! (The teacher, by the way, is not some outlier. In 2014, he was named Minnesota's Teacher of the Year!) Having taken one form of religion out of the public schools, the social-justice left is now replacing it with the doctrines of intersectionality.

Last week, I defended drag queens reading stories to kids in libraries. I don't take back my words. Getting children interested in reading with costumed clowns strikes me as harmless. But when I was directed to the website of Drag Queen Story Hours, I found the following:
[DQSH] captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.
However well-meant, this is indoctrination into an ideology, not campy encouragement for reading and fun.

And then there is the disturbing "social justice" response to gender-nonconforming boys and girls. Increasingly, girly boys and tomboys are being told that gender trumps sex, and if a boy is effeminate or bookish or freaked out by team sports, he may actually be a girl, and if a girl is rough and tumble, sporty, and plays with boys, she may actually be a boy.

In the last few years in Western societies, as these notions have spread, the number of children identifying as trans has skyrocketed. In Sweden, the number of kids diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a phenomenon stable and rare for decades, has, from 2013 to 2016, increased almost tenfold. In New Zealand, the rate of girls identifying as boys has quadrupled in the same period of time; in Britain, where one NHS clinic is dedicated to trans kids, there were around a hundred girls being treated in 2011; by 2017, there were 1,400.

Possibly this sudden surge is a sign of pent-up demand, as trans kids emerge from the shadows, which, of course, is a great and overdue thing. The suffering of trans kids can be intense and has been ignored for far too long. But maybe it's also some gender non-conforming kids falling prey to adult suggestions, or caused by social contagion. Almost certainly it's both. But one reason to worry about the new explosion in gender dysphoria is that it seems recently to be driven by girls identifying as boys rather than the other way round. Female sexuality is more fluid and complex than male sexuality, so perhaps girls are more susceptible to ideological suggestion, especially when they are also taught that being a woman means being oppressed.

In the case of merely confused or less informed kids, the consequences of treatment can be permanent. Many of these prepubescent trans-identifying children are put on puberty blockers, drugs that suppress a child's normal hormonal development, and were originally designed for prostate cancer and premature puberty. The use of these drugs for gender dysphoria is off-label, unapproved by the FDA; there have been no long-term trials to gauge the safety or effectiveness of them for gender dysphoria, and the evidence we have of the side effects of these drugs in FDA-approved treatment is horrifying. Among adults, the FDA has received 24,000 reports of adverse reactions, over half of which it deemed serious. Parents are pressured into giving these drugs to their kids on the grounds that the alternative could be their child's suicide. Imagine the toll of making a decision about your child like that?

Eighty-five percent of gender-dysphoric children grow out of the condition — and most turn out to be gay. Yes, some are genuinely trans and can and should benefit from treatment. And social transition is fine. But children cannot know for certain who they are sexually or emotionally until they have matured past puberty. Fixing their "gender identity" when they're 7 or 8, or even earlier, administering puberty blockers to kids as young as 12, is a huge leap in the dark in a short period of time. It cannot be transphobic to believe that no child's body should be irreparably altered until they are of an age and a certainty to make that decision themselves.

I don't have children, but I sure worry about gay kids in this context. I remember being taunted by some other kids when I was young — they suggested that because I was mildly gender-nonconforming, I must be a girl. If my teachers and parents and doctors had adopted this new ideology, I might never have found the happiness of being gay and comfort in being male. How many gay kids, I wonder, are now being led into permanent physical damage or surgery that may be life-saving for many, but catastrophic for others, who come to realize they made a mistake. And what are gay adults doing to protect them? Nothing. Only a few ornery feminists, God bless them, are querying this.

In some ways, the extremism of the new transgender ideology also risks becoming homophobic. Instead of seeing effeminate men as one kind of masculinity, as legitimate as any other, transgenderism insists that girliness requires being a biological girl. Similarly, a tomboy is not allowed to expand the bandwidth of what being female can mean, but must be put into the category of male. In my view, this is not progressive; it's deeply regressive. There's a reason why Iran is a world leader in sex-reassignment surgery, and why the mullahs pay for it. Homosexuality in Iran is so anathema that gay boys must be turned into girls, and lesbian girls into boys, to conform to heterosexual norms. Sound a little too familiar?

Adults are increasingly forced to obey the new norms of "social justice" or be fired, demoted, ostracized, or canceled. Many resist; many stay quiet; a few succumb and convert. Children have no such options.

Indoctrinate yourselves as much as you want to, guys. It's a free country. But hey, teacher — leave those kids alone.