Updated: Dec 7, 2021
This isn't what I'd planned to do with this part of my life.
In February 2019, a friend called me. She’d been looking around the school website for summer school information, and stumbled upon a Transgender Students Policy Working Group Meeting scheduled for that evening. She asked me to go with her. At that meeting of school board members, administrators, teachers, parents, local transgender-rights activists, and transgender-identified students we heard:
that parents are a threat to their children and the school needs to step in to protect “trans kids” from abuse and neglect.
that students’ gender identity should be hidden from parents unless the child wants the parents to know (pre-K through grade 12).
that “thousands” of kids in Virginia’s Arlington Public Schools (a district which at the time had 28,000 students in it) are transgender.
that a reading of I Am Jazz had been scuttled at Patrick Henry Elementary School because the principal was (rightly) concerned about how parents would react. The parent (also an assistant teacher, and a member of the special interest group Arlington Gender Identity Allies) vowed, “This reading will happen.” And it did happen, three days later, at Ashlawn Elementary School.
We also heard the supervisor of counseling say that it’s the school’s responsibility to “help parents along” if the parents have not yet fallen in line with gender ideology. In other words, she thinks that the school knows better than parents what’s true, and what’s good for their children.
That was my jaw-dropping entrée to the world of gender activism. I, my friend, and three other concerned parents started organizing people to go speak to the school board members about this policy during their open office hours. We formed the Arlington Parent Coalition when it became clear that the school board had no ears for our concerns.
We discovered via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the Arlington Gender Identity Allies (AGIA) had been working on this policy together for nearly a year, with no other eyes or input to it at all. Arlington Parent Coalition asked to be included in future meetings about this policy, but a second FOIA request regarding communications between APS and AGIA confirmed that we were not.
As we began to investigate gender theory’s history and activism, it became very obvious that nothing supports this nonsense except ideological biases and methodologically unsound “research.” We took a binder full of solid studies and documentation to the APS administration, outlining facts such as:
the World Professional Association on Transgender Health’s Standards of Care indicates that the vast majority of kids (73-88%) outgrow gender dysphoria if allowed to pass through puberty naturally (without puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones).
social transition (clothes, hair, names, & pronouns) leads almost inevitably to medical transition.
long-term outcomes for people who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery are abysmal.
We got no response.
We submitted to the school board a list of over 50 questions about the potential consequences of their Transgender Students Policy:
1. What is a transgender student? How is a transgender student identified? Is a transgender student someone who has begun to transition medically? hormonally? socially? Can someone be labeled "transgender" simply by self-identifying as such? Who diagnoses a student as transgender? Is it the student, or a teacher, counselor, or other staff member? If a student can self-diagnose for gender identity, can a student also self-diagnose other conditions, such as dyslexia, autism, trans-racial identity, Tourette’s Syndrome, or PTSD?
2. What is a gender-neutral bathroom? Is it a room that has had the male/female signs removed? Is it a single-user bathroom? Is it a bathroom with stall walls floor to ceiling? How will bathrooms be brought into compliance with gender-neutral status? What is the budget for that? If single-user bathrooms are stigmatizing to transgender students why would they not also be stigmatizing to non-transgender students? Why is it acceptable to ask a non-transgender student to use a single-user bathroom if it is NOT acceptable to ask a transgender student to use it?
3. What is a gender-neutral dress code? Can girls still wear skirts or dresses? Can boys wear them? What about for swimwear for swimming units? If boys are allowed to be bare-chested, will girls also be allowed (required?) to be bare-chested? Or will both boys and girls be required to cover their chests?
4. Who is the final authority on which students room together on overnight trips? Is it the students? The parents? The school? Who is liable if something happens to a student who is rooming with students of the opposite sex? If a girl is assaulted or raped, who will be held responsible for that?
5. If the school has the right to decide what parents know about their children's sexuality or gender, is the school then responsible for that student's health and well-being? If a child harms him- or herself, or commits suicide, and it is discovered that the school withheld information from the child's parents about that child's mental and/or physical health, will the school be held responsible for that child's illness and/or death?
6. With respect to sports teams and girls' protected spaces, how does this policy NOT violate Title IX mandates? Although legislators are wrestling with whether or not to change "biological sex" to "gender identity", Title IX still holds that differences exist between the biological sexes. Doesn't this policy, which allows biological boys access to girls' spaces and sports teams, violate federal law and the Dillon rule in this case?
7. With respect to pronouns, and given the fact that transgender activists now claim that there are infinite pronoun options (and in fact, people can invent their own pronouns at will) how will teachers be expected to remember the preferred pronouns (and all those pronouns' conjugations) for up to 30 different students in each class? What will be the consequence to the teacher for making an error? What will be the procedure for ensuring that teachers have clearly received adequate communication about students' new pronouns? What recourse will a teacher have if s/he is, for example, first told that a student wants to be called "they/them/themselves" but at a later date the student changes to "ze/zir/zirin", but does not inform the teacher of the change? What if the student claims to have informed the teacher, but the teacher claims not to have been informed? How will that conflict be resolved?
8. Returning to the question of self-identity, if a student can change his or her gender of record at will, can a student also change his or her ethnic/race status at will? Why or why not? How will accurate demographic data be maintained if a student changes from one gender to another mid-year? What will be the procedure for tracking students across years if names and/or genders are changed?
9. Who will designate the consequences and/or repercussions against staff or students who fail to comply with this PIP's mandates? How will breaches of compliance be identified? What will be the criteria for determining whether a breach is an accident or an example of harassment, such as when the wrong pronoun is used? Who will have the authority to carry out consequences for failure to comply?
None of these questions were ever answered, to our knowledge.
We began receiving messages from parents all over the country—and eventually the world—telling us the same story:
“My child told me that s/he’s transgender. This is out of the blue. There’s never been any evidence of this before. I think this is coming from social media and school. Please help us!”
We began connecting with parents in school districts around the country—and around the world—who all have the same story:
“Our school board included gender identity in the district’s non-discrimination clause, then they immediately adopted the GLSEN Model School District Policy on Transgender Students. This is dangerous, and a disaster for kids and girls!”
We got called names like hater, transphobe, and TERF (Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist—or more appropriately, Tired of Explaining Reality to Fools), because we said that parents should have more rights with respect to their children than the school has, and children shouldn’t be rendered sterile before they even reach the age of majority.
People who opposed us all said the same, slogan-y things:
“Transwomen are women.”
“Trans rights are human rights.”
“Stand up for trans kids.”
“Trans people exist; get over it.”
“You’re a hater, transphobe, and TERF.”
“Mind your own business.”
“Why are you so concerned with other people’s genitals?
We recognized the clear markings of a cult.
Today, I continue to fight this heinous ideology that destroys everything it touches: children, adults, families, and society.
I don’t enjoy this work; I’d rather be doing just about anything else instead of deep-diving into a world that is replete with greed, dysfunction, pornography, and predation on our most vulnerable population: children.
But until the tide turns, and people wake up to what is happening to our kids, I will not stop fighting. Until institutions like the United Nations, organizations like Planned Parenthood, public schools, and unethical activists stop preying on children to turn them into fodder for exploitation, I will keep pushing back on this destructive ideology with everything I have.
I hope you’ll join me.
Maria Keffler is a co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children, Partners for Ethical Care, and the Arlington Parent Coalition. A teacher and parent with a background in educational psychology, she is the author of Desist, Detrans & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult. Contact Ms. Keffler at firstname.lastname@example.org.