The State of Alaska sponsored a workshop, open to all state educators, instructing them how to assist students — elementary age and older — who wish to transition away from their biological sex and identify otherwise.
In an address to nearly 40 teachers, school nurses and other educators, a representative from Identity Inc., a gay, lesbian and transgender activist group, called on educators to alter the culture, language and policies of Alaska’s schools, while keeping sensitive information about children away from parents who may take issue with the school enabling their child’s gender experimentation.
“Are male and female the only option at birth?” asked Identity Inc. spokesman Billy Farrell. “We want to break out of the mindset of thinking of biological sex as two rigid boxes that you have to fit in, but more along a spectrum.”
Farrell was one of several presenters at the three-day Alaska School Health & Wellness Institute, sponsored by the state’s Department of Education and Early Development and Department of Health and Social Services. The Oct. 24-26 institute, which took place at the BP Energy Center in Anchorage, dealt with other issues such as sex education, nutrition, health, substance abuse and internet crimes.
SEPARATING GENDER FROM BIOLOGICAL SEX
Farrell’s talk was titled, “LGBTQ Cultural Competency Training.” The presentation encouraged Alaska’s educators to abandon the idea that people are made male and female and to embrace the deeply controversial notion that students as young as kindergarten can choose their own gender, and should be encouraged to do so.
Ferrell began by claiming that gender and sex “are not the same thing.”
“Gender is how we understand our own experience,” he said. “And again we want to break out of our rigid boxes and look at this on a spectrum.”
In some cases, that might mean a student doesn’t identify with being either male or female, a situation Farrell called “gender queer.” Gender, he added, should be understood as fluid and changeable even from day to day.
In some cases, he explained a person born male may wish to live their life as a female, changing their name, legal identification and even undergoing hormonal and surgical procedures. Others, he said, never make a full transition to either male or female.
Educators may find this challenging, but Farrell encouraged them to avoid automatically identifying students as either fully male or female.
“Just try to drop assumptions,” he said.
‘PREFERRED PRONOUNS’ & PARENTAL OPPOSITION
Gender expression, Farrell explained, refers to the way a person “expresses” their identity to society, and this can be “incredibly fluid” depending on the person. As an example, Farrell highlighted a “young man” he works with who attends Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
“He strongly identifies as a man but how he expresses his gender differs, day to day, week to week, experience to experience,” Farrell said, noting that sometimes the student wears makeup and jewelry to school, other times he appears more masculine.
In cases where educators are unsure about whether a person identifies as male, female or otherwise, they should ask students what their “preferred pronoun” is, Farrell said. “Options are he, him, his — she, her, hers — or something that is gender neutral: They, them, theirs.”
One educator attending the presentation from an alternative school in Juneau said teachers there already receive “a lot of training” on using pronouns when addressing kids.
Farrell praised this, but warned educators to make sure they ask students where they can use their “preferred pronouns,” so as not to inform parents or legal guardians of the child’s situation.
“We just want to make sure that we are not, um, potentially outing someone unintentionally,” he said.
Likewise, Farrell, advised educators to be careful about what they include in the students official records.
“If you are working with a young person who is not out to their family or legal guardians, you don’t necessarily want to include something in their legal file that a parent could access,” he said.
PUBERTY BLOCKERS FOR TRANSGENDER KIDS
Regarding transgender students, those who wish to be seen and treated as members of the opposite sex, Farrell claimed this happens at a very young age.
One teacher present said she works in a K-2nd grade school and deals with kindergarteners who wish to use bathrooms that do not conform to their biological sex.
“Some kids who are trans from a very early age will assert the fact that they are trans,” Farrell said. Examples of this are seen when children claim to be the opposite sex or wearing certain clothes and prefer colors which are not associated with their sex, he said.
Farrell admitted that it is best to wait on assisting very young children in transitioning, but said it is sometimes the correct course of action.
However, as children approach ages 11 or 12, “puberty blockers” are a “really good option for a young trans person” to delay the onset of puberty and give them time to talk about what they want to do, Farrell said.
HORMONE THERAPY ON 15-YEAR-OLDS
Puberty, Farrell said, is often a crisis moment for kids who wish to be identified as the opposite sex but then experience hormonal and physical changes that naturally come with puberty.
Farrell called on teachers to connect students with health professionals who will support them in their sexual identity experimentation. He also referred educators to his group, Identity, which encourages trans youth to explore their sexual identity.
“Support groups are often a really good place for people to try on the gender for the first time,” Farrell claimed. They can experiment with pronouns, names, how they dress, act and talk, he said.
For youth who wish to go all the way with hormonal and surgical procedures, Farrell walked educators through that process as well.
He noted that these steps can be challenging, especially in terms of cost since most insurance companies don’t cover sex change operations. For others, the medical technology does not exist for them to “get to where they want to be,” he said.
Nevertheless, Farrell said some young people desire to take these steps.
Farrell recommended that serious talk about hormone therapy begin around age 15. He lamented that he doesn’t know of any doctors who will do hormone therapy on children younger than that, which creates a “barrier” as Farrell sees it. Another potential problem is Alaskan parents.
“All of this care, under 18 in the state of Alaska, you need parental consent for, which is also a huge barrier for a lot of our young trans teens,” he said.
RE-WORKING SCHOOLS’ APPROACH TO GENDER
Farrell appealed to educators to change Alaska’s public schools regarding how they approach sexual identity and expression.
He praised the Anchorage School District, which already has policies catering to students who identify as gay, lesbian or transsexual. Across most of Alaska, however, such policies don’t exist, a situation Farrell called on his audience to change.
A good place to start, he said, is with bathroom policies that allow students to use whichever restrooms they identify with.
One participant asked Farrell about a girl who attends Dimond High School in Anchorage and wants to use the male locker rooms.
Based on Anchorage law and the Anchorage School District Policy Farrell said the student is already “legally entitled to go use that men’s locker room and be on any sports team. If they are actually being denied from that, Dimond High School is breaking the law,” he said.
He further urged educators to push for policies that will allow students to participate in team sports based on the gender they identify with. In terms of housing on overnight sports trips or other school functions, Farrell said districts should create policies that allow students to board and sleep with whichever gender they identify.
CATHOLIC RESPONSE TO GENDER THEORIES
The push for gender ideology is not unique to Alaska. Last summer the Obama administration issued a letter to all public schools saying they should allow members of one biological sex to use the showers, locker rooms and restrooms – and stay in the same hotel rooms during field trips – as members of the opposite sex or risk losing federal funding.
As these policies infiltrate schools, advocates of the long held understanding of human sexuality are speaking up.
The Cardinal Newman Society, for example, is a leading nonprofit group that promotes and defends faithful Catholic education. With schools around the country facing political pressure to embrace gender ideology, the Newman Society released a resource this past spring to help schools maintain their core identity and mission.
The Newman Society notes that the American College of Pediatricians recently warned against encouraging students to embrace a gender identity that contradicts their biological sex.
“Endorsing gender discordance as normal via public education and legal policies will confuse children and parents, leading more children to present to ‘gender clinics’ where they will be given puberty-blocking drugs,” the Newman Society stated. “This, in turn, virtually ensures that they will ‘choose’ a lifetime of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic cross-sex hormones, and likely consider unnecessary surgical mutilation of their healthy body parts as young adults.”
Pope Francis has warned against gender ideology and the separation of sex from gender as harmful to individuals and society.
In his exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” he said youth “need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created.” He explained that young people should be helped to “accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension ‘to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it.’”