Tuesday, August 30, 2022


There’s no stronger instinct than a parent’s need to protect his or her child.

Last year, a California woman fought off a mountain lion — with her bare hands. Why? Because the predator was dragging away her 5-year-old son. She heard a commotion, ran outside and immediately began punching the mountain lion. It fled, and she saved her son’s life.

That’s why school boards shouldn’t be surprised when angry parents call them out for injecting critical race theory (or its school-uniformed version, social and emotional learning) into their children’s classrooms. Because it’s not just the lives of our children that need protection — it’s also their innocence.

From “Drag Queen Story Hour” to “woke” math, from secret school Pride parades to teachers who look to young children for their gender validation, childhood innocence is under assault.

As two of my colleagues at the Heritage Foundation noted in a 2019 commentary, “In culture, education, and health care, American children also are increasingly targeted for sexual messages, images, and themes at younger ages.”

Creating confusion in our children is the point. As one academic journal explained in 2021, drag queen story hour “creates a pathway into the imaginative, messy, and rule-breaking aspects of drag for children without necessarily watering down queer cultures.”

The title of that piece is “Drag pedagogy: The playful practice of queer imagination in early childhood,” and its authors are listed as Harper Keenan and “Lil Miss Hot Mess.”

“Ultimately, we suggest that drag pedagogy offers one model for learning not simply about queer lives, but how to live queerly,” they write (emphasis theirs). “And we’re living for it.”

There’s a clear goal of creating a “new generation of drag kids,” as erotic clothing store owner Brandon Hilton puts it, as he celebrates a 9-year-old boy in makeup and a sequined body suit.

But there’s a mountain of research on the results of the early sexualization of children. It can be just as deadly as any mountain lion.

This assault on innocence has its defenders, of course. Psychologist Joe Kort, a “certified sexologist,” says that objections to drag queen story-hour programs are simply misogyny, homophobia and bigotry.

Writing in Psychology Today, Kort contends, “As a longtime sex and gender therapist, I know that there is no substance to the argument that exposing anyone, including children, to the reality of people with a different sexual orientation or gender identity influences the children’s innate sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The real victims of this movement disagree. Social contagion is a recognized scientific phenomenon. And what we’ve seen regarding gender questions is that what begins as confusion — common enough in children and young adolescents — is often turned into a clinical course of action, with tragic results.

“I saw a community full of so many people who had transitioned and it had finally made them happy,” one woman explains. “I looked at them and thought I would be happy too. I now know that I’m not a trans man—but I didn’t have enough therapy to explore what was really going on with me.”

Here’s another:

“When Chloe was 12 years old, she decided she was transgender,” the New York Post reports. “At 13, she came out to her parents. That same year, she was put on puberty blockers and prescribed testosterone. At 15, she underwent a double mastectomy. Less than a year later, she realized she’d made a mistake — all by the time she was 16 years old.”

At age 15, Keira Bell was diagnosed with gender dysphoria after Britain’s National Health Service referred her to the Tavistock and Portman clinic in London. “The consequences of what happened to me have been profound,” Keira writes. “…the further my transition went, the more I realized that I wasn’t a man, and never would be. We are told these days that when someone presents with gender dysphoria, this reflects a person’s ‘real’ or ‘true’ self, that the desire to change genders is set. But this was not the case for me. As I matured, I recognized that gender dysphoria was a symptom of my overall misery, not its cause.”

Pushing radical gender ideology onto our children — in classrooms, in libraries and even in church — is inherently dangerous. It’s an attempt to undermine the childhood innocence that families instinctively protect.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “For kids are innocent and love justice, while most of us are evil and naturally prefer mercy.” But those who come for our children should not expect mercy. They should expect, instead, parents ready to protect their children no matter what.

• Kevin Roberts is the president of The Heritage Foundation.

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