The Latest Salvo In The Anti-LGBTQ+ Range Wars: Criminalizing Teachers

A bill introduced in the Missouri statehouse last week would make it illegal for schoolteachers or counselors to support or contribute to the social transitioning of a transgender minor.
Micki Simon, a teacher in Santa Ana, California, and a parent of a transgender child, protests last fall against a proposed transgender notification policy outside an Orange Unified School District meeting.
Micki Simon, a teacher in Santa Ana, California, and a parent of a transgender child, protests last fall against a proposed transgender notification policy outside an Orange Unified School District meeting.
Leonard Ortiz/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Take your pick.

Black, brown, yellow, Native American. Catholics, Irish, Italians, Jews. Abolitionists, suffragists, anarchists, communists and socialists.

They have all been targets invented, concocted and imagined, conjured into fanciful existential threats. If one fell away, if it no longer riled, incited, frightened and galvanized a populace, if it was no longer politically useful, another took its place.

Integration, miscegenation, red scares (“Have you now or have you ever been a member of…”), labor unions, Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, hippies, the Japanese and their cars, Arabs and their oil, Muslims, gays, women, pregnant women, sex, sexuality, the poor, the homeless.

And you wonder, where does it stop? When does it end? And it doesn’t. A stand-in is always ready, waiting in the wings. So then you wonder who or what is next. Green energy, electric vehicles, the “libs,” the “Illegals,” science, medicine, historians, academics, public schools, teachers, books, librarians, transgender people. They’re all in play, typically in the most insidious ways, as in a bill introduced in the Missouri statehouse last week.

House Bill 2885 would make it illegal for schoolteachers or counselors to support or contribute to the social transitioning of a transgender minor. Offenders would be placed on the sexual offender registry. Put in a more humane way, teachers who refuse to shame and insult trans kids will be classified as sex offenders. The bill defines what it calls “social transitioning” as when an individual adopts a name, pronouns and gender expression — such as clothing or a haircut — that does not match their assigned sex at birth.

So if a student named Samantha begins to experience “gender dysphoria” (which is what health officials call it) and wants to be called Sam, and the teacher calls them Sam, suddenly the teacher is a sex offender?

What next? Charging parents, doctors, friends of said children, relatives who support said children, anyone who accepts a child who isn’t harming anyone but feels more comfortable with a different gender? Tell me, predictable critics with your predictable criticisms, how President Joe Biden was being divisive in his State of the Union speech.

You can see the next headline now, can’t you? “Missouri Struggling to Staff Teaching Roles.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Jamie Gragg, said it would likely apply in removing any LGBTQ-related books or signs in classrooms.

It’s the latest fever in a nationwide blitzkrieg of increasingly vicious anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Like many other states of a particular ideological persuasion, Missouri has enacted laws banning transgender sports and gender-affirming youth medical care.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Missouri legislature is currently considering 35 bills that would affect the LGBTQ+ community. That’s more than any other state.

What makes HB 2885 particularly venomous is that it isn’t attacking transgender youth, but in a state where educators are trained to be first responders, the targets are the teachers and counselors who would help them.

Like the librarians in West Virginia or the doctors advising women on abortion treatment, it’s not the “what” being terrorized but the “who.”

To paraphrase Proverbs (or to quote a popular TV trope, if you prefer), “Understanding is not required; only obedience.”

In January, Donald Trump released a campaign video whining (when isn’t this guy whining?) about “the left-wing gender insanity being pushed on our children.”

But it’s OK to push your insanity on children? How’s that E. Jean Carroll verdict workin’ out for ya?

In the video, Trump promised that if we wins back the presidency in November, he’ll sign, “on day one,” an executive order to ban gender-affirming care for minors nationwide, officially recognize “male” and “female” as “assigned at birth” as the only viable genders and rewrite school curriculums to teach students “positive education about the nuclear family [and] the roles of mothers and fathers.”

Talk about grooming.

Does he not understand the legal challenges of violating individual rights and discrimination? Or that by limiting access to gender-affirming care, LGBTQ+ youth may face increased mental health risks, such as depression and anxiety?

Maybe he doesn’t care that reconfiguring school curriculums to teach only about traditional gender roles will limit students’ exposure to diverse family structures and gender identities, thus reinforcing stereotypes and stigmatizing LGBTQ+ families and individuals.

Does he also not understand this thing called science, or medical research?

You gotta love the people who brag about freedom, independence and small government. Until they decide they don’t like how you live, how you think or who you are. And they have no problem enlisting the government to push their values on you.

These books? I’ve decided I don’t like them, so you can’t have them, either.

Sure, you can be religious… as long as it’s my religion.

Hey, this is America. Think whatever you like! Just make sure I agree with it.

They won’t let you live the way you live and be the way you are because they don’t like that you’re not like them. So remember, kids, when you hear certain people preach about freedom, what they mean is their freedom to take away your freedom.

I have to ask these people, what are you afraid of? Is the world any worse off because Elliot Page changed his name? Did it change your job title? Your mortgage? Haven’t killed anyone since breakfast, have you? How about the border? Will the next transitioning kid result in a wave of “invaders”?

In that video, Trump called gender identity “a concept that was never heard of until it was invented by the radical left a few years ago.”

Wrong (again). The roots of gender dysphoria date back to research in the 1950s, when it was called gender identity disorder. Ironically, it was reframed as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1980 as a way to stigmatize homosexuality.

How many psychiatrists over the years have experienced parents visiting their practice asking that they work with their son who keeps wearing girl’s clothes? The boy doesn’t mind at all; the parents do.

Psychiatric researchers of gender dysphoria finally reached the same conclusions as they did with homosexuality. Homosexuality as a mental disorder began falling from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973, leading to its complete removal in 1987.

Today, numerous medical associations agree that gender-affirming care is clinically appropriate for children and adults. They include the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

I’m guessing them folks know a little more about psychiatric research than Donald Trump, whose own diagnosis can be summed up in a single word: “Eww.” (And he could use some therapy himself.)

Throughout our nation’s history, throughout human history, particular actors of a particular ideological bent have targeted whatever was convenient — a people, institutions, an idea — to make you afraid, to convince you of who was to blame for being afraid and to get them elected.

Nor does it only help to get you elected.

I was hired as a morning radio host in Buffalo, New York, after a stunt pulled by the previous host. He invited autoworkers — GM, Ford and Chrysler had plants in the region — to come down to the station parking lot and destroy a Japanese car the station had secured. They came. Sledgehammers, chainsaws, spray paint. The car was demolished. The stunt drew national attention. The morning host wasn’t fired. He was promoted to a station in a top-five market.

That was 30 years ago. I’ll bet that morning show host drives a Japanese car today. I’ll bet a lot of those autoworkers do, too. And that’s the historical irony. In hindsight, every target turned out to be a falsehood. Every resentment dissipated.

Women in the workplace? Outrageous. Interracial marriage? The horror!

Even the American flag emblazoned on an article of clothing was once considered blasphemy.

In 1948, when most states had anti-miscegenation laws on the books prohibiting sexual relationships or marriage between people of different ethnic and racial groups, California passed a law to make miscegenation legal. Polling data at the time showed that 90% of Americans opposed such unions, typically referred to as interracial marriages. In 1967, when those “activists” in the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, it invalidated similar laws still on the books in over a dozen other states, yet 70% of polling participants still opposed interracial marriage. Today, few Americans bat an eye.

In 2000, Californians enacted Proposition 22, stating that marriage was between one man and one woman. It passed with 62% of the vote. Eight years later, Proposition 8 affirmed Prop. 22’s edict but passed with only 52% of the popular vote. Nearly eight years after that, in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it throughout the country.

As a nightly talk radio host, I lost count of how many listeners sent me hate mail, even death threats, because of my support for and their opposition to gay marriage.

Not to Godwin the argument, but in a parallel worth mentioning, anti-miscegenation laws were also enforced in Nazi Germany and South Africa under its apartheid rule. (Homosexuals didn’t fare any better.)

Things linger or die a slow death. Alabama finally repealed its anti-miscegenation law... in the year 2000. A proposition on the California ballot this fall will establish a constitutional amendment officially repealing Prop. 8 and defining marriage as a fundamental right for all. Yet, an alliance of independent Baptist ministers and churches oppose the proposition, arguing (still) that “Marriage has been defined as a union between a man and a woman from the beginning. God instituted it. ... Man cannot redefine what God has already defined.”

You’d think these particular actors would learn a lesson. But they don’t. Fanaticism is forever busy and needs feeding. Our base instincts of fear and anger are the perfect dietary supplement.

There is a lot of doom and gloom about the worst-case scenario in the coming election, but history has an inevitable arc. It has never been stopped and never will be. While there will always be silencers, racists, oppressionists, extremists and fascists seeking to manipulate a populace against the misunderstood, the minorities and the marginalized in society, in the long run they will fail, judged by history as a shameful embarrassment.

Many advocates of today’s manufactured demons will be dead before that happens, but as the 21st century progresses, society will look back on opponents of same-sex marriage, transgender individuals, book bans, climate change and any other fallacious full-blown panic attacks with the same bewilderment and pity that we do today of those who supported slavery and segregation, who opposed the right of women to vote and all the rest. It’s just a matter of time.

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