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A Victim of our Cultural Politics

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A reader writes:

I want to tell you about my youngest brother and the struggle he (with my family) is going through right now.

But first, a little background to understand the story: I am one of the older children from a large family. When I was a teenager, and when my youngest brother was still a toddler, my parents adopted several foster children, almost doubling the number of kids in our family. We loved our new siblings, but they came with a lot of challenges.

One of my new adopted brothers, aged about nine, began sexually abusing my youngest brother. It was a while before my parents found out, and as you can imagine it kicked off years of difficulty in our family. My youngest brother was so young, had years of therapy, but has always had a difficult life. He is quiet and shy; has struggled with depression, anxiety, and loneliness; and has generally felt “lost” for much of his life.

About six months ago this brother (now 18) announced that he was leaving our family religion. Fair enough: some of my other siblings have also become atheist/agnostic, so this was not a huge shock, but I think rather than making my youngest brother happier, it only contributed to his feeling of being lost.

I bring up all that background not to necessarily say “this” led to “that,” or to link any two events, just to help you understand the overall situation.

Yesterday afternoon a relative was visiting us and accidentally let slip that my youngest brother has quietly announced to a few people that he is planning to transition to be a woman. We were shocked: nothing has alluded to this, ever.

Apparently it happened like this: a few months ago my brother took an online quiz meant to tell you if you are transgender or not. He took the quiz, and it told him that he was. My brother took this result seriously and found some doctors who are supportive of transgendered people. One of the doctors (an OB-GYN — ah, the irony) encouraged him to immediately start a medical transition, telling him (an 18-year-old!) that “the sooner he begins the better, so make the change more authentic. He has already begun hormone therapy (which is making him sick and causing him to vomit), without tellinganyone, and is preparing a full transition.

I can’t tell you how frustrated I am with these doctors. Rather than urging caution, or a “let’s-see-how-you-feel-in-six-months” approach, they immediately jumped to the obvious conclusion that my brother is really a woman, that aggressive hormone therapy to override his genetics is obviously the right decision. And that he should start now, because if he waits to think about it the hormones may not work as well.

My whole family is at a loss of what to do. Even my secular family members are very worried about him. To us it seems a classic case of a young man struggling to find an identity, something to hold on to, with unscrupulous (biased?) doctors urging him to do something foolish.

But what can we do? If we even bring up our concern we risk being labeled “bigots” who “aren’t supportive” — and we all know that being “not supportive” is basically the same as child abuse. We’re very worried, but the world has shifted underneath us. We can no longer say, “Hey, maybe this isn’t such a great idea. Maybe you’re not a woman, maybe you’re just depressed.” But the doctors are the “experts,” right?

All we can do right now is pray.

What happens when this poor young man finds that his transition has not solved his problem with loneliness, with feeling lost, with the emotional and psychological trauma from childhood sexual abuse? If, God forbid, he should commit suicide — transgender people kill themselves at an unusually high rate — we will all be told that it was the fault of the world of bigots for not being “supportive”.

What a horrible situation. I feel so bad for this family. How can you even begin to fight this tidal wave?

The insanity the overculture demands that we all accept is getting to be too much. In Iowa, the head of a gay rights group is denouncing as “disgusting” a move by parents to keep their kids from being sent back to a so-called “anti-bullying” seminar. Who could object to their kids being taught not to bully gay kids? People who realize from the experience at the last such conference that it’s being used to introduce students to perversion. Here’s a report about what happened at that conference; it’s so sexually explicit that I’m not going to quote it here. You may note that the TV reports about it don’t actually talk about what was allegedly said that has some parents so upset. The only explicit reports about the conference come from local conservative media. Isn’t the mainstream media in Iowa interested in finding out what was actually said at the event?

This is not a new thing, at all. Fifteen years ago, I wrote about the same thing happening in Boston. A couple of parents who tape-recorded the publicly-funded, public “safe schools” event, blew the whistle, as I wrote in the Weekly Standard. Excerpt:

Frustrated by official indifference, Whiteman secretly took his tape recorder along to the 10th annual conference of the Boston chapter of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, at Tufts University on March 25. GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”) is a national organization whose purpose is to train teachers and students and develop programs to, in the words of its Boston chapter leader, “challenge the anti-gay, hetero-centric culture that still prevails in our schools.”

The state-sanctioned conference, which was open to the public but attended chiefly by students, administrators, and teachers, undercut the official GLSEN line–that their work is aimed only at making schools safer by teaching tolerance and respect.

The event, backed by the state’s largest teachers’ union, included such workshops as “Ask the Transsexuals,” “Early Childhood Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not,” “The Struggles and Triumphs of Including Homosexuality in a Middle School Curriculum” (with suggestions for including gay issues when teaching the Holocaust), “From Lesbos to Stonewall: Incorporating Sexuality into a World History Curriculum,” and “Creating a Safe and Inclusive Community in Elementary Schools,” in which the “Rationale for integrating glbt [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] issues in the early elementary years will be presented.”

Whiteman sat in on a “youth only, ages 14-21” workshop called “What They Didn’t Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class.” If “they” didn’t tell you about this stuff, it’s probably because “they” worried they’d be sent to jail.

The raucous session was led by Massachusetts Department of Education employees Margot Abels and Julie Netherland, and Michael Gaucher,an AIDS educator from the Massachusetts public health agency. Gaucher opened the session by asking the teens how they know whether or not they’ve had sex. Someone asked whether oral sex was really sex.

“If that’s not sex, then the number of times I’ve had sex has dramatically decreased, from a mountain to a valley, baby!” squealed Gaucher. He then coaxed a reluctant young participant to talk about which orifices need to be filled for sex to have occurred: “Don’t be shy, honey, you can do it.”

Later, the three adults took written questions from the kids. One inquired about “fisting,” a sex practice in which one inserts his hand and forearm into the rectum of his partner. The helpful and enthusiastic Gaucher demonstrated the proper hand position for this act. Abels described fisting as “an experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with,” and praised it for putting one “into an exploratory mode.”

Gaucher urged the teens to consult their “really hip” Gay/Straight Alliance adviser for hints on how to come on to a potential sex partner. The trio went on to explain that lesbians could indeed experience sexual bliss through rubbing their clitorises together, and Gaucher told the kids that male ejaculate is rumored to taste “sweeter if people eat celery.” On and on like this the session went.

Camenker and Whiteman transcribed the tape and wrote a lengthy report for Massachusetts News, a conservative monthly. Then they announced that copies of the recorded sessions would be made available to state legislators and the local media. GLSEN threatened to sue them for violating Massachusetts’ wiretap laws and invading the privacy of the minors present at one workshop.

The tapes went out anyway and became a talk radio sensation. On May 19, state education chief David Driscoll canned Abels and Netherland and terminated Gaucher’s contract. But Driscoll also insisted that the controversial workshop was an aberration that shouldn’t be allowed to derail the entire program. Abels fumed to the press that the education department had known perfectly well what she had been doing for years and hadn’t cared until the tapes had surfaced. Camenker, ironically, agreed.

That same weekend, a day after the Boston Globe editorial page editorialized against Camenker and Whiteman, thousands of New England homosexual youths marched on the Massachusetts State House in a scheduled “pride” rally. David LaFontaine, chairman of the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth, denounced Camenker and Whiteman: “The hatred we’ve heard on the radio and smeared across the TV in the last week … is the prejudice that simmers beneath the surface [which] has now bubbled up into the open in all of its ugliness.”

The Boston media and legal communities closed ranks against the whistleblowers. They did not deny the content of the conference — indeed, they could not, because the parents had it all on tape. So they barraged the critics with accusations of bigotry and hatred, and attacked the parents for recording the event surreptitiously.

All this happened a decade and a half ago, when the culture overall was far, far less accepting of this so-called “anti-bullying” education. The point is that gay rights activists and their allies often use the worthy cause of anti-bullying to push a far different agenda. I am 100 percent behind anti-bullying initiatives. There should be no quarter given to bullying ANY kids — gay, religious, minority, whatever. But parents need to understand that these events are not always what they claim to be. You don’t need to teach the Catholic Catechism to instruct non-Catholic children not to bully Catholic kids. Nor do you need to teach school children about techniques of gay sex, including oral-anal contact (yes, this reportedly happened in Iowa), to tell them not to mistreat gay kids.

It’s starting much younger too. Here’s a Washington Post op-ed celebrating “the way four-year-olds talk about love and marriage” today, written by a nursery school teacher in Chicago. Excerpt:

Of course, there are many resources to help initiate conversations and help frame our students’ thinking. For example, we read And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. This charming picture book is based on a true story of two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo. A zookeeper provides them with an egg to raise into a chick after he recognizes that they are mates and “in love.”

As I was reading the story, a handful of kids chimed in that they knew two boys who loved each other or two girls who loved each other. Again the conversation turned to marriage. Some kids were insistent that boys could marry boys and girls could marry girls, others were sure that could not happen, and still others listened without sharing their ideas. The country’s debate on gay marriage had reached the 4- and 5-year-olds in my class. The book prompted a conversation about an issue that kids were actively working to understand.

At this point, I felt a twinge of unease about potential parent responses. As I thought later about my nervousness, I realized I have never run into a parent who asked me not to talk about heterosexual marriage with their child. Why not? Heterosexual marriage is an acceptable part of dominant culture and is therefore not considered taboo. So it is seen as nonthreatening. Parents trust that, as a teacher, I can talk about heterosexual marriage without the conversation being dominated by sexuality. Heterosexual marriage is viewed through the lens of love. Same-sex marriage does not feel quite as benign because it is viewed by its opponents through the lens of sex. Gay sex, to be exact, which is perceived as inappropriate subject matter for young children. Based on religious beliefs about the immorality of “homosexual behavior,” there are people who would rather that discussion of gay relationships be omitted entirely from their children’s school experiences.

Some parents say they want to “save sensitive conversations for the home.” Although I can understand a parent’s desire to pass along their ideas and values to their children, the hope that those conversations will happen exclusively in the home is unrealistic.


As this deeply layered conversation moved on, many points of view were stated, more questions were posed, and the children were able to articulate what they thought. I made a mental note to myself about topics to revisit, including finding a way to talk about inherited traits and Jane’s ideas about the dangers of incest. There’s always a new challenge!

Yeah, I bet there is.

At the ridiculous end of things, the mass confusion all of this brings about ends up with this editor’s note appended to an op-ed in the online version of the UCLA Daily Bruin calling on the government to — wait for it — subsidize tampons,, for the sake of fighting “gender inequality.” The editor’s note is priceless:

Editor’s note: This blog post refers to individuals who menstruate as women because the author wanted to highlight gender inequality in health care. We acknowledge that not all individuals who menstruate identify as women and that not all individuals who identify as women menstruate, but feel this generalization is appropriate considering the gendered nature of most health care policies.

That’s funny. On the opposite end, you get the tragedy of the reader’s baby brother, ruining his life at the encouragement of doctors and popular culture.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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