Consider the following scenario, rooted in the actual experiences of some parents.
Your 14-year-old daughter, who has never before questioned her gender identity, comes home from school one day declaring herself to be a boy after hearing a transgender teenager speak at a school assembly. She persists in her claims and demands cross-sex hormones, even though her experiments with a transgender identity seem more about winning peer approval in school and on social media than about any deep-seated discomfort with being female.
Scenarios like this, which were unheard of a decade ago, are now increasingly common, particularly among adolescent girls. Abigail Shrier documents this in her disturbing new book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.”
You take a cautious approach. You delay allowing your daughter to begin taking powerful hormones or undergo surgeries that will irreversibly masculinize her appearance and eventually render her sterile. You also seek a therapist who won’t unquestioningly affirm her transgender identity, but will probe more deeply to see if underlying psychological or social issues might be the real cause of your daughter’s transgender identification (psychiatric comorbidities are high among those with gender dysphoria).
Enter the so-called Equality Act, or its so-called “compromise” bill, the Fairness for All Act. Both would imperil your right to protect your daughter from risky and unproven gender reassignment “treatments.” They would also make it even more difficult than it already is for all parents to prevent their children from falling prey to gender ideology.
Advocates of the Equality Act want you to think of it as a basic civil rights measure necessary to protect people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender from unjust discrimination. What it actually does is impose a radical ideology with sweeping implications on all Americans, including making it a form of unlawful discrimination to act on the belief – based on actual science – that maleness and femaleness are determined by biology rather than feelings, even in the way you raise your own children.
The Fairness for All Act is no better. The only significant difference is that, unlike the Equality Act, which explicitly exempts itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Fairness for All carves out limited and insufficient religious exemptions. But it still elevates “sexual orientation and gender identity” to protected classes in the Civil Rights Act, defining adherence to biology (and to traditional understandings of marriage and sexuality) as bigotry, akin to the racist belief that blacks are inferior to whites.
Religious exemptions won’t do anything to help those whose objections are based on common sense, science or medical evidence rather than religion. And once the idea that objections to same-sex marriage or gender ideology are akin to racism becomes enshrined in law, religious freedom exemptions will offer extremely limited and short-lived protection.
Returning to our not-so-hypothetical case, if the Equality Act or the Fairness for All Act becomes law, you would not only find it difficult to protect your daughter from the irreversible harms of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, but your failure to unquestioningly affirm your daughter’s new identity and your refusal to consent to hormone treatment for her could be considered abusive or neglectful.
You would also have a hard time finding a therapist who supports your cautious approach because both of these bills would likely make it illegal for therapists to question a client’s transgender identification. Such an approach could be considered “conversion therapy,” which the activist group GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) defines as “any attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.” Both bills outlaw “conversion therapy” as a form of discrimination.
If, despite your best attempts to be understanding and empathetic, your daughter calls a hotline or complains to her school guidance counselor, saying that your lack of unqualified support for her new identity makes her feel “unsafe” or causes her psychological distress, you might be investigated by state child-protection officials.
Your daughter could be removed from your custody, and a judge could rule that your daughter can begin receiving testosterone without your consent – even though such treatments are experimental (as the U.K. High Court has recognized), with no proven long-term benefits and many known harms; and despite growing evidence that, particularly for adolescent girls, gender dysphoria is spreading via social contagion among peer groups in person and online.
This is not just hypothetical. In 2019 a loving and supportive father lost custody of his 14-year-old daughter because he did not want her to begin taking hormones to transition to a male gender identity until she was older. His daughter, who had previously not questioned her gender identity, started identifying as a boy after being released for the third time from a psychiatric hospital to which she was admitted for self-harm.
He accepted her transgender identity, agreeing to use her preferred name and pronouns, but did not believe she was mature enough to decide to undergo medical treatments that would permanently alter her body. Similarly, in 2018, Ohio parents lost custody of their 17-year-old daughter for refusing to consent to transgender hormone injections.
The Equality Act (and Fairness for All Act) will make such tragic cases much more common, by codifying the ideology underlying these decisions into federal anti-discrimination law. It will also make it even more difficult for parents to shield their children from confusing and harmful ideological indoctrination in public schools, like curricula that encourage children to question their gender identity and teach there are no “male bodies” or “female bodies,” but only “bodies with penises and testicles” or “bodies with vulva and ovaries.”
If either of these bills becomes law, all public schools and any private school that receives federal funds must adopt this unscientific newspeak. A host of other “gender-inclusive” policies will be forced on students, such as giving access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic participation on the basis of gender identification. Schools will be forced to facilitate a child’s gender transition while hiding this from parents (as many school districts already do.)
Of course, all people should be treated with respect, and no one should be subject to unjust discrimination. But affirming biological reality is neither bigotry nor discrimination. And protecting children from confusion or from harmful experimental “treatments” is neither abuse nor neglect.
On the contrary, it is a fundamental right and duty of parents that the state has an obligation to respect. These are views held by millions of Americans across the political spectrum.
Adopting the Equality Act or Fairness for All Act will not be a victory for civil rights. It will be the imposition of a contested and dangerous ideology on all Americans, and your children may be among the casualties.