Almost a year ago, I blew the whistle on two Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) teachers who were training educators to facilitate children’s gender transitions without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
As a refresher, DoDEA is a federally run K-12 school system. Oversight of these schools belongs to the U.S. Congress. Military student-age dependents number 866,000, and DoDEA serves around 66,000 of them at 160 schools in 11 countries, 7 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
In light of the Biden administration’s support for so-called “gender affirmation care” for minors, it’s more important than ever that Congress acts to protect military dependents in DoDEA schools from pervasive gender ideology promoted by the executive branch that administers them. It is also essential that military parents are aware of what their children might be encountering — especially given the vulnerability of military children, who often carry levels of stress that studies show exceeds that of their civilian peers.
Teachers Reveal That They Hide ‘Transitions’
Several congressional staffers now have video footage of DoDEA’s Equity and Access Summit held in 2021, where a teacher from David Glasgow Farragut Middle/High School in Rota, Spain, and a teacher from Stuttgart High School in Germany, admitted to facilitating secret gender transitions. While advising summit attendees on how to determine which adults are allowed to know the new names and pronouns students assume, the presenter from Spain encouraged teachers to ask:
‘May I use this name with other teachers, including substitutes?’ Um, this is a big one that you might want to, like…if they circle ‘yes,’ you might want to chat with the student about it because it might depend on the substitute. I know that…our school in Rota…we are a very, very small community, and a lot of caregivers will substitute at the school, so…I’ve had a student who is not out at home in their gender identity, but…their mom…substitutes at our school and so, you know, like just kind of navigating those, those waters.
This is a stunning and alarming admission — the teacher was purposely hiding information from a mom who works at the school. The teacher from Germany clarified to educators why they were being nitpicky about when it was okay to use a student’s new name or pronouns — and she also revealed that several of her students were transitioning:
…because in some cases they do want to be their true selves with us as their safe adults… but if we’re their one safe adult, that means that home is not a safe place for them. And…I know, with my own students, I have a range of parent support, um, ranging from parents who are fully on board and helping with name changes and gender marker changes on legal documents, all the way to the other end where the students don’t feel like they can ever come out to their parents….
The excuse for keeping gender transitions hidden from parents is that it would render a child unsafe at home. However, this is sophistry parading as concern: if the teacher in Rota believed the mom was dangerous, why didn’t she follow policy that requires her to report suspected abuse, and why was the “unsafe” mom still employed? Further, given that military children are at higher risk for childhood trauma, why is DoDEA pushing surreptitiously transitioning a child as an implied “best practice”?
Military Kids Endure More Trauma
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) lists “military family-related stressors,” such as deployment and parental loss or injury, as traumatic events for children. Children can respond to such trauma with “intense and ongoing emotional upset, depressive symptoms or anxiety,” and other behavioral changes. And a recent survey of more than 2,000 military teens showed that the average of six to nine moves before high school graduation and frequent deployments of a parent can profoundly impact teens’ mental health.
Teachers are not medical doctors or their students’ parents. By cutting out the parents, who know the child best, and licensed medical professionals, activist teachers are unilaterally pushing the affirmation-only course of treatment for children who appear to suffer from gender dysphoria that could be caused by trauma.
I spoke with a mother whose family was stationed in Japan where her daughter, Jane, (to protect her privacy, I won’t use her real name) attended a DoDEA school. This duty station was where Jane declared she was bisexual by the end of sixth grade and where she first encountered gender ideology.
Jane’s closest friends also rotated out of the country, as is typical for military families. In seventh grade, many kids were beginning to label themselves as bi-, lesbian, pansexual, etc. The mother spoke with the school nurse who confirmed this was happening. In eighth grade, one of Jane’s friends was hiding a trans identity from her own mother, but not from friends at school. Shortly after the family left the country, Jane declared that she felt like she was a boy.
This mom acknowledged they have had many wonderful experiences as a military family, but one of her biggest regrets is the frequent moving. The constant uprooting makes children especially vulnerable to radical gender ideologies that purport to offer recognition and acceptance. She believes the transgender trend among girls is a social contagion (this is supported by research from physician-scientist Dr. Lisa Littman, then of Brown University) that kids will be exposed to no matter if they’re military or not — but how vulnerable they are as military kids is absolutely a factor.
Military’s Gender Clinic for Kids
Not only are some kids being encouraged to “gender transition” at school, but “transgender and gender diverse” (TGD) children are being treated at military clinics here in the United States. As one example, at Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital in Virginia, the military health system has treated TGD-identified military dependents, ages 4 to 25, for more than a decade.
David Klein, the chief of adolescent medicine at Ft. Belvoir Community Hospital in 2017, and his associates have churned out the research on this population. Since 2016, the Department of Defense has allowed insurance to pay for nonsurgical TGD-associated care for military dependents, and the number of patients and prescriptions for hormones increased significantly from 2010 to 2017.
Klein and colleagues recommend clinicians “should consider routine screening for depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, substance use, intimate partner violence, self-injury, bullying, truancy, homelessness, high-risk sexual behaviors, and suicidality.” But they caution doctors to “avoid assumptions that any concerns are secondary to being transgender.” And attempts “to convert a person’s gender identity to align with their sex assigned at birth are unethical and incompatible with current guidelines and evidence.”
These Kids Need Neutral Therapy
But stories from detransitioners paint a different picture that should give doctors reservations about guiding military children into treatment they may later regret. In 2021, Littman published her findings from a survey of 100 detransitioners showing that for some, “their gender dysphoria began during or after puberty and that mental health issues, trauma, peers, social media, online communities, and difficulty accepting themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were related to their gender dysphoria and desire to transition.”
Psychiatrist Dr. Roberto D’Angelo and his colleagues from the Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine published a study determining “that exploratory psychotherapy that is neither ‘affirmation’ nor ‘conversion’ should be the first-line treatment for all young people with GD [gender dysphoria], potentially reducing the need for invasive and irreversible medical procedures.” Furthermore, they concluded that “withholding this type of intervention, while promoting ‘affirmation’ approaches that pave the way to medical transition, is ethically questionable.”
Congress Must Act
This begs many questions: If military parents seek treatment for a child who has been affirmed in a transgender identity at school, will the military health system allow for exploratory psychotherapy or a “wait and see” approach? Or will the child continue to be steered toward an “affirmation-only” approach?
Military parents whose parental rights are being usurped and who would not jump to immediate affirmation of a trans-asserted identity need a parental rights in education law like the one recently signed into Florida state law by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the one proposed by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that would require schools “that receive Federal funds to obtain parental consent before facilitating a child’s gender transition in any form.”
Professionals used to focus on military kid resiliency and adjusting well — not reinforcing pseudo-science that tells children they were born in the wrong body. Congress must act now before more children’s minds and bodies are lost to life-altering gender ideology.