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Editor's note: This article first appeared in City Journal.
Radical gender theory has made sudden inroads in America’s schools. Many parents have watched in confusion as their children repeat the movement’s slogans and adopt synthetic sexual identities such as “non-binary,” “pansexual,” and “genderqueer.” The next question for many families is: Where does this surge in left-wing sexual ideology come from? One answer: from a network of professional activists, who have smuggled university-style gender theory into more than 4,000 schools under the cover of “gender and sexuality” clubs, or GSAs.
The main national organization behind this campaign, the GSA Network, is a professionally staffed nonprofit with a multimillion-dollar annual budget. GSA Network serves as an umbrella organization for more than 4,000 “gender and sexuality alliances” across 40 states. Once called the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the group rebranded in 2016, reflecting a new focus on “the limits of a binary gender system.” The individual chapters, which operate in elementary, middle, and high schools, often use the language of “LGBTQ inclusion” and “anti-bullying” in their public relations, but behind the scenes, the central organization is driven by pure left-wing radicalism that extends far beyond sexuality.
According to the organization’s publicly accessible materials and administrative documents, the GSA Network’s ideology follows the basic framework of radical gender theory: white European men created an oppressive system based on capitalism, white supremacy, and “heteronormativity”—that is, the promotion of heterosexuality, the male-female binary, and bourgeois family norms. In order to fight back, racial and sexual minorities must unite under the banner of “intersectionality” and dismantle the interlocking “systems of oppression.”
The GSA Network isn’t subtle about its political objectives. In a manifesto, the organization endorses calls for the “abolition of the police,” the “abolition of borders and ICE,” the payment of “reparations” to minorities, the “decolonization” of native lands, the end of “global white supremacy,” and the overthrow of the “cisgender heterosexual patriarchy.” The organization is also explicitly anti-capitalist: its literature is littered with references to “anti-capitalism” and, during one board meeting, its leaders fantasized about what life would be like “after capitalism falls.”
SAN DIEGO SCHOOLS WANT TO DITCH ‘GENDER BINARY’ THEY CLAIM DOMINATES RACIAL, SEXUAL MINORITIES
The specific practices of the GSA Network and its affiliates rely on cult-like programming techniques. A toolkit instructs children recruited into the clubs to do the “self work” of analyzing “how [their] actions, lack of actions or privileges contribute to the ongoing marginalization” of the oppressed.
After establishing a baseline of identity-based guilt, the children identify their position on the intersectional hierarchy and categorize themselves as part of “groups w/ systemic power (privilege)” or “groups w/ less or no systemic power (oppressed)” along the axes of race, sex, gender, and national origin. Straight, white, cisgender male citizens are deemed the ultimate oppressor; gay, black, trans women immigrants are the ultimate oppressed.
Next, children are encouraged to atone for their privileges and perform acts of penance. “Doing the self and collective work to analyze how we contribute to the oppression of Trans, Queer, Non-binary / Gender Non-Conforming, Black, Indigenous, youth of color is tough, but we must commit to dismantling these systems for collective liberation,” the organization says. Specifically, the adults leading the clubs are instructed to tell the “privileged” children that they must “implement the use of pronouns,” “offer a land acknowledgment,” “listen to the Trans community,” “center conversations around Black liberation,” and “use your privilege (and your physical and monetary resources) to support Trans, Queer, Non-binary / Gender Non-Conforming, Black, Indigenous people of color, issues, businesses, and projects.”
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All this activity, the group believes, is best kept secret from parents. The GSA Network tells the adult club “advisors” that they should keep a child’s involvement in the club confidential. “Know the laws in your state around students’ privacy rights and what you do and don’t have to tell parents/ guardians/families,” the organization says in its official handbook. “When calling youth, it may not be safe to mention ‘GSA club’ or another trans or queer reference.
Alternatively, club leaders can say they are from a student leadership program.” In many school districts, teachers not only can encourage a child’s participation in a “gender and sexuality” club without notifying parents but can also facilitate a child’s gender or sexual transition, including the adoption of a new name and set of pronouns, with the default policy requiring teachers to keep it a secret from that child’s family.
This strategy of the “gender and sexuality” clubs is deeply cynical. As independent journalists Colin Wright and Christina Buttons have documented, many teachers who serve as adult “advisors” to these clubs are intentionally concealing the sexual and political nature of their activities from parents, deliberately misleading families with vague language about “acceptance, tolerance, diversity, and identity.”
This might work in the short term, but in the long term, they are playing with fire. School districts that allow adult employees to discuss sexuality with children secretly are creating a dangerous system that could easily be exploited by child predators. Clinical psychologists are already raising the alarm, warning that some of these practices resemble the tactics of such predators.
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One solution for this problem is total transparency and the restoration of parental authority. Schools should adopt policies that parents must be notified about their children’s participation in curricular and extracurricular activities involving sex, gender, and sexuality, with the default being that parents are required to opt in explicitly to any such programs. Furthermore, as Governor Ron DeSantis has done in Florida, state legislatures should ban all instruction on sex, gender, and sexuality in at least kindergarten through third grade. Beyond that, schools should be required to post all training and teaching materials on their websites so that parents can easily review all curriculum and documentation associated with gender and sexuality programs.
Parents should not be fooled: this isn’t about “tolerance” and “inclusion.” It’s about adult activists using the goodwill surrounding gay and lesbian social movements as cover for advancing extreme left-wing ideologies and turning children into shock troops for their gender revolution. It’s manipulative, it’s abusive, and it must be stopped.
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