Author archives: Peter Sprigg

Joseph Nicolosi on the Deep Need for Fatherly Affirmation

by Peter Sprigg

July 16, 2019

I wrote yesterday about Amazon removing listings for a number of books about sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), sometimes referred to by critics as “conversion therapy.” A particular target for Rojo Alan (the British LGBT activist who claimed credit for the change) and for other critics were the works of the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. He coined the term “reparative therapy” to describe his psychoanalytic approach to sexual orientation change. I have two of the books by Dr. Nicolosi that Amazon has banned in my library. While I have not read either cover to cover, I have read enough to know that they directly contradict some of what critics say about them. The two books are:

  • Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality: A New Clinical Approach (Northvale, N.J.: Jason Aronson, Inc. 1997)
  • Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., & Linda Ames Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002)

One criticism of Nicolosi in particular stood out. Rojo Alan told the GayStarNews, “The books went into ways in which you can mentally and physically abuse your child.”

Really?

Here are some of the actual recommendations and observations in Nicolosi’s Parent’s Guide:

  • Use “positive and affirming strategies.” (p. 15)
  • The “at-risk boy needs (but does not get) particular affirmation from parents and peers.” (p. 22)
  • [To a father:] “Just be there for Stevie emotionally. Maintain a warm, loving relationship with him and don’t let him pull away.” (p. 29)
  •  “I told Bill that Stevie did not really need therapy. ‘He needs his dad.’” (p. 30)
  • (A father must) “do the little things—the everyday, caring, and loving things” (p. 31).
  • Boys “need from their dads what we reparative therapists call ‘the three A’s’: affection, attention, and approval.” (p. 50)
  •  [Quoting another expert:] “Anything that parents can do to make their kids feel proud of their identity—as young men, as young women—will help the [treatment] process” (p. 154).

Nicolosi’s own work focused primarily on men, but his Parent’s Guide included a chapter on girls as well. It includes these points:

  • For girls, “there should be a warm mother-daughter intimacy … . Indeed, a healthy relationship with Mom provides the most important foundation …” (p. 156)
  • The father of a daughter “provides love and positive regard so that the girl will feel worthy of another man’s love.” (p. 157)
  • When a girl has been found to be involved in a lesbian relationship, the parents will probably be focused on stopping their daughter’s sexual behavior. But the girl herself is primarily concerned about her own feelings of loneliness, alienation, rejection, and poor self-esteem. A skillful therapist can offer concern for the girl’s feelings… . The father will need to assess his involvement in his daughter’s life. This will probably require a more supportive, less intrusive role for him. The mother, at the same time, will need to share her emotional self and her vulnerabilities with her daughter, and build a relationship of greater mutuality.” (pp. 163-64)     

Stereotypes?

Some people suggest that SOCE tries to force boys into stereotypical masculinity. But it is actually pro-LGBT adults who often stereotype a child as “gay” (or even “transgender”) based on their personality traits. Here is what Nicolosi says:

  • The “child should not be forced into a predetermined mold that will cause him to deny his fundamental nature—his natural gifts of creativity, sensitivity, kindness, gentleness, sociability, intuitiveness, or high intellect.” (p. 38)
  • A “boy can be sensitive, kind, social, artistic, gentle—and heterosexual. He can be an artist, an actor, a dancer, a cook, a musician—and a heterosexual. These innate artistic skills are ‘who he is,’ part of the wonderful range of human abilities. No one should try to discourage those abilities and traits.” (p. 48)

 “Rejection”?

Critics of SOCE often argue that it results from a “rejection” of the LGBT child. Does Nicolosi urge parents to reject their children if they identify as gay? The answer is clearly no:

  • Of course, no intervention can guarantee that a child will grow up heterosexual… . I trusted that Margaret and Bill would still love their son if those efforts were not successful.” (p. 32)

Last month, USA Today ran an article about Scott Dittman, a man who attended Pittsburgh’s LGBT Pride parade wearing a t-shirt offering “Free Dad Hugs.” More than 700 people took him up on the offer, with some becoming quite emotional—“you can see how damaged deep down so many of them are,” Dittman reported.

Yet Nicolosi himself wrote something similar, saying:

  • Boys have a need “for a man’s attention, affection, and affirmation—a need to be hugged and held” (p. 30).

Maybe the distance between LGBT activists and the books they persuaded Amazon to ban is not as great as they think—if only they would take the time to read them.

Amazon Book-Banning: Cowardly, Bullying, and Foolish

by Peter Sprigg

July 15, 2019

A year ago, I wrote a blog post warning that a proposed bill in California, AB 2943, could result in books being banned. Some critics of the bill even pointed out how it could be interpreted to ban the Bible itself. As it turns out, book-banning has now become reality.

Here’s a brief recap:

Book-Banning: 2018

The California bill AB 2943 was intended to outlaw “sexual orientation change efforts” (“SOCE;” sometimes referred to by the media and critics as “conversion therapy”) as a form of “consumer fraud.” But the state’s fraud statute applies to the “sale … of goods” (like books) as well as services (like counseling). And SOCE were defined to include efforts to change “behaviors”—not just attractions. So since the Bible is a “good” that is often sold, and since it attempts to change homosexual behavior (“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female,” Leviticus 18:22), an argument could be made that Bible sales would fall under the bill’s prohibition.

I pointed out that even if a Bible ban was unlikely (and unlikely to hold up in court), other books—ones whose whole purpose is to promote sexual orientation change—could be much more vulnerable.

Although “fact-checkers” tried to debunk the notion of a Bible ban (or even a book ban), the concerns about religious liberty were serious enough that Assembly sponsor Evan Low withdrew the bill.

Book-Banning: 2019

Fortunately, in 2018 the California legislature stepped back from the brink of banning books for people with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA).

But now in 2019, the country’s largest bookseller—Amazon.com—has done it for them.

News broke on the eve of Independence Day, when Americans celebrate our freedoms—that we will no longer be free to buy certain books dealing with SOCE or with unwanted SSA on Amazon.

Maybe it was the Brits’ revenge—because some reports made it appear that the change resulted from months of agitation by a lone British activist named Rojo Alan. (A Change.org petition urging their removal may have predated Alan’s campaign, though.)

The Amazon ban on SOCE books is, in some ways, even more insidious than the California one would have been. After all, the state would have had a hard time mustering the resources to enforce its ban on the “sale … of goods” that promote sexual orientation change.

Amazon, on the other hand, is itself a dominant force in the book market. If buyers cannot find these books on Amazon, there is a good chance they will not be able to find them anywhere—which, of course, is the goal of LGBT activists. A state ban would have run up against pesky obstacles like the First Amendment to the Constitution. Amazon, as a private company, faces no such constraint.

As a market leader, however, they have a moral obligation to a value usually promoted by the left—“diversity.” A diversity that makes no room for conservative viewpoints on controversial issues is no diversity at all—it is dictatorship.

Amazon is Reserving the Right to Actually Burn Books

Amazon has not made any explicit comment on the removal of ex-gay therapy books. Their website features a policy on “Offensive and Controversial Materials,” which include:

  • Violence, Intolerance, and Hate
  • Human Tragedies and Disasters
  • Child Abuse and Exploitation

However, the language is vague enough that Amazon has basically reserved the right to ban anything it wants. (“We exercise judgment in allowing or prohibiting listings … Amazon reserves the right to determine the appropriateness of listings on its site, and remove any listing at any time.”).

Some critics of Amazon’s decision have raised the specter not only of book banning, but of book burning. Lest you think this an extreme, purely metaphorical critique, note this part of the Amazon policy: “… [W]e will take corrective actions, as appropriate, including but not limited to …  destroying inventory in our fulfillment centers without reimbursement …” (emphasis added). Rather inexplicably, however, the company also says, “Amazon’s Offensive Products policies apply to all products except books, music, video and DVD” (emphasis added). Perhaps they meant “including?”

Last year, I wrote this:

But shouldn’t every American be shocked at the thought of a state banning the sale of any books based on their philosophical, religious, or moral viewpoint?

Banning books because one doesn’t like their message?

In the United States of America?

In this country, you can sell all kinds of books.

You can sell Mein Kampf, and The Communist Manifesto. Bookstores sell the celebration of sado-masochism of Fifty Shades of Grey, and the celebration of sodomy in Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

But now, apparently, you cannot (or will not, in the case of Amazon) sell books that are intended to help people with unwanted same-sex attractions achieve their own goals for their lives.

Every American—even those who don’t approve of or support therapies to change sexual orientation—should oppose the kind of blatant censorship that Amazon is exercising.

Critiques of SOCE are Misguided and Ill-Informed

In pulling SOCE books from its website, Amazon is acting as a bully—but also as a coward, succumbing to social and political pressure (from a tiny group of people), rather than standing firm for true diversity of thought.

However, they are also simply acting as fools. While principles of freedom and diversity should be enough to keep books on change therapies available for sale, there is another major reason to do so—the things critics say about such therapies, and books promoting them, are simply false. In fact, I doubt very much that any of the critics of these books have ever even seen—let alone read—any of the books they want banned.

Here are some of the myths about sexual orientation change promoted by critics of SOCE. Since I have written extensively on this topic, let me just provide links to some of the papers documenting the truth about sexual orientation change.

  • Myth No. 1 – “Sexual orientation is immutable.”

Four large data sets reflecting longitudinal analysis of the same individuals over time in population-based samples have shown that significant change in all elements of sexual orientation (attractions, behaviors, and identity) can change. Even lesbian scholar Lisa Diamond has said it is time to “abandon the immutability argument once and for all.”

See: “Evidence Shows Sexual Orientation Can Change: Debunking the Myth of ‘Immutability’” (March 2019)

  • Myth No. 2 – “There is no evidence that SOCE is ever effective.”

Six studies or surveys from 2000 to 2018—five of them in peer-reviewed academic journals—have all shown that SOCE can be effective for some clients in bringing about significant change in some components of sexual orientation, while few harms were reported.

See: “Are Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Effective? Are They Harmful? What the Evidence Shows” (September 2018)

  • Myth No. 3 – “Research has proven that SOCE is harmful.”

The American Psychological Association—although generally critical of SOCE—has admitted that there is no “valid causal evidence” that SOCE is harmful.

See: “The Hidden Truth About Changing Sexual Orientation: Ten Ways Pro-LGBT Sources Undermine the Case for Therapy Bans” (May 2018)

Should Christians Recognize “LGBT Pride?”

by Peter Sprigg

June 11, 2019

June is back, and with it “LGBT Pride Month.” Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender celebrate in June because it marks the anniversary (this year, the 50th) of the “Stonewall Riots,” which are generally cited as the beginning of the modern “gay liberation movement” in the United States. It was in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 that patrons of a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, in New York City’s Greenwich Village, rebelled against what they saw as persistent police harassment by rioting during a police raid on the facility.

What, exactly, is “LGBT Pride” about? Some offer a limited, and relatively benign, description. The Library of Congress, for example, says, “The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.” President Trump recently became the first Republican President ever to recognize (on Twitter) LGBT Pride Month, but did so in similarly limited terms, saying that “we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation . . .”

But the LGBT movement is talking about much more than “contributions” to our nation when it promotes “LGBT Pride.”

Defining “LGBT

First of all—who exactly are “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals?” The answer is not as obvious as it seems. Both “sexual orientation” (“LGB”) and “gender identity” (“T”) are terms that describe a mix of feelings, behaviors, and self-identification. “Lesbians” and “gays” may refer to people who experience sexual attractions toward persons of the same sex (feelings); and/or engage in sexual acts or sexual relationships with persons of the same sex (behaviors); and/or self-identify as such. (Similarly, “bisexuals” are attracted to, and/or have sex with, people of both sexes, and/or identify as bisexual). “Transgender” persons, on the other hand, experience a disconnect between their biological sex at birth and their psychological “gender identity” (feelings); and/or present themselves publicly (in their dress, etc.) as the opposite of or different from their biological sex (behaviors); and/or self-identify as transgender, or as something other than their biological sex.

Exactly which of these things are LGBT people expressing “pride” in—their feelings, behaviors, or self-identification? Or is it all three?

Some may argue that it is not about pride in their sexuality, as such, but instead pride in their “impact” or “contributions.” Such a sharp separation, though, would implicitly suggest that they are proud of what they have accomplished in spite of being “LGBT”—not because of it. It’s highly unlikely that most LGBT advocacy groups would embrace such a defensive—almost apologetic—framing of “LGBT Pride.” They are not simply proud of their accomplishments in the arts, business, sports, etc.—they are expressing “pride” in being LGBT.

But again, which aspect? Are they proud of their feelings of same-sex attraction or “gender incongruity?” To accept “LGBT Pride” is to accept the assertion that these feelings are a normal and natural variant of human sexuality. That is an ideological assertion, not a scientific one, and the high rates of mental illness that accompany such feelings is strong evidence against the idea that homosexual and transgender feelings are “natural.” (Evidence does not support the widely-argued theory that such problems are caused by societal discrimination, because they are widespread even in the most LGBT-friendly of countries, such as in the Netherlands or in Scandinavia.)

Are they proud of their behaviors—of being men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, men who dress up like and pretend to be women, or women who dress up like and pretend to be men? Men who have sex with men, in particular, have high rates of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases as a direct result of that sexual behavior—so is it something to be “proud” of? Some individuals who identify as transgender ask surgeons to mutilate or remove otherwise healthy body parts—often with serious long-term consequences—in order to make their bodies resemble more closely their desired sex. Is this something to be proud of?

The tendency of many straight “allies” of “LGBT Pride” is to avert their eyes from these actual behaviors. Instead, they define such individuals by their feelings, and then accept the argument that because these feelings are not a “choice,” they must define the person’s innate identity. This is a mistake. Just because feelings are not chosen does not mean they are inborn—they may result from developmental forces in childhood and adolescence. And while feelings are not chosen, both behaviors and a self-identification are chosen.

It is a virtual certainty that LGBT advocacy groups—the people who conceived of the idea of “LGBT Pride” in the first place—would be unwilling to separate their feelings, behaviors, and self-identification as sources of pride. To endorse “LGBT Pride” is to endorse all three—to affirm that LGBT feelings are normal and natural (which is untrue), that LGBT behaviors are harmless or even admirable (also untrue), and that their LGBT “identity” is innate (untrue as well).

Political and Legal Agenda

Implicit in LGBT Pride is thus a mistaken view of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” themselves. It also, however, involves a radical political and legal agenda.

The 2015 Supreme Court decision ordering every state to offer civil marriage licenses to same-sex couples (thus overturning the constitutions of thirty states) hardly marked the end—or even a pause—in the demands of the homosexual movement. Instead, those demands merely became more aggressive.

Having eliminated virtually all distinctions under the law between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, gay activists began fighting more vigorously against private individuals or entities that might dissent from the new liberal orthodoxy, even on grounds of conscience or religious conviction. Some of those attacks have been rebuffed, albeit at great cost—such as that upon Jack Phillips, a Christian baker in Colorado who gladly served openly gay-identified customers, but declined to participate in the celebration of a same-sex wedding by designing a custom wedding cake. Although Phillips won his case in the Supreme Court in 2018, the decision was on narrow grounds.

Despite the fact that a majority of states have rejected the idea of treating sexual orientation and gender identity as the equivalent of race under their civil rights laws, LGBT activists are pushing a federal bill, dubbed the “Equality Act,” that would enshrine these as specially protected categories under virtually every federal civil rights law. The Equality Act was already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in late May, and LGBT Pride Month will undoubtedly be marked by efforts to give it momentum in the Senate.

As if persecuting small businesses weren’t enough, homosexual activists and their allies in the states have even been invading the privacy of the relationship between mental health providers and their clients, by passing laws to prohibit sexual orientation change efforts, or SOCE (which critics refer to as “conversion therapy”) with minors. Ironically, this takes away the freedom of people with same-sex attractions—if they experience those attractions as unwanted. People who are “proud” of being LGBT have nothing to fear from such therapy, because it isn’t for them. Yet such prohibitions (which are likely unconstitutional) are part of the “LGBT Pride” political agenda.

Since the judicial battle over same-sex marriage ended in 2015, we have seen an explosion of attention to the transgender movement. Although both the homosexual and transgender movements involve an attack upon the natural understanding of sexuality, the transgender issue is even more radical. While some have argued that homosexuality merely involves people’s conduct in private, the same cannot be said about the transgender agenda, which explicitly demands that people give public affirmation to the way people who identify as transgender present themselves in public.

Transgender activists are upset with the Trump administration for reinstating longstanding restrictions on military service by those with gender dysphoria, even though mental and physical health concerns clearly justify such a policy. They also object to the administration’s common-sense conclusion that laws protecting against discrimination on the basis of “sex” should be interpreted to protect on the basis of biological sex, not “gender identity.”

The threat to the safety, privacy, and hard-won accomplishments of women and girls is particularly prominent, since transgender activists demand the right for biological males to appear nude before females in locker rooms and showers, and to compete with females in athletic competition despite having inherent physiological advantages.

These concerns have led even some radical feminists to join in opposing the transgender movement. Is invading women’s privacy and destroying a level playing field for women’s sports something to be “proud” of?

A Christian Perspective

The critiques of “LGBT Pride” offered above should be persuasive to thoughtful, honest people of any religion or no religion. But are there specific reasons why believing Christians should be concerned about “LGBT Pride Month?”

Thomas Tobin, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, thinks so. On June 1, he issued the following caution on Twitter:

A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ “Pride Month” events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.

The comment sparked online outrage, triggering angry responses from a member of Congress and Hollywood actresses, among others. They seemed particularly incensed by the remark about harm to children. It is unclear whether Bishop Tobin was referring generally to the ideological indoctrination children might receive at such events, are whether he was concerned about the appropriateness of what is often found in LGBT Pride parades—such as scantily-clad men, simulated sex acts, and drag queens. The former tennis star and self-identified lesbian Martina Navratilova said, “Catholic clergy has been a lot more dangerous to kids than LGBT” (apparently without irony, since there is reason to believe that most of the Catholic priests who have molested children are themselves homosexual).

In an older commentary (2009), Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler expressed a similar view:

There is no way that biblical Christians committed can join in the chorus of gay pride. The Bible is straightforward in its consistent identification of homosexual acts as inherently sinful.

Some people may see supporting LGBT Pride as an act of Christian love. Tim Barnett, of the apologetics ministry Stand to Reason, has explained the fallacy in this argument:

They conflate acceptance and affirmation with love. Therefore, the people who do not affirm LGBT values are, by definition, unloving. But this is clearly mistaken.

It is possible to truly love someone, but not accept and affirm their ideas or behavior. We do this all the time. We all have friends and family members that we love dearly even though we disagree with—and even oppose—their behavior or ideas.

Barnett cites Romans 12:9-10:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

In the middle of commending “love” and “honor” to the Romans, the apostle Paul says that we must “abhor” evil—the two are not contradictory. Likewise, in the famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says, “Love … does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:4-6, ESV).

While LGBT conduct is one problem with “LGBT Pride,” the concept of “pride” itself is another. Writer Avery Foley has pointed out how Scripture often describes pride as a sin, declaring that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6, ESV). And Christian Concern, a British organization, cites 1 John 2:16, which juxtaposes “the desires of the flesh” with “pride”:

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (ESV)

Insidious”

The most interesting piece I came across in researching this piece online was an interview that a British podcaster had with Craig Schoonmaker, who claims that he coined the term “gay pride” in New York in 1970, during planning for an event to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Schoonmaker said that someone else had proposed the term “gay power,” but he proposed “gay pride” instead:

I proposed “gay pride,” because there’s very little chance in most of the world for people to have power. Gay people did not have power then; and we only now have some. But anybody can have pride in themselves . . .

Interviewer Helen Zaltzman actually asked about the moral implications of promoting “pride”:

HZ: But the word pride carries negative connotations too, of conceit or vanity - pride is one of the seven deadly sins.

CS: Oh, no, this is not that kind of pridefulness; it’s more like self-esteem. That was sort of hackneyed even then. The poison was shame, and the antidote to that is pride.

Later, Schoonmaker made what I consider a Freudian slip:

HZ: Do you still think the word ‘pride’ is necessary?

CS: Oh, definitely. Absolutely. See, because it works—I don’t want to say insidiously—it works internally, and it makes people more self-assertive.

The word “insidiously” was absent from the transcript of the interview provided online; I transcribed it myself from the original recording. According to the dictionary, “insidious” means “awaiting a chance to entrap; treacherous,” or “harmful but enticing; seductive.”

Given the radical agenda that is attached to such a positive-sounding word, “insidiously” may be the best word for how “LGBT Pride” affects the values of American society.

Freedom March Highlights Survivors of Bullets and Therapy Bans

by Peter Sprigg

June 3, 2019

The second annual “Freedom March,” featuring men and women who formerly identified as homosexual or formerly identified as transgender, was held in Washington, D.C. on May 25. They celebrated freedom from homosexuality and freedom from gender confusion with a rally and worship time at the Sylvan Theater (an outdoor amphitheater), followed by a march, on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

A highlight of the event was the testimony offered by two survivors of the 2016 shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub called Pulse. (The shooting, in which 49 people were killed, was carried out by Islamist terrorist Omar Mateen; law enforcement authorities concluded there was no evidence he had targeted Pulse because of its gay-identified clientele.) Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz were both at the Pulse nightclub that night (and Colon was wounded), but both have since committed their lives to Christ and renounced a “gay” identity. They have formed a ministry called “Fearless Identity” to bring “hope and understanding to the LGBTQ community and the church through education, biblical clarity, and support in a judgement-free environment for those seeking the option to change.”

One of the M.C.’s for the event was Elizabeth Woning, who also attended FRC’s Watchmen on the Wall conference in the days before the Freedom March. Woning, a former lesbian who is now married to a man, is one of the co-founders of the ministry Equipped to Love. She was also one of the leaders of the Changed movement, which mobilized dozens of ex-gay individuals to lobby, demonstrate, and testify against the extreme legislation (in the end withdrawn by its sponsor) that would have defined it as “consumer fraud” to engage in sexual orientation change efforts (counseling or therapy) for a fee.

I offered my support to the Freedom March by attending and taking photos. In a way, Family Research Council and ministries like those that organized the Freedom March represent two different but equally important facets of the movement to defend sexual morality and educate America on the fact that each of the elements of sexual orientation—attractions, behavior, and self-identification—can change.

FRC’s policy papers document the research showing that change is not only possible but common for people who have experienced some aspect of same-sex sexuality, as well as the fact that counselling or therapy intended to facilitate such change can be effective and is not generally harmful.

On the other hand, the first-person testimonies of people who have actually experienced such change—whether as a result of counseling, a spiritual rebirth, or both—give a vital personal touch and confirmation of the findings of the scientific research. FRC looks forward to a third Freedom March next year in support of the freedom of those with unwanted same-sex attractions to seek change.

Supreme Court Will Determine Whether “Sex” Means “Sex”

by Peter Sprigg

April 23, 2019

LGBT activists want “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) to be protected categories in federal non-discrimination laws. They have been using a two-pronged attack to try to achieve this goal—working through both Congress and the courts.

In Congress, they are pushing a sweeping bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to virtually every federal civil rights law. But in the courts (and some quasi-independent agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), they have promoted the idea that federal law already outlaws SOGI employment discrimination. The theory is that discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” is actually a form of discrimination based on “sex”—which was outlawed in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Note that these two approaches are in some ways contradictory—if the judicial theory is correct, then the Equality Act is largely superfluous.)

The latter of these two approaches has now taken a huge step closer to resolution. On April 22, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up three cases addressing the SOGI issue (these cases will be heard in fall of 2019).

In two of the cases (Bostock v. Clayton County and Altitude Express v. Zarda), the Court will decide the “SO” question—whether discrimination against an employee due to “sexual orientation” is included in the prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex” contained in the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In a third case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC, the Court will decide the “GI” question—whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex” includes a prohibition on discrimination against transgender people based on (1) their status as transgender or (2) the “sex stereotyping” theory derived from Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (“sex stereotyping” initially meant one couldn’t discriminate against, for instance, a man for wearing pants that looked feminine—but has now been used to claim one could not discriminate against a man for wanting to identify as a woman).

When Congress prohibited employment discrimination based on “sex” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both their intention and the plain meaning of the word indicated that they were prohibiting discrimination against an individual because the person is biologically male or biologically female. The Supreme Court should decline the invitation to radically re-write the statute by expanding its meaning to cover “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing years ago about sex nondiscrimination protections in the Equal Rights Amendment, refused to countenance the idea that they would do away with simple male/female distinctions in the context of bathrooms.

The failure of LGBT activists to achieve their goals through the democratic process is no excuse to simply bypass that process and obtain their goal by judicial fiat instead.

FRC believes that SOGI laws are unjustified in principle, because these characteristics are not inborn, involuntary, immutable, innocuous (like race and sex), or in the U.S. Constitution (like religion). We also believe such laws pose a threat to religious liberty in many situations, as was an issue in the Harris case that the Court will hear.

At the end of the day, the core issue before the Court in these cases is whether it is within the legitimate power of judges to suddenly rewrite a 55-year-old statute. The answer is no.

Medieval” Times in Verona - A Report from the World Congress of Families

by Peter Sprigg

April 12, 2019

[Note: Quotations in the following piece from speakers at the World Congress of Families may be paraphrased. They are based upon my own notes taken at the time, and in the case of speeches not given in English, based on the simultaneous translations provided by the Congress.]

I was privileged to attend and speak at the most recent World Congress of Families (WCF), held in Verona, Italy from March 29-31. Only after hearing what the Italian speakers at the Congress had to say did I realize that this may have been the most controversial of these events—in its own country—held so far.

The most frequently cited (and refuted) criticism of the WCF was that its views are “medieval.” After two days of hearing references from the podium to the attacks upon the Verona Congress, I finally went online to find Italian news in English to document what had gone on.

The source of the “medieval” charge was an Italian politician named Luigi Di Maio. He is the leader of a relatively young political party in Italy known as the “Five Star Movement” (abbreviated M5S), and is a co-deputy prime minister. He also asserted that the WCF was for “right-wing losers.”

Some Americans may not realize the extent to which a parliamentary system creates strange bedfellows. The Five Star Movement—described by Wikipedia as a populist party taking a “big tent” political position—won the most seats in the Italian Parliament in the 2018 elections, but not a majority. Therefore, it had to form a coalition with The League, a more conservative party centered in Northern Italy (where Verona is). Several League politicians were stronger supporters of the World Congress of Families—meaning that Di Maio’s attack was directed at his own coalition partners. Di Maio had said, “The League in Verona celebrates the Middle Ages, we do not.”

When a criticism is repeatedly cited by those who were the target of it, it has probably backfired (think of Hillary Clinton and the “basket of deplorables”). That may well have been the case with the “medieval” charge, which speaker after speaker at the WCF seized upon.

This is an open community.”

For example, Luca Zaia, President of the Veneto Region where Verona is located (roughly the equivalent of a governor in the U.S.), told the opening session of the Congress, “You must thank those who attacked you—you have become well known!”

Part of the reason defenders of the World Congress were able to take the high ground from critics was because of the heavy-handed efforts not only to stigmatize the event, but to prevent it from taking place at all. This had the effect of turning defenders of free speech into defenders of the World Congress, and vice versa.

Zaia reported, “I’ve been attacked a lot—people said we should not have this event in Verona.” However, he declared, “This is an open community as long as I am here. There is freedom for everyone to talk. The fundamental rule is to have respect for everybody … I do not consider this the middle ages.”

Everyone has a right to express their own ideas.”

Federico Sboarina, the Mayor of Verona, struck a similar note. “In my city, everyone has a right to express their own ideas—no one has a right to intimidate them. Verona is being depicted as a ‘medieval’ city. It’s those who stop people from speaking freely who are ‘medieval.’”

The worst thing you can do is prohibit [an] idea.”

This theme of free speech even led to an unscheduled appearance by Italian radio host Giuseppe Cruciani. He said bluntly, “I’m not one of you,” as far as pro-family and pro-life policy is concerned. However, he noted that “for weeks now, there has been a campaign against this event.” He said he had learned from his experience in radical politics, “If you want to fight an idea, the worst thing you can do is prohibit that idea.” Therefore, Cruciani pledged, “Every time they want to stop you from expressing your opinion, I will be with you, even though I do not agree with you.”

The media … want to suppress freedom of expression.”

Writer Maria Giovanna Maglie said, “The controversy actually attracted me; but I didn’t think the attack would be so violent. If you read the papers, you would think we were here to create an outrageous scandal, to celebrate the funerals of freedom and liberty.”

Actually, she said, “Freedom is of fundamental importance—but much of the media is here to stop it. They want to suppress freedom of expression.”

Does the World Congress of Families promote hatred?” she asked. “No, it promotes the family” (and “so does the Italian constitution,” she noted. Article 29 of that document says, “The Republic recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage.”).

If you are pro-life, why should you be called ‘medieval?’” asked Maglie. She referred to political correctness as “a new authoritarianism,” and drew prolonged applause when she concluded by calling on all to resist its “tyranny.”

This event has become a symbol of freedom.”

Sandro Oliveri, President of the Federation of Italian Pentecostal Churches, praised the organizers of the Congress, saying that they “have been very brave in light of what you have faced in the last few days,” including “aggressiveness and violence.”

This event has become a symbol of freedom,” he declared—although not the kind promoted by those who “think that freedom is [only] to say what they agree with.”

Why should people be afraid of talking about family?” Oliveri wondered. “This is about protecting the weakest people, the children.”

Saying no” to practices that harm women and children “does not limit anyone’s freedom,” he insisted. “It does not mean to be ‘medieval.’”

So much hatred”—but toward the World Congress of Families, not from it

For Lorenzo Fontana, Italy’s Minister for the Family and Disabilities, the attacks on the WCF had a personal cost. “I saw so much hatred in the polemics of the last few days,” he said. “I had to be accompanied by twice as many police as usual in my own city. Many people suffered: my wife was ill-treated at work because of the polemics. My child has been discriminated against at kindergarten because she is the daughter of Minister Fontana.”

Fontana addressed another stereotype about the Congress. “I was told that those at that Congress are against women who work,” he said. “I was told I wanted to keep women at home.” In reality, he insisted the opposite is true—“All the women in my life work!” Instead, what he wants to do is to aid female employment by facilitating “work-life balance.”

Having a child is positive for business,” Fontana declared, citing research showing “an increase in productivity” with mothers in the workplace. “Unfortunately,” he lamented, “some people in Italy still have a ‘medieval’ view and don’t understand these things!”

The real “backward thinkers”

The fieriest speech at the Congress came from Giorgia Meloni, a member of the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Italian parliament) and president of a conservative political party known as the Brothers of Italy. One article describes Meloni as the “leading lady of Italy’s right.”

They said we are medieval, depressives, losers,” Meloni said. “I reject these [charges] and send them back to those who formulated them.” They are the real “backward thinkers,” she insisted. “A loser comes to insult us when we talk about families,” she declared. “Losers are those who accept abortion at the ninth month!”

The fascists are gone.”

The highest-ranking government official to address the Congress was Matteo Salvini, who serves as both Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the current Italian government, and who was described last year by Time magazine as “the most feared man in Europe.” Salvini said that the criticism of the World Congress of Families had been “surreal,” with people asking him, “Are you sure you want to go to Verona? It’s the middle ages, losers, right-wing people.”

Several of the officials who spoke at the Congress are referred to in the media as “far right” or even “neo-fascist”—but it is hard to know how seriously to take those characterizations, coming from outlets that unquestioningly accept the Southern Poverty Law Center’s designation of mainstream conservative organizations like the World Congress of Families and Family Research Council as “hate groups.” Responding to such attacks, Salvini said wearily, “The fascists are gone;” but then added wryly, “There are still communists, though.” Salvini also declared, “Racism and excessive religious beliefs are not here in this room—it is others who are [wrongly] judging us.”

Grazie, Italia!

Given the ferocity of the attacks, the organizers of the World Congress of Families (especially Chairman Antonio Brandi) deserve tremendous credit for persevering. And the speakers who braved the criticism to address and/or actively support the Congress deserve the thanks of all those of us who attended. Special kudos to those not even part of the pro-family movement who nevertheless stood for the principal of free speech. To all of these, I say—Grazie, Italia!

Will Women’s Restrooms Be Ruled Obsolete?

by Peter Sprigg

February 13, 2019

In a significant ruling last week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit ruled against a male-to-female transgender person, Nicole C. Wittmer, who had sued the Phillips 66 Company for employment discrimination. Wittmer contended that Phillips 66 had withdrawn a job offer after learning that Wittmer identifies as transgender. (Hat tip to Ed Whelan for his excellent two-part post on the case at National Review, here and here.)

Federal law does not prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of “gender identity.” After years of failing to persuade Congress to add “gender identity” (or “sexual orientation”) as a protected category in federal civil rights laws, LGBT activists have adopted a new legal strategy. They now contend that discrimination based on gender identity is already illegal because it is a form of discrimination based on “sex,” which was prohibited along with racial discrimination by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Specific lawsuits rest not only on such abstract legal theories, but also on specific facts. In this case, both the District Court and the Fifth Circuit decided for Phillips 66, the defendant. The evidence showed that the plaintiff Wittmer had been fired by his previous employer, a fact which Wittmer did not disclose to Phillips 66. It was the discovery of that deception that led the company to withdraw a job offer—not transgender discrimination.

Therefore, it was actually not necessary for the court to decide whether sex discrimination encompasses “gender identity.” However, on this threshold question, the District Court had said yes. Judge James C. Ho wrote a separate concurrence to explain why Title VII does not cover either gender identity (at issue in this case) or sexual orientation. At 14 pages, his concurrence is actually twice as long as the majority opinion (which Ho also wrote).

I highly recommend this concurrence. Judge Ho does a good job of explaining two different theories of interpretation of sex discrimination. Under the “favoritism” theory, an act is only “sex discrimination” if it favors one sex over the other. Under the “blindness theory” (relied on by the plaintiff), an act is “sex discrimination” if it takes sex into account in any way at all (in this case, because women may wear dresses to work but men may not, for example).

Judge Ho points out very bluntly that under the “blindness theory,” it would not be permissible to have “separate bathrooms and changing rooms for men and women.” And an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, permitted to participate as a “friend of the court,” conceded this point at oral argument (see p. 16 of the opinion).

This is significant. Up to now in the bathroom debates, transgender activists have conceded the legitimacy of separate men’s and women’s facilities, but have argued that people should be allowed to use the one that corresponds to their gender identity rather than their biological sex. But now we have a concession that a logical implication of the argument they are using for counting “gender identity” discrimination as a form of “sex discrimination” is that we could not have separate facilities at all.

Courts should not be rewriting laws just because LGBT activists have not persuaded Congress to do so. But if they adopt the approach transgender activists want, they may not only usurp the powers of Congress—they may abolish separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, showers, and restrooms altogether.

So much for the “right to privacy.”

What Does Tuesday’s Supreme Court Decision Mean for Trump’s Military Transgender Policy?

by Peter Sprigg , Travis Weber

January 23, 2019

On Tuesday, in Trump v. Karnoski and Trump v. Stockman, the Supreme Court announced it was staying the district court injunctions issued against President Trump’s military transgender troop policy until the cases sorted themselves out in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (the cases arose out of Washington state and California, respectively).

But where does that leave the other cases in which this policy has been challenged?

In Doe v. Trump, the D.C. Circuit already lifted an injunction against the policy arising from a challenge in D.C., and this remains unaffected by the Supreme Court’s recent action.

That leaves one other case, Stone v. Trump, arising out of Maryland, and currently in the Fourth Circuit.

The preliminary injunction against the Trump policy in that case (granted 11/21/17) was based on specific language in the Presidential Memorandum to Mattis of August 25, 2017. But that memorandum was explicitly revoked when President Trump accepted the Mattis Report and Recommendations on March 23, 2018. Although both sides have filed revised briefs in response to the 3/23/18 policy, it does not appear that the judge has ruled in response to those (for example, to amend the preliminary injunction). Despite the Stone injunction (which is likely to eventually be dissolved), the Department of Defense appears to be viewing the Court’s decision yesterday as a signal to slowly but confidently move toward the implementation of Trump’s military transgender policy.

While the Supreme Court’s action yesterday stayed several injunctions, it didn’t wipe them out. The Court will still need to rule on the injunction and the merits at some point, which will dispose of any lingering issues. As the Solicitor General’s brief in Karnoski says in footnote 8, “If this Court were to vacate the injunctions in these cases in whole or in part, that decision would be binding precedent requiring the district court to similarly vacate the injunction in Stone.”

Is Chai Feldblum Reconsidering Religious Freedom?

by Peter Sprigg

December 21, 2018

I found it interesting that Chai Feldblum saw fit to respond to Everett Piper’s op-ed on the “Fairness for All” proposal, and to deny that her position is “that LGBT rights must always prevail, no matter what.” Her summary statement does sound more generous to religious liberty than other things she’s been quoted as saying in the past:

I believe there are some situations in which the rights of religious liberty for organizations who believe homosexuality is sinful will conflict with and should prevail over the rights of LGBT people who might experience discrimination at the hands of such religious organizations.

But what are some examples of those “situations?” And how does she define “religious organizations?” She never says.

I don’t doubt that Feldblum, in her concern for “religious pluralism,” would probably say pastors should not be forced to perform same-sex weddings, and churches should not be forced to hire pastors who identify as homosexual. But do “religious organizations” include anything other than churches, synagogues, and mosques? It would be nice to know.

Throughout her op-ed, she mentions only “religious organizations.” She does not talk about protecting the rights of profit-making organizations (e.g., Masterpiece Cakeshop), nor about the rights of religious individuals (e.g., Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran). My guess is that her concern for the “rights of religious liberty” simply does not extend to them.

I carefully analyzed her position in our paper opposing her renomination to the EEOC a year ago. Here is an excerpt:

Feldblum was best known to conservatives, however, for her blunt statements discounting the idea that the free exercise of religion should ever be allowed to trump “rights” asserted by those who identify as homosexual.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty held a conference in December 2005 regarding potential conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty. Feldblum participated, and Maggie Gallagher drew attention to Feldblum’s views in a 2006 Weekly Standard article.

Sexual liberty should win in most cases,” Feldblum declared. “There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win …” In fact, she declared, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

Feldblum understands what this means for religious believers. In a related article [2006], she declared that “we are in a zero-sum game: a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side,” adding later, “And, in making the decision in this zero-sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people.” Indeed, she openly endorses government coercion of the believer: “To the extent that forced compliance with an equality mandate burdened an individual’s belief liberty, my argument … is that such a burden is likely to be justified.”

Feldblum admitted that the heavy-handed approach she favors goes well beyond Supreme Court precedent, noting that:

[T]he Supreme Court, for the moment, has come down clearly on the side that the liberty protected by the substantive Due Process Clause is solely a negative liberty. … But in many circumstances, the only way to achieve real liberty for some individuals will be for the government to take affirmative steps to bring about that liberty—even if such steps might then interfere with the liberty of others.”

Feldblum deserves some credit for describing more accurately than most the moral concerns that social conservatives have regarding homosexual conduct, and for at least acknowledging the reality of the conflict between “gay rights” and religious liberty. And she has been gracious to participate in events like the Becket conference, and even in a 2008 panel discussion held at Family Research Council.

However, this should not be allowed to mask the extremism of her positions. After she wrote that the courts should essentially ignore the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment (recognizing only a more nebulous “belief liberty” instead), she admitted that “my suggestions are radical.”

And more recently, since she has been on the EEOC, she has also expressed skepticism of religious exemptions:

Feldblum has continued to state her view that religious liberty exemptions should be extremely narrow. For example, at an “LGBT Summit” sponsored by The Atlantic magazine in December 2015, she participated in a panel discussion with David Boaz of the Cato Institute, who identifies both as gay and 5 as a libertarian (and who supported the redefinition of marriage). The issue of private businesses impacted by non-discrimination laws, such as those in the wedding industry, was discussed, as Reason magazine reported:

Boaz stated: “I think we have millions of small businesses, and I would like to leave the heavy hand of government out of their relationships with their customers and their employees as much as possible.”

… Feldblum, however, dismissed the idea that religious beliefs could ever justify discrimination. “When someone has not been educated [about tolerance of LGBT individuals] and wants to keep discriminating,” she said, “there is only one federal government, there is only one state government, one local government that can say: We will not tolerate this in our society.”

Feldblum then referred to an EEOC case against a funeral home charged with “gender identity” discrimination:

With a religious exemption to non-discrimination laws, the funeral home owner “could say, ‘well, actually, we’re religiously based,’” said Feldblum, raising her arms high and rolling her eyes. “It’s a funeral home! We do not want to allow that and the only thing that can protect us is a law that doesn’t have [a religious] exemption.”

LGBT activists like Feldblum are unlikely to accept any vision of religious liberty that extends beyond the four walls of a church’s sanctuary. But the “free exercise” of religion extends not just to churches but to individuals, and in every sphere of endeavor, including the public square and marketplace.

Compassion Is Needed for Parents and Professors Dealing with “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” Too

by Peter Sprigg

December 20, 2018

The magazine Psychology Today is hardly a hotbed of social conservatism. Nor is its contributor Samuel Veissière, Ph.D. campaigning against transgender ideology or identities. But merely by treating some parents’ concern about their transgender-identified children with respect, he has managed to produce one of the more remarkable short pieces on the transgender issue that I have seen in some time.

Veissière, a professor at Canada’s prestigious McGill University, is “an interdisciplinary anthropologist and cognitive scientist.” On November 28, he posted a piece on the Psychology Today website reporting on an academic article about certain youth (especially girls) who identify as transgender, published by Dr. Lisa Littman of Brown University.

Veissière summarized Littman’s conclusions:

Littman raises cautions about encouraging young people’s desire to transition in all instances.  From the cases reviewed in her study, she concluded that what she terms “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) appears to be a novel condition that emerges from cohort and contagion effects and novel social pressures… .

(Neither Veissière, nor critics of Littman’s reliance on parental reports, cited what I consider some of the study’s most shocking revelations. Littman explains that “online advice … instructs individuals how to deceive parents, doctors, and therapists to obtain hormones quickly.” Apparently advice of the same nature exists for anorexics, who are given “‘anorexic tricks’ … for deceiving parents and doctors so that individuals may continue their weight-loss activities.” There is even a scientific term for this—it’s called “deviancy training,” which is “the process whereby attitudes and behaviors associated with problem behaviors are promoted with positive reinforcement by peers.”)

Veissière added these observations from his own discipline:

The notion reported by parents that the ROGD appears to be “scripted” is also telling. Medical anthropologists describe the process of outsourcing negative feelings to cultural narratives and systems of beliefs as “idioms of distress.” … When extreme forms of distress and coping arise through novel social pressures and spread through implicit imitation, strange epidemics of “mass psychogenic illnesses” have been documented.

The latter remark reminded me of a brilliant turn of phrase by writer Rachel Lu in a 2016 piece in The Federalist. Although she applied it to the larger LGBT movement in general, it may be particularly appropriate to the transgender movement, and especially to “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.”

Lu wrote:

It will be remembered not as a Selma moment, but as a Salem moment: a period of collective insanity.

That is, it will not be remembered as a triumph of civil rights, like the 1965 march on Selma, Alabama. Instead, it is more like the collective mass hysteria—implausible accusations of “witchcraft” against ordinary citizens—that led to the Salem witch trials in 17th-century Massachusetts.

A day later, Veissière was back with another blog post, noting, “Some readers pointed out that I did not mention the controversy and significant public backlash that ensued after the study was first published in August 2018.”

Universities routinely publicize the academic work published by their faculty members, and Brown University did so with Littman’s article on August 22. The school was immediately attacked by transgender activists, who did not like the implications of Littman’s article—and on August 27, Brown removed the item describing her research from their website (the article itself remained, and still remains, available from the journal PLOS ONE).

This craven capitulation to political correctness led to a backlash of its own, with commentators ranging from my colleague Cathy Ruse to a former Dean of Harvard Medical School criticizing Brown for jeopardizing academic freedom.

Brown denied this charge, but Veissière did not seem convinced:

As it stands, the dominant and politically correct view of transgender identity being broadcast on university campuses — a view which, in a general sense, is linked to a culture of absolute validation and accommodations of people’s feelings and preferences — leaves very little room, if any, for alternative perspectives to be presented and discussed. 

All that is merely background for a third, more reflective piece that Veissière posted on December 2.

In it, Veissière points out, as clearly and concisely as I’ve seen done anywhere, the logical contradiction at the heart of today’s gender ideology:

As a very wise person put it to me, it is difficult to understand what views of gender are being called for in this new culture. On the one hand, gender is fluid, neutral, and doesn’t matter, or it isn’t a thing at all outside of false beliefs and oppressive constructs. On the other hand, gender matters so much that people will conceal, remove, or reshape their body parts to be recognized as one gender or the other. [Emphasis in the original.]

Veissière makes a comment on “impulses” that could be considered a critique of the entire LGBT movement. He points out, “Impulses, which make us act on visceral needs, are always sincere. But they are rarely wise.”

He illustrates the point with an example from his own youth: “In my adolescence, I committed vandalism in schools in the name of a noble fight against racism and colonial history.” However, he now admits, he knew little about either history or racism. “What I needed then was limits.  Finding the right limits is as hard a project as finding the right impulses … [emphasis in the original].”

In the reaction to his original posts, Veissière was challenged by individuals who identify as transgender—and as victimized and powerless:

A “healthy debate” exists for you, but not for me. For you, this is your field of study. For me and people like me, you are one of many, many people we have to justify ourselves to.

While admitting an obligation to feel empathy for the trials of those who identify as transgender, Veissière skillfully turns the point back on them:

The most difficult act of compassion for those who feel comforted in the feeling that they are powerless is to gain a perspective on the vulnerability of those they perceive to be in positions of ‘power.’ … If you are young, powerless and angry, imagine if you will what it is like to be a manager, doctor, or professor in the age of social media, when … it takes a single dissatisfaction and a single email, tweet or Facebook post — a single act of anger — to annihilate your career, social, family, and financial life in a day.

This is the nightmare scenario into which Lisa Littman of Brown found herself immersed.

Veissière points out that the entire culture is being indoctrinated with a view of “gender” that is designed to make life easier for the tiny minority that are gender non-conforming—even though the vast majority of people (over 99 percent) still identify their “gender” with their biological sex at birth. He alludes obliquely to the harm this may cause to the majority, noting that this “odd reversal of the … Tyranny of the Minority”—instilling “the historical[ly] novel, highly confusing notion that gender is made up”—has results that are “terribly confusing for most, and increasingly destabilizing for the many.”

We at Family Research Council disagree with the fundamental assertion of the transgender movement that a person’s psychological “gender identity” should ever be given precedence over the person’s biological sex in determining someone’s public identity as male or female. Veissière does not take that position. He affirms the (estimated) millions who identify as transgender by saying, “Denying such a large group the right to be gendered on their terms would indubitably be unjust,” and he adds generally that support for gender non-conforming teens “is a good, progressive move to help a very small group of people live healthy lives [emphasis in the original].”

But when it comes to the parents of such teens (the subjects of Littman’s study), Veissière cites “an old adage:”

Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child.

Veissière notes that efforts to “prepare the road” instead are likely to fail—thus hurting children in the long run:

With this wise proposition, comes the recognition that encouraging youth to act on all their fears and desires does not prepare them well for the challenges of a world that will always come with unpredictability, and the competing needs of people with different fears and desires. The more we give each child the road they want, the more we set them up for failure and conflict with other children, who in turn want to be given a different road.

Although anything but “absolute validation and accommodations of people’s feelings and preferences” has suddenly become heresy, Veissière is courageous enough to endorse parental rights by declaring that regardless of “the road [children] want,”

[T]he responsibility is on their caregivers — not the children — to help them figure out, slowly and wisely, whether this is the best choice for them.

I might add, it is the duty of public officials to make sure parents remain free to fulfill that sacred responsibility.

Archives