I KNOW an 8-year-old boy who likes all sorts of reptiles. He has a particular affection for bearded dragons, of which he has three named, much to their displeasure, Bernie, Hercules and Skitters. He also has a large collection of stuffed serpents of all colors, shapes and sizes. There is, however, one particular stuffed snake that collects dust in the corner of the toy room through no fault of its own. The reason this snake is python non grata is that it is pink. I made the mistake of picking up a girl snake, to which the young man replied with all the indignation an 8-year-old can muster (and believe me, it's a lot), "Boys do not play with pink snakes."
End of story.
This taught me a valuable lesson: Some absolutes are keyed into our biology and our DNA that have nothing to do with nurture. Gender and identity are hardwired into us, and they are neither fluid nor ambiguous. In other words, you will not be hearing Elsa screaming about letting it go in my house, but you will be forced to take cover if a barrage of orange Nerf bullets are aimed in your direction.
Some readers might be saying that this is all epidermal stuff, and that, of course, boys and girls have defined preferences for different things, but that this doesn't mean there isn't crossover. They will point to tomboyish girls who can climb trees as well as any of their brothers and quiet little boys who prefer reading books to engaging in playground warfare. I completely agree. But to go from that to accepting the fact that gender is fluid and, because of that, unimportant and readily exchangeable is to do irreparable damage to the integrity of the human being.
Lately, it's become trendy to talk about transgender. People will recoil at my use of the word "trendy," seeing it as disrespectful and demeaning to a whole group of people who, we are told by none other than that great philosopher Lady Gaga, "born that way." In only a few short years, a nanosecond after that last great sexual battle was won with the legalization of same-sex marriage, we have been treated to case after case of men coming out as women, or vice versa. It didn't start with Caitlin Jenner, but it found its champion in her story.
What is a statistically insignificant percent of society started getting a lot of attention, and we were trained to accept "trans" as the new black. In other words, being transgender came out of the closet, so to speak, and we were supposed to accept the junk science that people really are born with the wrong biological apparatus.
Whenever I have questioned the legitimacy of the trans phenomenon, people have pointed me to studies discussing the issue of "gender dysphoria," in which a person's biological sex is not in sync with the way they feel inside. Frankly, you can find a psychological study to say whatever you want it to say, as I have found in my legal practice. There are as many opinions on these things as there are recent medical school graduates. This is not to say that the medical condition does not exist, but simply that its legitimacy and parameters are still being debated.
And that is OK when you are talking about adults. It is absolutely not OK when you are talking about impressionable children. Which brings me to what happened in Boyertown this past week.
On Tuesday, the Boyertown School District in Berks County was sued on behalf of a young male student who was forced to share the boy's bathroom with a biological female who apparently identified as male. Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Independence Law Center, the unnamed student was upset when the transgender classmate came into his locker room and started undressing. When the boy went to school administrators and asked them to do something about this violation of his privacy, he essentially was told to deal with it.
If we told a gay student to "deal with" being bullied by a straight student, we would rightfully be excoriated and quite possibly brought up on charges of child endangerment. But it is OK to tell a straight, cisgender boy to simply get with the program and stop whining because to do otherwise is to be intolerant of the sexual minority. That is how far we have come in this anything-goes society.
The hypocrisy is astounding. LGBT activist Eliza Bayard in an Inquirer column suggested that the appropriate avenue would be to find an "accommodation" for the non-trans child. Imagine if we suggested the reverse: that the trans child be given a specific accommodation, such as a separate room in which to change. There would be screams of intolerance and discrimination, as there were when President Trump did the right thing and repealed Barack Obama's transgender mandates in public schools.
The point is that "accommodations" are exceptions, and the LGBT community does not want to be viewed as an exception to anything. It wants to be accepted as mainstream and deserving of all of the rights and privileges as the straight, cisgender, white, Christian, plug-in-your-oppressive-patriarchal-adjective-here. But when a member of the majority group, in this case a kid who just wants to put on his underwear without making a political statement, files a lawsuit to protect his own right to privacy, the story gets turned into one about intolerance.
Sorry, but kids shouldn't be used as pieces on the societal chessboard so some of the more evolved players can checkmate the outmoded, conservative values of another time. Randall Wenger, chief counsel of the Independence Law Center, puts it this way: "We need to show respect to every member of our society, and we don't do that by making our children the guinea pigs in a social experiment and by taking away their fundamental right to privacy."
I know some people think the most important thing in the world is to keep our children from being bullied. There is definitely value in providing a safe environment for them, and adults are the ones who need to do it. Lord of the Flies was not fiction, and I say that from experience.
But that doesn't mean that we sign on to every questionable social crusade in the name of tolerance, at least not where children are concerned. If an adult wants to go on reality TV and chronicle the transition from Olympic gold medalist to has-been Kardashian, that's one thing. To enable a child to think gender is just another variable, like hair color and weight, is quite another.
As Pope Francis said in a quote that isn't nearly as popular as his "Who am I to judge" comment: "We are living a moment of annihilation of man as image of God . . . Today, in schools they are teaching this to children - to children! - that everyone can choose their gender."
Annihilation of man as image of God. Annihilation of the distinction between boy and girl. Annihilation of privacy.
Annihilation, really, of childhood.
Christine Flowers is a lawyer