Opinion: Parental Rights End at a Child’s Gender Identity

Walter Rhein

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Some people say that children are indoctrinated at school. That’s kind of an extreme way to say that school provides children with the opportunity to learn new viewpoints and belief systems. It would be just as true to say that children are indoctrinated at church, or that they’re indoctrinated when they listen to right-wing radio.

In most cases, it’s dishonest to use the word “indoctrinated.” There are many instances in right-wing politics when words are used incorrectly. For example, “socialism” and “woke” are words the political right uses incorrectly or refuses to define.

When discussing any social issue, we should be careful to properly define our terms. We should also base our opinions on facts. The fact is that LGBTQ kids are overrepresented among homeless children. This is a stunning and tragic statistic when you think about it.

LGBTQ kids also run an increased risk of suicide.

Both of these tragic realities are a consequence of the hate philosophy that’s the foundation of right-wing politics. It’s interesting to note that fascist dictatorships throughout the world tend to follow the same pattern of targeting and oppressing members of the LGBTQ community.

Those of us who have some respect for the freedoms we’re afforded as citizens of the United States of America need to speak out when the markers that indicate a trend to fascism become obvious. It’s also significant that dictatorships don’t support free and fair elections.

What we know for a fact is that LGBTQ kids in American society face more significant risks than other kids. It’s shameful to think that parents who claim to believe in “family” and “traditional values” would kick their children out of the house based on sexual orientation.

Teachers already have to navigate a difficult path between legal responsibility and respect for personal beliefs. For example, every student has a right to go to school and be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone can agree that children shouldn’t have to endure bullying.

However, stopping bullying is not always easy. What happens when a student insists that homosexuality is a sin? That’s clear bullying. If your religion is opposed to homosexuality, don’t be a homosexual. It’s not an infringement on religious rights to tell people not to impose their religion on others.

The problem is that when issues like this are discussed in the media, the far-right uses words like “indoctrination” rather than “anti-bullying.” They sidestep the discussion about the legal limitations on their religious rights and insist they’re being oppressed.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where religious groups feel emboldened to aggressively inflict their beliefs on others. A recent Supreme Court case cracked open the door to allowing guided religious prayer on school property. Has the Supreme Court put limitations on what can be said in a voluntary prayer? Have they said such prayers are not allowed to contain language that labels homosexuality as a sin?

The fact is, the first objective of teachers is to preserve the lives of their students. It’s shameful that teachers are often vilified by right-wing pundits and politicians. There have been cases where teachers use their bodies to shield children from bullets.

When was the last time a right-wing pundit showed such heroism? Right-wing pundits are more likely to claim mass shootings are a hoax. When was the last time a priest showed such heroism? A priest is more likely to be in the news blessing an AR-15.

Teachers have a responsibility to respect the will of parents up to the point where they suspect the parents of being abusive. At that point, teachers have a legal responsibility to protect their students. Students must be protected from parents who are physically, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise abusive.

Therefore, because hostility to the LGBTQ community is fundamental to the right-wing platform, teachers have to be careful on the subject of gender identity. It’s not the teacher’s responsibility to provide information to a parent that might get that student kicked out of his or her household. By the laws of our nation, these students have committed no crime.

Our nation would be better served by honest discussions that put the well-being of our children first. I recently wrote an article on the importance of being kind to children, and the comments were angry and hateful.

The truth is that there’s a lot of hate indoctrination in the United States of America. This hate indoctrination comes from the church. This hate indoctrination comes from right-wing media. We need to make our decisions based on the best way to support and protect our young people. This is how we demonstrate that human life matters in this country.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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