Unveiling the motives behind anti-2SLGBTQ+ school protests

By Erika Shaker
and Jon Milton

On September 20, crowds in cities and towns across the country gathered to protest against schools’ teaching children about the existence of 2SLGBTQ+ people.

If you ask the organizers – many of whom are deeply connected to far-right and hate networks – they would say they have nothing against people with differing sexual orientations or gender identities; they’re just opposed to teaching it to children.

Erika Shaker

Erika Shaker

Jon Milton

Jon Milton

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But then, what happens when a child develops their first crush – and it’s on someone of the same gender? What happens when a kid starts to realize that they don’t feel at home in the gender that they’re in?

Every gay man, every trans woman, every non-binary person, every lesbian – every adult was a child once. Growing up means discovering ourselves – coming to terms with our desires, with our identity, and making our own way. Kids need to be given the space to explore who they are, and what they want to become, without having adults – even loving ones – try to put them into a box they don’t fit in. Kids want to be able to support their friends who are going through this same journey. Teaching kids about gender gives them the tools to do that.

The great Lebanese poet and artist Khalil Gibran, in his poem On Children, wrote:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

We fought for decades – and are still fighting – for quality public education for all kids, regardless of identity or family income. Schools need to be a place for children to build themselves what Gibran called the “house of tomorrow.” In addition to being an attack on queer youth, these protests are also an attack on public schools, and an attempt to take those tools and opportunities away from kids.

It isn’t the first time conspiracy theorists, religious extremists, and far-right activists have whipped up a public frenzy over made-up stories about public school teachers. In 1980s America, it was about teachers performing satanic rituals on kids – over the decade, they fabricated over 12,000 stories about “satanic ritual abuse” in schools and daycares. Not one was an actual case of “satanic ritual abuse.”

The panic continued to spread. Like a witch hunt, the mob of parents trying to “protect their children from satanic rituals” decided that teachers were out to get their children, and they were out for blood. They got teachers fired, took over school boards, and weakened public education.

Today, it isn’t satan – it’s trans kids. The same coalition of right-wing culture warriors is using a different scapegoat to target public education.

Many of the organizers and participants in the anti-trans rallies absolutely do want gender ideology taught to children – they just want it to be a very specific type of gender ideology. One in which only men and women can be attracted to each other, and each one stays within their traditional gender roles. One where “hands off our kids” means a health curriculum without concepts like consent or bodily autonomy.

Men decide, women nurture, and queers get back in the closet. That’s the gender ideology these people want children to learn.

But here’s the thing – we’re not going back. Women fought long and hard on the unsteady and unfinished path to equality, and 2SLGBTQ+ people fought decades-long struggles to get to the point where we can be queer in public without fear or shame. We will not be going back to the dark ages. And we will defend ourselves from attack.

Erika Shaker is the national office director, and Jon Milton is a senior communications specialist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

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