Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Family Research Council spins three distorted stories to claim that schools are 'making' kids transgender behind backs of parents

When it comes to issues involving the trans community, it is important that those of us who support them demand parity.  One thing that the religious right has done  well is to hone in on incidents involving trans people and create a narrative which is beneficial to them. Often times, the narrative is altogether wrong or slightly distorted. And by the time the truth comes out, no one listens or cares because the religious right narrative has dominated the conversation.

Take, for example, this article one the Family Research Council's webpage entitled ‘My Blood Still Boils’: Father Recalls School’s Secret Attempt to Transition Daughter. In it, the father of a trans child says that the school is responsible for making his child trans and for the child's suicide attempts:

At the beginning of this year, Wendell Perez got a call that no father ever wants to receive — his elementary-aged daughter had attempted to hang herself in the school bathroom. Perez and his wife rushed to the school, where their daughter was whisked away by a police car to stay in a mental institution for a week. Searching for answers, the couple found out from school administrators that their “son” had been struggling with “his” gender identity. 

On top of that, the school had remained quiet about the issue as the student was concerned that “he” would not be accepted at home because of the family’s faith. It was only until the child’s second suicide attempt in a matter of two days that Perez and his wife were informed of the situation. The school was secretly transitioning the young girl into a male identity, without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

The above paragraph demonstrates how the lack of parity benefits the religious right's narrative. An article by News4Jax provided details omitted from FRC's rendition of the story:

The parents claim that the administration of the Clay County elementary school their child attends overstepped its authority in discussing and supporting their child’s request to be referred to by a different name and gender and, in doing so, that the district violated the parents’ rights to direct the education of their child. After the child told the school counselor about two separate suicide attempts in early January, the parents were notified and later filed the lawsuit that month. The parents told News4JAX that the concept of changing one’s gender identity is inconsistent with the family’s catholic Christian beliefs and referred to the scenario as “a mental health problem.”

The parents are blaming the school for something they themselves are responsible for, i.e. the child being afraid to come out to them. They are attempting to make the school look like culprits instead of asking themselves why was their child scared to be honest with them.  Also don't let FRC's article confuse you with its phraseology. Claiming that the school was  "transitioning" the child  is a sly way to allude to people's stereotypes about the transgender community - the belief that surgery is always involved. The actions the school took were minor ones in order make the child feel at ease.

That's not the only incident FRC omitted facts about in its article. The group lists two more examples of schools supposedly working behind the backs of parents to "transition" their children:

Many parents across the country have found themselves as plaintiffs fighting school administrations that have helped their children begin quietly transitioning, such as a mother in California and a couple in Tallahassee, Florida, with similar situations. Other instances across the country have included the emergence of “gender transition closets” in communities and schools. 

The two examples listed prove just how FRC is exaggerating the issue. Both examples are linked to articles from  The Washington Examiner, a right-wing publication. But when taken away from that biased source, details are become more complex.

1. Take the case of the California mother suing the school. She is only suing because an article written by an anti-transgender author, Abigail Shrier, made her think that the school and teachers manipulated her daughter into being trans.

A mother is suing the small Spreckels Union School District in California for allegedly convincing her 11-year-old child to change their gender identity. In the lawsuit, the mother, Jessica Konen, accuses two teachers, Lori Caldeira and Kelly Baraki, of engaging in “extreme and outrageous conduct with malice and the intention of causing, or reckless disregard for the probability of causing, emotional distress.

”It claims Caldeira and Baraki, who ran the school’s LGBTQ equality club, “would coach” students on how to embody certain identities and as such “planted the seed” in Konen’s child’s mind that they are bisexual and transgender. The complaint says the teachers subsequently concealed the student’s changed gender identity from Konen and “attempted to deceive” her by using the child’s birth name and she/her pronouns when speaking with her. 

It also claims the teachers instructed the student to keep their identity a secret from their mother. According to the complaint, the meetings of the LGBTQ group, known as the UBU (You Be You) club, led Konen’s child to explore their gender identity and begin using a new name and pronouns – though the mother claims that the child is back to using their birth name and she/her pronouns. Eventually, the teachers had a meeting with Konen and her child to discuss their gender identity, and in response, Konen said she did her best to support her child. 

Konen didn't have a problem with her child being bisexual. But her child possibly being transgender is another matter. Her behavior when receiving the news may have scared her child.

According to ABC News

“I literally was caught off guard. I was blindsided,” Konen said. “I didn’t even know what to feel like because I didn’t even know where it came from.” Konen said she began to cry. She said her daughter was also caught by surprise. 

The article goes on to say:

When schools went to remote learning during the pandemic in March 2020, Konen said her daughter began returning to her “old self” and now uses her given name. But it wasn’t until this fall that Konen began to question how her daughter got on the path to a different identity after the article by Abigail Shrier circulated around town. 


 The tone of Shrier's article was that teachers were 'recruiting' kids to become transgender. Shrier, who wrote a discredited attack on the trans community entitled Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughter, has made a career out of spinning nonsense against the transgender community. Her article consisted of a leaked recording of the teachers talking about how they created a group for LGBTQ students.

In a leaked recording from a California Teachers Association conference, Caldeira and Kelly Baraki were quoted discussing how they kept meetings private and “stalked” students online for recruits. “When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said.

 “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.” Neither Caldeira nor Baraki could be reached by The Associated Press for comment. Caldeira told the San Francisco Chronicle the quotes were accurate but taken out of context or misrepresented. The stalking comment was a joke, she said.

LGBTQNation said: 

Caldeira and Baraki, said that their school principal – who is a named defendant in Konen’s lawsuit – knew about the UBU club and its purpose and even attended some of the meetings. California law doesn’t prevent teachers from approaching students about joining LGBTQ clubs, and state law bars teachers from discussing students’ LGBTQ identities with parents without the child’s permission. Though monitoring students’ search terms is controversial, it’s a technical feature widely available to teachers, especially as virtual and online learning increased during the pandemic. Nevertheless, all of this information inspired Konen to take legal action against the school.

Just like in the first case FRC alluded to, blaming the school and teachers is highly problematic.  Konen's actions were spurred on by reading an article about the teachers from someone who doesn't exactly have the best reputation when it comes to truth or credibility when it comes to trans issues.

2. Then there is the example of the Florida couple, January and Jeff Littlejohn,  who claimed that the school was secretly "transitioning" their child. 

It's not as complicated as the other two examples. The couple was not telling the truth. The school wasn't secretly doing anything. As a matter of fact, the couple knew because they were the ones who informed the school about their child being transgender.

From an earlier post I wrote about the lawsuit:

CNN obtained emails that show Littlejohn wrote the school in 2020 and notified a teacher that her child wanted to change pronouns.  . . . Littlejohn also wrote that she would not stop her child from using preferred pronouns or name of choice at school. Littlejohn references these emails in her lawsuit against the school and they were reported by the Tallahassee Democrat in November. 

 . . In an August 27, 2020, email to a teacher, Littlejohn stated, in part, "This has been an incredibly difficult situation for our family and her father and I are trying to be as supportive as we can. She is currently identifying as non-binary. She would like to go by the new name [redacted] and prefers the pronouns they/them. We have not changed her name at home yet, but I told her if she wants to go by the name [redacted] with her teachers, I won't stop her." 

The teacher thanked Littlejohn and asked if she should share with other teachers. Littlejohn explained it was difficult and confusing, and went on to write, "Whatever you think is best or [redacted] can handle it herself." In another email the same day, Littlejohn told the teacher, "This gender situation has thrown us for a loop. I sincerely appreciate your support. I'm going to let her take the lead on this."

According to CNN, Littlejohn filed a lawsuit against the school because she claimed that after this email, the school went behind her and her husband's back and created a Transgender/Gender Nonconforming Student Support Plan with the child. She also claimed that she was denied access to information.

However, the school district spokesperson said the following:

"From the moment Mrs. Littlejohn first emailed her child's teacher to inform our staff of the situation, this has been handled together in partnership with clear communication. We understand that outside entities have now become involved, but the family clearly instructed the school staff via email to allow their child to 'take the lead on this' and to do 'whatever you think is the best,' " Chris Petley, Leon County Schools communications coordinator, said in a statement to CNN.

The outside entities Petley is talking about are the attorneys hired by Littlejohn. They are from the Child & Parental Rights Campaign, a right-wing anti-trans group.

It's all about the spin  with the Family Research Council. The group's goal is to cause alarm and fear with the single-minded purpose of exploiting that mix into more political power and clout. 

And in doing so, FRC is obscuring an important reality.

Trans kids are coming out and parents are not being equipped with the knowledge or resources to help these kids. Instead, they are being manipulated into filing for lawsuits  designed to point the finger of blame for their child being trans. Doing this relieves them from the responsibility of taking responsibility of ensuring the health of their children in the correct way.

In the long run, this is could severely damage those kids. It may even kill them.

But the Family Research Council doesn't give a damn. What's a few wasted lives when you're trying to convert a nation into your definition of a biblical world view, right FRC?

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