I discovered a really cool book over the weekend called “Bodies Are Cool” by Tyler Feder. My sister bought a copy for her daughter, who is almost 2. It is one of her favorite books, second only to “Wheels on the Bus,” with which she has a fanatical obsession.
What makes Feder’s book so, well, cool, is that it truly is a celebration of bodies of all shapes, sizes, genders, colors, and abilities. There are many illustrations of people in the book for whom you can’t assume a gender. And that’s beautiful.
But that also means that “Bodies Are Cool” is the kind of book conservatives are rallying against right now and trying to pull from library bookshelves because God forbid a kid read a book that doesn’t condemn LGBTQ+ people.
The backlash against LGBTQ+ people continues apace even after finally getting Trump out of the White House. This backlash is especially vicious against transgender people, with right-wing conservatives using the existence of people who don’t neatly fit into “male” or “female” from birth as fundraising and fear raising fodder.
One of those people is former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, who railed against “the transgender militants” in a recent piece on World Net Daily.
To hear McCaughey tell it, President Joe Biden is basically colluding with school districts to make every child transgender and every teacher a transgender life coach. In reality, the Biden Administration is trying to undo the damage that the virulently anti-trans Trump Administration caused transgender and gender fluid students. Damage that McCaughey clearly approves of.
“Elementary school teachers are putting words such as nonbinary and transgender on the blackboard, even before kids have learned multiplication,” she writes.
I’m not sure what multiplication has to do with anything here, but I guess what McCaughey is saying is that children need a firm grasp of their times tables before they can fully understand that gender is a social construct.
Except that kids are faced with issues of gender far sooner than multiplication. Right from the get go children learn “rules” like “girls love princesses” and “boys love dinosaurs.” The obsession with gender is front and center all of the time, most hideously in the form of gender reveal parties that start wildfires and kill people. But to hear McCaughey tell it, schools have become overrun with trans people.
“In school, it’s cool to be anything but heterosexual,” she writes.
Um, I don’t know at which schools McCaughey has been hanging out, but from what I can tell, those schools are not on planet Earth. Even in parts of the country that are more liberal, being a trans kid is hard. These kids are dealing with deeply rooted cultural norms and social weirdness about gender and bodies and sexuality on top of the regular kid problems of acne and homework.
McCaughey uses Maine as an example of a place that’s gone crazy for transgender people. “Maine requires public school teachers to explore the achievements of LGBTQ+ individuals, not just in health class but also in history and social studies,” she writes.
Uh. What? “Not just in health class?” Does she think that LGBTQ+ people are just biological oddities and haven’t contributed to history and society? Ha. Dumb question. Of course she does.
Where oh where do parents go for help to stop their children from being indoctrinated that transgender people exist and they’re humans?
“Sorry, not to the American Civil Liberties Union, despite its century-long record protecting the free exercise of religion,” she writes, as if being anti-LGBTQ is a religion “Don’t count on Biden,” she continues. “He’s already told the transgender crowd, ‘Your president has your back.’”
In other words: if you don’t hate transgender people, a good reminder that the ACLU and Biden are allies. “Truth is, if students are to be educated rather than indoctrinated, parents will have to stand up to the transgender militants,” she writes. “No one else has the nerve.”
Talk about inventing an enemy to rile up the base. Trans people are not exactly a powerful lobby, unlike the Christian conservatives who demonize them. They are often marginalized and the target of violence, especially trans women of color. They aren’t a scary group intent on indoctrinating your kids. They’re human beings and should be treated as such. If teaching that to kids is indoctrination, then I’m all for it.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.