Extreme ideologies have taken root in many North Carolina public schools. They manifest themselves via various policies. For example, Wake (see here and here)  and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have for years been indoctrinating students in pro-transgender training. The consequences have been disastrous. A child’s understanding of sex and gender is severed from biology and anatomy and is now entirely defined by culture. Children come home from school and tell their parents they can select sex and gender based on how they feel.

Many school districts are complicit in this lunacy. Fearing an increase in student suicides, schools have joined the fight by advocating for gender-affirming policies, often without parents’ knowledge or consent. 

Not surprisingly, these actions have spurred a counterreaction. It can be seen in the emergence of parent activists and a flurry of new school board candidates in North Carolina and elsewhere running on platforms opposing gender identity, sexual orientation, and critical race theory. 

However, parental pushback is only one part of an emerging story. Other significant developments are causing many seriously to ask if the tide has turned: Has gender identity lunacy finally peaked? Let’s look at recent evidence. 

In late July, after a government review, the United Kingdom (UK) reported that it was closing its sole gender clinic in Tavistock after it publicly acknowledged the damage done to patients by a decade of pushing the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to aid gender transitioning. The report said staff failed to examine mental health issues properly before prescribing puberty blockers and sex hormones. The UK should be commended for its courage, however, some of that sentiment is already reaching this country. Earlier this month, officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, announced that they are pausing gender-affirming surgeries to thoroughly review their practices. The review came after lawmakers raised numerous objections to perform such surgeries on young people. Responding to the action, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee tweeted, “We should not allow permanent life-altering decisions that hurt children. With the partnership of the General Assembly. This practice should end in Tennessee.”  

Another encouraging development occurred in late August of this year. That’s when Moria Szilagyi, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), said the vast majority of patients who receive gender-affirming care shouldn’t be treated with hormones or surgery, indicating a change in the organization’s position. Szilagyi said in a letter that as the AAP sees it, “gender-affirming care means destigmatizing gender variance and promoting a child’s self-worth. It doesn’t push medical treatments or surgery; for most children, it recommends the opposite.” 

The current policy before Szilgalyi’s clarification was actively affirming transgender individuals using both medical and psychological treatments. That policy constituted a repudiation of AAP’s 2018 “watchful waiting” policy, which emphasized the use of psychotherapy first. The 2018 policy also assumed most children with gender dysphoria will grow out of these feelings and not require medical transition. Additional clarification will be necessary to understand what exactly the AAP means by the “opposite” of medical treatment or surgery. Nevertheless, it is certainly a significant and welcome change. 

Another hopeful sign in this debate is growing public sentiment to reassert parental rights. In the past year, 26 states have introduced legislation to reaffirm parental rights, commonly called a parents’ bill of rights. Such bills codify basic parental rights such as the right to direct the education and upbringing of your child, the right to direct your child’s health or medical care, or the right to expect transparency in interactions with school officials. 

What do North Carolinians think about a parents’ bill of rights? According to the May Civitas-Locke Poll, North Carolinians support such legislation by a margin of more than two to one. Fifty-seven percent of respondents would support such legislation, while 24 percent of respondents would oppose it. 

Earlier this spring, the review process for Healthful Living and Science standards began. Gender identity and sexual orientation advocates are expected to push hard to make the standards more inclusive and gender-affirming. At its August meeting, the State Board of Education delayed the Healthful Living standards review process for at least six months. The action means the potentially controversial process will not resume until well after this fall’s elections. A coincidence? Who knows? At the least, it’s a particularly good sign for parents, many of whom remain apprehensive that gender identity advocates are still working to hijack the standards review process. 

When the process does resume, let’s make sure it is committed to reviewing the latest evidence and research. That means if gender-affirming policies are discussed, the process must include all harmful evidence surrounding the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender-affirming therapies. It must also include the growing social and mental health costs associated with aggressive gender-affirming policies. 

The public should welcome a full review of healthful living standards. Only then will educators and parents be confident that children will have their learning guided by objective, research-based standards and not by extreme ideologies.