One of the curious aspects of “gender affirmation” (an experimental and highly controversial treatment for gender dysphoria) is that it is not merely promoted by activists as the best clinical practice but as best social practice, too.
“Gender affirmation,” its proponents claim, is actually just basic decency, kindness, love, acceptance, and support. Any responses to gender dysphoria other than “gender affirmation”— be it the tried and tested methods of watchful waiting or talk therapy/counseling designed to get at root causes — are tantamount to cruelty, hatred, rejection, and “conversion therapy.” This is a lie, of course. But that doesn’t stop activists from pushing their narrative on younger and younger children.
Calvin, a new children’s picture book, tells the story of a little girl who tells her family that she is really a boy, whereupon her family and friends embrace this new identity. The story begins:
For as long as I could remember,
I knew I was a boy.
I’d draw myself with short hair
And a shirt like Papa’s.
I’d dream about swim trunks
Like my dad and brother wore.
The young protagonist then tells her family: “I’m a boy — in my heart and in my brain.” Their response, abandoning all pretenses of poetry and lyricism that children’s books ought to strive for, is straight from the activist textbook.
“We love you if you are a girl, boy, neither, or both. We love you whoever you are,” my dad said. Later Dad told me the word for how I felt was transgender. Being transgender means other people think you are one gender, but inside, you know you are a different one.
Putting the literary shortcomings aside: Why respond to innocence with ideology? There would be very little reason to presume that a child in these circumstances, declaring themselves to be the opposite sex for the first time, has gender dysphoria. A more sensible first response would surely be one of de-escalation: a statement of fact followed by loving reassurance. Sweetheart, in real-life, you’re a girl. You have a girl’s body. And when you grow up, you’ll have a woman’s body like Mommy’s. But if you’d like to play in boys’ clothes, that’s no big deal! Of course, if the child’s preoccupation with gender continued to rise to the level of clinical distress, then you might see a counselor. Otherwise, just leave well enough alone and let children be children.
Take another modern children’s picture book, Brenda is a Sheep. This story also explores “identity” and “acceptance.” Brenda is a Sheep tells the story of Brenda, an undisguised wolf, who “identifies” as a sheep in order to infiltrate a flock of sheep and manipulate them in order to eat them. The twist at the end is that Brenda changes her mind about killing them all, and indeed “can’t help but join in the fun. Because, after all . . . Brenda is a sheep.” Except, no. Brenda is not a sheep. Brenda is quite clearly a wolf. It is wholly irrelevant how Brenda identifies, or that she has since selected the vegetarian dinner option. Let’s not forget that the predatory villain is a timeless feature of children’s books because it is an effective way to prepare kids for an important reality. Namely, that not everyone can be trusted, and that sadly, some people do mean to harm them.
Children rely on their parents to convey such truths — be it biological sex or the importance of safeguarding. These explanations ought to be straightforward and age-appropriate. Foisting adult ideologies upon them is neither. In fact, it is deeply sinister.
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