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Editor’s note: This article first appeared in City Journal.
Sacramento City Unified School District has adopted a queer theory–based pedagogy that encourages teachers to “normalize gender exploration,” confront their “cisgender privilege,” and maintain strict secrecy when facilitating a child’s gender or sexual transition.
I have obtained a collection of publicly accessible documents from Sacramento City Unified that traces the evolution of the district’s sexual politics. The process began a decade ago, when the district invited Elizabeth Meyer, a professor of Women’s, Gender & Queer Studies at California Polytechnic State University, to conduct presentations on how the district could adopt the principles of academic queer theory and translate them into K-12 pedagogy.
The “foundational concepts” of this approach, according to Meyer’s presentation, follow the standard left-wing narrative. Western society has created a “Heterosexual Matrix,” composed of “Hegemonic Masculinity,” “Emphasized Femininity,” “Heteronormativity,” and “Heterosexism,” that underpins an oppressive system of “patriarchy,” “homophobia,” and “transphobia.”
To liberate schools from this system, administrators and districts must adopt “queer pedagogy” and “anti-oppressive pedagogy,” which will disrupt the “commonsense view of the world” and replace it with queer alternatives, emphasizing “gender non-conformity” and “gender and sexual diversity.”
During this workshop, Meyer laid out a set of recommendations for administrators and teachers. Her recommendations for administrators included promoting gender-identity lessons in the curriculum, creating collections of sexuality books in school libraries, and hosting speakers and performers who address “sex, gender, and sexual orientation.”
Teachers, according to Meyer, should follow different rules of classroom speech based on their own sexual identity. “If you are heterosexual, don’t state it. Allow yourself to be an ally while allowing others to be uncertain about your sexual orientation,” the presentation stated.
“If you are GLBT [sic], consider coming out to your employer, and if you get their support, your students/school.”
Finally, Meyer recommended that administrators work to build teacher-driven sexuality clubs and “equity task force[s]” within individual schools to promote “queer pedagogy” and “anti-oppressive pedagogy.”
In another training document titled “How to Be a Transgender Ally,” the district provided teachers and administrators with the entire range of queer theory terminology, promoting concepts and sexual identities such as “bi-gender,” “genderqueer,” “two-spirit,” “polysexual,” “pansexual,” “drag queens,” and “transsexuals.” The document instructed school staff to “normalize gender exploration and gender variance” and to “encourage exploration of options” for transgender students, who “may turn to hormones and/or surgery as validation of their emerging identity.”
Other rules in the handbook presented a form of queer theory etiquette: “don’t ask a trans person what their ‘real name’ is”; “don’t ask about a trans person’s genitals”; “don’t police public restrooms”; and “don’t just add the ‘T’ without doing work,” meaning that “to be an ally to trans people, gays, lesbians and bisexuals need to examine their own gender stereotypes, their own prejudices and fears about trans people, and be willing to defend and celebrate trans lives.”
Heterosexual teachers, on the other hand, are told that they must confront their “cisgender privilege” and complete a questionnaire designed to elicit guilt and facilitate the adoption of a “transgender ally” identity.
The questions include: “Does the state of your genitals cause you to fear violence should they be discovered?”; “Does the government require proof of the state of your genitals in order to change information on your personal identification?”; and “Can you wait at a bus stop at noon without passers-by assuming that you are loitering for sex?”
Ten years later, Sacramento City Unified has adopted all these recommendations and turned academic queer theory into pedagogy. The district’s schools, including many elementary schools, have put gender-identity theory into the curriculum and created teacher-driven “Gender & Sexuality Alliance” clubs.
This ideology has also influenced districtwide policy on gender transitions, bathrooms, and athletics. According to the district’s official guidelines, school employees must provide “gender transition support” to students, recognize their “lived name and/or gender marker and/or gender pronouns,” allow them to use bathrooms and participate in athletics according to their “gender identity,” and follow a strict nondisclosure policy, which includes withholding information from students’ families.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming students have a right to privacy, including keeping their sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status or gender non-conforming presentation at school private,” the policy reads.
“School personnel should not discuss information that may disclose a student’s transgender or gender non-conforming status to others, including parents/legal guardians and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”
In other words, teachers and administrators can facilitate a child’s gender or sexual transition without notifying that child’s parents; in fact, the default is to conduct this process in secrecy.
The sexual ideology that has captured school districts such as Sacramento City Unified is a form of radicalism cloaked in therapeutic language. Most parents initially interpret words such as “affirming,” “privacy,” “trans-friendly,” “anti-bullying,” and “safe space” as extensions of basic empathy between institution and child. But as parents discover the true nature of the ideology, they will recoil and mobilize against it.
For most families, the idea that a school can promote synthetic sexual identities to young children while keeping parents in the dark is a terrifying overreach. These districts are driving a wedge between parent and child. Parents must reject this usurpation of authority.