Transgender Ideology and Parental Rights
“Since they have conferred life on their children, parents have the original, primary and inalienable right to educate them; hence they must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children…. The primary right of parents to educate their children must be upheld in all forms of collaboration between parents, teachers and school authorities…”
─ The Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, Article 5
Here’s a question to which almost every parent immediately knows the answer: Can a school nurse give your child Tylenol for a headache without your permission?
The answer, of course, is “no.” Even if the “expert” school nurse thinks that your child would benefit from pain killers, she must get permission from you before she does so.
To most people this is just common sense. After all, it doesn’t matter how much education the nurse has. She doesn’t know your child as well as you do. Besides, she doesn’t have final decision-making authority for your child. That’s your job!
After all, experience shows that parents are the people who are by far the most likely to desire the authentic good of their own children and to be in a position to actually ensure that their children achieve or receive that good.
That’s why governments in free countries, and the children-oriented institutions in those countries, have historically recognized the fundamental right of parents as the primary educators and decision-makers for their children. As the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
And as the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family puts it in a reflection on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, “Parents have the primary responsibility of raising and educating their children in order to ensure their integral development and an adequate level of social, spiritual, moral, physical and mental well being in order to achieve this. For this purpose, both the laws and the services of the State are called on to cooperate in giving the family adequate support.”
The Left’s Contempt for Parental Rights
In normal doses, Tylenol is among the safest of drugs. Thus, you might naturally conclude that if parents need to give permission for their child to receive Tylenol, they would have to give permission for far more consequential, and potentially dangerous choices or treatments. That’s just common sense, right?
Unfortunately, however, common sense seems to be an endangered species. In recent years, we have witnessed some of the most brazen attacks on parental rights ever devised. Typically, these attacks are led by radical leftist activists, who seem to view a parent’s natural love and protective instinct for their child as one of the greatest obstacles to the achievement of their radical social goals.
For years, we have witnessed pro-abortion activists pouring enormous resources into fighting basic “parental consent” laws that would require parental consent before a minor undergoes an abortion. It’s all right there on Planned Parenthood’s website, where they openly coach minors on precisely how they can circumvent parental notification laws by getting a “judicial bypass.” As the U.S. bishops explain, “Planned Parenthood is strongly opposed to parental consent or notification laws, which, in its view, interfere with the ‘confidential’ relationship between its counselors and unemancipated minors.”
The hubris is breath-taking.
However, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that these same extremists, who seem to believe that they have superior rights than parents over their children, are now campaigning for laws and policies that ensure that parents do not need to be notified if their child, who is struggling with sex-identity confusion, decides that they are “transgender,” and wish to be addressed by different pronouns or a different name, and even to receive potentially permanent, life-altering “treatments.”
It’s hard to imagine that school administrators and teachers would even contemplate withholding such critical information from children’s parents. However, we don’t need to imagine. This is already the de facto policy in school districts and states all across the country.
Schools Districts Removing Parents From the Picture
Take the case of Stephen Foote and Marissa Silvestri. This couple is suing various government and education entities, after their 11- and 12-year-old children decided to identify as “genderqueer,” demanding that they be addressed with different pronouns at school. The school chose not to inform the parents about this monumentally important decision by their young children.
When the parents discovered the state of affairs, they rebuked the school. However, the local superintendent stood by the school’s decision, declaring that “for some students who are transgender or gender nonconforming, school is the only safe place to express who they are.” In other words: parents are a threat to children, and must be proactively removed from the picture, to make way for the school bureaucrats.
This case was recounted recently in a feature-length article in Politico. The article is about how the question of pronouns and parental rights is being addressed in the courts. In an astonishing case of naked journalistic partisanship, the subheading of the article declares, “And the trend doesn’t look good for transgender kids.”
What trend, you might ask? The trend of courts standing by long-standing precedent that prioritizes the rights of parents over unelected bureaucrats. This is the trend that the Politico reporter took for granted to be a threat to children.
One doesn’t have to look far to find other so-called experts, politicians and media commentators and outlets treating fundamental parental rights with similar contempt. Take this recent article in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, titled, “It’s a privilege, not a right, to know your kid’s gender identity.” Another article in the CBC, Canada’s government broadcaster, openly called into question the legitimacy of the idea of “parental rights,” calling this phrase a “misnomer.” The concept of “parental rights,” suggested the CBC, is merely a weapon used by “conservatives” to advance anti-LGBT bigotry.
Unfortunately, there are people with real power who seem to agree with this idea. In California, for instance, a bill is advancing that would give the state the power to take children away from parents who do not accept their child’s so-called “transgenderism.” The bill’s sponsor, Lori Wilson, has openly declared that “our duty as parents is to affirm our children” in whatever identity the child chooses.
Meanwhile, many school districts in various U.S. states have implemented policies requiring that school staff hide children’s “gender transitions” from their parents. Many parents are undergoing the surreal experience of only accidentally discovering that their child, experiencing sexual confusion, is going by a different name or gender at school, something that the child’s friends and teachers have long known.
Recent Polls Provide Hope
However, not all is bad news. It is absolutely true that trans extremists are making headway in many jurisdictions in passing monstrous laws and policies stripping parents of essential rights.
At the same time, however, it is far from clear that the majority of citizens support these policies, or that such policies will stand for long. In fact, polls and other evidence suggest precisely the opposite. One result is that as parents and sane politicians wake up to what trans extremists are attempting to do, they are pushing back in an organized, concerted fashion.
Canada is hardly known for being a bastion of conservative family values. And yet, a recent poll found that an overwhelming majority of parents (78 percent) believe that, at a minimum, they should be informed that their child is “transitioning” at school. Forty-three percent of those also believed that parents must consent to such a transition. Only 14% said it should be entirely up to the child.
In other words, the so-called gender “experts” are way, way out of step with ordinary Canadians, who by and large are among some of the most liberal citizens in the developed world.
But the pushback isn’t confined to opinion polls. So far two provinces in Canada—New Brunswick and Saskatchewan—have implemented parental consent policies. The Premier of Saskatchewan has even vowed to take drastic action to protect this policy, after a court temporarily halted it. Surprisingly, the Education Minister of Ontario—one of the most liberal provinces in Canada—also recently openly declared on the issue, “Parents must be fully involved and fully aware of what’s happening in the life of their children … so that they can support their kids.”
“[A]s an overarching value system,” he added, “I really do believe that parents need to be fully aware, fully engaged. And school boards need to be transparent with parents. I mean, they are the legal guardians. They love their kids. They want to be aware of what’s happening in the life of their children in their schools.”
I couldn’t have put it better myself!
One must wonder: What kind of lunatic would actively seek to hide from parents the fact that their child is undergoing a monumental personal crisis, with potentially life-long ramifications? One judge in California recently concurred, ruling against a California school district’s policy of hiding a child’s gender transition from the child’s parents. The judge argued that this policy creates a “trifecta of harm”: firstly, to the child, then to the parents, and teachers who are being forced to hide critical information from parents.
In another sign that perhaps common sense is staging a comeback even at the highest levels of government, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently declared, “It shouldn’t be controversial for parents to know what their children are being taught in school about relationships,” and, “we shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t, a man is a man and a woman is a woman. That’s just common sense.”
The Truth Emerges
Ultimately, it’s no huge surprise that people are beginning to turn against the trans extremists, their exploitation of vulnerable children and adolescents, and their smug certitude that anyone who is truly “tolerant” and “loving” must accept every dot and tittle of their ideological nonsense. After all, every day we are hearing more and more about just how insane the trans extremists are, and the horrific damage that gender ideology is doing to innocent young people, who are the victims of a disturbing and irresponsible experiment.
The latest story to emerge from the dark world of the transgender clinics that prey on vulnerable people comes from The Washington Free Beacon. The Beacon recounts how Planned Parenthood has rapidly added so-called transgender “treatments” to its roster, and how the abortion organization doles out powerful drugs with no safeguards. In one case, a Planned Parenthood counsellor prescribed powerful, life-altering artificial hormones to an autistic 18-year-old after a mere thirty-minute consultation.
Many other horror stories are being recounted on the Substack account called Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans (PITT). Many of the parents on this platform are shouting from the rooftops about the devastating damage done to their children and families by trans extremists with absolutely no respect for parental rights, but who seem hellbent on grooming as many children and adolescents as possible to embrace their self-destructive ideology.
In its recent position paper on gender ideology, the Catholic Medical Association says that the ideology of gender is causing harm to children and adolescents: “The present ‘treatment’ of [Gender Dysphoria] is contrary to the nature of medicine.”
It denies the very essence of the human person who is an integrated entity of body and soul. Such a denial is perpetuated by language that negates this reality by the erroneous use of pronouns, and the fostering of dress and behaviors that are intended to affirm this denial. New developments in addressing gender dysphoria in children are concerning in terms of violating fundamental parental rights and upending long standing jurisprudence. Policies to undermine the rights and obligations of parents or guardians, particularly in the public-school systems, in no way are to be endorsed. Children lack the full decisional capacity for such serious issues and are dependent upon engaged parents/guardians to consent or refuse potentially life-altering psychological, medical, or surgical actions.
The Vatican had it right on this topic long before the issue ever even emerged in the public eye. Parental rights are essential. Time and time again we have witnessed how the bureaucratic, self-declared “experts,” with their trendy ideological theories, have perpetrated enormous harm on innocent children, while the common-sensical, loving parents have proven that they are far more likely to have the real welfare of their children at heart.
As Catholics, we ought to be proud to have access to such a wealth of wise thinking and writing on topics about which our world seems so terribly confused. We must not let the ideologues have our children. Instead, we must educate ourselves on the wisdom of our Church’s teachings, and then enter the fight armed with those teachings.
In the face of the attacks of leftist ideologues, we must defend core parental rights at all costs. Our children are depending on it.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing email@example.com.