Sexual Liberation in Public Schools

Los Angeles Unified School District has adopted a radical gender-theory curriculum encouraging teachers to work toward the “breakdown of the gender binary,” to experiment with gender pronouns such as “they,” “ze,” and “tree,” and to adopt “trans-affirming” programming to make their classrooms “queer all school year.”

I have obtained a trove of publicly accessible documents from Los Angeles Unified that illustrates the extent to which gender ideology has entered the mainstream of the nation’s second-largest school district. Since 2020, the district’s Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity department has created an infrastructure to translate the basic tenets of academic queer theory into K-12 pedagogy. The materials include a wide range of conferences, presentations, curricula, teacher-training programs, adult-driven “gender and sexuality” clubs, and school-sponsored protests.

In a week-long conference last fall, titled “Standing with LGBTQ+ Students, Staff, and Families,” administrators hosted workshops with presentations on “breaking the [gender] binary,” providing children with “free gender affirming clothing,” understanding “what your queer middle schooler wants you to know,” and producing “counter narratives against the master narrative of mainstream white cis-heteropatriarchy society.” The narrative follows the standard academic slop: white, cisgender, heterosexual men have built a repressive social structure, divided the world into the false binary of man and woman, and used this myth to oppress racial and sexual minorities. Religion, too, is a mechanism of repression. During the conference, the district highlighted how teachers can “respond to religious objections” to gender ideology and promoted materials on how students can be “Muslim and Trans.”

In another training program, titled “Queering Culture & Race,” the Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity office encouraged teachers to adopt the principle of intersectionality, a key tenet of critical race theory, and apply it to the classroom. First, administrators asked teachers to identify themselves by race, gender, and sexual orientation, and to consider their position on the identity hierarchy. The district then encouraged teachers to “avoid gendered expressions” in the classroom, including “boys and girls” and “ladies and gentlemen,” which, according to queer theory, are vestiges of the oppressive gender binary. Administrators also warned teachers that they might have to work against the families of their minority students, especially black students, regarding sexuality. “The Black community often holds rigid and traditional views of sexual orientation and gender expression,” the presenters claimed. “Black LGBTQ youth experience homophobia and transphobia from their familial communities.”

Finally, Los Angeles Unified has gone all-in on “trans-affirming” indoctrination. The Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity department has flooded the district with teaching materials, including, for example, videos from the consulting firm Woke Kindergarten encouraging five-year-olds to experiment with gender pronouns such as “they,” “ze,” and “tree” and to adopt nonbinary gender identities that “feel good to you.” The district requires teachers to use a student’s desired name and pronoun and to keep the student’s gender identity a secret from parents if the student so desires. In other words, Los Angeles public schools can facilitate a child’s transition from one gender to another without notifying parents. 

And the district is far from neutral: it actively celebrates sexual identities such as “pansexual,” “sexually fluid,” “queer,” “same-gender-loving,” and “asexual,” and gender identities such as “transgender,” “genderqueer,” “agender,” “bigender,” “gender nonconforming,” “gender expansive,” “gender fluid,” and “two-spirit.”

The problem with creating a “trans-affirming” culture is obvious. In one of the district’s own materials, “Mental Health Among Transgender Youth,” the Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity department cites a survey by Mental Health America pointing out that, among 11-to-17-year-old transgender youth who were screened for mental health issues, 93 percent were at risk for psychosis, 91 percent exhibited signs of posttraumatic stress disorder, 90 percent likely used drugs and alcohol, 90 percent experienced moderate-to-severe anxiety, and 95 percent experienced moderate to severe depression. Additionally, according to a Trevor Project study, 71 percent of transgender youth have been diagnosed with eating disorders, with the ratio even higher for female-to-male transgender children.

These numbers are deeply alarming. But rather than provide a sober assessment of these risks and seek to mitigate them, Los Angeles Unified has adopted a year-round program glamorizing transgender identity and promoting an uncritical, “trans-affirming” culture in the classroom. It is, of course, a noble goal for schools to provide a safe environment for minority groups and to affirm the basic dignity of all children regardless of their sexuality. But Los Angeles Unified’s program goes much further, promoting the most extreme strains of transgender ideology, which almost certainly contributes to the “social contagion” effect documented by Abigail Shrier and others.

The Los Angeles Unified School District governs the educational life of more than 600,000 children, the majority of whom are racial minorities from poor families. The implicit cynicism of the district’s gender-ideology instruction is sickening: highly educated, well-paid bureaucrats promote fashionable academic programming that will do nothing to provide a basic education for these children or help them move up the economic and social ladder. It will only keep them trapped in a morass of confusion, fatalism, and resentment—while the bureaucrats keep collecting their paychecks.

Editor’s note: This article appeared originally at City Journal.

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About Christopher F. Rufo

Christopher F. Rufo is the director of Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He has directed four documentaries for PBS, including his latest, America Lost, about three forgotten American cities. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo: Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images