The idea that a young child has a gender identity contrary to his or her biological sex is widely unpopular. In a New York Times/Siena Poll released in September, 70% of registered voters were strongly or somewhat opposed to teaching elementary school children about gender identity and sexual orientation. More than half were opposed to teaching middle school students about this topic, and 42% were opposed to teaching it to high school students.
In another survey conducted by Parents Defending Education (PDE), 56% of parents said they “believe it is inappropriate for schools to administer surveys to students on topics such as gender identity, sexual orientation,” along with drug use and sexual activity.
It’s not that parents want teachers to avoid questions related to personal values and deeply held beliefs. Eighty-three percent of those in PDE’s poll were in favor of educators teaching about issues related to character and personal values. The same percentage of parents in a Heritage Foundation survey from 2020 also were in favor.
They have reasons to be concerned, beyond the obvious confusion and trauma caused by showing children graphic pictures of sexual acts. Some of the original writers and expositors of gender ideology had even more radical ideas in mind than teaching students to use different pronouns.
Judith Butler, best known for “Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity,” helped detach “gender” from biology by writing that not only can individuals change genders, they can also do this regularly. She writes that “gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency.”
Butler advances this concept by aligning queer theory, an academic theory premised on the idea that sexuality, gender, and sex are oppressive social constructs, with other radical leftist theories such as critical race theory by saying, “The question of who and what is considered real and true is … a question of power.”
And this is the concept that unites all “critical” theories, including critical race theory and critical gender studies or gender ideology. When the German academic and Marxist Max Horkheimer and his colleagues at the Frankfurt School expanded Marxism in the 1930s, they applied Marx’s view of conflict between economic classes to society and culture. Critical race theorists would later apply the power struggle to race, saying that America is systemically racist and civil rights are an illusion.
Critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw devised the concept known as “intersectionality” to describe what she claimed were overlapping examples of victimization between race and gender. In the introduction to Part Six of “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement,” the editors describe Crenshaw’s idea that “identity movements based on gender and racial liberation” must “address the ‘intersectionality’ of social domination.”i In a chapter she contributed to the book, Crenshaw returns to the topic of social and political power. She writes, “The struggle over which differences matter [race, gender, ethnicity, etc.] and which do not is neither abstract nor insignificant … [T]hey raise critical issues of power.”ii
Critical gender theorists argue that gender is a defining element of society and is also rooted in the struggle for power, and they provide direct references to Marxism. Gayle Rubin, another gender theorist, explored this topic in “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” where Rubin writes, “There is no theory which accounts for the oppression of women—in its endless variety and monotonous similarity, cross-culturally and throughout history—with anything like the explanatory power of the Marxist theory of class oppression.”
In “Thinking Sex,” Rubin writes, “A radical theory of sex must identify, describe, explain, and denounce erotic injustice and sexual oppression.” Rubin defends incest and sodomy and says that laws prohibiting these acts are oppressive. Then Rubin pays tribute to Marx, saying, “Feminist thought is greatly indebted to Marxism. In a sense, Marxism enabled people to pose a whole set of questions that Marxism could not satisfactorily answer.”
Logically, then, queer theorists believe that the rejection of radical gender theories is the same as racial discrimination. To these radicals, being appalled at incest, for example, “has more in common with ideologies of racism than with true ethics. It grants virtue to the dominant groups, and relegates vice to the underprivileged.”iii
Parents can and do object to K-12 instruction on gender identity without also knowing the underlying theory’s obsession with power. For parents, rejecting radical gender theory is a matter of protecting their children. The rest of us, though, should reject queer theory’s attempt to gain control of the next generation.
i “Introduction to ‘Part Six: Intersection of Race and Gender’” in Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement, edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw et al. (New York: The New Press, 1995), 354.
ii Kimberlé Crenshaw, “The Intersection of Race and Gender” in Critical Race Theory: The Writings that Formed the Movement, edited by Kimberlé Crenshaw et al. (New York: The New Press, 1995), 366-367.
iii Gayle Rubin, “Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality,” in Pleasure and Danger: Exploring Female Sexuality, edited by Carole S. Vance (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 283.
This piece originally appeared in the Gender Theory Toolkit of the Idaho Freedom Foundation