Gender ideologues in California let the mask slip, or perhaps just tossed it away: A new bill, AB 957, directs family court judges to award custody based in part on “a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity,” which the bill defines as intrinsic to the “health, safety and welfare of the child.”
The three other factors a judge must consider in custody disputes: A parent’s “history of abuse,” presence in a child’s life, and habitual use of illegal drugs. Leaving little doubt what the state thinks of parents who do not “affirm” a child’s gender journey, the statute places their conduct in line with physical abuse, neglect, and depravity.
Defenders of the bill point out that “affirmation” of a child’s gender identity is only one factor for a judge to consider in custody determinations. Like “history of abuse” and drug addiction, it’s likely to be decisive.
How far must a parent go in pursuit of “affirmation”? The bill doesn’t say. “Affirmation” can include anything from allowing your daughter to adopt a male name and pronouns to commencing a schedule of hormones and surgeries that are variously risky, irreversible, and without proven mental health benefit. Puberty blockers, a staple of so-called “gender-affirming medicine,” can produce permanent sexual dysfunction and infertility, diminish cognitive development, undermine bone density and tooth enamel. How much is custody or visitation of your daughter worth to you, the Gender Thugs want to know. Sterilization and splitting teeth?
Is it enough if you’re willing to call your 12-year-old daughter “Ethan”? Will allowing your middle-school daughter to shave her head suffice, or must you also consent to her medically-unnecessary double mastectomy? In a state where these chemical and surgical options are possibilities for minors, parental endurance becomes the only limiting factor. How much damage will you countenance for the chance to hold your daughter’s hand in recovery?
Appellate courts are unlikely to clarify the bill’s chilling ambiguities. For one, family court is a repository of broad judicial discretion. For another, few parents are brave enough to test it. Consider the crucible: Accept the “affirmation” condition and greenlight your child’s gender transition. Reject the condition and the gender train rolls on anyway. Just without you.
How can any legislator honestly claim that affirmation of a child’s gender identity is always in her best interest? If she is the twelfth child to do so in her seventh-grade class? If she arrives at this epiphany after a weekend spent on Youtube? No chance that the child might be succumbing to peer influence? No chance that the parents who’ve raised her might know her just a little better than she does herself?
Today, the notion that “affirmation” is necessarily in the best interest of every child can no longer seriously be believed. In the last two years, England, Sweden, and Finland have all conducted rigorous scientific reviews of pediatric gender medicine and concluded the opposite. The efficacy, far too doubtful. The harms, too grave. These countries—every one of them liberal—responded to their independent reviews by shuttering pediatric gender clinics, curtailing the availability of these medicines, restricting them to experimental settings, or banning them entirely.
But in the United States, where medicine is decentralized and medical organizations politicized, no such inquest can switch off the fast-moving belt conveying children toward harm. Not even judicial review by the Supreme Court of the United States is likely to save families. As family-law expert Scott Altman, a professor at University of Southern California School of Law, said to me of AB 957: “I don’t think there’s any question that this is constitutional.”
Where parents agree, there may be parental rights to claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. “But when parents disagree,” Altman said, “I think their substantive due process rights to guide the child’s upbringing are off-setting each other.” The state must solve the dispute somehow. Why not with faddish pseudoscience?
While the bill technically only directs judges in custody disputes, the judiciary is unlikely to miss its implication: In the eyes of the state, parents who reject gender ideology are abusers of children. Another bit of leverage claimed by the state, designed to box families in, pressing mom and dad with an offer they cannot refuse.
Scott Wilk, a Republican state senator, summarized the gist of AB 957 nicely: “If you love your children, you need to flee California. You need to flee.”
But to where, exactly? In America, where gender medicine remains remarkably impervious to evidence, any parent who “affirms” meets only cultural tailwinds. A day at the White House. Renewed promises of protection from our President.
It is the parent who refuses to affirm who puts much at risk—her job, reputation, even her custody. If any parent deserves a judicial plus-factor in her favor, it’s the one willing to lay everything on the line to see that her child reaches adulthood intact.
Which is what makes this cultural battle so different from the traditional sort—debates over the welfare state, environmental policy, gun control, abortion and the like. Gender ideologues don’t merely regard parents who believe in biological reality as the Left has viewed religious people for decades: backwards and outdated. Nor do they regard children as a nuisance, the way net-zero climate activists often do.
“These are our kids,” President Joe Biden likes to say of LGBTQ-identified minors. “These are our neighbors. Not somebody else’s kids; they’re all our kids.” That isn’t President Biden wandering off-script. It’s a theme he’s carefully recited and repeated in a video celebrating Pride Month, at the White House Pride Celebration, and in formal address to LGBTQ activist organizations.
Teachers and activists and influencers and therapists suggest to a child that she might be “genderqueer.” The moment she takes the bait, she trips the wire, and becomes “all our kids.” A chattel of the state, refugee from spiteful parents, another recruit in an army that marches under its own flag. The state is listening, ready to parachute in and liberate children from the only adults desperately devoted to their welfare.