Editor’s note: This article first appeared in City Journal.
The Michigan Department of Education has adopted a radical gender theory program that promotes gender “fluidity” beginning in elementary school and encourages teachers to facilitate the sexual transition of minors without parental consent.
I have obtained videos and internal documentation from the state’s training program, which first took place in 2020 and was repackaged for public school employees for the 2021–2022 school year. The training program mimics the basic narrative of academic queer theory: the presenters claim that the West has created a false notion that “gender is binary” in order to oppress racial and sexual minorities. In response, the department encourages teachers to adopt the principle of “intersectionality,” a key tenet of critical race theory, in order to “dismantle systems of oppression,” which are replicated through the culture and institutions of education.
The first step to dismantling these systems, according to the presenters, is to disrupt the gender binary. In one presentation, trainer Amorie Robinson, who describes herself as a “Black, masculine-identified, cisgendered lesbian baby boomer” and uses the “African name” Kofi Adoma, says that “we’ve been condition and we’ve been acculturated in this particular culture that gender is binary.” But teachers should know that, in fact, gender is a spectrum, including identities such as “gender non-binary,” “gender fluid,” “gender queer,” “gender non-conforming,” and “bi-gender.” Likewise, sexual orientation can include an expanding range of categories. Students might identify as “asexual, lesbian, straight, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, demisexual, demiromantic, aromantic, and skoliosexual,” says Robinson. “I’ll leave that to you to go Google on those. Because we ain’t got time today!”
Next, Robinson and Kim Phillips-Knope, project lead of the LGBTQ+ Students Project, share a series of TikTok videos featuring adolescents exploring their sexual identity. “I am a triple threat: I’m depressed, anxious, and gay,” says one. “Last night at about 2 a.m., I put in my bio that I identify as ‘agender,’ which is different than non-binary because non-binary is like neither gender, right? Agender is like the gray area between genders,” says another individual. “Hi, my name is Elise,” says another. “I’ve used she/her pronouns all my life. But recently, and for a while, I’ve been struggling with gender issues as well as a whole lot of other identity things. So, I finally gave in and ordered a [breast] binder for myself and it just came in today. And I have never been happier with how my body looks since I was a kid.”
A rational observer might suspect that these youths are in a state of confusion or distress, but rather than explore this line of reasoning, the education department trainers promote a policy of immediate and unconditional affirmation. “Kids have a sense of their gender identity between the ages of three and five, so about the time that kids have language, they can start to share with us whether they’re a boy or a girl—usually those are the only things that they will identify as, because those are the only options we’ve given them,” says Phillips-Knope. In response to a teacher who asked how to respond to a student in her classroom who claims to have “she/he/they/them” pronouns, Amorie responded adamantly: “Go with what the kid says. They’re the best experts on their lives. They’re the best experts on their own identities and their own bodies… You may have to sit with some discomfort sometimes.”
This ideology has deep ramifications for school policy. The training recommends that teachers abandon so-called gendered language, such as “boys and girls,” and replace those terms with gender-neutral variations such as “earthlings,” “people with penises,” and “people with vulvas.” The Department of Education also advises teachers to create “Gender & Sexuality Alliance” clubs targeting students as young as elementary school, using private communications and fictitious names to conceal the nature of these initiatives from parents. In private, however, the trainers are straightforward about their objectives: these clubs, using cover names such as “Leadership Club” or “Everyone for Equality,” are explicitly designed to advance left-wing gender “activism” and to promote gender “fluidity” beginning in elementary school.
Finally, the Department of Education teaches school employees how to facilitate the sexual transition of children under their care, while keeping the process a secret from parents. The trainers explicitly tell educators that they should keep a student’s new name, pronouns, and sexual identity confidential, including from family, unless otherwise directed by the child.
“Schools should be using the name and pronouns that students go by,” says Phillips-Knope, citing Title IX guidance from the Biden administration’s Office of Civil Rights. Even if a student is suicidal, the department recommends that school officials keep the student’s sexual transition a secret from parents. “If you’re sort of into that area of like, ‘you’re going to hurt yourself or somebody else,’ and you have a duty to report—I mean, the law is really clear about that—you can also talk to parents, though, about like that ‘your kid is having suicidal thoughts,’ without outing them, without saying why,” says Phillips-Knope. “You can say, ‘We have some concerns, your child has shared this,’ [but] I would one-thousand percent recommend working with the student to let them guide that process.”
This is pure radicalism, transmitted from Michigan’s centralized bureaucracy into classrooms throughout the state. The presenters know that parents would reject their theories in any open discussion, so they go to great lengths to conceal their efforts from the public. They have chosen to create a secret gender-radicalism pipeline that uses state resources to push a destructive ideology onto public-school children. As parents discover what is happening, they will revolt against it—and seek to restore their fundamental right, of parents, to direct the education of their children.