Conservatives are a Danger to Children
While conservatives claim to fear for kids, they adopt policies, elect leaders, and foster cultures dedicated to child abuse.
In the last weeks the anti-trans bigotry, panic, and legislation that has been brewing for years has crescendoed not only with the very public and widespread slandering of trans people as threats to children, but the return to America’s long history of brutal homophobia.
The children at the center of this debate are as much pawns as they are victims. In their efforts to vilify LGBTQ+ people, conservatives have not only directly endangered the lives of trans and gay children, but all children, regardless of their politics, gender, or sexuality.
Take my own former school district for example — spawning from the latest wave of Koch-funded far-right school board campaigns, a new set of Republicans won seats on ASD20’s board. Among their first orders of business — after decreasing teacher pay and banning “critical race theory” — was to “protect” children by forbidding teachers from offering them any medical advice of any kind without direct parental permission.
The obvious and sometimes explicit intention here was to “prevent” children from “becoming” trans, with the (likely intentional) side-effect of denying gay and trans kids support, and, invariably, endangering their lives as a result.
One California school district is being sued by a mother who claims her child was “manipulated” into changing his gender identity after he joined the school’s equity club (a club for LGBTQ students). If conservatives have their way, and that club is shut down, children like her son will be denied what may be their only safe place to explore their identity. A recent NIH study found that being denied such support, especially in childhood, is a major driver of the tragically high suicide rate among trans teens.
Of course, trans children would not be the only ones harmed by these kinds of rules. Should teachers be disallowed from offering medical advice (the policy being debated in my former district), girls experiencing their first periods, which frequently occur at schools, would be denied access to medical support. Teenagers facing asthma, epilepsy, or other conditions that often show their first symptoms in schools will be left to suffer. Teachers would be forced to choose between their jobs and the safety of their students.
Worst, and most telling, of all, victims of abuse, at home, church, or school will be further isolated. Without the ability to check on students or offer advice regarding the visible and psychological symptoms of abuse, teachers will be unable to identify, and therefore report, abuse.
This is all part of a much larger conservative project to isolate, abuse, and endanger children.
Efforts to defund schools, remove afterschool programs, bring churches into public education, and, whenever possible, remove children from schools altogether have the inevitable result of exposing children to further abuse — children with limited or no access to adults outside of their families or religious communities may be physically unable to report abuse, much less escape it.
This conservative support of child abuse is far from hypothetical or implied — you can rarely spend more than 10 minutes around conservative groups without hearing explicit and gleeful calls for corporal punishment, lowering the age of consent, and legalizing (or maintining the legality of) child marriages.
There has also been a long-standing effort by conservatives to gut or even ban sex education in US schools. This is done with the claimed intentions of lowering teen pregnancy rates and protecting the innocence of youth. In actuality, however, comprehensive sex education not only lowers teen pregnancy rates, but also reduces rates of sexual abuse. Children who have the language and context to understand what sex is, and a safe environment to discuss it, are much more likely to identify and report abuse. On the other hand, children who are “protected” from sex education by conservatives may not even know abuse is wrong, understand what is happening to them, or be able to report it.
The conservative support for child abuse goes beyond policy, however. The very highest rungs of the conservative movement practice this abuse themselves, sometimes openly.
Dennis Hastert, Republican speaker of the house between 1999 and 2007, is a convicted pedophile. Ronnie Floyd, Trump ally and head of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, covered up at least 700 reports of child abuse across the organization. Republican Represenative Matt Gaetz is under investigation for sex trafficking of minors.
The last Republican president has not only been accused of raping teenagers, he has gleefully admitted to watching underage girls change at his beauty pageants. From pastors to presidents, the conservative movement is led by child abusers.
Of course, while all this goes on, and while conservatives make every attempt to further endanger children, they pretend to be shocked and horrified by the existence of trans people. They decry child abuse while passing statewide legislation to bully individual trans students.
But far worse than being hypocrites, conservatives are a danger to children. Not just gay children. Not just trans children. To all children. To your children.
It’s time they were treated as such.