On May 9, Vanita Gupta — the head of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice — uttered these words: Here are the facts. Transgender men are men — they live, work, and study as men. Transgender women are women — they live, work, and study as women. In other words, according to the DOJ, it is a simple “fact” that a man can have a menstrual cycle, that a woman can have a penis, and that men can get pregnant.
Then, on May 13, the administration purported to transform these “facts” into law by issuing a letter that threatened every single public school in America with the loss of federal funds unless it adopts the administration’s point of view that gender is defined not by biology but instead by personal preference. The administration’s edict is clear: It interprets federal law to require schools to create a “safe,” “nondiscriminatory,” and even “supportive” environment for transgender students. Creating gender-neutral access to bathrooms or showers represent mere examples of how schools comply with the edict. In other words, the broad principle is “nondiscrimination,” and bathroom access is but one narrow application. Thinking through the broad principles reveals the depth and breadth of the administration’s power grab. The consequences will be profound.
First, the very act of teaching biology and human physiology will be hate speech unless it’s modified to conform to the new transgender “facts.” Teachers will have to take great pains to note that chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormonal systems, and any other physical marker of sex is irrelevant to this thing called “gender,” which, “factually,” is a mere state of mind. Second, any statements of dissent — from teachers or students — will be treated as both “anti-science” and “discriminatory,” contributing to a “hostile environment” that schools are legally bound to prohibit. This prohibition will go well beyond the use of pronouns and into discussions of what it means to be male and female. The argument that a “girl” with a penis remains a boy will be treated exactly the same as an argument that blacks are inferior to whites or Arabs inferior to Jews.
Third, public schools will now be even further opposed, doctrinally and legally, to orthodox Christianity. Christian parents who send their children to public schools need to be aware of the new “facts.” They will be taught not only that their churches are factually wrong in their assessments of sex and gender but that they are actually bigoted and hateful — comparable to white supremacists. Fourth, the administration’s actions set a key political precedent. Federal funding — long seen as a boon to local schools — is now clearly and unmistakably an instrument of national control. The federal education bureaucracy is stocked with energetic and creative progressives, and last week’s letter represents just one more step in an ongoing effort to turn money into mandates.
Finally, because the administration’s edict is tied to funding, not even civil disobedience can block its enforcement. In other words, state officials can “defy” the edict all they want, but unless a court rules in their favor, the administration need merely stop a bank transfer to enforce its “guidance.” This would place citizens of dissenting states in the unenviable position of either complying — and sacrificing their kids’ liberty and safety — or defying and seeing cash-strapped schools lose millions of dollars in public support, all while they continue to pay taxes to fund progressive jurisdictions.
Unless schools can declare their full and complete independence from federal funding, they will continue to face escalating pressure from the federal government to use their classrooms to transform American culture and values. Even federal dollars granted by a future Republican administration can be used as leverage by the next Democratic president. Funding always equals control.
In her remarks on May 9, Attorney General Lynch very deliberately compared the DOJ’s aggressive actions to guarantee male access to women’s restrooms (and vice versa) to the fight against Jim Crow. These words were an unmistakable declaration of political war against people of orthodox faith, against reason, and against any sense of moral proportion. In uttering those words, she didn’t just grotesquely exaggerate the plight of the transgendered, she minimized the reality and the memory of past discrimination. What’s next? Comparing a Twitter battle to Omaha Beach? But the attorney general did at least do us the favor of signaling the seriousness of her intentions. It’s one thing to read the shrieking rhetoric on sites such as Salon, it’s quite another to hear the same substance uttered by the head of the most powerful law-enforcement agency in the land. If the stakes are that high, then be warned: The Left has barely begun to fight. — David French is a staff writer at National Review and an attorney.