The nation’s largest teachers union recommends that educators begin teaching the concepts of preferred personal pronouns and gender identity starting in pre-kindergarten.
“When you look at elementary school students, many people think they are too young to talk about pronouns,” said panelist Matthew Powell, a member of the National Education Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee, during a webinar last summer.
“However, by asking students their [preferred] pronouns at a young age,” Powell added, so-called education support professionals “can make room for students who may be exploring gender identity and show everyone [that] gender identity should not just be assumed.”
The Daily Signal reviewed the contents of the NEA-hosted panel discussion, held remotely June 23. The title of the webinar was “Using Pronouns to Create a Safe, Welcoming, and Inclusive Environment.”
According to audio and video available online, panelists exchanged pointers on how to teach students from preschool through college about using preferred personal pronouns.
Saul Ramos, a high school teaching assistant on the panel, said during the teachers union’s event that schools should be a place of support for students whose parents don’t accept their gender identity.
“Our educators have a real, big interest in using the correct names and pronouns for students, because we all know once you do start using someone’s correct pronouns, statistically it has shown that the suicide rates dramatically drop,” Ramos said.
No evidence of a connection between failure to use preferred personal pronouns and youth suicide exists, Jay Greene, senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s multimedia news organization.)
“The completely baseless suggestion that kids will kill themselves if teachers don’t use certain pronouns is essentially a form of extortion,” said Greene, author of a recent report on youth suicide and transgender medical treatments.
“It is no more credible and should no more be catered to than when people threaten that they’ll kill themselves if they don’t get the latest iPhone,” he said.
NEA, whose website claims it is the largest labor union in the U.S., has a history of pushing radical gender ideology on teachers and students.
The teachers union’s July conference in Chicago called for preferential treatment for those with “nonconforming genders.” In October, the union released a list of possible preferred personal pronouns, including “they,” “ze,” “zem,” and “zir.”
NEA also issued a guide to LGBT rights for teachers that describes “mispronouning” as “a form of harassment.”
‘Welcoming and Safe Place’
The five panelists emphasized the importance of distinguishing biology from gender in the classroom.
“Being thoughtful about how we use our pronouns is a meaningful way we can support students whose gender might be different than what’s on their birth certificate,” Powell told webinar attendees.
Powell recommended asking students of all ages their preferred names and personal pronouns and what they would like to be called to create an inclusive environment for LGBT students.
“Even if students are not accepted at home, oftentimes schools are their only place of hope for a welcoming and safe place,” Powell said.
Heritage’s Greene said teachers should recognize the rights of parents in the education of their own children.
“When teachers decide that they are going to expose children to [preferred personal] pronouns and gender identity regardless of parental preferences, as the NEA recommends, they are breaking faith with parents and undermining the integrity of families,” Greene told The Daily Signal.
The National Education Association didn’t respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on this report.
‘Pronouns Are About Respect’
During the webinar, panelist Bobby Travers recommended introducing books that cover preferred personal pronouns and gender identity into libraries starting in pre-K.
Travers suggested using lists of recommended books from Welcoming Schools, an inclusion program offered by the Human Rights Campaign, the powerful LGBT political advocacy group .
These include books marketed for kindergartners regarding transgenderism, such as “I Am Jazz: Understanding Transgender Children,” and gender expression, such as “Love Makes a Family” and “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.” The latter book, the story of a male bunny who likes another male bunny, is a parody of a children’s book by Charlotte Pence, daughter of former Vice President Mike Pence.
The NEA panel also addressed challenges in teaching elementary schoolers about preferred personal pronouns. The panelists suggested working preferred pronouns into English class and encouraged to teachers to include them when introducing themselves to their students.
“At the elementary level, pronouns are about respect,” Powell said. “The greatest thing you can do to show respect is to correctly identify them by their proper names and their proper pronouns they like to be used.”
Powell promoted “I’m Here” badges from the NEA-LGBTQ+ Caucus, which include a “Quick Response,” or QR, code that students may scan to access resources describing abortion as the removal of “pregnancy tissue,” encouraging gender transitions without parental consent, and promoting “sex work.”
NEA members founded the LGBTQ+ Caucus in the 1980s to “provide educators, education support professionals, and students, with safe schools free of anti-LGBTQ+ bias and intolerance, and to provide sound education programs for all students,” according to the union’s website.
“Using [preferred personal] pronouns allows students to be part of the school community,” panel moderator and biology teacher Bill Farmer said. “If they’re not being supported, there’s no way that child can succeed in school.”
‘Misgendering’ Equals Disrespect
The panel talked about how to address students and colleagues who don’t take the pronouns issue seriously. Ramos emphasized that preferred pronouns are nothing to joke about.
“I don’t deal good when someone uses it as a joke because, to me, nothing about it is a joking matter,” he said.
The panel discussed ways to refer to students without using the “gender binary,” including “Hey, folks” or “Listen, everyone,” instead of “Hey, guys.”
As a biology teacher, Farmer said, he teaches the equivalent of “Gender Identity 101” in conglomeration with anatomy lessons. He warned against conflating “biological sex and gender identity.”
“Gender identity is how you see yourself within the greater context of society, separate from the biological component of your physical anatomy,” Farmer said.
Anthony Brisson, senior analyst in NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Department, concluded the panel by encouraging attendees to use everyone’s preferred personal pronouns as a sign of respect and inclusivity. “Misgendering” reflects disrespect, he said.
“Social interactions where a person is addressed by their correct name and pronouns consistent with their gender identity are widely recognized as a basic, yet critical, aspect of gender affirmation,” Brisson said. “Addressing someone by the wrong name or misgendering through the use of incorrect pronouns can feel disrespectful, unsafe, and harmful to the person being misgendered.”
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