I learned over a two-decade diplomatic career serving on four continents that whatever the relative size and power of our countries, even our allies don’t like to be preached to.

Countries we were attempting to win over—or for whose affections we were competing with China and others—are even more sensitive.

What makes sense is to focus on common interests, and to promote enduring U.S. values, such as free speech, free and fair elections, equal rights, and the rule of law. Beyond that, we should leave other societies to develop in their own way and at their own pace.

Last May, I wrote that a U.S. embassy should fly only the flag of the United States. (A bill was introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., in January that “prohibits the flying of any flag other than the U.S. flag over U.S. diplomatic and consular posts,” but it has not become law.)

I argued at the time that pushing contentious aspects of U.S. domestic policy onto traditional, religious, or conservative countries was an unnecessary diversion of resources from core foreign policy goals, and that it could even backfire.

A year later, this tweet from the U.S. Embassy in Brazil reminds us that the Biden administration’s foreign policy grows ever more beholden to gender ideology. This June, the Embassy “invites public school teachers to participate in a series of online workshops on topics about the LGBTIQA+ community and school.”

How, you might wonder, does promoting gender ideology further U.S. foreign policy objectives?

The U.S. is struggling to find a national consensus on the issue of sex. Until recently, we all agreed that there were two human sexes, male and female, as with other mammals. There are a small number of people born with various anomalies, but humans come in two types—those that produce small gametes (sperm) or large ones (eggs).

As Deborah Soh explains in “The End of Gender: Debunking the Myths About Sex and Identity in Our Society,” there have historically been a small number (about 1 in 5,000) of people who feel uncomfortable or alienated in their bodies. Some have elected to live their lives as the opposite sex, like the Hijras in India or the Fa’afafine in Samoa.

In America, we had a few famous examples like Renée Richards or Wendy Carlos in the 1960s and ’70s, but the phenomenon was very rare. Most cases were male. Now, in the past few years, as Abigail Shrier wrote in her book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters” (once banned in Target), there has been an explosion of girls “identifying” as boys.

That this massive rise is linked to social media use, comorbidities, and mass contagion seems obvious to all but the most devout of gender cultists. Thousands of these girls, and some boys, have fallen into the eager arms of activists, therapists, and the medical industry, as Helen Joyce of The Economist writes in “Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality.”

While other countries and some U.S. states are slowly waking up from this nightmare, the Biden administration has gone all-in on gender dogma, adjusting the language of government to fit. “Sexual orientation” for the purpose of law becomes “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics.” “Women” becomes “women and girls, in all their diversity”—which in U.N.-speak includes men, too.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s $2.6 billion budget request for 2022 referred to the National Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, which at first glance appears to be about women and girls in places where they face disadvantage. However, read on, and you learn that USAID wants to spend the extra money by “addressing the gender norms and inequities impacting women and girls, men and boys, and individuals of other gender identities.”

USAID will pay “particular attention to “women and girls in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community,” which includes biological males.

How did a foreign aid emphasis shift from biological females into the world of “gender”? The pattern goes as follows: First, a vanguard of radical progressives insists that a particular belief be tolerated by the public. In America, a country founded and settled to a considerable degree by people trying to get away from forced religious or political conformity in Europe, that’s a pretty easy sell.

Once that’s achieved, activists insist that the newly tolerated belief be celebrated, even by those who do not agree with it. That phase comes when basketball players are expected to take an unthinking knee unless they want to be thought of as bigots, or when the hockey players have to wear matching team patches, regardless of their own personal beliefs, or when baseball players are expected to accept the “inclusion” of a group that actively mocks a religion many of them adhere to.

The third and final stage is mandatory participation, even by conscientious objectors. That’s the stage where you must do the salute, or say the magic words, or affirm the belief, without question, any time, on demand.

With gender ideology, that’s the stage where therapists and doctors must automatically “affirm” the gender identities of vulnerable children, including through experimental drugs and irreversible surgery. If they don’t, at best they’ll be attacked as “transphobic” and at worst they will suffer serious professional sanctions.

Even if a parent, teacher, therapist, or doctor thinks the child’s stated gender identity could be fleeting, delusional, or a diversion from serious mental health comorbidities, as is statistically probable, they must go along. If they don’t, they face being charged with attempting “conversion therapy,” which under the Biden administration’s definition includes efforts to make a person comfortable as they were born.

The nature of sex and gender, and the rights that go with them, is a major domestic political fight, the outcome of which is not certain. In the meantime, we have no business exporting our definitions, or sexual politics, abroad.

Efforts to do so will complicate and even undermine our global efforts to promote health, economic growth, and democracy overseas.

Let Old Glory fly alone over our foreign missions, and let’s keep our proselytizing to ourselves until we’re good and sure we’ve got it right.

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