Earlier this month, students in grades K-3 at Mitchell Primary School in Kittery, Maine were read the book I Am Jazz, a story about a young transgender child “with a boy’s body but a girl’s brain.” The book had been promoted by the school’s guidance counselor, Dana Richerich, in a blog post back in February. She pointed out that the Maine Supreme Court’s decision last year guaranteeing transgender students recognition in schools “highlighted the need for ALL of us — staff, students, parents, community — to learn more.”
But one parent — who has remained anonymous — objected to the book being read because it prompted her 7-year-old son to start questioning whether he might be transgender. She reached out to Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who amplified the story and pressured the school to apologize. Superintendent of Schools Allyn Hutton stood by the lesson, but admitted that it was an oversight that parents were not notified of the lesson in advance.
Fox News, however, was not done with the story. Wednesday morning, under the headline of “Trouble With Schools,” Elisabeth Hasselbeck hosted guests Tammy Bruce and Dr. Susan Lipkins, a psychologist to discuss the situation. Bruce, repeatedly identifying herself first as a gay woman, implored, “You can be the moral arbiter of your child; it doesn’t make you bigot.” She believes that parents should be able to raise their children with whatever values they want, and should not be rejected as bigots if they reject their transgender children.
Lipkins went a step further, claiming children that young should “absolutely not” be learning about sexuality and gender, because, “It’s not what is most important for them at that point. And I don’t think that kids need to know this or should be knowing this. It is completely confusing to them.” She went onto say that there could be harm because, “It’s insane to say that somebody has a boy’s body and a girl’s brain. What’s a girl’s brain?” Bruce added, “There was a point when I was a child I thought I was a cocker spaniel,” comparing being transgender to any number of childhood fantasies. Watch it (via Media Matters):
Neither Bruce or Lipkins accurately represents the experience of transgender children, who can begin to understand their gender as early as age 2 and who identify as completely with that gender as their cisgender peers. Furthermore, allowing them to identify with that gender improves their mental health, relieving depression and anxiety.
Perhaps the most ironic problem with how Fox News has framed this story is the fact that Jazz Jennings is a real transgender teenager. The book is based on her experience growing up trans, including the fact that she was aware of her gender years before even arriving in Kindergarten, and is designed specifically to help affirm other kids in the same situation.
While one mom was worried that her son might be transgender, another parent was grateful that the school incorporated I Am Jazz. A parent of a transgender child in the Horace Mitchell School system wrote, “People in this country, parents in this country are outraged by bullying, teen suicide rates and the depression in children. The staff of Mitchell School is doing something about this.” He added, “LGBTQ issues should never be classified as a ‘sensitive subject’ — there is nothing sensitive about the way we are born. Blonde hair, brown hair, gay, straight or somewhere in-between, we are all people and we all need acceptance.”