Ms. Sparkle is Twi-Curious

It's just about time for Back To School, so you know what that means: Time to return to fighting the Culture Wars in the classroom! The latest rightwing panic is over a recent training session for teachers in North Carolina's Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that suggested ways in which teachers and other staff can be sensitive to the needs of trans students and prevent them from getting bullied. As we have all known for years, "preventing bullying" is liberal code for "cramming homosexuality down our children's throats."

At the core of the furor is a little chart from a group called Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER), using a little purple "gender unicorn" to sort out some of the multiple ways in which we talk about gender identity. The chart appeared only as part of a presentation for teachers and staff, but since there's a cartoony unicorn on it, the Wingnuttosphere has been freaking out over what they assume is a freaky new mascot that will be in every classroom telling their precious children to go pee in the wrong restroom and buy a Subaru.

And golly, are the wingnuts ever panicking. At Glenn Beck's the Blaze, deranged "professional truth sayer" Matt Walsh flat out lied about the training session, claiming "Charlotte public schools have banished the terms 'boy' and 'girl' from their classrooms" and "Boys will even be permitted to take part in 'all-girl' overnight excursions, so long as they become girls for the duration of the trip," which he then wittily observes can't even be organized since no one is allowed to say "boy" or "girl" anymore, haw-haw-haw. In plain old reality, there's no ban on gendered pronouns, but the presentation did suggest the radical notion that school staff respect the pronouns kids might prefer to go by, and "recommended that staff avoid gendered language by referring to students as 'scholars' or 'students' versus boys or girls, for example." HORRIFYING! And also reminiscent of the fuck-tussle over a list of gender-neutral pronouns that wingnuts claimed were now "mandatory" at The University of Tennessee Knoxville, when in mere boring reality the university's Pride Center had simply sent out the list as a suggestion -- there were no language police forcing people to replace "he" and "she" with "ze" on pain of being forced to binge watch Ru Paul's Drag Race.

Walsh also fulminates about kids being "indoctrinated into pagan superstitions and preyed upon by psychologically abusive predators" and offers this fanciful version of what the "gender unicorn" is all about:

Students in the greater Charlotte area will actually be learning about gender from a gender unicorn. The gender unicorn is just like a regular unicorn, except this one is purple, has a tattoo on its crotch, and it wants to talk to your kids about sex. It’s truly the stuff of nightmares. The weird, drug induced nightmares of a mentally deranged pedophile.

That's an awful lot of paranoia to project onto a single cartoon figure. Son of a preacher man Franklin Graham told his Facebook readers the whole thing reeked of Communist brainwashing and that the unicorn figure was clearly designed "to grab the imagination of children and make this seem acceptable." Fox News joined Walsh and Graham on the fainting couch -- but not touching, for godssakes! -- with one worried panelist fretting,

I’m worried that school is no longer about reading, writing, and math. What is happening? We can’t call boys boys and girls girls anymore? And that unicorn could frankly be a little bit scary.

It really wouldn't do any good to point out to these folks that the critter isn't actually going to appear in any classroom materials, would it? Or to note that it appeared on a single slide in a presentation for staff, not students? Or that the schools are not going to be holding any overnight campouts for girls with one boy in drag who decides to infiltrate? Of course not. Once this idiocy makes it out onto the Wingnut World Web, there's no stopping it. And to think that just Tuesday we'd gone and praised Glenn Beck's The Blaze for occasionally debunking rightwing craziness.

The whole pointless rightwing meltdown is similar to another Fox-News driven panic from December 2014 over sex ed classes at a high school in Lafayette, California, where the instructional materials included a similarly terrifying "Genderbread Person" and presumably encouraged innocent children to choose their gender every morning to go along with whatever outfit they'd be wearing. In that case, the unspeakably scary cookie creature actually was used in classroom materials -- for high school students -- but parents had the choice of opting their special snowflakes out of the class.

We haven't checked, but we'll assume that in the past year and a half, either the entire student body of Acalanes High School has had gender reassignment surgery, or the fuss blew over and the fear of LGBTQ brainwashing has moved on to North Carolina. We'll keep you updated when it next manifests in the form of a Gender Llama in North Dakota.

[ThinkProgress / The Blaze]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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