In the Line of Fired
You’ve heard of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” — well, now it’s the emperor’s new gender. And in the Leftist-dominated schools of America, saying there is no such thing just might cost you your job. That’s the astounding reality in Virginia, where a high school teacher was fired last night for telling administrators he couldn’t call a girl a boy. Peter Vlaming, the popular French teacher at West Point High, didn’t set out to become the newest face in the war on religious liberty. But then, he probably never dreamed using the correct pronoun would cost him his teaching career either.
For Vlaming, the board’s decision at Thursday’s public hearing was a shock. After all, he’d offered a perfectly acceptable compromise. “I’m totally happy to use [her] new name,” he said. When it came to other references, he would try “to avoid female pronouns… because I’m not here to provoke…” But, he was clear, “I can’t refer to a female as a male, and a male as a female in good conscience and faith.”
That wasn’t good enough for the students’ parents — or West Point High’s leadership, who suspended Vlaming in October — and then Thursday night, ended his tenure for good. District Superintendent Laura Abel tried to defend the school’s decision, claiming that his “discrimination leads to creating a hostile learning environment,” she argued. “And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that. They felt disrespected.”
But how do you think Vlaming — and every student or staffer who operates in reality — feels? Respected? The school’s intolerance for teachers who refuse to participate in a fantasy creates a hostile environment all right — but for truth!
Shawn Voyles, Vlaming’s attorney, is flabbergasted that the school is trying to justify their own discrimination by accusing his client of it. “Tolerance is a two-way street,” Voyles told reporters. “My client respects this student’s rights — he’s simply asking that his rights be respected as well.” And here’s what’s astonishing: there was a solution on the table that respected everyone’s wishes. The fact that the school refused to accept it shows just how uninterested they are in creating a safe and open-minded environment. This wasn’t about coexistence — it was about conformity.
The real issue here, Voyles explained, isn’t the student. The issue is that the district is forcing a teacher to lie as a condition of his employment. “The student is absolutely free to identify as the student pleases. The school board adopted one viewpoint and required Mr. Vlaming, at the cost of his job, to repeat that ideology, repeat that viewpoint. That’s where it’s compelled speech. That’s where it violates his First Amendment right he still retains as a public employee.”
At times, the emotional four-hour hearing — filled to the brim with Vlaming’s supporters — was almost surreal. Here is an educator, of all people, being ordered by his own school to reject the subjects they’re teaching! Biology, language, psychology, worldview — without universal truths (or at least a factual basis), they’re all moot. Still, the board didn’t just vote to sack Vlaming, they voted unanimously to send the message across public schools that non-conformers need not apply.
Like a lot of people, FRC’s Cathy Ruse is amazed at the double standard. “So students are allowed to remain silent during the Pledge of Allegiance, but this teacher couldn’t remain silent when it came to pronouns?” What makes the case even more ridiculous, she points out, is that Vlaming was fired over a third-person pronoun, which (in case the school’s forgotten in its wholesale rejection of grammar) isn’t used when you address someone face-to-face. Third-person pronouns are used in the student’s absence — when you’re speaking to others about “him” or “her.” So this is not a question of courtesy. In all likelihood, the student would’ve never even heard Vlaming utter the pronoun he was fired for!
“My religious faith,” Vlaming tried to explain, “dictates that I am to love and respect everyone, whether I agree with them or not — because we are all made in God’s image.” It was that image Vlaming wanted so desperately to honor.
In the end, this is a tragedy for everyone. Not just because it cost Peter his job — but because it cost a hurting girl the one adult in her life who was willing to love her as God made her.
Originally published here.
On Gender, the Science Is Deafening
Reading the headlines this week is like taking a trip to an alternate universe. Ten years ago, if you’d have said that in 2018 teachers would get fired for calling a girl a girl, most people wouldn’t have believed you. Unfortunately, that’s the ridiculous world Americans are waking up to every morning. But to most people’s relief, not everyone is playing along with this charade. And that includes President Trump.
Almost two years in, this administration is still trying to mop up the mess made by Barack Obama. And considering the huge disaster they inherited, it’s amazing how much progress the White House has already made rolling back the absurdity of Obama’s LGBT legacy. After squashing the government’s gender-free bathroom mandate, President Trump moved on to the military. Now, he’s directed his agencies to make one of the most important changes of all: protecting the 54-year-old Civil Rights Act.
Barack Obama chose to read the law the way he wanted — not how it was written by Congress. For the last few years of his administration, he started using his own interpretation of the Civil Rights Act to give special protections to people who identify as transgender. There’s just one problem: that’s not what the 1964 Congress meant — and it’s not what the statute says. So, President Trump issued his own memo. For the purposes of his administration, the Justice Department explained, “sex discrimination” would not include “gender identity.”
That was music to the ears of a lot more than conservatives. In the medical community, experts were relieved to see that the president’s policy matched what was wise and prudent for patients. In a letter to the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services, a coalition of doctors, bioethicists, therapists, academics, and policy groups all praised the president for taking a scientifically-sound approach.
Dr. Michelle Cretella, head of the American College of Pediatricians, explained why that’s so important in an interview on Thursday’s “Washington Watch.” The letter, she points out, represents the views of more than 30,000 physicians who all understand that gender identity is a very real threat to modern health care. “Transgenders are saying, ‘I think and feel this way, therefore, I am.’ And it’s one thing for us to, as physicians, treat the person with respect and honor their name change, but it would be a complete malpractice to treat them as the opposite sex.”
As she explains, there is nothing any of us can do to change our binary, biologically-determined-at-conception sex. “A man on estrogen is not a woman. He is a man with a male physiology on estrogen, and that’s how a physician must approach him.” The very serious problem, she points out, is that people are so ideologically-driven that they want to ignore the medical research. More than ever, Dr. Cretella says, “Medicine is at the point now where we understand that men and women have — at a minimum — 6,500 genetic differences between us. And this impacts every cell of our bodies — our organ systems, how diseases manifest, how we diagnose, and even treat in some cases.”
Treating a person differently based on their feelings isn’t just harmful, she argues, but deadly. In cases like heart disease, certain drugs can endanger women and not men. Even diagnoses present differently in men and women. The symptoms for certain diseases, she explains, can manifest themselves in completely opposite ways. “And these are nuances that medicine is finally studying and bringing to light. And it’s actually ironic that the transgender movement [is] so anti-science.”
“There is absolutely no rigorous science that has found a trait called ‘gender identity’ in the brain, body, or DNA. Now sex — I can show you that. It’s in our chromosomes. It’s in the body. It’s in the reproductive organs. Over 99.98 percent of the times, our sexual development is clearly and unambiguously either male or female.” The sex differences, she explains are real and consequential.
If she had one message for America, Dr. Cretella said, it would be this: “Stick with science.” Thank goodness for us, the president has.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.