The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Former President Barack Obama used Martin Luther King’s words to project the progressive agenda as morally superior and inevitable. Gender ideologues wrap their efforts in similar packaging. They employ civil rights language to suggest that the drive for “full inclusion” of “sexual and gender minorities” reflects the grassroots uprising of an oppressed community, a spontaneous movement towards the “right side of history.”
It’s not true.
The growing cultural acceptance of sexual and gender diversity is neither organic nor inevitable. Rather, as I have described elsewhere, it is the result of a “top-down, ideological movement…bent on dismantling the natural family, marginalizing or muzzling religious belief, particularly Christianity, and exalting personal ‘will’ and autonomy above everything (except the state, of course).” Ideologues working alone lack the power to embed their beliefs in the culture. But when ideologues join forces with cultural and economic power players—philanthropists, transnational corporations, governments, international organizations, thought-leaders, and advocacy groups, all drawn together by a confluence of interests—the results are transformative. And disastrous. The harm extends beyond the confused and suffering individuals ensnared by the “gender web,” to the cultural and social institutions collapsing amidst anthropological deceit and moral chaos.
Gender ideology’s sweep through the culture is the culmination of strategies implemented decades ago—strategies that have brought the gender revolution to the brink of a terrible victory.
‘Trans’ Is Not the Goal
It’s critical to begin, as Stephen Covey says, with the end in mind.
Gender ideology emerged from radical feminism, “gay liberation,” the sexual revolution, and queer theory (although its philosophical roots lie deeper, in atheism, Marxism, and nihilism). Antithetical to Christianity, gender ideology repudiates the person as a unity of body and soul, created male or female and made for relationship. It rejects the meaning of sexuality, marriage, and the natural family and rebels against “gender and sexual normativity.” Theorists like Judith Butler claim that sexual difference and gender are social constructions; by “doing” and “undoing” gender, the person creates and recreates an identity, from a spectrum of identities.
Gender ideology takes a sledgehammer to the person, human nature, family, and religion.
In his recent book, Martin Duberman, historian and radical “gay liberation” activist from the 70s, rails against LGBTQ “assimilation” tactics and “appalling exemptions for religious conscience.” He reminds the “straight left” and “gay left” of the movement’s original goals: to destroy the nuclear family, erase morality (whether based in religion or natural law), and create a “new utopia in the area of psychosexual transformation…a gender revolution in which ‘male’ and ‘female’ have become outmoded differentiations….”
Radical feminists had similar aims. In 1970, Marxist-feminist Shulamith Firestone wrote that“[t]he end goal of feminist revolution must be…not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself.” Then “the tyranny of the biological family would be broken,” “unobstructed pansexuality” would replace heterosexuality, and “all forms of sexuality would be allowed and indulged.” Firestone argued that “[u]nless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biological family…the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated.”
The end goal of gender ideology, then, is not to integrate LGBTQ-identified people and relationships into current society, mirroring the social norm of heterosexual males and females who marry and have children, but to subvert and destroy that society. In the resulting utopia, every individual (from childhood on) would be free to self-identify beyond the male-female binary, and free to engage in consensual sexual activity, unrestricted by sex, gender, number of persons, marital status, or even age (post-puberty).
Technological developments (from contraception to surrogacy to “gender confirmation” techniques), combined with social disruption, have made these ideological imaginings terribly real. But the ideologues are not done. The quest to normalize transgender and non-binary identities is merely gender ideology’s latest frontier, not its final destination. Firestone’s utopia—pansexuality, fluid sexual identity, unrestricted sexual indulgence, and the end of kinship and biological ties—dances on the imaginary horizon.
Corrupting Language, Obscuring Truth
George Orwell wrote, “[I]f thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought,” and “if you control the language, you control the argument.” Gender ideologues have both corrupted our language and controlled the argument. No need for Soviet-style mass indoctrination sessions to change cultural beliefs about the person, sexuality, and family—ideologues need only redefine words (or invent new ones), speak the new language, and insist that everyone else do the same (which is why ideologues seek to repress dissent).
Words shape our assumptions and our thinking. To “make sense of the alphabet soup” (LGBTQ+), one activist notes, and to be as “respectful and accurate as possible,” everyone needs to learn new “vocabulary definitions.” “Misgendering” others or getting their pronouns wrong violates their “most basic need…to feel safe and to exist in public spaces.” (Errant pronouns apparently can zap a person out of existence.) So LGBTQ activists produce glossaries, lists of definitions, and media guides (defining words and story parameters for journalists). Medical and psychological professional organizations and state and local laws formalize the new gender definitions and courts legitimize them, declaring “transgender boys” (girls) are boys. The institutional policies of universities, public schools, companies, health care groups, governments, media, churches, and other organizations disseminate the new vocabulary and shape constituents’ thinking.
Often accompanied by images of the “Genderbread Person,” the “Gender Unicorn,” or the “Gender Elephant,” gender definitions effectively deconstruct the person into a jumble of parts (gender expression, gender identity, sex assigned at birth, sexual orientation, romantic orientation). The person becomes his (or her, or zir…) own project, always under construction, with ever-evolving gender identities and sexualities. (“Family” consequently degenerates into “any person(s) who plays a significant role in an individual’s life.”)
The burgeoning lexicon reinforces gender ideology’s faulty anthropology and distorted science. Biological sex is fast disappearing, subsumed under bureaucratic definitions of “gender.” For example, although medicine defines biological sex “based on the binary roles that males and females play in reproduction,” the University of California (Davis) now defines “sex” as an arbitrary “medically constructed categorization…assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia.” California regulations on “Transgender Rights in the Workplace,” redefine “sex” as “gender” or “gender identity.” Public and private school policies typically reference not biological sex but “gender assigned at birth.” Anne Arundel County (MD) public schools further obscure reality: their transgender “Guidelines” acknowledge only a student’s “Legal Gender Marker,” defined as “‘sex’ assigned at birth…the designation of the student as ‘male’ or ‘female’ appearing on the Student’s Evidence-of-Birth document.”
Gender ideology changes everyday language too. The spate of transgender “men” (women) giving birth spawns concepts like “chestfeeding” (“men” don’t “breastfeed”) and “pregnant people” (“men” and “non-binary” people get pregnant too). Some parents raise “theybies”—gender-neutral children who will declare a gender when they are older. Occasionally, even ideologues go overboard, however. When Planned Parenthood of Kentucky tweeted a new biological ‘fact’ (“Some men have a uterus”), one Twitter wag replied, “I want to play this game too…some ducks have antlers.”
Massive cultural change requires massive amounts of money. The gender revolution is not a grassroots uprising—a mere 3% of LGBTQ-identified persons contribute $35 or more to support LGBTQ causes. Rather, the funding priorities of a small number of extraordinarily wealthy individuals, personally invested in the LGBTQ agenda, drive the ideological bus. Leveraging their wealth and connections, they create LGBTQ-focused private foundations and bully corporate America into submission. (Recall gay tech mogul Tim Gill’s open contempt for religious opponents of the LGBTQ agenda, as he swore to “punish the wicked.”) According to annual reports by Funders for LGBTQ Issues, in 2016, “United States-based foundations and corporations awarded… $202.3 million to support organizations and programs addressing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer issues,” with three out of four dollars going to LGBTQ advocacy—lawsuits, lobbying, and more. Campaigns to block religious exemptions garnered $2.8 million, while initiatives to woo religious support for the LGBTQ agenda topped $3 million. Funding for transgender issues increased 22% in 2016, reaching $16.8 million. (“Anonymous” funders donated $17 million in addition to the $202 million from foundations and corporations.) These amounts represent donations for just one year.
Social Institutions: LGBTQ Change Agents
Big money opens doors (or pays for lawyers to force them open). For decades, gender ideologues have collaborated with wealth and power to pursue a highly successful strategy for cultural transformation: enlisting trusted social institutions (the military, schools, small business, doctors, and churches) as change agents. For example, America’s military ranks consistently among the most trusted social institutions; roughly three out of four Americans place a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in the military (Gallup 2018). The left has spent millions advocating (and suing) for gay, lesbian, and transgender-identified persons to be allowed to serve openly in the military, although this issue affects a fraction of LGBTQ-identified persons. Why? Not to fulfill the dreams of a few. The goal is to normalize “gender and sexual minorities” by highlighting their integration in the military (no matter how it affects military readiness).
Similarly, small businesses enjoy high social trust with two out of three Americans. But small businesses are vulnerable to local and regional economic pressures, a fact not lost on LGBTQ litigators. They bring high-profile lawsuits targeting small businesses—Christian bakers, printers, and photographers—in order to intimidate all small businesses into backing the LGBTQ agenda. (Or face bankrupting boycotts, fines, or lawsuits.)
Gender activists trade on the small business community’s credibility through a partnership between the Small Business Association and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). “Visibility is power,” says Justin Nelson, NGLCC co-founder. “Companies realize backlash is more likely to come from not being in the LGBT community,” explained Nelson. “That’s a sea change.” The NGLCC has “certified” nearly a thousand businesses as “LGBT-owned small businesses,” making them eligible for corporate “diversity and inclusion” programs and state set-asides, which give preference to businesses owned by veterans, women, and minorities―and LGBTs.
Big businesses—like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Nike, and others— enjoy less social trust, but have immense power to shape public attitudes through advertising, sponsorships, and financial muscle. LGBTQ-themed advertising has exploded the past five years, particularly around “Pride month” (June), which is “very profitable from a company’s perspective,” according to market analysts. “In 2017 alone, LGBT consumer buying power was over $917 billion,” NGLCC’s co-founders write. That’s financial heft. No surprise, then, that business carries water for LGBTQ advocacy groups on political issues. In a move reminiscent of North Carolina’s bathroom battles, corporate giants like Amazon, Apple, Exxon Mobil, and Shell recently pressured Texas lawmakers to vote against a proposed transgender “bathroom bill.”
How did gender ideologues gain such leverage over transnational corporations? By carrot and stick. Over fifteen years ago, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) created a “benchmark” (the “Corporate Equality Index”), which assessed whether mid-to large corporations “discriminated” on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. HRC now publishes its ratings annually, bullying and shaming companies that fail to meet HRC’s “equality” standards while rewarding companies for perfect scores. In 2018, “609 major businesses—spanning nearly every industry and geography—earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of ‘Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.’” (In 2002, by comparison, only 13 companies scored 100 percent.) Overall, the companies participating in HRC’s 2018 ratings represented over 5,000 top brands.
Every few years, HRC’s “equality index” ratchets left, upping both stakes and demands. The 2018 criteria extended far beyond standard employee benefits to shape corporate decisions regarding contracts, donations, advertising, and public relations. Top-rated corporations not only must cover transgender benefits and provide “inclusive” health care (“medically necessary” services for gender transitions, including “sex reassignment”) but must also demonstrate “public commitment to LGBTQ equality,” and require their suppliers, contractors, and vendors to adhere to sexual orientation and gender identity protections too. Companies lose points for having “a connection with an anti-LGBTQ organization or activity.” Since 2014, HRC has also pressured companies to direct their charitable giving only towards non-profits with internal policies against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination (religious organizations are exempt, for now). Starting in 2019, companies with “supplier diversity program[s]” for women or minorities “must include LGBTQ suppliers” as well. Corporate fear of the “bigot” label is a powerful motivator.
Bluntly put, by shaping corporate policies, LGBTQ advocates are bending the marketplace and culture into alignment with the LGBTQ agenda. (Even companies that do not participate in the Corporate Equality Index eventually follow its benchmarks.) HRC has created similar indices that pressure cities (“Municipal Equality Index”) and health care organizations (“Healthcare Equality Index”) to integrate gender ideology into language, regulations, internal policies, and public-facing promotions. HRC also routinely solicits favorable amicus briefs from companies to advance the LGBTQ agenda in cases like Masterpiece Cakeshop.
Other global advocacy organizations and international and regional business coalitions also pressure transnational companies and local businesses to embrace the “business case” for LGBTQ inclusion and get onboard with the gender agenda (see “Open for Business,” “Pride and Prejudice”).
Queering the Schools, Indoctrinating America’s Children
The most potent strategy to drive social change, however, is through education. Gender ideology tiptoed gently into public schools, masked as inclusivity and kindly anti-bullying initiatives (like HRC’s “Welcoming Schools” program). The mask dropped quickly. Programs soon targeted “hetero-normative” and “cis-normative” language and thinking, pretending all students (even kindergarteners) needed freedom to express their “authentic” gendered selves.
School districts adopt gender identity and sexual orientation “anti-discrimination” policies—often over parents’ protests—because of lawsuit threats, state or local regulations, or activists’ pressure tactics. Consequently, the gender agenda affects all children, not only confused children. A welcoming, inclusive, safe school requires everyone to be LGBTQ “allies” and all children to be force-fed a faulty anthropology and destabilizing ideas about identity. Gender ideologues train all school personnel—from bus drivers to principals—in gender terminology, gender transitions, and gender-inclusive language and practices (banishing words like “boys” and “girls”). Worse, activists justify keeping parents in the dark while schools encourage “gender exploration” and gender affirmation, by arguing that children aren’t safe at home when parents (especially religious ones) oppose children’s emerging LGBTQ identities.
Classroom instruction covers gender “definitions” and, increasingly, LGBTQ history. School culture conveys unquestioning acceptance of gender ideology: schools are awash in rainbows, Pride celebrations, safe spaces, gay-straight student clubs, invented pronouns, and transgender-affirming storybooks like The Princess Boy or I am Jazz. Sex education becomes “LGBTQ-inclusive” (because any child might be trans or gay) so every child should learn about anal sex, “women” with penises, and pregnant “people.” Public schools allow transgender students to use opposite-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, overnight accommodations, and to compete on opposite-sex sports teams. (Boys identifying as “transgender girls” won several Connecticut girls’ state high school track championships in 2017 and 2018.) Although nearly half of teachers disagree with transgender bathroom policies, few do so openly.
Why do schools capitulate to gender ideology? Political calculation. They have little choice. Spineless legislators pass regulations to appease LGBTQ bullies, activist lawyers threaten expensive lawsuits, leftwing teachers’ unions and professional education associations pressure compliance, and advocacy groups mount campaigns relentlessly—especially when there’s money to be made. Gender ideologues feed piggishly from the public trough, fattening themselves with contracts for diversity and inclusion training, curriculum consulting, and professional services. (How long until every school needs a gender therapist on staff?)
Medicine Yields to the Gender Lobby
Mainstream medical and counseling associations, having buckled under internal and external ideological pressure, are all-in for gender ideology. The World Health Organization in 2018 revised its disease classifications for transgender and gender identity issues—not because of new medical developments but because of pressure to reduce stigma. Transgender issues are collapsed into “gender incongruence,” categorized under “conditions related to sexual health” rather than mental and behavioral disorders.
Transgender activists lobby for a patients’ “informed consent” model of care, which obliges doctors to approve (and insurance companies to cover) a wide variety of “gender-affirming” procedures. The World Professional Associations for Transgender Health (WPATH) recently collaborated with Starbucks to create model “Transgender medical benefits” (no lifetime maximum), including procedures from brow lifts, buttocks implants, and voice feminization therapies to mastectomies and genital surgeries.
Physicians face increasing pressure to comply with the gender agenda: professional groups rewrite standards of care, institutional non-discrimination regulations require retraining, med schools add LGBTQ specialty courses, and insurance companies accept transgender procedures as “necessary.”
In addition, high demand incentivizes physicians to enter the lucrative practice of “gender care,” particularly for children. In ten years, the number of medical centers treating gender-confused children has multiplied from a handful to over 40. The largest center, at the University of California, San Francisco, treats upwards of 900 children and urges parents to “affirm” the child’s desired gender through social transition, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and genital surgery (age 16 and over). Leading gender doc Johanna Olson-Kennedy—‘married’ to a transgender ‘man’ (female)—admits puberty blocking has serious consequences but fast-tracks children towards transition anyway. In spite of thin research and the life-altering nature of these experimental treatments, child and adolescent referrals for gender treatment are skyrocketing.
The “Faith” Card
The final strategy of the gender revolution is to play the faith card, neutralizing the revolution’s greatest opponent: religion. For a decade, gender activists have sought to exploit religious compassion and work from within to confuse and convert believers (especially teens). The Human Rights Campaign’s “Coming Home” series seduces Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and Evangelicals into believing that compassion and the tenets of their faith require support for “full inclusion” and the LGTBQ agenda. They are succeeding. Beliefs have shifted rapidly among people of faith, towards the pro-LGBTQ column. And more Americans than ever personally identify as LGBTQ: 4.5% of Americans overall and 8.2% of Millennials.
So where does this leave us? Ideological assertions—fictions, really—about the human person, sexuality, and family are burrowing into our social fabric and cultural institutions. Growing numbers of youth are staring blindly at their own bodies, unable to recognize the most elemental truths about who they are. And the voices of religious leaders seem to have grown mute, silenced by the fear of being called a “hater,” or they have joined the popular chorus singing the praises of sex and gender “diversity.”
So what might change this disturbing trajectory? First, truth. Nature itself. Truth has a way of getting our attention, by forcing us to confront the disastrous consequences of embracing a lie: Confused children rendered sterile by hormonal cocktails, young adults with mutilated bodies, and citizens no longer free to express their religious beliefs or speak their minds. Second, a religious and moral awakening. As Pope Benedict observed in 2012, “When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being.” Because the transgender agenda is ultimately a rejection of God, it must be countered spiritually―a responsibility that belongs to every believer.
 This article focuses on the LGBTQ political agenda and the activities and beliefs of LGBTQ activists. It is not meant to imply that a particular individual who identifies as LGBTQ necessarily believes or supports activist positions or the “gender revolution” more generally.
Mary Rice Hasson, JD is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She is also the Director of the Catholic Women’s Forum.
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