The Flying Unicorn Lands in North Carolina
While most may not realize it, North Carolina is ground zero for the battle over woke primary education at the state level. The state education board is majority progressive with one appointed member an anti-racist activist who openly supports the Black Panther-founded Rainbow Coalition of the 60s. The North Carolina State Board of Education meeting room prominently displays the Robert Wood Johnson Health Equity Infographic as an official logo. The elected Republican education superintendent supports CASEL Social Emotional Learning and employs the leftist tactics of redefining terms when supporting equity practices in education:
“It’s important to define what equity and education mean, because we’re starting to lose our way in this battle of ideologies. Equity in education means providing every child what they need at the time they need it,” said Truitt. “It does not mean ensuring equal outcomes.”
In February 2022, NC conservative state board of education member Todd Chasteen resigned, stating that the board’s direction was moving, “away from education towards activism.” He also wrote about the contested 2021 Social Studies Standards, expressing his frustration that “the board passed Social Studies Standards by a slim majority, standards that many of us concluded, and thousands of parents agreed, were unproductive, regressive and unhelpful to the students of this wonderful state.” Among the controversial concepts (including “Whiteness” and “Systemic Racism”) passed in the Glossary of the Standards was “Gender Identity.”
In fact, radical concepts behind “Gender Identity” have long been included in North Carolina’s educational system, and not just at the local level. Currently the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) is reviewing and updating its Healthful Living Standards. The administrator overseeing these standards is Chief of NC Healthy Schools, Ellen Essick, Ph.D. Dr. Essick introduced the “Genderbread Person” and the “Gender Unicorn” as early as 2015 on behalf of the NCDPI as legitimate educational resources during the state education agency’s Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement and other education meetings. Her slides included “Getting to Know Gender-Neutral Pronouns” and pictures of an innocent little boy holding a doll with the title, “Trans-Positive.”
North Carolina also incorporated an even more woke variant of the Gender Unicorn in the state-run gifted and talented Governor’s School program. The Governor’s School is a prime opportunity for progressive state activists to indoctrinate high school students away from family, for the program occurs over five weeks as a summer residential experience on selected NC college campuses. Curricula at this state program -- kept secret from parents -- included power-points of “harmful binary gender norms” and surveys based on the Flying Gender Unicorn, a graphic developed by an Associate Director of LGBTQ Initiatives at Florida International University. FIU described (link now removed) the “Unicorn” as being able to fly off, “escaping the limitations of gender binary.”
In addition to talks about the social construct of gender, Governor’s School assigned lists of privilege, including “Cisgender Privilege,” as journal prompts to the state’s best and brightest. The “Daily Effects of Cisgender Privilege” included statements such as, “Strangers don’t assume they can ask me what my genitals look like and how I have sex,” and, “I do not have to worry that someone wants to be my friend or have sex with me in order to prove his or her ‘hipness’ or good politics.” Governor’s School is run by Sneha Shah-Coltrane, wife to Geoff Coltrane, the senior education advisor to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.
North Carolina citizens are not just paying for Leftist indoctrination in their schools, however. Now taxpayers will be footing the bill for children of state employees to receive controversial “puberty-delaying treatment” and sex transition surgeries. In 2019, five plaintiffs sued leadership in the Office of the NC Treasury for “depriving transgender enrollees of coverage for the treatment of gender dysphoria.” The NC Treasury Department oversees the NC State Health Plan for Teachers and Employees (NCSHP). Two of the five plaintiffs in Kadel v Folwell included families seeking state coverage for the gender-conforming healthcare of their minor-aged children. At the time of filing, one child was 13 and the other was 16. Both had undergone hormone therapy, and the 16-year-old plaintiff underwent double mastectomy or “top surgery,” the removal of bilateral breasts.
This June, U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs ruled for the plaintiffs. She determined that the NCSHP must pay for sex transition surgeries, not only for adult state employees, but for their children. In the concluding opinion, the court wrote, “Defendants attempt to create scientific controversy… through experts who mix their scientific analysis with hypothetical speculation and political hyperbole.”
In all but declaring puberty blockers and sex reassignment surgeries in those younger than 18 a settled science, this U.S. District Court arrogantly ignored the controversies surrounding the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors. In 2021, the show “60 Minutes” faced significant criticism for featuring a report on “young ‘detransitioners’, those who transitioned to the opposite sex but then transitioned back.” And while the District Court was commenting on “the attempt to create scientific controversy,” England’s National Health Service was preparing to announce the shutdown of its Gender Identity Development Service, commonly known as Travistock. The decision to close Travistock was based in part on an independent report by Dr. Hilary Cass, a pediatrician who had been a President of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health. The following statement from the report determines gender treatments in youth are hardly settled (emphasis my own):
The disagreement and polarization [of gender identity in young people] is heightened when potentially irreversible treatments are given to children and young people, when the evidence base underlying the treatments is inconclusive, and when there is uncertainty about whether… medical intervention is the best way of resolving gender-related distress.
The report further discusses unresolved problems with puberty blockers. In writing about these independent report findings and the subsequent Travistock shutdown, James Kirkup in the Spectator concludes, “Yes, an NHS review has found that the drugs that the NHS has been giving to some children may disrupt their brain development and leave them less able to make complex decisions.”
We don’t need to rely on England to understand the controversy behind potentially irreversible medical and surgical therapies for gender dysphoria in minors. One can look to the University of North Carolina Medical Center. A March 2022 talk by the UNC Transgender Health Program/Pediatric and Adolescent Clinic for Gender Wellness clearly stated, “Surgery is not a part of pediatric gender affirming care; patients must be 18 to undergo surgical treatment for gender dysphoria at UNC.”
So how does a U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina reconcile that the NCSHP be responsible for sex-change surgeries in state employee dependents, but the state’s own medical system won’t perform surgeries of this type for minors? How soon will North Carolina doctors be forced to perform surgeries they don’t think appropriate all while North Carolina residents foot the bill?
Although many Americans think of North Carolina as Red, the state has perhaps the most progressive education system in the United States. Gender Unicorns fly around gifted and talented classrooms and Critical Race Theory is infused in Pre-K training. Now, the state’s taxpayers literally will be paying the price for indoctrination in gender-affirming ideologies in education: the state must cover sex reassignment operations and medical therapies for adolescents who place their faith in the state’s activist agenda.
Judge Biggs, in deciding Kadel v Folwell in favor of the plaintiffs, has sided with the activists driving the state educational system: gender ideology is settled science, even if one needs a cartoon mythical creature to teach it.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include the entire quotation from the North Carolina Superintendent regarding equity in education in the context of concerns about Critical Race Theory. This replaces an abbreviated version of that same quotation.