Politics and identity

by Yazmin Macias / Sep 16, 2022

 

 

In this kid-friendly podcast, Worth Noting delves into hot topics in the world currently. Host Matthew Winner dives into each topic and brings information to the front. This episode examines a few different topics, from Anti-LGBTQ legislation being announced in Texas and Florida, to the invasion of Ukraine. 

 

This post has been lightly edited for clarity.  



Matthew: Republican governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has supported a bill to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. 

 

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as it’s known by its opponents, states that “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” 

 

If a parent believes that a teacher, school, or district has violated this bill, assuming the bill passes, that parent could sue. 

 

President Joe Biden called the proposed bill “hateful” and it’s drawn a lot of national and international attention for Gov. DeSantis, who is widely considered to be a potential 2024 presidential candidate. 

 

Why do I add that last bit at the end? Because the governor, like any of us, communicates his values and the values he believes he shares with others, including other members of the Republican Party, by supporting or passing bills such as these.  

 

Consider what might be labeled as “class instruction” on sexual orientation or gender identity in Kindergartern through 3rd grade. Then, hold that in your mind against an image of what you picture as a safe or inclusive classroom for all kids. 

 

Would this bill make it safer or more dangerous for a child who is exploring how they express their gender? Would it make it safer or more dangerous for a kid who doesn’t feel like “boy” or “girl” is the word that best describes how they identify?   

 

Or the word that best matches the body they were born into? Would the bill make it safer or more dangerous to share that you live in a home with two dads? Or two moms? Or that you have a sibling who identifies as transgender? Or as non-binary? 

 

 

 

 

As a teacher and as a parent, I can tell you that I’m of the opinion that if anything whatsoever makes it a more dangerous, more unwelcoming environment for kids, then it’s something we need to actively work against. And I’m not talking about if it’s harmful for all kids, but rather even if it’s harmful for just one kid. 

 

Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida, responded to the bill, telling NBC News, "It’s got to be a terrifying time to be an LGBTQ young person in this country to have your existence legislated by people who don’t look like you or live like you. But I think it’s important for us to tell those young people that they’re not alone in this. I really hope that in all of this coverage that LGBTQ young people see that they have allies and accomplices in the fight, that there are people who are going to work to defend them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and I think it’s most important that they know that they are valued and loved exactly as they are."   

 

Every life has value. No one’s existence should be outlawed by a piece of legislation.

 

Republican political leaders throughout Texas having been gaining press for their opposition to gender-affirming care for transgender youth throughout their state. Before unpacking Republican governor Gregg Abbot’s very public support of these opinions and their related proposed legislation, let’s give space for understanding the experience of transgender youth, at least in small part.  

 

Individuals who identify as transgender feel that their gender identity does not match the gender assigned to them at birth. It can mean that the individual was born with male anatomy, a penis, but feels inside that they are female, not male. 

 

There is a terrific discussion at length on this topic in episode 35 of A Kids Book About: The Podcast with Dale Mueller, author of A Kids Book About Gender, which I’ll link to in the show notes.

 

Gender is a construct. There’s no one way to be a boy or a girl. You can identify as neither. You can identify as both. How you identify is part of knowing who you are and what feels right to you in this time and space. 

 

As a transgender boy or girl grows, they approach the same body changes that all kids do. Only, for trans kids, the changes their body prepares to go through don’t match with their gender identity. The male body begins to produce more testosterone, which leads to a deeper voice and growing hair on your face, armpits, and pubic area, among other changes. The female body begins to produce more estrogen, and results in the development of breasts and the beginning of menstruation. 

 

These are all things we can talk about in greater detail in the future, but the relevance they have here is simple. Doctors can, among other things, prescribe puberty blockers in order to slow these changes from happening.  

 

This gender-affirming care is significant because it means a trans kid can continue to have a body or physical features that more closely reflect how they identify. This care is offered under the consent of the parent or guardian. It follows consultation over several sessions with licensed physicians. And, as stated, it can be reversed.  

 

Equality Texas, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said all children deserve to grow up healthy and learn to take care of their bodies in a way that helps them live full, happy lives. 

 

One representative from Equality Texas shared, "For transgender kids, this might include gender-affirming care that has been endorsed by pediatricians and proven to help kids’ mental health and future well-being." 

 

On Tuesday, February 22nd 2022, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state child welfare agency to investigate reports of "gender-transitioning procedures" as child abuse. 

 

Gov. Abbott and other Republican leaders seek to criminalize gender-affirming care, and their stance could not be more clear. Republican representative Matt Schaefer said of the bill, “We are not going to back down on this — this is a hill we are ready to die on." 

 

What does it mean when political officials have made it their business, their priority to stand in the way of individuals, children, their families, their physicians, their medical professionals from getting the care they feel they need? 

 

What does it mean to criminalize this medical care, enforcing new state laws that require licensed professionals who have direct contact with children — including doctors, nurses and teachers — to report instances of "such abuse," with criminal penalties available for those who fail to report?

 

To me, it means that it’s more dangerous than ever to be a transgender kid in Texas, and in many parts of the country.

 

And that makes me ask, what can we do to help make it safer? Not just in Texas, but for all transgender kids, no matter where they live.    



[THE INVASION OF UKRAINE]

 

At approximately 10am EST on Thursday, February 24, 2022, Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

 

President Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin, Russian President, had "chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering". 

 

Tension has been mounting for several weeks, with Russian military forces camping along the border of Ukraine, insisting they were just carrying out routine exercises. 

 

Russian news outlets have been reporting widely on what it claims as evidence portraying Ukraine as pro-Nazi, but the information they have shared has yet to be proven as verified. Even so, imagine if your national government was insisting on information and transmitting it across the country as a means of justifying the invasion of a neighboring country?

 

This factor is, in part, what makes this conflict so complex. Mr. Putin, Russian President, and other Russian officials are citing what we know to be false accusations against Ukraine as a means to justify his military actions. 

 

And to those countries who threaten to intervene? He’s promised a swift and devastating retaliation. 

 

And, while so many residents throughout Ukraine and, most especially, the capital city of Kyiv, seek shelter, other countries, including the US and the UK, are imposing sanctions on Russia, making it harder for goods to flow in and out of the country. 

 

 

 

 

 

This will play out over the next several weeks. And perhaps you can tell that there is much, much more to say on the subject of Russia and Ukraine. 

 

But I think it’s most important in moments such as this for us to look inwards and to make sure we are looking out for our own. 

 

Not everyone agrees with President Vladimir Putin. Not even in his own country. Not everyone who lives in Russia, or who has relatives in Russia, or who immigrated from Russia to a new country agrees with Mr. Putin. In fact, that’s often the reason why people immigrate to somewhere new: because they do not feel that their government, their political leaders, or their nation is protecting them or looking out for their best interests.  

 

It is important that we see people from Russia as being different from the Russian government. 

 

For those Russian immigrants living in the United States, it’s possible that this conflict will only make it more difficult for them to be understood or welcomed by others in a country that opposes what Russia is doing. 

 

I am saying this here because hurt people hurt people. That expression means that folks who feel they’ve been hurt by others tend to retaliate and hurt back. 

 

This is an important time for you to step up and be a friend for kids in your class, your school, or your neighborhood who have family from Russia. You don’t need to talk about the conflict outright, but you can certainly be a friend. You can continue to be welcoming. You can see them as a whole person. You can watch for hate and stamp it out when it shows itself. 

 

It’s a quote that’s shared often, but it bears repeating in light of today’s conversation. 

 

From Dr. Martin Luther King, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 

 

So here’s your homework.

 

It’s simple, or, at least, it’s simple for me to say:

 

Love others. Make room for them. See them. Value their existence. Do not take actions to diminish them or their humanity. 

 

Love for others is no small thing. It takes intention and effort and bravery. It’s one of the most important things you can do on this earth. 

 

And I know you can do it. I’ve seen how you love. It’s what makes each of you so incredible.

 

I’m Matthew. And this is Worth Noting.