Commentary

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s push for “parents rights” excludes LGBTQ students’ families

Glenn Youngkin
Glenn YoungkinPhoto: Kate Magee Joyce

Although Virginia’s Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has used “parents rights” as a rallying cry against local school boards and “progressive liberals,” he has shown he doesn’t care about the rights of parents with transgender and marginalized children.

On Tuesday, Youngkin came to the Mason District Park in Annandale with Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, Attorney General Jason Miyares, and the Republican candidates that Youngkin supports for congressional districts 8, 11, and 10. This high-powered cast only pulled in about 100 rally attendees, many of whom appeared to not have children in state schools.

At the rally, Youngkin spun a story about how “progressive liberals” are taking away parents’ rights in schools. But he wasn’t really speaking to locals; he was speaking to his nationwide audience during this temporary return to Virginia from his multi-state self-campaign tour.

What are these parents’ rights he is talking about? The right to have books removed from schools because they might tell the full story of Black, immigrant, Muslim, Jewish, and disabled Virginians whose stories Youngkin has written off as “critical race theory” (CRT) and “divisive concepts.”

In doing so, Youngkin has basically revealed himself to be a demagogue who sees the very existence of Black, indigenous, and other people of color — as well as LGBTQ, transgender, and non-binary people, in particular — as an unfamiliar threat. As such, he is not governing Virginia — he is campaigning nationally by demonizing already marginalized children and their families.

When he mentions “rights,” he means the right to suppress books that might speak positively about LGBTQIA+ students. When he discusses “free-speech,” he means the right to call people names that damage them. Seriously.

How Youngkin harms the “parents rights” of marginalized children

If a parent requests that a name be used for their child in school, Youngkin supports the “free speech” right of students, teachers, and administrators to purposefully ignore the parent’s request if they want to. Essentially, Youngkin supports the free-speech right of anyone who wants to bully the children of people whom they do not like.

Such bullying won’t stop with trans children – we know that. It will affect any child of a marginalized identity that doesn’t fit “the norm.”

Youngkin talks a lot about parents’ “right” to be informed about their own child’s school behavior and mental health. What this really means is the “right” for the government to insert itself into personal matters involving parents, guardians, and their children.

Imagine that you are a parent who has known and supported your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity for years. Suddenly, an administrator or teacher calls and says, “We have discovered that your child is gay, and state law requires that we call you immediately.” Such a call would leave a parent feeling like their queer child was singled out rather than supported.

Imagine if you have a child who says in the morning, “I have something important to talk to you about after school.” Then, the school calls at lunchtime and says, “State law requires us to inform you that your child asked their homeroom teacher to use a different name, and we are required to inform you before your child mentions it to you.”

This kind of communication directly interferes with parents’ and guardians’ relationships with their own children, especially if the child is trying to navigate difficult situations with parents who may not be immediately supportive of their identities.

Youngkin’s “parents rights” are just a push for persecution

They say you are known by the company you keep. Youngkin supports local candidates who would not allow parents to request names and pronouns for their own trans children.

Youngkin centers and supports teachers — such as Peter Vlaming in West Point and Byron Tanner Cross in Loudoun — who have ignored such parents’ requests and misgendered children rather than respecting their identities.

When Youngkin mentions parents’ rights, he means the right of school boards to demand criminal background checks, medical records, and other personal details about a parents’ child. This is not an exaggeration.

The Hanover County School Board, with Youngkin’s tacit support, has adopted a policy in which the school board will have secret meetings, without parents present, to decide whether their child is “transgender enough” and “not too dangerous” to be inside of school bathrooms and locker rooms along with other cisgender children.

Parents won’t even know what sort of parameters school officials will be using to judge whether their children should be allowed to pee and change clothes with others.

It turns out that the vast majority of parents in this country do not support these denigrating measures that Youngkin calls “rights.” Parents do not want books banned, they do not want curricula reduced to the least offensive denominator, nor they do not want LGBTQIA+ children or anyone else to be bullied. Parents want the truth told about history and they want schools to be better for their children than they were for themselves.

So who was Gov. Youngkin talking to when he addressed his crowd of 100 (out of the 2.5 million people in the areas covered by his preferred candidates)? Not us here in Virginia.

Fox News covered his rally and so did Sinclair Broadcasting Group. But they did so for national audiences. Youngkin is using Virginia, the state he was elected to govern for all residents, as a platform in his quest for national office.

Youngkin’s fight for so-called parents’ rights is an attack on our state’s most successful school systems. Clearly, parents here aren’t his intended target. Instead, he’s taking aim at “progressives” who want a more inclusive society nationwide.

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