A Texas School District Just Voted To Ban Talking About Trans People

The Grapevine-Colleyville School District has banned discussions of “gender fluidity” and made it easier to ban books about race and LGBTQ topics.
A long-haired child wearing an elephant backpack sits on the shoulders of a parent under a rainbow umbrella at a LGBTQ Pride march in Krakow, Poland
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A school district in Texas has voted to ban discussion of transgender people and “gender fluidity,” as part of a series of policies targeting LGBTQ youth in schools and removing books from school libraries. 

On Monday night, the board of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) in North Texas voted to ban the discussion of anything the board considers “Gender Identity and Fluidity,” as well as the teaching of critical race theory. A policy that includes a stricter review of school library books was also approved, which would make it easier to challenge and remove titles that cover LGBTQ topics.

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The sweeping decision came after an almost four hour-long public comment period, in which over 150 participants from the district—which includes the Dallas-Fort Worth region—chimed in on the proposals, either commending the district or warning of the dire consequences such policies would have for trans youth.

The decision includes some of the most common and extreme anti-transgender policies currently being adopted in states across the U.S., including banning trans students from using the bathroom that matches their lived gender, and forbidding them from competing in school sports. The new rules also protect teachers and administrators who intentionally misgender trans students,  signaling to officials that they are free to treat trans students based on the gender they were assigned at birth.

The board also voted to ban all topics related to “critical race theory,” a frequently misapplied label that is often used to ban books and discussions that have anything to do with racial identity and injustice, and which frequently intersect with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

“This is absolutely a violation of the rights of transgender youth,” Jeremy C. Young, senior manager of free expression and education for PEN America told Motherboard. “It’s also an attack on the speech rights of teachers and students regarding LGBTQ+ identities, more broadly.”

The policies instruct district personnel and agents not to “teach, instruct, train, or otherwise communicate to any individual or group topics regarding sexual orientation or gender identity unless and until those individual persons or the entire group has fully completed the fifth grade.”

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In April, two vacated board seats were filled by trustees who campaigned on anti-LGBTQ visions and promises. The policies, along with a multi-pronged definition of “gender fluidity” were developed “over the past couple of months” by an ad-hoc committee appointed by the GCISD board. 

The committee broadly defined gender fluidity as “any theory or ideology that (1) espouses the view that biological sex is merely a social construct; (2) espouses the view that it is possible for a person to be any gender or non (i.e., non-binary) based solely on that person’s feelings or preferences; or (3) espouses the view that an individual’s biological sex should be changed to ‘match’ a self-believed gender that is different from the person’s biological sex.” 

The term “biological sex” is an unscientific nomenclature that is frequently used by anti-trans activists to incorrectly claim that gendered characteristics determined at birth are immutable and absolute. A wide consensus of scientific research has since shown that gender is fluid, and that secondary sex characteristics can be changed through medical interventions such as puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy.

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The new policies come amidst a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in states across the US, as well as efforts to remove books on LGBTQ topics from schools and public libraries. In many places, libraries themselves have also become a culture war battleground; far-right groups such as the Proud Boys have attempted to disrupt Pride-themed events, and some library workers have been targeted for supporting LGBTQ representation at their local libraries.

It's possible that anti-trans and anti-CRT activists left the GCISD school board meeting believing they’re getting a better deal than Florida did with its “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But many LGBTQ-identifying youth connected to the district who spoke during public comment said these policies and the conversations around them are putting them in danger.

“We hear the message you’re sending with these policies,” one GCISD student told the board. “We feel them every day as we walk through the doors to school. With these new policies, you will alienate them even more from getting help so that they feel that suicide is their only escape.”

Based on what he’s seen over the years, Young wouldn’t be surprised if the GCISD board’s vote leads to lawsuits from pro- and anti-LGBTQ advocates to try to enforce maximal interpretations of similar policies enacted elsewhere throughout the country, as well as others suing to overturn them.

“It’s certainly heartbreaking for teachers, students, administrators—anyone with a stake in education and free speech,” said Young.