It was a conversation about what students learn about gender in school and how children are being medicalized to change their gender
Protestors, including elected officials, described the upcoming event as "hate speech" and tried to shut it down
I didn’t expect to have to pass through a throng of police to attend a discussion about gender in schools at a public library less than a half hour away from my house. But days of harassment targeted at the host of the event and the library itself, coupled with the scene outside Boston Children’s Hospital the prior weekend, led law enforcement to the conclusion that they needed a strong presence and heightened security for those entering the building.
Nicole Solas, a fellow with the Independent Women’s Network, planned and hosted the event. When I RSVP’d, she specifically asked me to bring someone who holds a different or opposing view on the subject of gender identity in the context of children. This indicated to me that she was looking for a robust discussion that included people with differing points of view. I tried but failed to get someone skeptical to come and her plan became unworkable anyway because of the threats to her and to the library. We ended up having to be checked in by police, have our bags searched and be wanded for weapons and/or explosives.
All of this just to hear a few people talk about current Rhode Island policies about gender identity in school as well as curriculum and medicalization practices in gender clinics more broadly.
It’s important and curious to note that the very public accusations of this being a hateful “anti-trans” forum came before the event even took place —which is to say, critics made definitive claims about something that hadn’t happened yet.
Here are a few examples of the vitriol that came from a few elected officials, college professors (including of journalism!) and at least one member of the local media of what that looked like on social media in the days leading up to the event at the library.
Here is a state senator from Providence on Twitter:
A former reporter at the Providence Journal who now teaches journalism at the college level:
A local associate professor of social work:
A state representative:
An executive producer on local radio whose LinkedIn bio says he is “a proven leader” in journalism.
He did get one thing correct about what happened that night:
Nobody should need a police escort out of a public library. But alas, here we are. The host had to be driven to and from her car by police because they had instructed her to park it away from the library parking lot for her protection. I haven’t yet heard anyone opposed to the event express regret for the days of harassment and threats that made these precautions necessary. (If it has happened and I missed it, I hope someone will let me know.) The same people preaching tolerance, love and inclusivity spouted off so dishonestly and hysterically about an event they knew nothing about that law enforcement determined we needed police protection to enter and exit the premises.
Before you keep reading, subscribe for free!
Credit where it’s due
The Rhode Island ACLU put out a statement in the form of a letter in support of the library allowing the event to proceed as planned. For that, they get points in the plus column. The rest of the letter is pretty terrible. As you can see below, RI ACLU president Steven Brown states that “the message of this group deserves condemnation.” Condemnation for what? And what group is he even referring to? The Independent Women’s Network who sponsored the event or the people who chose to attend? He goes on to declare that the views presented will be “discriminatory”—and then he brings up access to books even though this event had nothing to do with books.
Steven Brown could have come to the event and listened and then shared his opinions on the ideas presented. But he didn’t do that; instead, he decided in advance that the ideas were discriminatory and worthy of public condemnation. One could argue that his statements are defamatory. They are definitely absurd.
The best course of action is to find time to watch the event for yourself. Nicole Solas speaks first and then Chris Elston starts at the 13 minute mark. I highly recommend watching, not only to learn about the topic but also to compare what happened in the room to what was being said about the event in the days leading up to it.
There were about 40 people in a rented room at the public library. The event got started late because of the increased security precautions that required every single attendee to provide their name to police before being allowed in.
Nicole Solas, the host of the event, stood at the podium and thanked everyone for still choosing to come despite all the drama surrounding it online and outside. She gave a brief introduction about what gender ideology is and then shared primary source documents from the Rhode Island Department of Education’s website, an email from the principal of the public school her daughter would have attended if she had stayed in the public school system and a copy of a gender support plan used in Warwick Public Schools. The gender support plan she shared on the screen looked very much like the ones used in other districts in Rhode Island and throughout the nation, in both red and blue cities and states. Most of the discussion of gender support plans centered around the fact that deception is baked into them. If a child says they prefer the school not involve or inform their parents, that’s enough to keep mom and dad completely in the dark about the name, pronouns, restrooms and locker rooms that their child is using at school. It is common practice for internal school records to be changed in the student information system without the parents’ knowledge; only externally facing records that parents see, like report cards, maintain the child’s legal name.
The featured speaker was Chris Elston, a Canadian dad with two daughters who is known online and out on the streets of different cities as “Billboard Chris.” Elston is extremely well informed about the impact gender ideology is having on children; he is especially knowledgable about the medicalization piece of the gender transition process: puberty blockers, cross sex hormones and surgery on minors.
He was measured as he described all the reasons why he “does not think we should stop the physical development of children.” He wasn’t inflammatory. Or cruel. Or hateful, as critics and protestors promised. On the contrary, he exuded love for children. Seriously—listen to his presentation and ask yourself if there is even a shred of truth to the claims that it was hate speech.
He shared a graphic of the most widely used resource to teach children about gender: The Genderbread Person.
How does this ubiquitous resource define gender identity?
Personality, jobs, hobbies, likes, dislikes, roles, expectations.
It would be hard to imagine a more regressive and sexist definition than this and yet this is what children are being taught in school in the year 2022.
Notice that children are also taught to believe that sex is “assigned at birth”— this is the language of gender ideology. Sex is observed and recorded, not assigned. Young students also learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to be a boy and to be a girl. The tomboys of my generation would be told today that they are actually boys. The more effeminate boys we all knew who most often grew up to be gay men would be told today that they aren’t boys at all. They’re girls. Chris makes the case that it is sexist, regressive, homophobic and just plain wrong to teach children that if they don’t align to rigid stereotypes they must have been born in the wrong body. I agree with him.
Elston showed Boston Children’s Hospital employees in official hospital videos (now completely scrubbed from their website) in their own words talking about “gender affirming care” like double mastectomies and hysterectomies for teenage girls. There was also a video in which a physician claimed that a child can know they’re transgender IN THE WOMB. He shared photos of what doctors have to do to a girl’s forearm in order to create a phalloplasty or neo-penis. I apologize for the graphic nature of these but we can’t fix what we don’t know and we can’t know unless we force ourselves to turn our heads and look.
I know. It’s a lot.
Elston shared data, statistics and personal testimony about two young people he knows who are trying to pick up the pieces after their lives were nearly destroyed by “gender affirming” surgery. Those two happened to be men who thought they were women but now realize that was never true. He talked about how some countries have responded to the 4,000 percent increase in referrals of adolescent girls to gender clinics. Finland and Sweden stopped recommending puberty blockers and cross sex hormones and now flat out reject gender surgery for minors. The major gender clinic in England is being shut down. Many thousands of detransitioners or desisters exist and their community is growing rapidly. The detransition/desister group on Reddit has nearly 40,000 members. Some are telling their stories, speaking out against gender affirming care and even filing lawsuits as they realize that an adolescent girl shouldn’t be able to walk into a clinic and walk out the same day with a course of Testosterone. Many have realized after a few years living as a trans person that the consent they gave was not informed. They had no idea what their future would look like physically, emotionally and psychologically. Their regret is profound.
It takes courage and a lot of work to plan and host an event like Monday night’s and I am grateful to Nicole Solas for taking it on. I am grateful to Chris Elston not only for his visit to Rhode Island but for the work he does on behalf of children (and families) every single day. It’s not easy to spend your days being screamed at, threatened and called hideous slurs. He does it anyway because he also gets to have thousands of really important conversations. I’m grateful to all who came out for the event to learn, understand and perhaps have a better sense of what questions they can bring back to their own schools. Lastly, I’m so very grateful to the Cranston Police Department for ensuring our safety. It’s sad that we needed them but it was extremely reassuring to know they were there.
Some more reading for those interested…
Reality’s Last Stand — Colin Wright
Parents with Inconvenient Truths — Lots of parents
TRANSparency — James Esses
By Any Other Name (This post is very long but well worth it.)— Helena Kerschner