Published July 28, 2021
They want to make your life worse. They are the various diversity, equity, and inclusion activists and apparatchiks whose obsessions with race, sex, and gender now govern much of American life. They are the nation’s scolds, afraid that someone, somewhere, is having fun in a way that offends the ever-shifting demands of diversity and inclusion.
The latest victims of their killjoy spree are in Virginia, where prom kings and queens and daddy-daughter dances are about to be banned in public schools. By law, all Virginia public schools are required to implement policies that are “consistent with but may be more comprehensive than the model policies developed by the Department of Education.” These model policies are a disaster, requiring schools to “accept a student’s assertion of their gender identity without requiring any particular substantiating evidence, including diagnosis, treatment, or legal documents.”
Thus, on nothing more than a child’s say-so, schools must allow males into female locker rooms and showers, and house boys with girls on overnight trips. School employees are even told to keep a student’s steps toward transition secret from parents deemed insufficiently “supportive,” and to consider calling Child Protective Services on them. But the malice of the trans-kids movement may be most evident in the smaller cruelties of prohibiting prom queens and daddy-daughter dances.
This directive is meant to ensure the inclusion of students who identify as transgender, but it is an inclusion by elimination, achieved by banning sex-specific celebrations and honors. Any sex-specific distinctions, it is feared, might hurt the feelings of those with gender dysphoria.
But by this logic, even a generic gender-neutral parent-child dance should be cut for making children with dead, absent, or terrible parents feel left out. Indeed, dances in general should be cancelled because they might make socially awkward or physically disabled students feel bad. And so on the reasoning goes, cancelling everything that might make someone, somewhere, feel excluded.
This mindset allows misery to take happiness hostage, and it is particularly pernicious for sex and gender. We are embodied, and the reality of biological sex is fundamental to our being. It is also essential to human existence, for new persons are conceived through the union of male and female. That some people are uncomfortable with the sexed reality of physical embodiment is tragic (that cultural and political leaders are trying instill and encourage such discomfort is wicked), but that is no reason to require everyone else to officially ignore the basic experiential reality of being male and female.https://2e5a7b4c0e374a2098270358a15c3db0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Yet this is precisely what Virginia is doing to the children in its public schools. The cancellations of dances and other events are emblematic of a deeper erasure of identity, in which young men and women have the sexed reality of bodily existence officially erased in the name of inclusion. We are born male and female, but Virginia has decided that helping children grow into men and women is wrong, and that fundamental relational identities such as “father” and “daughter” must be publicly eliminated.
The irony in this is that those who preach most fervently about celebrating diversity seem terrified of acknowledging human differences. If, for instance, they really believe that “trans women are women,” then what is diverse about them? Only by acknowledging the difference between biological women and biologically male trans women can there be any diversity to celebrate. But admitting these differences threatens the entire ideological project.
The difficulty the ideologues face is that their mantra of diversity, equity, and inclusion is borderline incoherent. Diversity means difference, which intrinsically imperils equity and inclusion, for differences are by nature unequal in some way and exclusive of something. To be one thing is to not be another. To prefer one thing is to disfavor another. And so on.
Identifying and responding to important differences are always fundamental social and political tasks, as is finding commonalities that might unite us. These duties require wisdom and discernment, and the advocates and acolytes of diversity, equity, and inclusion are not up to the job. They efface essential differences and magnify those that they should minimize. And they lack a unifying principle that could unite different people and groups. Hence their flailing attempts to reconcile the tensions inherent in their sloganeering.
The Virginia public school system is a case in point, with Loudoun County alone providing a plethora of egregious examples that have provoked a major parental backlash even in this wealthy, solid-blue area. For instance, Loudoun administrators have illegally punished a teacher for stating the truth about biological sex, and they have become racial obsessives who have spent tens of thousands on critical race theory training that denounces colorblindness.
But the distinction between male and female is literally fundamental to human existence, whereas the construction of racial identities has little to no basis in biological reality. Effacing the former while emphasizing the latter is the opposite of what educators should be doing.
This folly arises because they are trying to remake society with a half-baked, incoherent ideology that is enforced by the shifting demands of the woke internet mob. And those people will always find something else to be unhappy about and another ideological envelope to push. Thus, the same ideology that cancels daddy-daughter dances in Virginia is putting men into female prisons in California, with predictably horrifying results.
These policies are the products of unhappy people who have realized that combining ideology and claims of victimhood give them power, which they can use to hurt others. This is why so much of our public discourse, especially from the Left, amounts to little more than accusations that “the thing you like is bad, and you should feel bad for liking it.”
The truth is that a daddy-daughter dance hurts no one, except those already determined to be miserable. Banning the dance helps no one, except for those eager to punish those who are happy.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Photo: Georgie Pauwels / Flickr
Nathanael Blake, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His primary research interests are American political theory, Christian political thought, and the intersection of natural law and philosophical hermeneutics. His published scholarship has included work on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Russell Kirk and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is currently working on a study of Kierkegaard and labor. As a cultural observer and commentator, he is also fascinated at how our secularizing culture develops substitutes for the loss of religious symbols, meaning and order.