Culture Wars/Current Controversies

California May Take Children From Parents Who Oppose Their Gender Transition

Governor Gavin Newsom could soon sign radical legislation pushed by state lawmaker who encouraged her child’s gender transition

Sep 11, 2023

California is the true freedom state, says Governor Gavin Newsom. In response to the passage of a bill to counteract “book banning” in schools last week, Newsom stated that California is “a place where families — not political fanatics — have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.” With civil liberties under attack around the country, California is a beacon of individual rights and parent empowerment.

“There is no state in America that supports local control and parental engagement like the state of California,” Newsom said in August. “No one comes close. It’s written into our rules.”

And yet, at this very moment, the California state legislature and Attorney General Rob Bonta are taking extreme measures to undermine parental authority. Last week, the State Assembly voted 57-16 to approve AB 957, the Transgender, Gender-Diverse, and Intersex Youth Empowerment Act. This bill, if signed by Newsom, will make gender affirmation a factor in custody disputes. What that means, practically, is that parents who do not support their child’s supposed transition to the opposite gender may lose custody to another parent.

At the same time, Bonta has filed a lawsuit against the Chino Valley Unified School District to prevent what he called the “forced outing” of transgender students. Bonta is seeking a preliminary injunction on the school district’s policy that requires schools to tell parents if their children identify by a different gender or go by a different name at school.

Said Bonta, “It’s discriminatory, and it’s downright dangerous. It has no place in California, which is why we have moved in court to strike it down.” The state’s position now appears to be that parents must affirm their child’s gender identity but that they also have no right to know about this identity in the first place. This creates the dangerous possibility that a parent could lose custody of their child if a school staff member encourages the child to transition without the parent’s knowledge.

It’s true that children who identify as transgender and gender nonconforming are especially vulnerable and often struggle significantly with mental health and suicidal ideation. These children, like all children, deserve caring parents, privacy, and safety at school.

However, there is no proof that social affirmation and medical intervention for minors reduce the risk of suicide. In fact, there is a growing body of often censored evidence that indicates the rapid onset of gender dysphoria is a social contagion. It is also well-established that medical treatments at an early age can have long-term adverse effects. This is why some progressive European countries are changing their guidelines to limit puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgery for people under 18.

Not only are California’s policies lacking scientific evidence, but they also violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects parents’ rights to make decisions about their child’s education, medical care, and religion. The US Supreme Court has, in multiple cases, decided that this clause allows parents to raise their children how they see fit.

Because the term “affirmation” is ill-defined in AB 957, it is likely that parents who even support their child using a new name or pronoun could lose custody for opposing early medical treatments. “We will be the first state in the nation to say that any parent who is not affirming their child’s gender identity, regardless of age…is abusive and is undeserving of their kids,” Erin Friday, a California Attorney and co-leader of Our Duty, a parent-lead support network, told Public.

Last year, Newsom signed a “sanctuary state” bill that allows minors from other states to seek gender-affirming care in California without parental permission. Under SB 107, California courts can assume jurisdiction over custody disputes from other states if the child is seeking transgender medical treatment. This means that a parent who wants to transition their child against the other parent’s wishes can kidnap the child to California and sign them up for medical treatments while being shielded from criminal or abuse investigations. The law makes California’s radical legislative efforts a national issue.

Lawmakers are also now considering AB 665, which critics fear will allow children ages 12 to 17 to seek mental health treatment in residential care facilities if their parents do not socially or medically affirm their gender identity. Although AB 957 will only apply to divorces and custody battles for now, it opens the door for the state to remove children from parents who are still together. If a refusal to “affirm” is considered to be abuse under the law, parents could be subject to investigations by Child Protective Services.

California parents may soon face a disturbing dilemma: either consent to transgender medical care for their child or risk losing their child to the state.

Why is the so-called “freedom state” attempting to violate parents’ most fundamental rights to make decisions for their own children? And why are schools trying to keep gender transitions secret from parents?


The Bill Sponsor Affirmed and Supported Her Child’s Gender Transition

Assemblymember Lori Wilson and her transitioned child (Credit: Spectrum News)

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