Miriam Grossman, M.D.

The House of Representatives has approved an addition to the healthcare reform package. It calls for the creation of a “Healthy Teen Initiative”, and allocates $50 million to so-called “comprehensive” sex education.

“This was a vote to bring science back into government”, said James Wagoner, president of Advocates For Youth and a leader of the coalition that promoted the amendment. The committee, he continued, “has taken an important step toward ensuring young people get the critical sexual health information they need to make responsible decisions about their lives.”

Mr. Wagoner’s statement is astonishing, because Advocates for Youth’s sexual education curricula and websites are notable for their lack of scientific content.

Consider what this national group, one of the nation’s flagship sex ed organizations, teaches kids about being male or female. Gender identity, they’re told, is completely separate from anatomy. Your identity is a feeling – something experienced internally. Others can’t determine if you’re male or female; only you know.

Newborns are designated male or female, wrapped in a blue or pink blanket, and socialized to fit cultural expectations. Messages from their environment teach them masculine or feminine behaviors, interests, and ways of relating.

Usually anatomy and feelings match, students learn, but sometimes they don’t, and that’s a normal variant. Sometimes a boy insists he’s a girl or vice versa, and that should not be a concern, says AFY; it is “as normal as being alive”.

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Furthermore, the premise that there are only two genders, male or female, is inaccurate. This “traditional” meaning of gender is wrong and does harm, says AFY, by restricting our freedom of gender expression. There are many genders, kids should know, including but not limited to: male, female, transgender, genderqueer, genderless and gender ambiguous.

Gender can also change. A ten-year-old might be certain she’s a girl, but at twenty she might realize she’s a man. People can realize their gender at any point in their lives, young people are told.

Is this the “science” Mr Wagoner referred to? Or perhaps instructing children that they could be male, female, both, or neither is an example of “the critical sexual health information they need to make responsible decisions about their lives”?

Advocates for Youth’s lesson plan on gender is not only unscientific, it’s a departure from reality. Here’s what real science in this century says about being male or female.


Miriam Grossman, M.D.

Miriam Grossman, M.D. is a board certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist. She is author of the new book "You're Teaching My Child What?"