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A tragic role reversal

The children are now in charge—to their great harm


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“Anyone who has survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his life,” wrote American novelist Flannery O’Connor.

If you are reading this, you have survived childhood and can write volumes if you are the writing kind. Even if you had the best childhood on paper, which I had—raised in the 1950s prosperity blip; mom and dad under one roof; safety enough to play outside till the street lights came on—there was all that internal stuff going on that no one ever knew and that we hid. Like our experience of school lunches:

“Here is the main thing I know about school lunches: it only looked like a bunch of kids eating lunch. It was really about opening our insides in front of everyone. … It was a precursor of the showers in seventh- and eighth-grade gym. … The contents of your lunch said whether or not you and your family were Okay. … There was a code, a right and acceptable way, it was that simple. ... Your sandwich was the centerpiece, and there were strict guidelines. It almost goes without saying that store-bought white bread was the only acceptable bread. There were no exceptions. If your mother made the white bread for your sandwich, you could only hope that no one would notice” (Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott).

How nostalgic it all seems now. In my granddaughter’s Manhattan high school, you must state your ­preferred names and pronouns in class. She describes the anxiety of choosing one’s attire in the morning, to strike just the right note of gender wokeness. Those eighth grade gyms Lamott mentions? Today, boys claiming to be girls have more rights to the girls’ locker room than biological girls, as the high school volleyball team of Randolph, Vt., learned.

To be ousted from your own gym is bad enough. But what destroys the core of personhood, as Abigail Shrier’s well-researched book Irreversible Damage describes, is the daily pressure upon children—from social media, from educators, from online trans gurus, from resulting peer contagion—to second-guess their own birth sex. No generation of children till now has had to endure that kind of pressure. Gender, at least, was set. “And you knew where you were then; girls were girls and men were men” (1970s sitcom All in the Family).

Here is the cruelest irony of all: These same adults who should be in charge of children for their good have put the children in charge, to their harm. Adults have abdicated the primary role of adulthood (Proverbs 1:8), a role that even animals instinctively perform toward their young. The American Psychological Association’s guidelines for care of “transgender and gender-nonconforming” (TGNC) patients puts the child in the driver’s seat and the medical profession in “supporting” and “affirming” roles. We have entered the Twilight Zone, where hospitals are cutting off healthy pubescent girls’ breasts for no medical reason.

No one dares question the wisdom of a child’s notion to swap gender and irreversibly mutilate his body. None may suggest (as would be allowed if the child thought he were a ham sandwich) that this developing human may be experiencing a passing phase. As one late-night comic put it, if 8-year-olds knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, the country would be full of cowboys.

Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” It was a joke that didn’t need explaining: Everybody knew that an occupational hazard of childhood is to be too big for one’s britches. By contrast, an Oct. 12 Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed is penned by a fawning mother won over by her teenage daughter’s position that it is a moral wrong to have babies when the climate problem is not fixed.

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child” (Ecclesiastes 10:16).

That is when you know judgment has come.


Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.

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