Ben Law – the young gay activist who recently tweeted that he might ‘hate f**k’ the homophobia out of MPs opposed to same-sex marriage – last week published Moral Panic 101, which includes advice for the mums and dads of Australia on how to be good parents. According to Law, we don’t just need Safe Schools to protect kids from bullies in the schoolyard, we need Safe Schools to protect kids from unenlightened parents. For some young people with old-fashioned parents “neither home nor school is safe.”

Michael, a teenager suffering from, PTSD, ADHD, as well as anxiety, depression and gender dysphoria, is Law’ case in point. Michael’s main problem is that his Christian “fundamentalist” parents still think “he” is a girl (because he is biologically female). While accepting that Michael may be a lesbian, they refuse to provide cross-sex hormones or allow their daughter to change her identity documents before the age of 18. Michael rolls “his” eyes at such unreasonable parental restriction. Law agrees that these parents just don’t get it. “Needless to say, growing up transgender in that household hasn’t been ideal.”

But Law goes further, suggesting such parents may represent a danger to their children, stifling the very life out of them. He means to be sympathetic; he understands that parents are unsettled when change comes too fast and is too confronting. Some parents may feel “nostalgic” for a simpler time before queer theory arrived, “when boundaries were clearly defined, when boys were boys and girls were girls.” Despite any misgivings, parents today need to realise that those days are gone and get on board with the new social agenda by affirming sexual and gender diversity in their children. 

On the basis of undisclosed experience, Law explains his approach to parenting. Even before they can talk, children can communicate what makes them happy and Law says that a parent’s job is to give it to them. Law understands that “handing over agency to a child can be a heart-tearing experience for adults.” Parents who see their children about to make “imperfect decisions ─ especially about anything fundamental and lifelong”, may instinctively wish to intervene. They would be wrong to do so. That would be forcing children to “live in a world without agency.” Such parents need to ask themselves, “Is that a life worth living?” Instead, Law’ advice is simple: your job as a parent is to put aside your protective impulses and follow your child’s lead. 

Rather than trusting their instincts, parents should trust the experts. Gender expert, Dr Elizabeth Riley, explains that transgender kids “might not know it. The parents might not accept it … But it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”  Riley’s approach is based on queer theory – that gender exists on a spectrum, it isn’t as simple as male and female. Riley is on record as saying, “I think, in truth, every human being is transgender … Until society can get that some boys are born with vaginas and some girls are born with penises, we’re always going to have this problem.”

Other experts need to be ignored. Paediatricians who point to scientific evidence that puberty-blockers and cross-sex hormones affect growing brains and bodies in harmful and irreversible ways are just confusing parents with “phantom hypotheticals”. Parents should not be “spooked” out of letting their child transition genders. Rather, we should all relax as Law guides us into the brave new world where queer theory is “truth”, science doesn’t matter and where children know best.

In fact, Law makes the case that children who are not allowed to transition genders are likely to kill themselves or suffer reduced life outcomes as a result. Since this is a “life-and-death issue”, we clearly can’t allow parents to get it wrong.  “Here’s the uncomfortable reality: parents don’t always know best … Should parents’ wishes for their kids take priority when those wishes compromise that kid’s wellbeing?” Law quotes the view of an American social worker that “the greatest risk for these kids is their families.”  Parents of Australia, unless you agree with the new world order, you may be considered “a risk of harm.”

For those who think this sounds alarmist, it needs to be pointed out that “risk of harm” is the exact phrase used in a directive from the NSW Education Department, which urges schools to consider whether their mandatory reporting obligations may require them to report parents of transgender children to Community Services. In South Australia, state policy urges school principals to act in “the child’s best interests”, even if that means affirming a transgender identity at school against a parent’s wishes. In Victoria, a recent proposal for the Parliament to affirm the rights of parents to choose the manner of their children’s education (recognised in the UN Declaration of Human Rights), was voted down. In Canada, where the agenda for social change is more advanced, Bill 89 allows the State to remove children from “abusive” parents who refuse to celebrate a transgender identity for their offspring. 

Surely mums and dads who were not worried before have grounds to begin now? Parents who take their protective role seriously will not always get it right. There will inevitably be friction with teenagers as they grow in independence. Parents often need to say “no” and can’t expect their kids to be grateful when they do. Adults may disagree among themselves about what constitutes a good and healthy life; what “good” and “bad” parenting looks like. The free enjoyment of diversity of opinion is one of the joys of a pluralistic society. But parents don’t need to be perfect to be parents nonetheless. All parents should be rightly concerned about the idea that the State can impose one established orthodox understanding about sexuality and gender and remove children from “abusive” parents who depart from this. 

John Howard said last week that parental rights were at stake in the same-sex marriage debate. Here’s proof that he is right.