Nebraska Republican R. Brad von Gillern says that more kids are becoming violent, performing poorly in school, and committing suicide because social media is pressuring them to become transgender.
During a hearing on Legislative Bill 574, which would ban gender-affirming care for people under 18, von Gillern argued that the bill “does nothing to promote hatred or bigotry,” but rather just protects “children from making childish decisions.”
Von Gillern went on to argue that children make decisions “based upon the worst criteria: peer pressure, lack of information, emotions, popularity, and today more than ever, social media pressure.” But instead of showing any concern for children’s decision-making or autonomy, the Nebraska Republican proceeded to blame acceptance of trans people for many of the problems facing the next generation.
The Republican cited three things he was certain about as a child: that there was a God who loved him; that his parents loved him; and that he was a boy who would someday grow up to be a man. He contrasts his own certainty with what he says is a contemporary time in which “many kids don’t have the security of knowing any of those three things.”
“Nearly all [kids] are being told that the one thing they knew about themselves the most, that they are a boy or a girl, might be a mistake,” von Gillern said. (Nearly all kids are not, in fact, being told that their gender identity is a mistake.)
He continued. “Is it any wonder that the teen suicide rate has skyrocketed? Is there any question about why kids are reacting with violence against one another? Is it shocking that school behavior and performance is declining?”
To von Gillern, the answer was simple. “When you remove all of the securities from a child, you shouldn’t be surprised when they act and react poorly,” he said.
“The opponents of 574 say that the suicide rate in kids is up because gender affirmation is being withheld from them,” von Gillern continued, giving a nod toward research that has repeatedly shown that this is indeed the case. Nevertheless, von Gillern, ever the expert on gender identity and children’s sociology, had his own conclusion. “I postulate that the suicide rate is increased because their lives have been filled with question marks rather than affirmation of who they truly are, and who they were created to be.”
The Nebraska Republican’s style of essentially denying the existence of a wide body of work on these issues (let alone denying the existence of actual trans people) is not new. In an earlier debate on the bill, von Gillern compared gender-affirming care to shock treatments, lobotomies, and forced sterilizations.
Aside from von Gillern’s outright dismissal of rigorous work concerned with children’s well-being, his comments embody a more basic deficiency. To say that practically all children are becoming not just more violent or poorly performing in school, but indeed more suicidal, because of efforts to affirm someone’s gender identity is stunning. It’s either a willful or an unintelligent display of narrow thinking.
Our youth do in fact face a troubling slate of challenges: growing up at a time when school-shooting drills are as routine as assemblies; when their libraries and books and teachers are being attacked; when, indeed, phones and social media are placing so much pressure on them. But to instead focus your energy on making the lives of already marginalized children even more difficult is a level of dishonesty that serves no child, regardless of their gender identity.