Did a Maryland School Require Students To Cross Dress?

The transphobia at the root of a “satirical” post from late 2013 continued to play out in real-life situations in early 2022.

The post — a fabricated account of panic at a Maryland middle school — was first published on “nationalreport.net,” a long-running blog specializing in fringe-level content:

Parents in the town of St. Leonard, MD were aghast after learning what the staff at Heritage Middle School required children to do for a passing grade. The outrage stems from an event held this past Monday, a day which the school had dubbed “LGBTQ Appreciation Day” instructing children to experience the homosexual lifestyle for a single school day or receive a failing grade.

The blog carries a disclaimer saying:

National Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within National Report are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental. Advice given is NOT to be construed as professional. If you are in need of professional help, please consult a professional. National Report is not intended for children under the age of 18.

As so often happens, though, the post was reproduced verbatim on right-wing message boards and blogs with no mention that it was “satirical” in the first place:

Predictably, readers responded with complaints that the (non-existent) school was being “sick” and accusations of “progressive fascist indoctrination”:

Even a cursory search linking “indoctrination” with transgender people reveals that content pushing those types of conspiracy remains popular on right-wing websites:

Similarly, a right-wing candidate for state office in Texas, Shelley Luther, drew attention in February 2022 when she complained not just about transgender teens in general but that she could not encourage ridicule against them. Luther, a former teacher, said at a candidate forum:

I am not comfortable with the transgenders. The kids that they brought in my classroom, when they said that this kid is transgendering into a different sex, that I couldn’t have kids laugh at them … like, other kids got in trouble for having transgender kids in my class.

Luther later sent a statement to the Houston Chronicle claiming that she “respected and supported all students” in her classes but that “the topic of gender transition became the top discussion every day,” making it difficult for her to teach.

Throughout 2021, legislation targeting transgender Americans was introduced at record levels around the U.S.

As The 19th News has reported, several of these types of bills, LGBTQ advocates noted that several of these bills pointedly did not mention transgender people:

Scott McCoy, the interim deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, believes that the decision to avoid the word “transgender” as it was done in Alaska’s bathroom bill is partially a tactic to deceive voters.

“They’re totally mixing the issues. When a trans woman uses the women’s room, that’s not a man going into the women’s room,” he said.

“I think it’s a lot more simple than we want to admit,” said Emmett Schelling, executive director for the Transgender Education Network of Texas. “If we refuse to name, or even recognize the existence of something, then … understanding is negated.”

On February 4 2022, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law a bill barring transgender students from taking part in school sporting events according to their gender identity.

Update 2/11/2022, 3:54 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here.