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Parents' Bill of Rights (Misty's Version)
Instead of “No, You Cannot,” I hereby announce that “Yes, I Can and So May You.”
We’ve heard a lot over the last year about “parental rights.”
Generally speaking, parents and guardians already have wide-ranging rights to make decisions about how their child will be cared for and educated. Individual religious, cultural, and moral beliefs surrounding these decisions must be largely respected. Parental rights may only be legally infringed upon in the case of a compelling need to protect the safety and best interests not of the parent or guardian, but of the child.
Apparently for some folks, it’s not enough to make these decisions for their own kids. They feel a compelling “right” to dictate and restrict what other people’s children are allowed to read, what can be discussed in their school classrooms, which bathrooms they can access, which sports teams they can join, what steps will be taken to prevent and reduce infectious disease transmission, and even what names or pronouns other people’s children can use for themselves. In Alabama and Texas, parents are being banned from affirming their own child’s gender identity and prevented from seeking certain kinds of medical and mental health care that the consensus of reputable science recommends and supports.
All of this is happening in the shadow of likelihood that the Supreme Court decisions protecting the very right to decide for oneself whether or not to become a parent will be overturned.
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These laws and policies were not created by medical, mental health, or education experts. They’re being churned out and copy-pasted by rightwing political action groups and shilled by pundits and politicians catering to the lowest common denominators of their audiences to generate clout, clicks, votes, and profit. Nothing influences like outrage, donchaknow.
If policymaking is going to become the playground of self-appointed God-Kings, it seems like anybody with the time and tenacity can join the game. Very well, then. Instead of a slate of restrictions that say “No, You Cannot,” I hereby announce that “Yes, I Can and So May You.”
In accordance with my sincerely held faith, cultural beliefs and practices, and personal morality, I therefore demand free exercise and unconditional legal protection of the following rights:
The sole and unassailable right to decide whether and when to become a parent, by what means, how many times, and under which circumstances, without exception.
The right to fertility care, surrogacy, foster parenting, and adoptive parenting regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status or type.
The right to two-parent birth certificates, joint legal custody, and full parental rights for non-biological parents in same-sex unions, identical to the rights of different-sex partners.
The right for legal presumption of parentage to be automatic for same-sex married partners, identical to the rights of different-sex partners.
The right to inclusive language, policies, and practices related to physical, reproductive, and mental health care for myself and my children.
The right to legal protection for myself and my children from conversion, reparative, or gender critical “therapies” or treatments that seek to discourage or alter sexual orientations, gender identities, or gender expressions that are outside binary cisgender heteronormativity.
The right to seek, access, and obtain gender-affirming care for myself or my children in accordance with the consensus of reputable, relevant medical science and established best practices.
The right to affirm and support my queer, transgender, or gender non-conforming children at any age without being accused of or having those actions investigated on suspicion of child abuse, grooming, exploitation, or other sexually predatory behavior.
The right to objective, science-based, comprehensive human sexual and reproductive health education in all public school grade levels that is fully inclusive of all sexual orientation and gender identities and is not taught in gender-segregated formats.
The right to objective, factually accurate, and culturally competent instruction and education content on:
the history of slavery and continuing systemic and overt racism toward Black individuals and cultures;
the ongoing history of genocide, forced assimilation, and systemic oppression of Indigenous cultures and individuals;
the full history and impacts of the Holocaust and Nazi era and America’s ongoing history of systemic and overt antisemitism;
Civil rights movements and advancements in America pertaining to race, sex, disability, and other protected classes, including which demographics were not equally included or benefitted by those efforts and events; and
depictions and information on notable historical and present-day LGBTQIA+ figures and their contributions.
The right to decide which books and other materials my child shall be allowed to access, read, and checkout from public school or community libraries without public or private interference. This right shall not affect the similar decisions of other parents and guardians on behalf of their own child(ren).
The right to public school curricula, educational materials, classroom discussion, and activities in a grade levels that are not censored or restricted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
The right to explicit anti-discrimination and anti-bullying protections on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, disability, religion, sex, gender identity, or gender expression in all public schools, agencies, and facilities regardless of whether or not they receive federal funding.
The right to mandatory reporting and privacy laws and policies that do not allow disclosure of a student or staff member’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression without their express consent.
The right for minors and adults to access and use all public restrooms, changing rooms, locker rooms, facilities, accommodations, and services in accordance with their self-determined gender identity.
The right for all minors and adults to participate in all public school educational, extracurricular, and athletic programs and teams in accordance with their self-determined gender identity.
The right to strong First Amendment protections for all speech on public school campuses that does not constitute a genuine threat or harassment, falsely defame a specific individual, depict or promote illegal activity, substantially disrupt the school environment, or invade the rights of others.
The right to public dress and hairstyle codes that do not treat minors or adults differently based on their race, ethnicity, culture, religion, creed, ability, or gender, do not force conformity to sex stereotypes, and do not censor particular viewpoints.
The right for freedom of public religious expression to equally represent all faith beliefs, as well as their absence.
The right to attend public schools that require all staff and students to be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, rubella, varicella, barring only a valid medical exemption.
The right for my public tax dollars to solely benefit public school systems.
These rights shall be in equal effect nationwide, in all jurisdictions subject to federal law.
“But Misty, you cannot just create a wish list and expect it to be made into law! You’re not even an elected official.”
I would argue that the political action committees creating the boilerplate for these policies are doing just that, and they’re not legislators either. They’re using document templates and pet politicians to turn wish lists into law every day. I’m simply providing that same service on a freelance basis.
Queer people are constantly being accused of having an agenda (as though we are the only ones who do). I’m simply being clear and specific about what my particular agenda is. More than that, I am frankly sick to my back teeth of being told that boldness in the face of oppression is wishful thinking when I’d like to know which advancement of civil rights was ever gained otherwise or will be maintained without it.
We’ve seen outright egregiousness put into shockingly quick action in service of oligarchy. Let’s see some daring applied in favor of progressivism for a change. Instead of just putting “Resist” in our Twitter bios and telling people to make sure they vote, let’s give them something to vote for instead of just resist against.
We’ve seen and heard what the Party of “No” has to offer. Let’s create the policy platform for the Party of “Yes.”