Those who have nothing productive to add to the political discourse often turn to hateful fearmongering and scapegoating against members of minority or unpopular groups. “Witches” target our children, some Puritans said. Jews and gays ruin society, the Nazis said. Letting black students into public schools with white students destroys the social fabric, Southern racists said. “Trash” immigrants and Catholics undermine public order, Colorado Klansmen said.

The latest moral panic, shamefully perpetrated by the Republican Party of Colorado, targets transgender people. A recent email sent out by Darcy Schoening, Director of Special Initiatives for the Colorado GOP, has all the hallmarks of a classic scapegoating campaign:


“At an unprecedented time when Colorado’s woke laws are coming to fruition, our women and children are at grave risk of predatory males violating their rights. . . . The Colorado government is preying on our children and forcing their safety and educational growth to play second fiddle to the feelings of trans males [sic] who are pushing the indoctrination of our children into harmful sexual situations . . . this must stop.”

Schoening related a claim about a charter school that emphasizes classical education, a claim that Krista Kafer, who regularly works in the public schools as a substitute teacher, suggests is a fabrication. And here I thought only Democrats worked to undermine charter schools.

According to Schoening, the threat to children by transgender people is so great that “all Colorado parents should be aiming to remove their kids from public education.” This is just crazy. And a Republican Party leader saying this in public means that the GOP is not serious about regaining political power or helping to govern the state.

Hateful nonsense

True, a Magellan poll last year found that more Coloradans disapproved than approved of how their local school district was doing, by a margin of 42% to 39%. But the main problem is academic performance, as I have reviewed. Bullying too often is a problem. And a lot of people remain justifiably upset by how schools reacted to the pandemic.

But most people see the “trans people are coming for your kids” line for what it is: hateful nonsense. Even if you think that a few adults in schools have at times overzealously promoted transgender self-identification among some students, that hardly supports the hysterical panic we’re seeing among certain Republicans.

I take the insults personally. When you insult, demean, and smear transgender people, you target friends of mine, people I care about.

To share an anecdote, during the legislative session, I took my eight-year-old to the Capitol to meet other homeschool friends, tour the building, and visit with some officials. Brianna Titone, Colorado’s first and so far only transgender legislator, generously agreed to show our group around, discuss the legislative process, and answer our questions.

Despite relentless personal attacks from some of her Republican “colleagues,” who often are anything but collegial, Titone has become one of the most effective, civil, graceful, and communicative legislators at the Capitol. She’s more responsive to me, and I’m not even a constituent of hers, than are my own representatives. Her newsletter is excellent. Although I often disagree with Titone’s policies, including her nationally known so-called “right to repair” bills, I respect her thoughtfulness and diligence in fighting for the causes she believes in.

Unlike those Republicans who routinely disrespect her, Titone is a worthy role model for my child. I’m proud to know her, and I’m proud to have introduced my son to her. I would trust her with my son any time and anywhere. I cannot say the same for those Republicans who confuse bigotry for a political agenda.

Working through issues

Yes, we have some policy matters to work out. I think generally parents should be in the loop when it comes to what’s going on in their kids’ schools. I share concerns about some parents mistreating their transgender or other LGBTQ children. If a parent is genuinely abusive toward a child, whether transgender, gay, straight, or whatever, that’s reason for government to intervene. But expressing skepticism about a claimed gender identity is not in itself abuse. As I’ve argued, parents need and deserve pretty wide latitude.

We also can talk about transgender women (biologically male) competing in high-level sports with other women, hopefully without hyperventilating about younger children playing together in more-casual settings. I still like the idea of doing away with sex- and gender-based sports tiers and moving toward tiers based on directly relevant physical characteristics, such as height, weight, and muscle mass. I also favor moving more toward creating facilities that are safe and welcoming to all comers.

Transgender people are just people. They’re not the Pied Piper coming for your children. Some of them are children. They deserve our respect and welcoming hand. If you cannot manage that, try at least for some basic civility and human decency.

Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.

This article was originally published on June 4 in Complete Colorado.