A Wisconsin elementary school teacher allegedly “came out” as transgender to students last month, provoking backlash from parents as well as an evangelical group.
Liberty Counsel, a law firm that advocates for Christian values, in lateed May sent a letter of complaint to Madison Metropolitan School District superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. The group accused science teacher Vica Steel, formerly known as Mark “Vince” Busenbark, of showing a transgender coming out video to “every K-5th grade child at Allis Elementary present at school on May 16, 2019.”
“In the video, Mr. Busenbark posits that people who respectfully disagree with him on the issue of transgenderism are motivated by ‘fear’ and ‘hate,'” Liberty Counsel said in the letter.
The group also criticized footage that shows Steel reading aloud from a book entitled “They Call Me Mix.”
“BOY or GIRL? Are you a boy or a girl? How can you be both? Some days I am both. Some days I am neither. Most days I am everything in between,” Steel is heard reciting.
Elsewhere in the video, Steel says he is neither male nor female but “transgender and/or “non-binary” and requests that students begin calling him “Mix” or “Mx.”
“When I was a child, I was named a boy, but that never felt right and true. I didn’t have the words back then to say how come it didn’t feel right, but I knew it wasn’t really my whole story,” Steel says.
“And could I tell you how terrifying this is – coming out, being honest about a truth I’ve hidden for decades. The only words I knew for people like me when I was growing up were words of hate and words of fear. And those words are still out there.”
Steel wraps up the video by unveiling his new identity.
“You’ve known me as the person with the plants and the animals. You’ve known me as the person in the science room. All of that’s true. None of that is changing,” he reassured students. “But I am going to take my wife Stella Steel’s last name. And I am going to use not mister, and not miss, but mx. So you can call me, ‘Mx Steel.’ And for my pronouns, you can call me ‘they,’ ‘them,’ and ‘their.’”
The shame games
In a since-deleted Facebook Message, Steel said the purpose of the video was so students “can know who I am and who I am becoming.”
Liberty Counsel, citing a landmark Supreme Court decision that protects students from being forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the American flag in public schools, alleged that Steel’s display of the video violated “several District policies, as well as the constitutional prohibition against schools enforcing any kind of ‘orthodoxy.'”
According to Fox News, a number of parents reacted with outrage on learning of Steel’s presentation.
“I’ve had to sit down with my kids and explain that what they heard is flat-out wrong and incorrect,” one parent reportedly wrote in an online message. “We will be kind to others, but we WILL NOT be involved in adult games of make-believe. Shame on those that support this!”
Vica Steel controversy highlights contentious debate over transgender rights
The culture wars over transgender recognition and rights has gotten particularly fierce where children have been involved. On one hand, parents on both sides of the issue have vociferously objected to how schools are accommodating students who identify as transgender. On the other, authorities have sometimes intervened to protect children from parents who are thought to be either too supportive or not supportive enough of their transgender kids.