Why Mr. Rogers Taught Children the Difference Between Make-Believe and Reality

New voices are speaking out against “the ever-ready molders” of the transgender-affirming world out to change adolescent minds.

By Published on August 9, 2023

Recently, Chloe Cole, a 19-year-old young woman who was pressured to undergo transgender surgeries, challenged a social media video by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the populist astronomer and science personality. Although a legitimate astrophysicist, Dr. Tyson’s public proclamations and videos are not always from his area of scientific expertise. In fact, they aren’t always scientific.

In this particular video, Tyson asserted, in favor of gender ideology, that “no matter my chromosomes today, I feel 80% female, 20% male. I’m going to put on makeup. I’m gonna do it. Tomorrow, I might feel 80% male.” Seemingly to Dr. Tyson, the ability of people of any gender to feel a particular way and then to put on makeup accordingly, proves that “the XX/XY chromosomes are insufficient because when we wake up in the morning, we exaggerate whatever feature we want to portray the gender of our choice.” Dr. Tyson continued in a blatantly non-scientific statement, “What business is it of yours to require that I fulfill your inability to think of gender on a spectrum?”

A 19-year-old Woman Challenges a Populist Astrophysicist

In her reply, Chloe Cole interspersed video of herself confronting his bizarre claims.

How about we stop confusing basic human biology with cosmetics? Like, what a weird jump. … I don’t wear makeup most days. If I leave the house without makeup on, does that make me like 70% [m]ale?… If it was only truly about aesthetics, nobody would care. It’s my business because you’re using 1950s gender stereotypes to justify an ideology that leads to the sterilization and mastectomies of 15-year-old girls who just don’t fit in, girls like me.

Cole ends her video with,

The idea that people can be percentages of either male or female just further reinforces the fact that biological sex is a binary. There’s only two. There may only be two sexes, but there are an infinite number of personalities. I mean, it really doesn’t take a degree in astrophysics to understand that.

What’s Real and What’s Make-believe?

Watching Dr. Tyson’s video and Cole’s response, I was reminded of something from my childhood. Due to the popularity of Superman in the late 1970s, Mr. Rogers dedicated a week of his daily TV show to helping kids distinguish between what was real and what was make-believe. He was concerned by the reports of children who put on capes and thought they could fly, leaping from staircases or top bunks or balconies and causing serious injuries. He even took his viewers onto the set of the show The Incredible Hulk to show them that the actors involved were indeed only actors.

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In other words, he understood that children struggled to distinguish between make-believe and reality. This is exactly what Chloe Cole did earlier this week, only she was instructing an astrophysicist about the harm done to children in the name of “science,” while Mr. Rogers was confronting the harm done to children by cartoons. Cole knows that putting on makeup, a dress, or a muscle shirt cannot transform a man into a woman or a woman into a man. Even worse, she knows that neither did the testosterone she received at age 13 nor the double mastectomy at age 15 make her a boy.

According to Mr. Rogers’ biographer Max King in the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Rogers was “angry that it was his medium that was doing this,” i.e., deluding and harming children. What began with his concern about children being misled prompted a new weekly theme for the show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that dealt with tough issues such as death and divorce.

Discerning Truth From Error

Like Cole, Rogers wasn’t a scientist. But he was committed to helping children discern truth from error, the difference between make-believe and reality, between the cosmetic and one’s identity. He even famously sang a song that clarified that kids could not become whatever or whoever they wanted, that only boys could be daddies, and only girls could be mommies. In fact, he once said, “I’ll tell you what children really need. They need adults who will protect them from the ever-ready molders of their world.”

Those are the kind of adults that children still need. What we all need less of is the sort of thinly disguised, condescending, and anti-scientific rhetoric that molds their identities.


John Stonestreet serves as President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He’s a sought-after author and speaker on areas of faith and culture, theology, worldview, education and apologetics.

Heather Walker Peterson, Ph.D., is the Senior Editor at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. A former associate professor of English, she’s written for publications such as Mere Orthodoxy, InterVarsity’s The Well, and the Mudroom.

Originally published on Breakpoint.org: BreakPoint Commentaries. Republished with permission of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

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