Monday, March 2, 2015

"Normalizing Homosexuality"

Source: Morocco World News
Anyone who devotes time, as I do, to tracking the progress of equity, particularly as it pertains to gender and sexuality, in public education notices familiar patterns in the language of its detractors. Whether the discussion is about the Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (2009), The Accepting Schools Act of Ontario (2012), or the 2015 updates to Ontario's Health and Physical Education Curriculum (shelved since 2010), the peculiar phrase normalizing homosexuality repeats itself.

In my secular existence, it all seems very strange to me. Talk of normalizing homosexuality -- acknowledging sexual diversity, as I would have it -- sounds like normalizing gravity.

Some examples below, emphasis mine:

Charles McVety
“This is part of a militant homosexual agenda to normalize homosexuality in everyone’s mind and thereby promote homosexuality,” he told the National Post last April. “If we teach our children these things … guess what? That’s what they’ll practise.”

Charles McVety, on the 2010 Health Curriculum updates, as quoted in the National Post newspaper, November 5, 2010.

Jack Fonseca
[Jack Fonseca] also warned that there would be a danger of “classroom indoctrination” as course material, books, and curriculum will “aim to normalize homosexual ‘marriage’ and the gay lifestyle.”

Jack Fonseca of Campaign Life Coalition, on The Accepting Schools Act, quoted in The Interim, July 16, 2012

REAL Women of Canada
Grade 3 (age 8):  Homosexuality:  normalizing of homosexual family structures and homosexual “marriage” in the minds of 8 year-olds, without regard for the religious/moral beliefs of families.

Pauline Guzik, National President, Real Women of Canada, on the 2015 Health Curriculum, January 31, 2015.

Lou Iaccobelli
The names of the policies and curriculum sound so positive and well intentioned, but they are deceptive. These policies and legislation have been to a large part designed to promote and normalize homosexuality in Ontario.

Lou Iaccobelli, February 4, 2015, writing about The Accepting Schools Act, The Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, and a TDSB resource on homophobia and heterosexism, in his blog Everyday For Life Canada

What is plainly obvious to me in reading this commentary is a fear that instruction which addresses same-sex attraction, equal marriage, and the like, will turn straight children gay or, at least, incite them to experiment in same-sex sex. This seems to be because many of the detractors believe  -- or simply say --  that heterosexuality is the natural order of things; that homosexuality is a choice; and that they have scripture and doctrine to prove it. Science would disagree on the matter of choice. Logic and experience tell me that few people would choose a path that risks alienation from family, community or faith.* Finally, particularly as an Atheist, far be it from me to debate scripture.

*I have a story, which I will share in a future entry, of my own father coming out as a gay man in his seventies, having known since he was six years old.

Let's get back to notion of choice for a moment. Critics of the curriculum -- as well as other outgrowths of EIES, such as Bill 13 -- ignore the extent to which they themselves have a choice. All publicly funded schools are required to allow a GSA if a student requests it. It would follow that the school would provide a space and staff member to supervise. Attending the GSA is, of course, voluntary. As with all things in a school, the principal has final approval on messaging that goes out to the school community via announcements, school newspaper, blogs, assemblies. All of this presupposes that the GSA actually gets off the ground.

While on the topic of GSAs, I want to digress to share my belief that the narrative around making them compulsary for Catholic boards and requiring that they be called GSAs took a rather ugly, anti-Catholic turn. The view from the left held that Catholic DSBs would automatically resist the legislation, which has not been the case. I've met Catholic educators, administrators and families that have taken bold, affirming steps for youth who want GSAs. Further, I know that without strong language there would be public schools, and perhaps DSBs, that would resist it. Opposition to EIES exists, but it is not exclusive to faith communities, nor do all people of faith share the belief that it must be opposed.

Of course, there will be parents who adamantly do no want their children to join a GSA --  therefore, none should exist. How interesting that people who claim the state is overstepping its boundaries by ensconcing GSAs would have the state operate as their co-parent when it suits the purpose.

I won't speculate as to all the reasoning behind this, but it raises questions. These same children sit beside each other in classrooms and assemblies; many have grown up together since Kindergarten or before; they socialize on school property and in the community; and, in some cases they worship together. 

How do they suddenly become unfit company for each other in a GSA -- under the supervision of an adult, no less? What acts will they perform in that room that could be so terrible or contrary to faith? Will not the staff member apply the same rules of equity and fairness -- that protect LGBTQ people -- to protect faith and the faithful from being denigrated?  Will not that staff member exercise their duty as an education professional to ensure the safety and well-being of all those children?

To answer my own question, I fear that it is the mere presence of LGBTQ people with their straight and cisgender allies, compounded by the acknowledgement of their collective humanity and right to co-exist, which is being contrived as a form of discrimination against the strongly held beliefs of some Ontarians.

There is no accommodating that belief; no more than a parent can insist his or her child not be seated next to a child of a particular race or religion. We have crossed that line as a civil society. Discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is, in the eyes of the law, equivalent to any other form of discrimination. The invocation of religious faith does not provide an opt-out.

I've been knocking around classrooms for over thirty years myself, having started out teaching ESL in the community college system while in university. I later taught adult literacy and organized volunteer literacy programs in workplaces and communities. Before becoming an elementary teacher at forty, I was a member of the English Department in a community college and oversaw teacher-training for new faculty in day and evening programs. Never have I let discrimination based on religion or race, sexuality or gender, or anything else, go unremarked-upon. Further, I've consciously searched it out in my teaching, right down to the materials I select.

Our public schools -- the secular and the faith-based -- can achieve this as well. Many do so admirably.

Now, back to the curriculum itself, which comes with an opt-out for parents and guardians. The opt-out isn't new. Every year teachers and schools receive requests from parents to excuse their children from health classes that might relate to sex or sexuality, including the most basic lessons on conception and birth. I've known grade one teachers -- who weren't teaching anything about sex acts under the 1998 and 2010 interim curricula, and still won't be under the 2015 update -- to be asked pointed questions regarding what they will be teaching in Health. Nothing wrong with this whatsoever -- any parent is free to ask me what I'm teaching. It's typically all on my class blog and calendar. At the beginning of each year, like teachers all over the province -- I submit my long-range-plan to my principal for review before I present the material to parents on a provincially mandated curriculum night.

So if the opt-out is available for the new curriculum, what's the problem? In a nutshell, it's not just that the most vocal opponents of the new curriculum don't want their children to learn it.

They don't want anyone''s children to learn it.

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