Thursday, April 30, 2015

When a pizza slice is just a pizza slice.

A group of activists opposed to the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum met with Premier Kathleen Wynne on April 29th demanding a withdrawal of the document. 

They walked away empty-handed.

Left to right: Gwen Landolt, Jotvinder Sodhi, Lorraine La Vigne and Maggie Amin look on.
Photo: Lianne Laurence / LifeSiteNews
LifeSiteNews had this to say:
Speaking at an informal press conference outside Queen’s Park, the six vowed Ontario parents will keep fighting an odious curriculum they say will incalculably harm their children by exposing them to explicit sexual information far too early.
As well as (Gwen) Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada, the group included Jotvinder Sodhi of the Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Parents, Feras Marish, representing the Muslim community, Christina Lui of the Chinese-Canadian Parents Alliance of Ontario, Maggie Amin, and Lorraine La Vigne.
TheRebel.Media was there too. From Emily Pratt's report:
Wynne rejected their plea to withdraw or even pause the plan even after the mounting objection to it. 
One parent noted that "if they want to give our kids a pizza slice, we have to sign a paper" -- yet somehow, parental consent isn't considered as important when the topic is sex education.
(This is especially ironic, since "consent" is one of the hot topics covered in the controversial curriculum itself.)
The parent was Jotvinder Sodi, who, as a school council chair, must understand that if he declines to participate in his school's pizza lunch, the school doesn't cancel the pizza lunch.

Note to Emily Pratt: The parents in your story object to the teaching of consent to children -- that's irony. Fortunately, however, they may opt out of the sexual health components of the curriculum -- that's not irony.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Misappropriation of the David Reimer Tragedy

It was inevitable. 

Following the airing of the Bruce Jenner interview on ABC News, the atmosphere was ripe a backlash of ugly, reactive commentary. And I suspected it would be used to buttress the non-fact-based campaign against Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum. What I had not expected was the ammunition would be would be the horrendous tragedy of David Reimer.

Gender Identity and John Money tells the story of David Reimer, born 1965, whose penis was irrevocably damaged in a botched circumcision, setting the stage for a life of torment and indignity, culminating with his suicide. The author of the blog post is Lou Iacobelli, a devout Catholic, parents rights advocate, and a retired teacher. In fact I took eleventh grade English with him nearly forty years ago.

On the essential facts of the case, I don't dispute what Mr Iacobelli posted:

Psychologist and sexologist John Money told young David's parents that he could give their child a new life as a female. Thus began the nightmare. Mr Reimer was subjected to an orchidectomy, injections of estrogen, gender conversion therapies, with later plans for a vaginoplasty. All of this occurred when Mr Reimer was pre-pubescent, and apparently carried out with the aid of surgeons and other practitioners at Johns Hopkins, who were following Dr Money's lead -- a theory gender identity is entirely driven by nurture. 

David was not the only one to suffer from this thinking. The basis of Dr Money's research was the treatment of intersex children. Mr Iacobellii alludes to Dr Money's study of hermaphroditism, a dated term which falls under the broader umbrella of Intersex Condition:
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.
Though we speak of intersex as an inborn condition, intersex anatomy doesn’t always show up at birth. Sometimes a person isn’t found to have intersex anatomy until she or he reaches the age of puberty, or finds himself an infertile adult, or dies of old age and is autopsied. Some people live and die with intersex anatomy without anyone (including themselves) ever knowing.
Source: Intersex Society of North America -- What is Intersex?
This became known as The Hopkins Model of treating intersex children. A brief description from Intersex Society of North America, emphasis mine:
In the 1950s, a team of medical specialists at Johns Hopkins University developed what has come to be called the “optimum gender of rearing” system for treating children with intersex. The notion was that the main thing you had to do in cases of intersex was to get the gender assignment settled early, so kids would grow up to be good (believable and straight) girls and boys.
Under the theoretic leadership of psychologist John Money, the Hopkins team believed that gender was all about nurture—that you could make any child into a “real” girl or boy if you made their bodies look right early (before about 18 months of age), and made them and their parents believe the gender assignment.
Though the Hopkins team wrote early on that children should be told the truth about their intersex histories in age-appropriate ways, in practice many medical care providers lied to patients or actively withheld medical history information from them. Medical textbooks frequently gave doctors advice about how to lie to patients with intersex.
And all of this misery was heaped upon a child who could neither comprehend nor consent  to what was happening. Consent, remember, is also a component of the new health curriculum. Children have the right to defend their boundaries and to say no.

The story gets darker with allegations by Mr Reimer's twin brother that the pair were made to act out sexual scenarios, in which David and brother Brian simulated female and male sex roles respectively, at the behest of Dr Money.

Everything about the Reimer case is horribly, horribly wrong. Every fibre of my being trembles with rage at the thought of this experiment.

Misappropriating The Reimer Tragedy

Equally disturbing to me, however, is the effort to employ the Reimer story as any kind of argument against the urgency of addressing gender dysphoria in children and taking very seriously the needs of a child who may be transgender. But that is precisely what Mr Iacobelli does in his entry. 

Why doesn't the Reimer case apply?

David Reimer never said, of his own volition, "I am a girl," or, "I am different." I have no idea what the prognosis would be for a child like Reimer who suffered the damage and loss of his penis. I can conjecture that he likely would have encountered great distress early in life, recognizing an observable physical difference between himself and his twin, as well as with others he might encounter later. Not an easy road, but certainly preferable and ethical, compared to tricking the child into thinking he was a girl.

Mr Reimer was surgically mutilated. This wasn't SRS, or gender affirmation surgery. 

Trans children are not given any such surgery. It is not an accepted practice until the child reaches the age of consent and proves to be a suitable candidate.

Mr Reimer was forced adopt behaviours of a girl -- heteronormative behaviours, coincidentally -- as defined by Dr Money. 

Practitioners who deny gender dysphoria today do precisely the same thing. They take away the Barbie doll from the trans or gender-nonconforming child identified as male at birth. Dr Money forced the Barbie doll into young David's hands. 

Mr Reimer was given estrogen. 

Trans children today are not prescribed HRT. Laverne Cox tells the story of being in grade three (still identified as male) more than thirty years ago when the school psychiatrist told her mom she needed testosterone injections, a practice at the time. Ms Cox had been sent for therapy because of her effeminate behaviour. During that therapy, she disclosed she didn't think there was a difference between boys and girls. Laverne's mother refused to give testosterone to an eight-year-old.

Trans children entering puberty, however, may be prescribed hormone blockers, which forestall secondary sex traits. 

Mr Reimer and his brother were assaulted.

According to accounts, Mr Reimer, along with his brother, was the victim of sexual assault. In forcing David Reimer to become a female, Dr Money also took it upon himself to make him a heterosexual female -- one who would be attracted to males. So the crime of imposing gender upon the child, was compounded by attempting to reorient his sexuality along heteronormative lines. Imposed gender conversion. Imposed sexual conversion.

Take away the premature surgeries performed without the Mr Reimer's informed consent; take away the sexual abuse. What happened to Mr Reimer looks very much like conversion therapies performed on trans children today.

"Six Genders"

Mr Iacobelli discusses flaws as he sees them in discussions of gender and sexuality in the curriculum:
The document claims that there six "genders" and numerous sexual orientations. These terms are defined and presented to students and teachers as something factual and societally agreed upon.
The document doesn't claim there are six genders. "Sex Genders" is a Charles McVetyism, which the evangelist has used in describing both a TDSB guide addressing homophobia and heterosexism, as well as the curriculum. In a recent CBC debate with Michael Coren, Mr McVety said the six genders were taught in the third grade. Mr Coren correctly placed the content in the eighth grade. Here's what the document says:
C1.5 demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual, intersex), gender expression, and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual), and identify factors that can help individuals of all identities and orientations develop a positive self-concept [PS] 
It doesn't say there are six genders -- it gives examples of six ways by which people might identify -- and there are many more terms, none of which negate anyone else's choice of terminology. Not all terms used to denote gender identity are scientific terms per se. (Intersex certainly has a medical/scientific application, as do transgender and cisgender.) I see them operating in much the same way that people use a range of terminology to describe themselves spiritually (Christian rather than Protestant or Catholic; Cultural Jew rather than Religious Jew); or ethno-culturally (African-Canadian rather than Black).

As for the sexual orientations -- heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and other variations mentioned, like pansexual or fluid -- they're existence is agreed upon. Approval is not. There are people who object to some of them based, they claim, on religious principles. Many people of faith find no such struggle. Some people are just bigots.

I've underlined a key section. Some people call it social engineering. There are queer kids who come to school each day who fear they would not get support at home or in their communities. In many cases they're right. I've been in community meetings where people -- arguing against the curriculum and The Accepting Schools Act -- have said things like, 
We don't have gays, etc., in our community/culture/faith. We're good people. We're people of faith. We have good children. 
I've heard people say that out loud. Lots of times. When there were no television cameras about for the same people to say they're not homophobes. The curriculum isn't promoting a particular sexual or gender identity; it's promoting healthy self-image regardless of identity. Good. I support that. Queer and questioning kids feeling safe at school is a good thing. 

And it poses no risk to straight or cis kids. Nor to children of faith.


The naysayers have been accusing LGBTQI activists of saying two different things -- about gender identity and sexual orientation:

  1. Because sexual orientation is about whom one is attracted to. The term gender fluidity, contrary to popular belief, isn't even in the HPE curriculum. It just appears on protest signs at anti-sex-ed rallies.
  2. Conversion therapy for sexual orientation is torture that doesn't work and has not worked since the 1940s. Conversion therapies for trans people have been equally damaging, ineffective and unnecessary. In transition, boys don't become girls because people cannot change their sex. The can change the appearance of their bodies to align with their gender identity. Hence, the term sex change operation has fallen into disuse, in favour of SRS, or gender affirmation surgery. Not all transgender people seek or want surgery.

There's some astonishing brain research on gender identity. This article summarizes a ground breaking study out of Vienna. Neuroscience Proves What We've Known All Along: Gender Exists on a Spectrum:
Led by Georg S. Kanz of the University Clinic for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, the study was composed of 23 trans men, 21 trans women, 23 cis women and 22 cis men. Researchers used a type of MRI ("diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging" is the proper term, should you ever want to sound impressive during a dinner party) to measure diffusion of particles across brain matter. Cis women had the highest diffusivity -- which means (bear with me here) that particle movement in white matter brain regions was greatest for this group, followed by trans men. Trans women had lower movement than the former, with cis men having the least.
There is some early evidence, then, that science is catching up with something many of us already assume, and for good reason: Gender identity exists on a scale, rather than in narrow dichotomized groups. In essence, trans people had brain chemistry approaching the middle of the gender spectrum -- inherently different from their biological sex and closer to their identified gender. For example, a trans woman has significantly different brain movement than a cis man, despite having the same biological sex. Moreover, trans men and trans women were different from each other, implying that the brain shows a wide range of gender based differences, rather than simply male or female.
Here's the article from Medical University of Vienna, Networks of the brain reflect the individual gender identity.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sex Ed Curriculum -- The Thin Edge of the Wedge

Peel District School Board Chair Janet McDougald just became one of my heroes.

For being forthright about the efforts of a handful of hardline religionists to hijack the discussion of Ontario Health & Physical Education Curriculum.

Speaking to the Toronto Star's Louise Brown, she says:

“A small fraction are intentionally misleading people (about the curriculum),” she said, “but the vast majority are confused and upset about what they’re reading and we need the (education) minister to work more aggressively at providing parents the answers they need to feel comfortable about it going forward.”

Right on both counts. The "small fraction" consists of representatives of a number of organizations: The Institute for Canadian Values, Campaign Life Coalition, The Parental Rights in Education Defense Fund (PRIEDF), and Public Education Advocates for Christian Equity (PEACE). There's a couple of new kids on the block: Parents Alliance of Ontario; HOWA CRP, led by school council activist Jotvinder Sodhi; and My Child My Choice, led by former TDSB Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos. Defeated school trustee candidate Farina Siddiqui has also been running information sessions of her own on the curriculum.

A cynical observer might conclude that some folks are building up their image for future election 

As for confusion, yeah, there's plenty of that, too. I've posted quite extensively in recent weeks about the disinformation on the curriculum. It's not helping that many of groups and individuals I mentioned above are staging their own information events and posting content to their websites and Facebook pages. The tone is downright conspiratorial.

Louise Brown shares the contents of a flier containing what I will politely call erroneous information published in Arabic:

  • “In Grade 1 they will learn to reveal their private parts (not just name), they will see posters and flash cards of private parts, they will learn to touch the private area and identify it on themselves and others.” (Not true, said Nilani Logeswaran, spokesperson for Education Minister Liz Sandals.)
  • “Grade 6 is about the promotion of self-discovery through masturbation. Our 12-year-old daughter or son, who is not even a teenager yet, will be asked in class to explore his or her own body by touching their private parts, masturbating and pleasuring their body.” (Not true, said Logeswaran.)

Ms Brown also writes:
The Peel school board letter also will ask Sandals to counter accusations that the new curriculum violates the Criminal Code of Canada by referring to anal sex, even though it is presented largely in the context of warning students that anal and oral sex can be high-risk activities that can spread sexually transmitted infections, noted Logeswaran.
While the Criminal Code used to forbid anal intercourse under the age of 18 — which some warned could apply to school discussions of anal sex — that section was declared unconstitutional in 1995, said Logeswaran.
Besides misleading leaders and vulnerable parents, there's another piece that we need to address honestly. Ms Brown quotes a parent:
Peel mother Firani Siddiqui will keep her two younger children home to protest the curriculum she said breaches her right to decide when her children learn sensitive sexual information.
“I don’t want teachers to tell my children that masturbation is a healthy thing — it’s a no no; maybe I don’t want her to think it’s a healthy practice.” 
The article refers to a Facebook group, Parents & Students on strike: one week no school, which has garnered 5,000 "Likes." The "strike," set for May 4th to 11th, 2015, is intended to show how many parents are opposed to a curriculum, which they can opt out of anyway next fall and beyond. The message: It's not just that they don't want their kids to learn it; they don't want anyone's kids to learn it. 

But back to Mrs Siddiqui's opinions on masturbation. I'm sure other parents -- particularly parents of deep faith -- agree with her. And they are entitled to that belief as a matter of faith. Here's the problem: In and of itself, masturbation is not unhealthy. In my dad's days, it was rumoured to affect hearing and cause hair to grow on the palms. In my days, it was said to undermine athletic performance. The new, hardcore-conservative spin is that it's a gateway to porn addiction. 


Realistically, it's a normal, healthy expression of sexuality. The curriculum simply cannot be massaged sufficiently to accommodate individual faith-based beliefs on this and other subjects. So the option for parents who object to it is to withdraw their children when classes are being held, next fall and beyond.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Transphobia And The Home Schooling Agenda

The incendiary rhetoric around the 2015 Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum is not without purpose. It's meant to scare people -- to vote Conservative (preferably hardline religionist); to bring new converts to the Pro Life movement, which is also anti-queer; and to put that upstart lesbian Premier in her place. One of the outcomes I was expecting was a push for homeschooling, as an expression of religious belief and parental rights. 

And then I found this.

The event is hosted by All Saints of North America Orthodox Church in Hamilton, Ontario. The church's website lists Rev. Geoffrey Korz as the "Priest-in-Charge." Father Geoffrey's email is on the flier. The Orthodox Priest is also listed as the Orthodox Christian Chaplain at McMaster University. The outspoken Father Geoffrey offered his two-cents-worth in  September of 2012, when Dr Steve Tourloukis announced he was suing the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, demanding the right to advance notice of instructional topics that may contradict his family's religious beliefs. From Samantha Craggs' report for the CBC
This isn't the first time this year that the public school board has faced Orthodox parents.
Father Geoffrey Korz, general secretary of the Pan-Orthodox Association of Greater Hamilton, approached the school board in June saying that Christian students are being bullied for expressing "traditionally held moral values."*
About 45 Orthodox members gathered in the gallery to support Korz's presentation to board trustees. He wants the board to establish an "anti-Christophobia committee" and information campaign.
Staff are reporting back on whether bullying against Christians is included in the board's equity policy.
Korz said this week that while his group is not involved in Tourloukis's legal campaign, he is "certainly sympathetic."
 *Data I'm aware of on bullying show that Muslim and Jewish populations are far more likely to encounter bullying and harassment than people identified as Christians. I would surmise visibility of religious practice has more to do with that. The Toronto Police Services Hate Crimes Unit lists the most targeted groups, in order, as Jewish, LGBTQ, black, and Muslim. In 2012 StatsCan reported, "The rate of discrimination experienced among students who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans-identified, Two-Spirited, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) is three times higher than heterosexual youth." Additionally, attacks on LGBTQI persons tend to be more violent, particularly so for members of the transgender community.

It's important to understand also that bullying, discrimination and harassment come from places of traditional power. Thus the term "Christophobia," in a Canadian context, is somewhat akin to charges of so-called reverse racism made by some white people here. Are there Christian kids being teased, even bullied? I suppose there certainly are. The question then becomes, by whom and using what power or authority? LGBTQI people traditionally experience oppression based upon established religious authority, as well as legal and cultural traditions.

But let's get back to the graphic above -- in particular the icon used for "transgender washrooms." 

The message is unmistakeable; though the language is muddled. A "transgender washroom," by nature, would be a third-option bathroom for non-cis users. Depicted here is unmistakably a bathroom for girls, who will become vulnerable if they share facilities with trans girls or trans women. The underlying argument is that a "pervy dude" says he's a girl, so he can put on a dress and get into the ladies' room. This urban myth-making was the basis for torpedoing Bill C-279 in Canada's Senate. 

Dented Blue Mercedes reports that law enforcement has debunked this notion:
Minneapolis Police Department: Fears About Sexual Assault “Not Even Remotely” A Problem. Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told Media Matters in an interview that sexual assaults stemming from Minnesota’s 1993 transgender non-discrimination law have been “not even remotely” a problem. Based on his experience, the notion of men posing as transgender women to enter women’s restrooms to commit sex crimes “sounds a little silly,” Elder said. According to Elder, a police department inquiry found “nothing” in the way of such crimes in the city… [Phone interview, 3/11/14]
Of course, the reality is that trans people can experience great distress, as well as verbal abuse or violence, in using the bathroom that best aligns with their gender identity. 

What I find most invidious about this graphic is that it basically says the trans-identified person -- a child in this case -- may be a predator. It is an absolute affront to trans children and their parents.

It is also language precisely suited to the task of scaring parents out of the public education system and into homeschooling or religiously-based independent schools.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What should Kathleen Wynne do about Monte McNaughton's petitions?

Saw this today.
and this.
And then I looked at this press conference from January 27th, 2013, the day after Premier Wynne won the Liberal leadership convention. Just before the fourteen-minute mark, the Premier said that the Health and Physical Education curriculum was coming back.

Then she got elected to a majority and brought the curriculum back.

Then I looked at some of the petitions. There's a few of them out there. I found four of note:
 Retrieved April 21st, 2015

There are others out there, and I'm sure there are hardcopy petitions going around, and that puts signatures nicely above the 100,000 mark.

Then I saw this.
And Russ makes a good point.

But there's also this.

And this.

And this.

And this.

Apparently, one can sign the bloody things from anywhere. And there's a few of them out there.

And then it occurred to me that people who have children in an Ontario school and who object to the curriculum can opt out. Law allows parents to opt out their children from controversial Ontario sex-education curriculum.

And then I asked myself, "Who is it actually that is imposing their beliefs on others?"

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Things we didn't have in 1999.

I stumbled across a piece from Mclean's magazine, Here’s the craziest fact about Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. I'll save time. As of February 2015, when the updated curriculum was revealed, the 1998 version in the oldest in the countryThe 1998 curriculum actually didn't roll out until 1999. 

But here's why this article is really interesting -- to me, anyway:
Here’s a short list of things we didn’t have in 1999: We didn’t have YouTube, or even the first iPod, much less Facebook and Twitter and other future boxes like that... You couldn’t tap credit cards to make payments; heck, you couldn’t tap anything on your cellphone, other than tapping out a text message—and, if you were lucky, you had the predictive functions of T9 texting, so that you didn’t have to just press the 5 button three times just to type the letter L. USB flash drives didn’t exist... Never mind the fact that Snapchat and other social media wasn’t around, as Sandals noted—computers as we understand them to work today didn’t exist.
And those changes are very much on my mind when I think of the updates to the Ontario curriculum. One thing that hasn't changed very much since 1998, or since my day, is that kids are curious about sex, and they share information, or misinformation, as they come by it. Heading into puberty, the quest for data ramps up. They will try to educate themselves with or without the help of teachers and parents.

As a kid, I recall the Little Johnny Jokes being passed around the school yard, and laughing at them whether we understood them or not. We were in the throes of the sexual revolution, and publications like Playboy had become somewhat mainstream. In those days, "men's magazines" were in full view at the checkout stand of grocery and convenience stores. Toronto's Yonge Street was outdoor mall of sexuality -- body rub parlours, photo parlours, adult movie theatres, peep shows, and strip clubs.

I should add, we were also in the throes of Feminism and the view that we were living in a culture that objectified women -- and that would have made a helluva good topic in the sexual health classes I never had in middle school or high school. 

And then came infamous The Baby Blue Movie on Toronto's independent CityTV. Each Friday night at midnight, the station would run an adult film of the soft-core variety -- partial frontal nudity, no depictions of penetration, simulated acts, lots of groaning and cheesy music. I didn't know a fellow student in middle school and high school who hadn't seen one -- either covertly or with the full knowledge of their parents. 

But let's talk about today. From the blog PsychCentral, Robert Weiss shares these US-based stats:

  • 12 percent of all Internet websites are pornographic.
  • 25 percent of all online search engine requests are related to sex. That’s about 68 million requests per day.
  • 35 percent of all Internet downloads are pornographic.
  • 40 million Americans are regular visitors (in their own estimation) to porn sites.
  • 70 percent of men aged 18 to 24 visit a porn site at least once per month.
  • The average age of first exposure to Internet porn is 11.
  • The largest consumer group of Internet porn is men aged 35 to 49.
  • One-third of all Internet porn users are female.
  • The most popular day of the week for watching porn is Sunday.
  • The most popular day of the year for watching porn is Thanksgiving.
After YouTube entered the picture, providers of adult entertainment quickly mimicked the user-friendly live streaming and sharing technology  making way for tube sites that provided live streaming of adult videos -- ranging from clips to entire movies.

All of it categorized for easy searching. 

In the nineties, remember, users had wait for several minutes to download a clip that might only run for a couple minutes. By the late 2000s, the wait time was eliminated. In just the last few years, that same content has become readily viewable on smart phones and devices with wifi access or a data plan.

The content is out there. In terms of what sex acts look like, the cat is out of the bag. This is the basis for my response to critics who say, for instance, that in grade seven, children will learn about anal and oral sex: 
P. 195 - C1.3 explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship.
I contend that by grade seven, they've already heard of anal and oral sex (I had, and that was over forty years ago), and more than likely, they've seen it depicted. Am I defending minors looking at adult material? No, I'm acknowledging that it's taking place. Parents can and should take steps to monitor what their children view; use filtering devices; lock down content on the computer and TV provider's services; and teach children what they consider acceptable at home. At the end of the day, a handful of middle schoolers can disseminate a racy video at recess faster than a teenage boy of my generation could pass around a girly mag.

And so, to say that teachers are going to 'teach' or 'teach about' oral sex or anal sex -- that's really a misstatement. The correct word would be that teachers will be "contextualizing" all of this information in a safe and informed setting. None of that precludes parents also reviewing that content with their children in their own religious and cultural context. And if that's not satisfactory to parents, then they certainly should avail themselves of the opt out.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

"The Well Informed Parent" and The Uninformed Student

1950s Sex Education LP Recording
I was reading up on some of the groups that participated in the April 14th My Child My Choice protest against the Ontario's 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum. A group calling themselves The Well Informed Parent caught my eye. From their website: 

"We are parents representing parents. We have drawn on the considerable skill sets of many parents - such as educators, lawyers, concerned parents and medical professionals. That way we can be well equipped to make informed decisions in regards to our children's education and well-being."

To this end, The Well Informed Parent has come up with alternatives to contested components of Human Development and Sexual Health  and other sections of the curriculum at various grades. To summarize, here are the most hotly contest contested components, as reported back in 2010 by Kathryn Blaze Carlson for the National Post:
Grade 1: Identify body parts, including genitalia (penis, testicles, vagina, vulva).
Grade 3: Identify the characteristics of healthy relationships (i.e.: accepting differences, being inclusive), describe how visible differences and invisible differences make each person unique (i.e.: gender identity, sexual orientation)."
Grade 6: Discuss the development of a person’s sense of self (i.e.: stereotypes, cultural and gender identity), discuss homophobia and gender stereotyping. The curriculum suggests a teacher say: “Having erections, wet dreams and vaginal lubrication are normal things that happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring your body by touching or masturbating is something that many people will do and find pleasurable. It is common and not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.”
Grade 8: Identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decision about sexual activity (i.e.: curiosity, acceptance of gender identity and sexual orientation, religious beliefs), demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (i.e.: male, female, two-spirited, transgendered, transsexual, intersex). 
Source: Kathryn Blaze Carlson, The National Post.
Another element of the curriculum consistently ignored by the critics and overlooked in press reports is this one: 
Grade 7: Explain the importance of agreeing with a partner to delay sexual activity, (i.e.: choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse, choosing to abstain from having oral sex), identify common STDs.
Here's what The Well Informed Parent (TWIP) came up with:

Grade 1 -- Privates

Basically, according to their reckoning, the words "penis" and "vagina" are acceptable; "vulva" and "testicles" are not. 

"Girls’ genitalia are internal and hidden and it would disturb both genders to talk about it at this age, especially that they are still discovering and exploring other systems of their bodies," they argue.

Grade 3 -- Don't Say Gay

Note: Throughout its suggested corrections to the curriculum, TWIP wants all references to gender identity and sexual orientation pushed back to the tenth grade. 

"Students need to have a profound understanding of their bodies and their feelings in order to develop a clear picture about gender identity and sexual orientation. Students will be more successful in recognizing their gender identity and sexual orientation in grade 10 when they are mature enough and better able to understand themselves."

The unit is about differences -- visible and invisible -- not about getting 8-year-olds to identify their gender and sexuality. This is an opportunity to contextualize what they already see around them and to validate families they know in the school and the community. 
Delaying this conversation to the tenth grade is beyond absurd. In discussing different families, children themselves will reference LGBT family members and friends.

Grade 4 -- "Sexual Pictures"?

This one caught me by surprise: Modify the phrase of 'I shouldn’t share my password…' to include also not sharing sexual pictures of one-self and a warning on the dangers and ramifications of sharing such information can have on the student’s privacy and life.

I don't disagree, but what constitutes a sexual picture? My first thought is that if a fourth-grader is in possession of a sexual picture of himself or herself, I need to be calling the CAS. Ironically, this instruction leaves the teacher in charge of telling children what would be sexual, when no discussion of sex or sexuality has taken place thus far.

A huge can of worms.

Grade 4 -- Dealing with abuse

From the Curriculum: P. 141 - C1.3 Teacher prompt: “In cases of abuse, it is not uncommon for the person being abused to know the person who is abusing them. If a friend told you that she had a secret and that she was being abused, how could you help?”

Student: “I would tell my friend to ask an adult that she trusts so that she can get help. I would listen and be there to support my friend.”

This is sound advice in my belief. If the alleged abuser is a family member, someone known to the family, or a teacher, the child must decide who is safe to talk to.

The Well Informed Parent group disagrees (emphasis mine): 
“Trusted adult” or “adult that she trusts” is unclear. Who judges whether an adult is trustworthy or not? Certainly not a 10 year old. We ask to remove “trusted adult” and replace it with “parents and teachers”.
With young students it’s recommended to be very specific and clear when it comes to the word “trust” and “trusted person”, we need to be sensitive to the possibility that students may have different meanings for the same word or different words for the same meaning.
I use the phrase "an adult you trust" all the time when discussing matters of safety with children. That comes with a discussion of why a child might find a specific adult trustworthy and who those trustworthy adults might be, including parents and teachers. As for sensitivity to how children define words, they can be very literal. There are other staff in a school in whom a child may place trust with sensitive information -- everyone from the secretary to the guidance counsellor.

Grade 4 -- More than friends

From the Curriculum: P. 141 - C1.5 Teacher prompt: “What can change socially as you start to develop physically?” 

Student: “Relationships with friends can change, because sometimes people start being interested in different things at different times. Some people start ‘liking’ others. They want to be more than ‘just friends’ and become interested in going out. Sometimes people treat you as if you are older than you actually are because of how you look. Sometimes classmates, friends, or family make comments or tease you about the changes.”

TWIP wants the underlined section of the student response deleted. They explain:
The expectation is referring to “dating” when it mentions “going out”. A 10 year old, by Law, is supposed to be under supervision as they are still children. Dating is not age-appropriate yet and in conflict with many cultures.
"Dating," as an activity some youngster might, or might be allowed to, engage in is not mentioned until the sixth grade. TWIP says that children in the fourth grade must be supervised -- essentially correct, in that children under the age of ten cannot be left home alone. Children in this age range ride public transit, walk to school, or to other locations in the community.

This discussion is about how children see their relationships changing; it is not a prescription for dating. Some children may want to date at this age -- and the date might well be walking home from school together -- but the prerogative of parents to put the kibosh on dating until a later age is not being undermined.
This period is still a latent period, and during this period, the libido interests are suppressed. The development of the ego and superego contribute to this period of calm. This stage begins around the time that children enter into school and become more concerned with peer relationships, hobbies, and other interests. The latent period is a time of exploration in which the sexual energy is still present, but it is directed into other areas such as intellectual pursuits and social interactions. This stage is important in the development of social and communication skills and self-confidence.
For reasons unknown, TWIP is now quoting Freud's Stages of Psychosexual Development, and without attribution. Since we know that children are experiencing puberty earlier than in previous generations, these assertions can be challenged.
When we introduce 10 year olds to “dating”, we encourage them, unintentionally, to withdraw from any social activity and focus on a partner, which will affect their social development in a negative way.
Having the conversation about something children think they want to do is not encouraging them to do it. In these moments, I find myself saying, "This is a discussion you will have to have with your parents."
When we normalise dating at 10 years old, they will be more tempted to start having sex 2 years later at the age of 12.
A kooky conclusion built on a faulty premise. Parents will decide if their kids can date. Likely, most parents of children in grade four will discourage it. Some parents may elect to accommodate it through supervised group outings. But it was never about dating in the first place -- it was about children's feelings about their relationships.

This kind of thinking is very similar to the bizarre reaction detractors had to the issue of consent in the curriculum. The Ottawa Citizen's David Reevely summed it up this way:
If they teach you in gym to climb a rope using both hands and your knees, they’re also teaching you how to fall and hurt yourself by switching to your elbows and one ear when you’re 15 feet up. In some sort of abstract philosophical sense, instruction in a particular area is, indirectly, instruction in its opposite.
In a practical sense, though, how far gone does a person have to be to think The premier wants to teach six-year-olds how to say yes to sex?
Source: The Ottawa Citizen.
In this section, TWIP also quotes the Education Act of Ontario as it pertains to Judeo-Christian values: 

Judeo-Christian Values, as a concept, seemed clearer in my parents' day or mine for that matter, when Christianity and Judaism were seen as the dominant religious belief systems of Ontario. In a school system that serves Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Wiccans, and Atheists, it has become more opaque. Further, so many people ascribe to belief systems quite apart from religion -- conservative, liberal, libertarian, feminist, queer.

In any event, the clause is not about curriculum; it's about the personal conduct of the teacher and the example he or she sets. Under human rights and general law, much of it would now be difficult and unnecessary to enforce against teachers called before the College for misconduct. Child safety issues would take precedence -- as they should.

Grade 5 -- Whose feelings are these, anyway?

From the Curriculum: P. 158 - C2.4 describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty (e.g., questions about changing bodies and feelings, adjusting to changing relationships, crushes and more intense feelings, conflicts between personal desires and cultural teachings and practices), and identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress, build resilience, and enhance their mental health and emotional wellbeing (e.g., being active, writing feelings in a journal, accessing information about their concerns, taking action on a concern, talking to a trusted peer or adult, breathing deeply, meditating, seeking cultural advice from elders). 

From TWIP: C2.4 describe emotional and interpersonal stresses related to puberty (e.g., questions about changing bodies and feelings, adjusting to changing relationships, crushes, trying to align personal desires with cultural teachings and practices and religious beliefs), and identify strategies that they can apply to manage stress, build resilience, and enhance their mental health and emotional wellbeing (e.g., being active, writing feelings in a journal, accessing information about their concerns, taking action on a concern, talking to my parents and my friends, breathing deeply, meditating, seeking cultural advice from elders).

According to TWIP's feedback and analysis:
The word “conflict” means opposition or clash and is a strong negative word. This is the age for cultural identity development and the strong sense of belonging. It is better to use a positive word like “aligning personal desires with cultural teachings”.
It's a strong word, and sometimes it is a negative word by necessity. Children often experience a dissonance between what parents expect or believe and what seems to go on around them. More than once in my career, children have come to me in tears because their parents have admonished them not to play with a child of a particular race or religion. There's no re-alligning for me to do in this instance; nor is it helpful or productive for me to criticize the parents' views. What I can do in that situation is acknowledge that the child's choice of friends is not a matter of school rules -- which take precedence at school -- and that the child can make choices at school.
The issue of “trusted peer or adult” was covered previously. We want to encourage children to open discussion with their parents.
Some parents refuse to talk about certain matters with their children. TWIP goes on to discuss the importance of parent engagement in student success. I couldn't agree more, but all of that discussion has to do with parents being engaged with what is taking place at school, not micromanaging it from afar, as this document proposes to do. If children are experiencing conflict, that's what they're experiencing.

Grade 5 -- Don't say chill

On drug usage, TWIP wants the word "relaxation" removed from a discussion of short term effects because it promotes drug use. At this point, it becomes abundantly clear the authors do not realize the curriculum guide is not a text book or a lecture. It helps the teacher frame the unit. 

When the teacher directs students to research materials on substances -- books, websites -- the students will find the same information because it is a fact.

Here, the role of the teacher is to contextualize facts, not hide them -- because they will come up.

Grade 5 -- No penetration

Underlined below is what TWIP would like to see removed from the grade five unit:

P. 155 - C1.4 Teacher: “The testicles are glands within the scrotum that produce sperm and hormones, beginning at puberty. After sperm develops in the testicles, it can travel through the epididymis until it reaches the vas deferens where it is stored until ejaculation occurs. During ejaculation, the prostate gland releases a liquid that mixes with the sperm from the vas deferens to make semen, which then leaves the body through the urethra. Fertilization can occur when the penis is in the vagina, sperm is ejaculated, and the sperm and egg connect. Babies can also be conceived by having the sperm and egg connect using assisted reproductive technologies. What is the purpose of sperm production?”

They explain (emphasis mine):
Remove the phrase “when the penis is in the vagina, sperm is ejaculated”. This phrase is very graphic and unnecessarily detailed, especially that the topic of reproduction is also covered in the science curriculum. Most 11 year olds are not ready for this information yet. In this context, they only need to know that fertilization occurs when the sperm and egg connect.
To say that "most eleven-year-olds are not ready for this information" is a sweeping generalization. In 1998, when the previous curriculum was released, eleven-year-olds didn't have access to smartphones, tablets, wifi and streaming media. What we want our kids to know or think they know is not the issue. In my day, it was one kid telling jokes and stories in the schoolyard; today it's multiple kids with an iPhone. Kids today are seeing what I had to picture in my mind's eye forty-five years ago.

I cannot help but throw my hands up in disgust at this suggestion because this is the exact same lesson I was given in 1971. The sperm and the egg, but not the penis and the vagina. That's not a lesson in health or science; it's a moral obfuscation. Even then, you could tell kids in the room were thinking, "Oh for crying out loud, spill the beans."

TWIP goes on to cite a three articles about youth and exposure to sex in popular media...
...that have nothing to do with sexual health education. 

Nothing at all. 

All three reference media -- including popular media like television and adult entertainment (pornography, if you must) -- and their potential impact on youngsters' attitudes about sex and relationships. The third article, from the US National Library of Medicine, explains that entertainment media can override the lessons taught in health, and further education is needed:
Innovative interventions could identify creative ways of generating doubt in the minds of young people as to the veracity of the sex-related media messages they receive. One way of doing this may be to include media literacy in sexuality education programming, whereby young people learn to analyze and evaluate media portrayals of sex.5,3032
The nicest way I can put this is that the citation of these three articles is feeble and misleading. Did they think no one would click on the links and read the articles? Or did they not understand the material they were linking to?

Grade 5 -- Don't say gay

I've bolded the the phrase TWIP wants removed:

P. 159 - C2.4 Student: “Things I can control include whether I have a positive or negative attitude about things, how I show respect for myself and others, whether I ask for help when I need it, whether I am involved in activities at school and in my community, actions I take, whether I am open to new ideas, and whether I make my own decisions about things or let myself be influenced by others. Things I cannot control include where I was born, who is in my family, how much money my family has, and personal characteristics such as my skin colour, hair colour, whether I am male or female, my gender identity, sexual orientation, and overall body shape and structure. I could have a learning disability, a physical disability, or a health issue. All of these things are a part of who I am. I cannot control these things, but I can control what I do and how I act.”

As with the grade reference to "gender identity and sexual orientation," the authors quote psychologist Dr Ellen Braaten for reasons I can't quite fathom. Dr Braaten seems to be suggesting  the existence of observable, developmental patterns of gender identity and expression throughout a young person's development. Her analysis suggests fluidity.

In addition to reiterating that sexual orientation and gender identity are tenth grade concepts -- based on what I don't know -- the TWIP authors advise that,
"It is not yet scientifically proven that gender identity or sexual orientation are things we cannot control."

Yeah, it has, which is why conversion therapies have fallen into disfavour among medical professionals -- save for a few outliers -- and are being outlawed in many jurisdictions.

To suggest that gender identity and sexual orientation can be changed is to say that they ought to be. Again, it's hard to be nice, so I shan't try: That's homophobic, transphobic and ignorant. And we have a body count of LGBT kids who have suffered for that thinking.

Grade 5 -- Don't say gay

I don't need to tell you what TWIP wants taken out:

From the Curriculum: P. 157 - C2.2 Teacher prompt: “What strategies could you use in a situation where you were being harassed because of your sex, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, body shape, weight, or ability?”

Again, tenth-graders are entitled to have a conversation in class about how to address all forms of gender-based discrimination. Some body calls you a "fag" in the fifth grade?

Tough luck, kid.

There are a number of problems. A person does not need to be gay or bisexual, let alone say they are, to be a target of homophobic bullying. Homophobic behaviour among young people can come a perception based on a stereotype. Personal interests, abilities or manner of dress that conflict with others' expectations can trigger homophobic harassment. I know this from experience, and I'm going to digress here to share it:

In 1972, I began my seventh grade year at an all-boys Catholic academy, where I would remain until grade thirteen graduation. I was an outlier: non-Catholic, working mom, full-time mature student father. I was good at music theatre and completely unskilled and disinterested in hockey -- in school that had an indoor arena and storied reputation in the sport. Heard the words, "fag," "homo," "gay boy," "queer," "fairy" every day for my first two years there. None of this was ever addressed in classroom instruction, nor did staff intervene. 

TWIP's rationale for omitting these terms and pushing them back to the tenth grade: "Same as above."

Grade 6 -- We never joke about cannabis

Bolded below is the section TWIP wants removed:

Student: “Cannabis can change the way you see and feel things – distances can seem shorter or longer than they really are, and things that are serious can seem funny. Larger amounts can lead to feelings of losing control, panic, or confusion. Physical effects include red eyes, dry mouth, a higher heart rate, and a feeling of hunger. Using cannabis often and for a longer time can lead to being physically dependent on it. Then, when people stop using cannabis, they can have withdrawal symptoms, which can include feeling irritable, anxious, or nauseated, not having an appetite, or not being able to sleep well.” 

Their rationale: 
Such phrase is very inviting, especially to vulnerable children that might want to escape the seriousness of their less-than-ideal reality.

Isn't that the point of the lesson? The use and abuse of substances is a mental health issue. Understanding the desire to numb out feelings is key to understanding addiction and related behaviours.

Grade 6 -- Don't say Gender Identity

From the curriculum: P. 172 - C1.3 identify factors that affect the development of a person’s self-concept (e.g., environment, evaluations by others who are important to them, stereotypes, awareness of strengths and needs, social competencies, cultural and gender identity, support, body image, mental health and emotional well-being, physical abilities).

Yep, move it to grade ten. 

This calls to mind Charles McVety's recent comment that gender identity theory is a topic suitable for "graduate or post-graduate" study. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that Mr McVety may not be the best judge of what should take place in graduate instruction.

But there's another problem, too.

Critics of transgenderism, a term used to demean trans people, never tire of pointing out that the small percentage of people who are transgender is an argument for not attending to it in class. But the discussion is about gender (not transgender) and sexual orientation (not homosexuality), and 100% of children in the classroom have a gender and a sexual orientation that they are exploring and attempting to understand and define. That is not the same thing as having sex, or encouraging children to be sexually active.

Grade 6 -- If you don't stop, your teacher will be arrested

From the Curriculum: P. 175 - C2.5 Teacher prompt: “Things like wet dreams or vaginal lubrication are normal and happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.

Their reasons for wanting the underlined cut:

On the science-ish side of things, they site the Women's Health magazine article: How a Guy's Masturbation Habits Can Affect Your Sex Life: A new study says certain solo sessions may be hurting his partner performance. The article also talks a bit about porn addiction, which, taken seriously, would make a good topic for sex ed.

But they've brought Googled legal arguments too:
Invitation to Sexual Touching (sections 152 and 153) - no one can invite a child under the age of 16 to touch himself/herself or them for a sexual purpose. The penalty for this offence is a mandatory minimum period of imprisonment of up to a maximum of 10 years”. “no one in a position of trust or authority over a 16 or 17 year old (for example, a teacher, religious leader, baby-sitter or doctor) or upon whom the young person is dependent, can touch any part of the body of the young person for a sexual purpose or invite that young person to touch himself/herself or them for a sexual purpose. The penalty for this offence is a mandatory minimum period of imprisonment of up to a maximum of 10 years”.
TWIP isn't the first to try this argument, clearly meant to frighten teachers. The Group Protest to Stop or Revise SEX ED curriculum Start Sep 2015 posted this on their Facebook page months back prior to the February 24th protest at Queen's Park, which I blogged about here. Former TDSB Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos, who has inserted himself into the anti sex ed movement as defender of parental rights, tweeted much the same at the time.

Back in the day, teachers, preachers and parents warned adolescents off self-pleasuring by telling them stories of hairy palms and bad hearing. In the new millennium, their teachers will be sent to the hoosegow. 

Grade 7 -- Abstain, but don't talk about it

Ironically TWIP suggests taking the scissors to a unit on abstinence in order not to talk about what students might be abstinent from:

From the Curriculum: P. 195 - C1.3 explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship.

Teacher prompt: “The term abstinence can mean different things to different people. People can also have different understandings of what is meant by having or not having sex. Be clear in your own mind about what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with. Being able to talk about this with a partner is an important part of sexual health. Having sex can be an enjoyable experience and can be an important part of a close relationship when you are older. But having sex has risks too, including physical risks like sexually transmitted infections – which are common and which can hurt you – and getting pregnant when you don’t want to. What are some of the emotional considerations to think about?”

Rationale? The same articles they used above about sexualizing children through media. They weren't relevant to the grade five discussion of penises and vaginas, and they're not relevant here either.

It gets worse. Seventh grade study of different sex acts, along with STI risks, gets a hatchet job from this group, along with a lecture about how different cultures view oral and anal sex. There's even a supporting paragraph about sodomy, with information cribbed from Wikipedia:
In some cultures, anal sex is considered sodomy. Sodomy law is a law that defines certain sexual acts as crimes. The precise sexual acts meant by the term sodomy are rarely spelled out in the law, but are typically understood by courts to include any sexual act deemed to be "unnatural" or immoral.[1] Sodomy typically includes anal sex, oral sex and bestiality.[2][3][4] In practice, sodomy laws have rarely been enforced against heterosexual couples. Parents of minor children do not approve exposing their children to this type of information. 
In another strand of the Grade Seven unit on Human Development and Sexual Health, they recommend, yet again that "sexual orientation and gender identity"  be stricken from the curriculum. In another, "conflicts" with parents are "misunderstandings." It's as if students don't have their own identity, and the curriculum should be written to placate some parents rather than educate all children.

Grade 8 -- Need advice? You're on your own.

The following is on the chopping block from the Curriculum: P. 215 - C1.4 identify and explain factors that can affect an individual’s decisions about sexual activity (e.g., previous thinking about reasons to wait, including making a choice to delay sexual activity and establishing personal limits; perceived personal readiness; peer pressure; desire; curiosity; self-concept; awareness and acceptance of gender identity and sexual orientation; physical or cognitive disabilities and possible associated assumptions; legal concerns; awareness of health risks, including risk of STIs and blood-borne infections; concerns about risk of pregnancy; use of alcohol or drugs; personal or family values; religious beliefs; cultural teachings; access to information; media messages), and identify sources of support regarding sexual health (e.g., a health professional [doctor, nurse, public health practitioner], a community elder, a teacher, a religious leader, a parent or other trusted adult, a reputable website)

Much of this is not surprising -- TWIP wants these items pushed to the tenth grade. Here's an interesting nugget from their rationale:

Parents are not in agreement that students should talk to a "religious leader" about their sexuality. Religious leaders expressed discomfort to be on the list.

I'll say it: A "religious leader" unwilling to counsel or at least refer a child on matters of sexuality and identity should find another job. 

I cannot imagine the sample of religious leaders they drew from. The ones I've known -- and I'm an atheist -- would never turn away from a child with a question.

Grade 8 -- Charles McVety's dreaded "six genders"

No bolding or underling here -- TWIP wants the following excised, and the rest moved to grade ten.

P. 216 - C1.5 demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual, intersex), gender expression, and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual), and identify factors that can help individuals of all identities and orientations develop a positive self-concept [PS]

Their rationale:
Why do 13 year olds need to “demonstrate an understanding” of such detailed information on a subject that is extremely controversial? It completely disregards the Judeo-Christian values that are described in section 264 of the Education Act.
Why? Because 100% of the children in that eighth grade classroom fall somewhere on a spectrum of gender, including cisgender and transgender, as well as other identifiers. One-hundred-percent of those children at straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, etc. -- meaning they all have a sexual orientation. And everyone of those children deserve to have their identities and their peers' identities validated.

The Judeo-Christian argument still won't float. If it did, it would have made Bill 13: The Accepting Schools Act and The Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy impossible.

There's another problem with the argument. People who invoke it are really saying that queer kids are against their religion. And that's an accommodation no school in this province should ever make.
If the “Equity and Inclusion policy” is to be carried out then it is quite sufficient to teach that we should always be respectful and understanding of all people of all faiths, cultures, orientations and genders.
One cannot be respectful of something that is not understood or acknowledged -- as evidenced by this curriculum rewrite.
This lengthy information of the sexual health part of the curriculum is worded in a way to suggest to unsuspecting minors that they don’t have a choice in their gender and orientation, which is a highly controversial statement that research has not proven to be true as of yet.
A misleading statement. The TWIP folks quote Dr Ellen Braaten twice -- whose analysis suggests fluidity of gender expression among adolescents. "Choice in gender and orientation" opens the door to endorsing conversion therapy, which take the form of bad psycho therapy or pray-the-gay-away. These are dangerous, discredited practices.
The 2012 Statistics Canada report indicates that 1.3% of all adult Canadians classify themselves as homosexuals, while 17.3% of all Canadians are immigrants. Would it not have more equitable value to teach lengthy paragraphs on being “inclusive and welcoming” to other cultures?

Good gracious! It's amazing how people are queer and nothing else. They can't be queer and also an immigrant or a person of faith. Government surveys of sexual orientation tend to get low numbers for people identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual. This article discusses why government agencies get these numbers on sexual orientation surveys, and how they creep up closer to the traditionally used figure of ten percent when questions are asked differently.

The argument around numbers is invidious. By the same reasoning, we could determine that Jewish Canadians, at three percent of the population, aren't worthy of attention in the curriculum. This argument was employed in Ontario schools in the 1940s when leaders in the community sought accommodation for Jewish students and families. Anyhow, the curriculum is about health, not multiculturalism. LGBTQI kids, whatever their number. are at a higher risk for suicide and other mental health issues than most other cohorts of young people. They rival First Nations youth in this regard.


I've gone through this document in rather painstaking detail for good reason. Typically, the We Say No and Our Children Our Choice crowd are short on specifics, saying only that content "age-inappropriate." They all go to great pains to assure us that they are not homophobic or transphobic -- although so many sections of the curriculum have nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity per se -- they're just worried that their kids will be confused. So it's interesting to look at a detailed -- if intellectually bankrupt -- response to the curriculum and see, ultimately, the same rubbish spewed by Phil Lees, Charles McVety, Teresa Pierre, Gwen Landolt, and Jack Fonseca. It's the same mean-spirited, bigoted nonsense -- just dressed up vaguely in the wrappings of educational equity and child development instead of religious faith.