Reverting to 20-year-old curriculum, compromises young people’s ability to live safely

When Janet Mock began elementary school, at the age of 5-years-old, she was critically aware society and her peers would not accept her if they knew who she really was. If they knew her gender identity was different from the gender she was assigned at birth. Society had taught her it would not be OK to be different.

Author, TV Host and transgender rights activist, Janet Mock wasn't educated in Ontario, or Canada, for that matter. But, if she was 5-years-old again, and entering into primary school somewhere in Ontario last year, her opportunities for a childhood supporting her freedom to be herself; not hide; not bury her identity; and live safely, would be significantly greater. This would have been in part thanks to the gender inclusive healthy living curriculum implemented in Ontario in 2015.

Ontario's sex ed curriculum is on the precipice of change. But it's more than simply a 'sex ed' curriculum. It's about healthy living. It's about inclusion. And yes, there are some scary words in there. Quick lift the rug, here's the broom: masturbation, same sex couples, sexual consent.... You can uncover your eyes now.

Some folks say it's about to take a leap backwards. Others say it's protecting their children from information they're too young to digest. Information that should only be taught in the home.

For the 1000s of children in Ontario on their journey through elementary school, I'm fearful for you. Fearful for this backwards stride away from candid classroom, age appropriate education.

This morning PFLAG Toronto shed some light on this boiling debate by sharing a comparison of Ontario's sex ed curriculum between 1998 (the then) and 2015 (the now), keeping in mind the 2015 curriculum is already 3-years-old in a changing world of youth online access and increasing awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQ2+ community.

It's important to be informed no matter how you identify. To have a sense of how and why your child's sex education is being pulled back to 1998. Ask yourself, what is everyone is so afraid of?

Let's take a look at Grade 3 and Grade 4:

The 2015 Ontario Grade 3 and 4 curriculum, teaches about the identifying of healthy relationships including acceptance of differences, inclusiveness and also looking at people's invisible differences like cultural values, beliefs and gender identity and sexual orientation. It's a more comprehensive approach at building awareness of the complex roles we all play while growing in today's society.

Glen Canning says his daughter Rehtaeh Parsons may be alive today if Nova Scotia had had the 2015 Ontario curriculum in it's schools and kids were taught about sexual consent. Canning is now working with a campaign to fight for the 2015 sex-ed curriculum, which he hopes to see back in every classroom across the province.

“If EVERY parent isn’t educating their children at home, none of our children are safe,” wrote Canning, in a tweet regarding consent and education.

And every parent is not educating their children on all elements within the curriculum.

As one of 1000's of parents across Canada who are parenting a child who is gender non-conforming (GNC), I hear first hand the enormous gap in awareness and support for gender diverse and transgender children. Children that depend on acceptance and inclusion from elementary school onwards for their safety and well being.

I really liked that it talked a lot about the LGBTQ community and gender, says Canning on the 2015 curriculum...
(It reflects) the reality of society today and burying our head in the sand and pretending it isn’t there isn’t going to make anything go away. And it’s definitely not going to help kids stay safe.
The second part I liked was about consent. But the real appeal to me was talking to children in grades 1, 2 and 3, and teaching them about respect, boundaries of other people, and asking to touch someone. Finding out what consent really means.

This sparks a potential big loss for families under Doug Ford's changes to the Ontario curriculum as these teachings were helping to end stigma and foster inclusion.

For some of us parents of gender diverse kids, our children showed clear and unflinching characteristics and attributes from the moment they could talk. For others, it took a little longer.

Until 2015, there was no curriculum that supported, acknowledged and included our children in Ontario. And a lack of curriculum has a ripple-on effect into the homes and lives of families of children who would come to meet, play and forge friendships with our children. It's barrier-driven.

How can communities be expected to understand if they are not informed?

It is within our education system that this understanding through passage of valuable information begins.

Education and awareness equals safer and happier spaces for all children.

There is still a long way to go and elementary school is where these not-so-scary, matter-of-fact, discussions need to begin. When peers don't understand - don't accept - then bullying happens or worse, violence happens. I know this first hand, having had to take my child to hospital with a cracked nose and concussion at the end of Grade 6 because another child was 'confused about my child's gender identity.' Many other children, Canada-wide, remain stealth in their identities for fear of isolation or bullying.

The Youth Project, a non-profit group supporting GNC youth in Nova Scotia said it well,

For more information:

Providing comprehensive sex-ed is not about special interests or politics. It is about making sure that young people receive the information they need and are entitled to in order to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Sex Ed is more than the birds and the bees and where babies come from. It's about raising global citizens and teaching respect for ones body and other peoples body's. And it's about safety. A curriculum should include all children and foster conversations that don't always happen between parent and child.

...If parents were teaching this at home, we wouldn’t be in this place right now. Because if they’re teaching this at home, then why in 2018 do we have kids who are homophobic and racist and sexist and misogynist? Why do we have that? We have that because they’re not teaching kids at home, said Canning.