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Beyond the birds and bees

SOGI isn’t indoctrination. It’s education and protection.

Being the mother of a newly-minted 11-year-old poised for puberty and the questions that come with it, I’m very much engaged in what he’s learning in Sex Ed.

In our home we have an “all topics on the table” policy. He asks, we tell.

Sometimes we worry we say too much…thankfully expert educators put my mind at ease at our elementary school. Late last spring, our public school had a PAC presentation where we were given a clear outline of exactly what our kids would be learning in Sex Ed.

The biggest takeaway: kids only absorb what they can handle. You can give all the details to answer any question, and rest assured it will help them navigate their path.

Today’s Sex Ed is much more matter-of-fact than in my day. It’s no longer just simple male/female body function, how babies are made and the ever-giggle-inspiring “condom on a banana” demo.

Today it’s so much more and, for some kids, a lifeline to sanity. There’s a clear explanation of sexual orientation and how families come in many forms.

It’s matter-of-fact, clear, inclusive and honest. It reflects society in Canada today.

Looking back, even just a few decades ago, closeted gay students were targets. As a heterosexual middle-class white girl, I could never imagine the stress and fear of school as a child struggling with sexual orientation.

In our school, there were definitely gay students. Our student body had no clue how to support them. It was more a situation that “everybody knew.” It led to whispering, sometimes maligning and (all too often) bullying.

Since then, we’ve grown. Canada was among the first nations to truly embrace sexual diversity in society.

History lesson:

On June 10, 2003 — The Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a decision immediately legalizing same-sex marriage, becoming the first province to do so. The federal gender-neutral marriage definition made Canada the fourth country in the world, and first outside of Europe, to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

In May 2016 the Conservative Party of Canada voted to change the party’s platform from defining marriage as “a union between one man and one woman,” to a neutral stance.

Just last year a CROP poll showed 74% of Canadians found it “great that in Canada, two people of the same sex can get married.” (26% disagreed)

Question: are we, the majority, becoming complacent on the topic, or is that 26% just getting louder with social media?

Over the weekend, Doug Ford’s PC government shocked many as they announced the removal of gender identity from Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum. The resolution stated that the Tories should “recognize gender identity as ‘liberal ideology’” and remove it.

Luckily, the backlash was swift and on Monday, Ford told media he’d “kill that.”

Good news – but why was this even a problem?

People don’t “become” gay or trans when they hit adulthood. Ask anyone “when did you know,” and they will tell you, “I’ve always known.”

Listen to that. Hear that.

Right now, there is a parent reading this who might “wish” that weren’t true with their son or daughter, for whatever reason. To that parent I say this: Do the best thing for your child and support them for who they ARE.

Don’t fear who they are, but help them find their way. Focus on educating them, your family and their friends. (And yourself.)

Here in BC we currently have a fight on our hands over what’s right for kids. Ever louder are those who’d like to turn the clock back.

People stuck in the dark ages doing their damndest to dial back gender identity rights and freedom of sexual orientation.

By now you’ve likely heard the term SOGI 123 — but in the event that you really are not 100% certain of what SOGI means…allow me to help.

SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s a new piece of our growing Sex Ed curriculum to help youth understand the diversity of students, words to use to discuss differences, and knowledge based in facts.

For many kids, identifying as a boy or a girl is straightforward; for others it’s not so easy. From the site: “Every student expresses their gender differently, with interests and choices that are common or less common for their biological sex.”

Kids sometimes feel unsure of their sexual orientation – or are quite sure, but afraid of condemnation.

SOGI helps with that.

It’s about creating culture in schools where kids don’t flinch when someone comes out or opts to change their name or appearance based on gender identity.

SOGI is about building a community of acceptance. It’s education, not indoctrination.

School is hard enough to navigate without fear of discrimination. Social awkwardness hits an entirely new level when you have a crush, not on someone your peers expect you too but maybe someone of the same sex. Or you are the boy who yearns to be a part of the girl’s group, feeling that you are not in the right body — that you should have been born a girl.

These stresses and pressures, left without proper education and support, can lead to serious issues of mental stress – or worse.

Not everyone grows up in an environment where being gay or feeling like you were born the wrong gender is acceptable to talk through — school is where it should be safe to do so.

It’s time to ask: “What are you so afraid of?”

Embrace what you fear. You will find beauty.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who has spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.