Sexual Education in Ontario – A (hopeful) step in the right direction

I am looking forward to Ontario’s new sex education curriculum. Others, though, are expressing some pretty big concerns.

As the parent of an 8-year-old, this quote from the article stands out:

“Little eight-year-olds, they’re going to be taught they look one way on the outside but they may be the opposite on the inside,” McVety said. “This is so confusing to an eight-year-old … these are children in the strongest sense of the word — they’re innocent, they’re clean, they’re beautiful — and to corrupt them by imparting a question of gender identity is beyond the pale.”

Neither of my kids have ever expressed any difficulty or confusion around the idea that not everyone feels comfortable in the body they got at birth. I have a boy who has been able to clearly articulate for a while that he is most comfortable with a masculine identity. He was 8 when he said to me, “Mom, you know I’m not gay, right?” He has a very clear understanding of both his sexual orientation and gender identity, and is very comfortable in his body. He’s also had the language and the knowledge to be able to verbalize this comfort from the beginning. I never made any assumptions about how and who my kids would love, or how their gender expression would take form.

I have joked that I’ve taught my kids about sex a bit on the early side compared to my parenting peers in part because I want to make sure that SOMEONE on the playground has the right information. Information is power, and the right information in the hands of those who need it most gives them the power to make informed choices.

I am far more comfortable with my children (re)learning about the proper words or genitalia, that gender identity and sexual orientation are two of the many things that make us different and the same, and the mechanics of sexual activity (not exclusive to penis-in-vagina definitions) than I am with them seeing something like Bristol Palin telling teens that only privileged kids should be allowed to have sex.

The thing about this educational program is that it’s based on a series of prompts, none of which are mandatory. This gives teachers a guide to deal with questions that students themselves may bring up, either publicly during class, or privately through a collection of anonymous written questions. Our kids WANT this information, are learning incorrect information from their peers, and are at risk of making really REALLY bad choices based on this misinformation.

Ideally, I want my kids to wait until they’re emotionally mature enough to handle the bigness that comes with sexual relationships. I also want them to know that their sexuality isn’t dependent on others to be satisfied. I want them to know how to prevent pregnancy and STI transmission well before they’re put in a situation where that knowledge would be tested. I want them to be allies and advocates for their friends whose lives differ from their own, and I want them to know that I will love them completely unconditionally and that they and their friends will always be safe in our home.

Maybe we should be framing the sexual education of children and youth as a public health issue rather than one of education. We keep our communities safe (physically and emotionally) by ensuring that the majority are given the tools they need to make healthy choices.

Ah, but perhaps that’s part of the issue, then. Maybe those choices don’t reflect the morality of the parents of the youth making them. The herd immunity effect of abstinence-only doctrine didn’t help Bristol Palin, so what makes those who object think it’ll work for their kids?



  1. SisterMableSyrup said,

    September 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    I’ve been following this woman on Twitter – @PersonaMomGrata. She’s got probably the most awesome and thoughtful perspectives on teaching your children about sexuality – healthy, no-nonsense, truthful feedback. I just read this article, and wonder what you think: I wish women like her were in charge of setting sexual education criteria in schools

  2. September 28, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    […] written about this before, first lauding the proposed changes to the physical education and health curriculum, then expressing my […]

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