Two 14-year-old students who identify as transgender are speaking out following Premier Doug Ford’s plan to revert to the 1998 sex-ed curriculum, saying they fear this means they won’t be seen as “normal.”
Their concerns stem from the differences between old lesson plans and the most recent ones, which were implemented in 2015 by Ontario’s then-Liberal government. The older curriculum excludes conversations about LGBTQ acceptance and gender identity.
“Basically, what you’re doing is taking away people’s freedom to know,” said Bowmanville, Ont., student Rae Perry when asked what message he would like to send to Ford.
Perry says he came out as transgender when he was 11 years old and his experience at school thus far has been positive, but he is afraid reverting to the old curriculum may change this.
“I already feel self-conscious because of everything, but for people to misgender me a lot, it hurts,” he continues. “It’ll hurt a lot of people if it does end up changing.”
These students are far from the only people who have condemned the changes — six families plan to file a case with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario over the issue, citing similar arguments to Carter and Perry.
The Durham public school board has expressed that the older curriculum “falls short in addressing the knowledge and skills that today’s youth require.”
“We want our communities to know that our sincere commitment to create inclusive and responsive school environments has not wavered,” reads a statement from the Durham District School Board. “This includes all LGBTQ+ students, staff, parents and families that compose our wonderfully diverse region.”
The union representing the province’s elementary school teachers has also spoken out against changing the curriculum, saying in a press release: “We need to prepare students for the world of 2018, not the world of 1998.”
Carter says he came out as transgender earlier this year. His mother, Jessica Sawyer, says the onus is on the schools to teach kids about gender identity, including the definition of transgender.
“People think if we don’t talk about something, it doesn’t exist,” she said. “There aren’t enough parents educating their youth on it.”
When asked to respond to the concerns of the students and their families interviewed for this story, the Ministry of Education sent Global News a statement, saying: “The Minister of Education encourages everyone to get involved in our upcoming curriculum consultations. This will be one of the most robust consultations processes in the history of Ontario’s education system.”
The ministry says it will be sharing more details about these consultations in the near future.