TORONTO – A transgender girl fighting the Ontario government’s repeal of a modernized sex-ed curriculum says she felt nervous about returning to school last fall after the policy change was announced.
The 11-year-old, identified only as AB, testified Tuesday before Ontario’s human rights tribunal in a case focusing on how rolling back the curriculum impacts LGBTQ students.
The girl said she wasn’t sure how classmates would treat her given that subjects such as gender identity and gender expression would no longer be required to be taught and discussed.
She also voiced concerns about going to a bigger school next year for Grade 7.
“I don’t know what the students have been taught,” she said.
Her lawyers have argued the switch to a curriculum that does not include the word “transgender” means the girl is subject to unequal treatment because those who are not transgender will learn about their sexual orientation.
Schools are currently using a curriculum based on a version from 1998 while the government develops and tests a new document.
Lawyers for the Progressive Conservative government have argued the curriculum leaves room for teachers to discuss LGBTQ issues, adding teachers are left to “exercise professional judgment.”
They noted the current curriculum includes language that calls for teachers to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment.
AB told the tribunal Tuesday that she first heard about transgender people in early 2017 while watching an episode of the reality television show “Say Yes to the Dress” that featured a transgender bride.
It wasn’t something she had yet been taught in school and the knowledge was transformative, she said. “I felt like I could be my true self,” she testified.
Had she known about it at a younger age, “I would have transitioned earlier,” she said.
Soon, AB had chosen a new name and replaced all her clothes with new ones that she made her “feel complete,” she said. “They were pink, had glitter,” she said.
Some students mocked her clothes or insisted that she stay in another room while they changed during an overnight field trip, she said. But the teachers were supportive, she said.
In health class that year, students were shown videos on male puberty, female puberty and puberty in general, she said.
The videos didn’t recognize that not all people of the same gender have the same genitalia, she said, so AB chose to do a presentation to help educate her classmates.
She said her classmates seemed to respond well to discussions around gender identity and still wanted her to play and do activities with them.
AB was watching the news with her mother last summer when she heard the modernized curriculum was being repealed by the government, she said.
“I felt angry,” she said.
There has been no discussion of gender expression in class so far this year, she said.
The tribunal is set to hear the case over 10 days, with a decision planned for sometime in the spring.
The Progressive Conservative government’s decision to scrap the updated curriculum brought in by their Liberal predecessors is also being challenged in a separate court case.
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