When you look at the prevalence of bullying against gender diverse youth in Canada, you can see why boards of education support teaching sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in schools.
The statistics don’t lie – 2SLGBTQ+ youth are two times more likely to be bullied and harassed than their straight counterparts. In fact, national data in the United States points to higher health and suicide risks among gay, lesbian, transgender and non-binary youth.
As a nation, we cannot sit back and do nothing as our children are targeted and made to feel less than human. One way to address this disturbing problem is in our schools by teaching respect, acceptance, and inclusivity.
Every child needs a sense of belonging, otherwise we’ll lose them and regret not doing more if a tragedy shatters the community. This has happened far too many times in this country, leaving broken hearts, guilt, and division.
Protests and counter-protests over SOGI have divided many communities now into an “us vs them” debate. Should this resource be taught in schools or should it be left up to parents at home? Is SOGI age-appropriate? Will it confuse or influence sexual orientation in some students? You can’t blame parents for these fears. At the same time, we cannot tolerate hate or ignorance, racism or discrimination because all children deserve a safe place to learn without being judged for identifying a certain way – for being themselves.
There are too many heartbreaking stories out there. Teenager Nigel Shelby, who was gay, committed suicide for allegedly being bullied at his American school two years ago. His family’s attorneys said the principal did nothing about the harassment reports leading up to the tragedy.
New Jersey high school student Adriana Kuch took her own life after allegedly being beaten by bullies earlier this year. Do we need more examples?
The fact is parents with concerns about SOGI can speak directly with their child’s teacher to determine exactly what is being taught in the classroom and if it meets their age-appropriate standards. The resource is all there in plain view; there is no hidden agenda. Educators are certainly not, in the words of one young boy interviewed at an anti-SOGI protest in Vancouver, trying to make kids gay.
Parents who don’t believe in this type of education in schools have every right to protest and express their opinions, which are valid, but transgender children also have a right to feel safe and welcome in their own classroom.
Shocker of the week:
People were left stunned when a racist sign showed up in Port Coquitlam recently advertising a “whites-only” mom and tots playgroup, where “children can play with others that look like them.” The group offered an “escape” from forced diversity. It is staggering how much hate pervades our society. Sometimes it makes you want to push the reset button on civilization.
Lyonel Doherty, editor