As a parent of three students in Chilliwack schools, the bottom line for me is not whether transgenders have a legitimate dysphoria that should be acknowledged and understood. Watch any documentary or interview with a transgender child: the confusion and anguish for the entire family is painfully real. It’s as genuine as any number of health and medical issues people can be subject to without understanding why.
My concern is not whether schools should have materials that teach acceptance and support to oppose bullying and discrimination. I would want this experience for all students, particularly those who are targeted or rejected. I love that SOGI promotes peer support groups and inclusive atmospheres in schools with supportive and safe teachers to lean on. We all want a climate where our kids feel safe, protected and built up.
What the issue for me is what else is in the SOGI material; and what is missing.
SOGI 123 goes far beyond teaching acceptance and support of students with gender dysphoria and uses its platform to teach material that is highly controversial and has no consensus in scientific nor medical communities. Teaching that gender is non-binary (video: inclusive Environments) is such a hotly debated topic in health services, it has no place in education as though it is fact. Introducing an indefinite list of new pronouns to satisfy an indefinite number of gender identities (SOGI 1: Policies and Procedures) is teaching the subjective experience of a very small group within the transgender community – again without scientific or medical backing.
Or grammatical, for that matter. Teaching that words such as boy, girl, mom, and dad should be replaced with gender neutral terms (ibid) is defeating the purpose of inclusivity when +99 per cent of students identify as boys and girls and the same percentage have parents who identify as one sex or the other. I take issue with resources that standardize gender dysphoria even though 10 of the 16 regions surveyed in the 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey indicated too small a percentage of transgender students to even report. The other six reported one per cent or less.
I disagree with the creator of SOGI lessons who states that it is appropriate to talk about both sexual orientation and gender identity beginning at the earliest primary level (SOGI 3: Curriculum Resources). It’s my parental prerogative to say that is not age-appropriate.
As said, there are things missing in the SOGI resources as well. My own understanding and compassion increased as I researched gender dysphoria and learned that there are different types, one of which can begin between 2-4 years old. Another type is increasingly on the rise, called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria – one that largely affects teenage girls (80 per cent of cases) who previously showed no indication of gender dysphoria, and who commonly come out as transgender together in groups. A common thread in these cases is social awkwardness and pre-existing mental health conditions (Lisa Marchiano, clinical social worker, Oct. 2016 & July 2017). How about educating our students that 12 studies have been done over decades and continents, all with the same result: that the majority of kids who persist when young, cease to feel transgender when they get older (PsyPost 12/30/17). Transgenders and specialists who treat them acknowledge this fact (Mary Rogan; Dr. Norman Spack) but this information isn’t taught in the SOGI material.
What else is missing with SOGI? Parental input. We have been asked for our opinions regarding the widespread curriculum changes being implemented across BC; about the reconfiguration of schools in Chilliwack and even about the length of Spring Break. Quite obviously missing has been a solicitation of parental input on SOGI resources. Why is that? There is a perception that only the religious and ‘extremist’ groups have issues with SOGI. As a parent who has explored the material, and the larger issues behind it, I disagree. Educationally these resources are lacking. I need reassurance that what my kids are taught is accurate, complete, and impartial. SOGI isn’t adequate.