My stance on sexuality education is that all kids have a right to know about their bodies- what the different parts are named, how they work, and how to care for them. I also believe that kids should know that not everyone is heterosexual or feels right in the gender they’ve been told to be. These are facts, not fiction. This education can be delivered in age-appropriate shame-free ways, which is why I’m thrilled for Ontario families that school-based sex education is going in this direction.
I’m not alone on this- one of the parents interviewed for a piece on The Current yesterday was like-minded, as were many who responded supportively on their Facebook page. But some weren’t at all, including a parent in the feature story. The mom against the new Ontario curriculum seemed primarily beefed at what she felt was a lack of consultation with parents on its development, but she also felt that subjects being introduced are too much for kids to handle. Talking about gender identity in grade three is too young, she said. I thought about Wren Kaufman, who knew from age two that he was a boy, and transitioned to being male at age nine. Grade seven is too young to be talking about graphic sexting, she said, yet studies show us that kids are texting and sexting by grade seven, so it’s a great time to talk with them about how to use their technology wisely.
I’ve heard the argument from parents who oppose comprehensive sex education that it corrupts their children’s innocence. How does factual information about the body a child lives in corrupt their innocence? How does acknowledging what makes a respectful relationship corrupt a kid’s innocence? How does recognizing many different loving relationships and diversity of people in the world corrupt a kid’s innocence?
That last point is about homophobia and transphobia, of course. Both are present in complaints. “Please don’t let my kid turn out queer” is frequently the subtext in comments about sex ed, which makes me feel for the kids who do realize they’re not straight but can’t expect any support at home. The other fear, that sex education might encourage kids to be sexual has not proven to be true. Research shows that kids who get sex education are less likely to be sexual early, said sex researcher Elizabeth Saewyc in The Current piece.
Kids need sex education, plain and simple. Sex educator Marnie Goldenberg notes that we live in a time where kids are exposed to a lot of sexual messaging and imagery much younger than any generation before theirs. Adults need to help them understand what to do with this information and how to feel strong and healthy as they’re surrounded by it. Kids are sexually and sensually aware even as toddlers- denying their natural development is a disservice to them. It would be wonderful if this education started at home, but there are many parents who aren’t comfortable doing it themselves. I think it’s great that school programs are diversifying their sex education content so that all kids get solid science, research and compassion to help them feel smart and strong in a changing world.
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