Long story short: a few years ago Kathleen Wynne, former Premier of Ontario, replaced an old and outdated sex ed curriculum with one that includes discussions of consent, cyberbullying, sexting, same sex attraction, and transgender peoples’ existence. Some people (we’ll call them “social conservatives;” get all PC about it) were, um, really mad.
Then we elected Doug Ford, partially, one has to assume, because of his promise to get rid of the scary, new, and relevant sex ed curriculum the big bad lesbian Premier put in place. Now his people have promised to replace it again with the old one, although they’ve walked it back a little bit. Now the story is they’re going to have a huge consultation about it first and then do who knows what.
(Just… leave it alone. It’s fine.)
And while I’m angry about all of that mess, most of my anger right now is (helpfully, healthily, usefully, wonderfully) directed at this random opinion piece published in The Globe and Mail by Debra Soh, PhD, who describes herself as “a former academic sex researcher,” and who is very sure that teaching children that gender is a social construct (it is), and isn’t a binary (it’s not) and is instead fluid (it is) is bad (it’s not).
“A curriculum that teaches gender fluidity is misleading and will impair a child’s ability to have an accurate understanding of the world,” she writes.
Look. A statement like that requires some evidence.
I’m going to go ahead and suggest that there isn’t any evidence, at all, ever, to suggest that children learning that gender isn’t a binary and is a construct has confused or otherwise impaired them.
To be fair I’m one of those people who knows that nonbinary people of all different types exist, and I know that at one point they were all children, and that some of them may even live in Ontario. How is learning that their gut feelings about how they embody various gendered spaces are valid going to impair their ability to have an accurate understanding of the world?
She asked, facetiously, because she knows that a statement like this, so baldly typed and published in an international newspaper without scientific backing of any sort arguing that the science is actually against what she’s arguing against but without showing it at all, very clearly implies that this writer thinks that nonbinary people are deluded or whatever.
“The backlash is emblematic of a disdain for those who lean right politically, and a desire to rally against Mr. Ford for the sake of political divisiveness. This is evident in the number of media outlets and individuals on social media, angrily pointing the finger at social conservatives,” she writes.
I think my little cutesy crossed out section there is a prime example of what “social conservatives” refer to as “virtue signalling.” In other words, I’m trying to claim some sort of moral high ground because I think nonbinary people are valid and I believe them when they describe their own experiences, and of course in the process I show “disdain” for anyone who doesn’t. And the only reason I would ever do this is because I have a personal vendetta against Doug Ford, probably only because I hated Rob Ford for saying the words “gravy train” a lot.
It was pretty grating, you have to admit.
Ford was elected (probably) in part as a reactionary response to Wynne, her womanhood, her lesbianism, and her really good sex ed curriculum. It’s a little more complicated, of course. He was also likely elected as a reactionary response to upping the minimum wage by almost a toonie an hour, something a frightening amount of people were very, very, very against. Also because of the good chunk of people who would happily elect Trump up north, who call Justin Trudeau “Justine” and still make hair jokes, whose every move is reactionary.
And the rest of it is probably because people are disappointingly apathetic at the best of times and don’t pay attention/apply empathy to the big decisions they make.
My question is, why is it me, and the other people mad that they’d attack good education, who are being needlessly divisive, and not Ford and his people, gutting good education just to make bigots happy?
Anyway. Four years (at least) of Ford is a waking nightmare, so here’s something important:
I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I’ve just read some stuff. I follow some people. I’ve watched a Youtube video here and there. If the thought of people who identify neither as male nor female, or as femme but not fully femme, or as masc-of-centre, or as male one day and female the next, or as demi-, or simply as nonbinary freaks you out, take a deep breath and read up on it. Do a Google search, use your critical thinking skills and your empathy and grow up. It’s not a big deal.
If you’d rather sit back and watch someone (a cisgender someone, if that helps any) explain some things, there’s a Bill Nye episode that includes a weird ice cream metaphor.
(Are there sex and gender scientists who argue that nonbinary people are deluded and that gender is 100% a biological thing? Sure. Debra Soh is apparently one of them. They’re what we call “bad scientists.” Not because their politics are bad, but because their science is quite clearly informed and shaped by their bad politics.)
(I know that there’s this fear that research that states that gender is just biological sex and that “biological sex” is an all-encompassing thing itself that no one can ever “defy” and that transgender people are mentally ill will be gagged by evil government forces bowing to the mighty will of the SJW. Instead of worrying about that, which is simply the plot of a so-far unwritten really boring right-wing dystopian novel, researchers should try to do better research, get tougher skin about legitimate criticism, and note that what transgender people themselves face from potentially hostile governments, or, if they’re lucky, just hostile fellow citizens, is much worse, and a much more realistic threat.)
Here, read it for yourself. Half of it is about how we need to be sex positive. Just remember, though, we can’t admit that femininity and masculinity aren’t biological realities that none of us can ever defy healthily. That would damage the children, upon whom femininity OR masculinity are thrust based solely on what genitals they were born with, rightfully so, hem hem.
My kindergarten self, age 4, yelled at by the boys for trying to play with dinosaurs and owning a Man-Bat while wearing purple dresses, rolls her eyes at this crap. She doesn’t even need to be nonbinary to know that gender is a construct.
I could end by saying that probably Soh would say that dinosaurs, Man-Bat, and purple dresses aren’t what she means by gender but first of all, we all know that these things don’t magically exist in a genderless vacuum when it comes to our very concerned society, and that when we say “gender is a social construct” this is EXACTLY what we mean, and second of all, I’d rather say this, and only this, forever amen: Man-Bat was my favourite right up until I left him in the driveway and my dad accidentally ran him over, leaving me bereft, but then I forgot about his existence until one day my mom was like “and then dad ran over Man-Bat” and I was like “what the HELL is a Man-Bat.” Life is unfair and tragic, Man-Bat, and children are fickle. I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry.