Being young is not just carefree play, sunshine and roses, and halcyon days of parties and beaches. It’s also a struggle, and coping with huge transitions, for besides learning how to walk and talk, and dress, and get along with everybody, and bodies growing and changing, and letters and colors, and fractions and decimals and, OMG trig! — there’s figuring out who you are and where you fit in the world.
And along the way you discover where you are on the vast continuum of human sexuality and gender. In doing so, finding yourself in a different place than your friends, family, or classmates might expect for you can mean enormous stress, as well as pain and suffering if where you are isn’t where other people think you should be.
You need to know that where you are is exactly the right place for you to be. It’s who you are, and other people need to know that, too.
That’s where the BC’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Curriculum fits in:
“The primary focus of SOGI 1 2 3 is on terms and identities for people whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity is in the minority, because these people have historically been marginalized and often misunderstood.”
— SOGI 123 Q&A
Yes, the BC education curriculum is a provincial matter, and I’m running for federal office — so why am I stepping in here?
It’s because the broader issue, the issue behind the curriculum, the issue of acceptance, and of understanding that we’re all on that continuum where we’re supposed to be — involves us all, and we must all step up.
Finding oneself in a SOGI minority, particularly when there aren’t enough role models, allies, or supporters to talk to, to help, can lead to serious medical and mental health concerns including PTSD, severe anxiety, severe depression, self harm, and addiction.
Having a LGBTQIA2 child says nothing about one’s parenting, but disowning your child, kicking them out of their home, does — that’s an absolute failure of parenting.
Yet, though LGBTQIA2 people represent a small percentage of the population, they make up around 40% of homeless youth, who are on the streets because they were rejected or kicked-out by their parents, or because they could not find acceptance, support, or understanding at home. And being on the street, besides loss of education and opportunity, can lead to drug abuse, addictions — and criminality, which can marginalize that child for the rest of their life.
And if all that is not bad enough, it can be worse: for LGBTQIA2 people, again, though a small percentage of the population, make up around around 40% of youth suicides.
“Among trans youth, up to 65% reported having suicidal thoughts in the prior 12 months. The health inequities experienced by LGBTQIA2 individuals in Canada are partly due to the stigmatization of gender and sexual minorities and the discrimination they can face in Canadian society.”
— LGBTQIA2 Health Report
Parents and grand-parents, uncles and aunts, teachers, ministers, and counsellors, in fact all the adults in a child’s life need SOGI education too, for they, too, need to understand that wherever that child is in that great rainbow it’s where they should be, so they can offer acceptance and support.
That is why this should be an issue for everyone. I fully support the SOGI 1 2 3 curriculum, as I support everything that helps us all understand who we all are. Lives depend on it.
To all the other Candidates in Coquitlam — Port Coquitlam, Mr. Insley in particular, I challenge you:
Where do you stand on ensuring that our youth and their families and communities proactively receive critical education about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity?
Lives depend on it.
As a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health, it was my honour to propose that the Committee study LGBTQIA2 health, which was undertaken in time to submit its report just prior to the end of the 42nd Parliament.
The report outlined a number of important findings concerning the need for education about Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI):
“Many witnesses stressed the importance of receiving sex education that includes sexual diversity and gender identity in its curriculum.
“Calgary-based Centre for Sexuality informed the Committee that they have been offering sex education in Alberta’s schools since 1975. Over 10,000 youth receive their program annually.
“Sarah Chown, Executive Director, YouthCO HIV and Hep C Society, shared the results of a survey her organization conducted with 600 high school students in 80 communities in British Columbia. The survey found that 84% of young people felt that school was an important place to get sex education. In addition, 45% of them said that the sex education they received did not recognize sexual and gender diversity. Sarah Chown also told the Committee that the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education have been revised and will be available in 2019. They include sexual and gender minorities. She recommended that they be implemented.
“The Committee also heard that age-appropriate sex education should be offered at a young age. Witnesses noted that children should have a sense early on of the diversity in sexual orientation and gender. Alex Abramovich explained that children are rarely exposed to books and teaching materials presenting LGBTQIA2 communities’ realities.
Family and School Support for Youth
“Studies show that LGBTQIA2 youth who have supportive environments that allow them to be themselves thrive. As well, a study in British Columbia found a significant drop in suicidal ideation in British Columbia schools that have implemented a gay-straight alliance. Travis Salway, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, said that these alliances are “life-saving.”
“The Centre for Sexuality in Calgary noted that when LGBTQIA2 youth do not have support from their family or their schools, it can lead to very negative health outcomes.
“Trans and non-binary youth are particularly in need of support. Dustyn Baulkham, withthe Kelowna Pride Society, said that Kelowna’s peer support group—the Etcetera Youth Group—is attended mainly by trans and non-binary youth, although the group is open to all LGBTQIA2 youth.”
— LGBTQIA2 Health Report
“That the Government of Canada develop and implement a national awareness campaign on sexual and gender diversity that reflects an intersectional analysis in order to address the stigma and discrimination faced by LGBTQIA2 communities in Canada.
“That the Government of Canada develop information tools on sexual and gender diversity in both official languages and other appropriate languages as requested.
“That the Government of Canada ensure that the Public Health Agency of Canada promptly completes the revision of the Canadian Guidelines for Sexual Health Education; that the revised version include the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities in all areas; and that the updated guidelines are made available across Canada.
“That the Government of Canada, through Health Canada, work with the provinces and territories to encourage the provision of age-appropriate education on sexual orientation and gender identity to children and youth of all age groups as well as parents and caregivers.”
— LGBTQIA2 Health Report