Ellen DeGeneres officially came out just over 20 years ago on her then-hit show Ellen. Her openness about her sexuality - a first in TV history - created a storm of controversy. I can still remember it so clearly, the “Yep, I’m Gay!” headlines splashed across the covers of every magazine and newspaper, and the public backlash that ensued.
I can also remember my nonchalant reaction when I first heard the news myself. I was 19 at the time and had grown up with friends who had two moms - or two dads - so I wasn’t fazed that same-sex relationships existed. I had always been aware and accepting of the diversity of families, and I didn’t fully understand why Ellen’s coming out was such a big deal.
Today, as we scoff at our southern neighbours whose leader is taking a step back in time, the same reversion seems to be happening in our own backyard, as protests continue to emerge against SOGI education across our province.
SOGI (an acronym for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity), according to the SOGI Education website, is “an effort to create safe, inclusive environments that are respectful of differences, and maintain the dignity of all individuals.”
It is a platform that encourages parents, educators, and students to “be curious together” through resources and learning materials that focus on:
1) policies and procedures to reduce discrimination, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts for all students;
2) inclusive learning environments including SOGI and LGBTQ+ friendly signage and word choices, to create a positive and welcoming space for all students;
3) lesson plans that teach diversity and respect and include examples of SOGI topics and LGBTQ+ community members in students' lives and society.
This is known as SOGI 1 2 3.
SOGI is not meant to be a subject like math or English in school - there are no plans for a SOGI class in the B.C. curriculum; it just offers resources to help guide conversations when the topic comes up.
It’s a valuable and important step in the right direction for our children.
Some parents, however, believe the introduction of SOGI education in schools to be harmful, confusing and unnecessary.
Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld came out against SOGI, stating that he believes that transgender children will “grow out of it” and are in danger from adults and “social engineering.”
A protest outside the Richmond school board included parents holding signs that read, “Don’t mess with our children!” and “Parents have rights!” One mom said in an interview that “the school board should focus on education, not ideology wars.”
Led by anti-SOGI group Culture Guard, a rally was recently held in Port Moody Park, where protestors marched with signs that said, “Don’t mess with our children!”
In a media release shared by Culture Guard regarding their province-wide Stop SOGI rallies, it reads, “Indoctrinating children with SOGI-related sex activist propaganda and ‘gender fluidity’ lunacy has never been an educational goal, policy or service that parents were consulted on or involved with.”
The consensus amongst anti-SOGI protestors seems to be that “gender ideology harms and confuses children,” but by wishing for our educators to refrain from recognizing differences amongst their students, are we not harming our kids more than helping them?
Being gay is not learned - children are born that way. One quick Google search will answer the curiosities of those children who have not been allowed to learn about the diversities that exist today. Wouldn’t you rather your children learn about sexual orientation and gender identity from trained educators?
The fact that people would protest a program that aims to discourage discrimination is disheartening and distasteful.
Lesson plans outlined include learning that families come in all shapes and sizes, and that no one should feel limited by stereotypes or be teased as a result, and children will also learn about racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, and the impact of language and action. As a mom of three, I welcome SOGI, and encourage other parents to consider the consequences of keeping your child in the closet when it comes to the diversities of the real world.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.