Birds, bees and poisonous rhetoric on sex ed in Ontario

Sexual orientation isn’t a lifestyle. It’s a life sentence.

Birds, bees and poisonous rhetoric

Photography by Andrew Tolson

Fall, it seems, is the official season for scare tactics—and I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about sex, and a coming of age tradition that’s supposed to render it totally unsexy: sex education—or, as I remember it, a queasy 45 minutes of watching your teacher put a condom on a banana and advocate something called “heavy petting” as an alternative to “doing it.” Apparently, though, sex ed’s just not what it used to be, and lefty school boards across Canada are brainwashing kids as young as six to believe they can—according to Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College—“change their gender.” McVety, a televangelist who says he has many “ex-gay friends” (friends who used to be gay, not, decidedly, the other way around) is behind stopcorruptingchildren.ca, a pet project of his Institute for Canadian Values, creator of the controversial advertisement pictured with this column.

The motive behind the ad, and what had Charles McVety’s moral shorts in a knot, was a controversial plan of the Ontario Liberal government to institute a more comprehensive sex education curriculum—one that included teaching Grade 3 students about homosexuality and Grade 7 students about anal and oral sex. The fact that the Liberals walked away from their plans in the face of ferocious opposition was apparently not enough to assuage McVety (who, buoyed by examples in a resource guide for the Toronto school board, maintains that children across Ontario are even now being required to cross-dress to show solidarity with various sexually “confused” communities).That McVety is right to the extent that such a plan would be a bad idea (the educational merits of cross dressing are beyond me) is irrelevant because he’s wrong about virtually everything else. And he’s not alone.

There are factions working to oust sexual diversity platforms (the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, to name one) from sex ed curricula across the country. And the most egregious thing about their scarily popular ideology isn’t that it’s criminally transphobic; it’s criminally dumb. The doe-eyed little girl in the ad, for example, won’t denounce her biological sex because she learns somebody else once did. Gender dysphoria and homosexuality aren’t contagious; they’re God-given. (If they weren’t—if gay people could “pray the gay away”—they would probably do so somewhere in that “wonderful” time between puberty and college—that, at least, is what I would have done.)

We aren’t, that is, talking about a choice here—which is precisely what McVety and the Institute for Canadian Values are talking about. Which does have some novel implications: it took me about five minutes of conversation with McVety to realize that his view on sexual identity was more fluid and radical than any view held by his liberal adversaries. “[Such a curriculum] can definitely change their understanding of their gender identity,” McVety told me. “The fact is, you have many people who one day identify themselves as a man and then identify themselves as female and then later change to two-spirited.” And educational instruction, he argues, is a legitimate catalyst for this kind of chameleon behaviour. So school is to sexual orientation what advertising is to your choice of toilet-paper brand. McVety and his allies are like an unfunny version of Larry David, who wrote in the New York Times that he refused to see the movie Brokeback Mountain because he was afraid it would turn him into a homosexual (not that there was anything wrong with that).

One of the most deceptive corollaries attached to the myth of “sexual choice” is the idea that your orientation denotes a lifestyle. In college I drank heavily and ate entire wheels of cheese in one sitting. Some would call this a “high risk” lifestyle. Now I work in an office and eat at my desk; a lifestyle you might call “sedentary.” But I do not, nor have I ever lived, a gay lifestyle. Why? Because sexual orientation isn’t a lifestyle: it’s a life sentence.

But pundits like McVety and the people who back them continue to hammer at the idea of choice, which is why their rhetoric is so poisonous. These people are intellectually dishonest to the detriment of the children they claim to protect. McVety’s assumption that kids are too young to learn about homosexuality, let alone to accept homosexuals, certainly would have failed Jamey Rodemeyer, the 14-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., teen whose suicide was preceded by years of gay bashing long before he began high school.

The truth is that the Institute for Canadian Values’ objection isn’t to the age-appropriateness of the education; it’s to the message that being gay or trans is not morally inferior to being straight. And they have an ideological ally in the National Post’s resident killjoy, right-wing columnist Barbara Kay, who argues that talking to young kids about transsexuality will result in the “betrayal of children’s right to biological confidence.” Kay, like McVety, apparently thinks that teaching children to accept homosexuals is impossible without teaching them about homosexual sex. But she’s wrong. The most effective piece of “sex” education I’ve ever witnessed was my cousin explaining to her three-year-old son over dinner that I was in a same-sex relationship. “Sam,” she said, pointing at me and my girlfriend, “they’re in love. Do you know what that means?” Sam looked up from his colouring book, said, “Yeah, yeah, two moms,” and immediately went back to ignoring us. He has yet to try on his mother’s dresses.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)




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Birds, bees and poisonous rhetoric on sex ed in Ontario

  1. Nice piece!

    I’ve never understood how anyone could think homosexuality is a “choice”. It’s like saying I chose to be left-handed, or blue-eyed.

    My father, like me, was born left-handed. He was forced to write with his right hand. He still does – but he does everything else with his left hand. You can learn to conform to society if there is sufficient pressure, but that doesn’t change one’s innate being; it just means you’ve learned to hide it.

    Why should anyone have to deny who they are and act like everyone else (as long as being who you are doesn’t involve harming others)?

    Good point about the “lifestyle” bit, too; I’m straight, but I have a number of gay friends that, except for their preference for same-sex partners, lead pretty much exactly the same lifestyle as I do. They have normal jobs; they own houses and cars; they dress like their neighbours.

    The people with the problem aren’t the ones who are gay; the people with the problem are the ones who think that someone else being gay is somehow evil and a danger to the “normals”.

    I usually remind other Christians who object on religious grounds that there’s no asterisk following “love your neighbour as yourself.” I’ve had a few say that maybe homosexuality is God’s way of testing their faith to see if they are strong enough to resist evil desires; I usually counter by saying “God may have made gays that way to test your tolerance and willingness to accept and love those different from yourself.”

    • - “I usually remind other Christians who object on religious grounds that
      there’s no asterisk following “love your neighbour as yourself.” I’ve
      had a few say that maybe homosexuality is God’s way of testing their
      faith to see if they are strong enough to resist evil desires; I usually
      counter by saying “God may have made gays that way to test your
      tolerance and willingness to accept and love those different from
      yourself.”"

      That’s a keeper! Thanks for the comment Keith!

  2. Have you read Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality? If not, it might help.

  3. I always wonder if the likes of McVety wake up every morning and think “be strong, choose to act straight again today, you can do it!”

  4. I am not sure why the reproductive system has been taken out of health class except that school boards are using the sex education programs to teach morality issues to students that are best left up to discussions between parents and children.  One case in point is the Calgary Catholic School Board.  There is no teacher at a Calgary Catholic school putting a banana on a condom because the Catholic Church does  support birth control – or sex between unmarried people and therefore, there is no teaching done about STD’s either.  The board will not allow public health nurses in the schools to vaccinate for HPV, an STD that causes ovarian and penile cancer, although to be fair they did provide the nurses with the names of the girls who required the free shots.
    Now this might not be so problematic if Alberta was not in the midst of a Syphilis outbreak.  If sex education was not invented to keep students safe, what exactly was the purpose of it? 

  5. what is most disgusting about this is that McVety and his gang of thugs are trying to stop of all things tolerance in the class room, it is not by any means about the fact that teaches young children about sex education, what it does is specifically targets trans individuals and demonizes them in a way that is criminal and grossly unfounded, i am appalled that this is happening in Canada, and happening to a specific group that has it hard enough throughout childhood.  it is horrible to say the least and disgraceful children gay, trans, inter sexed, lesbian, bisexual, questioning are tormented by their peers to no end. does anyone have any idea what it is like to grow up your whole life a trans child and get called fagot on the playgrounds in the hallways and even in the classrooms? i do…
    and I’m not afraid to say it the fact is if they started educating kids about these issues at an early age when i was a child i would not have faced it so terribly. the fact that McVety wants to encourage this type of behavior is frankly sickening. this is not a man he is a monster and his views are just downright evil how can anyone say for one second that we cant teach issues that prevent bullying in schools. that’s as farfetched as saying that we should teach bullying in the classroom and then beating the kids with sticks and calling them faggot.
    i grew up hoping this kind of thing would one day come to an end.
    but i guess according to the supposed Dr. McVety who’s credentials are no where to be found
    it should be something we pass down to the next generation of children in hopes that our “canadian values” remain unscathed by “heathen” hands.
    and this is protecting our children… by teaching them to be as evil and manipulative as Dr. Charles himself.

    • According to what was posted on the Canada Christian College web site the mysterious Dr? McVety attended U of Toronto for two years but did not obtain a degree (is this a euphemism for flunked out?). He went on to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the Canadian Christian College, a non-accredited college that was run by—wait for it—his dear old Dad. He then received is doctorate from the California State Christian University (diploma mill? who can say, but please check out their web site).

      And finally, he received an honorary degree from the St Petersburg State University (Russia).

      However, there were several blogs that questioned these degrees and whether they were even worth the paper they were printed on. More recently, the details of his credentials have been removed from the Canada Christian College web site.

      And speaking of web sites, have you ever noticed all of the web-sites that this hate-monger controls? Here is a short list: Canada Christian College, Institute for Canadian Values, Word TV, Canadian College of Christian Councillors, the Evangelical Association, the Christians United for Israel-Canada, The Canadian Times, The Evangelical Christian.

      And then there is his devious practice of developing web sites using misleading urls. Another short list: CharlesDarwin.ca; RichardDawkins.ca.

      I think that you get my point.

  6. A perfect example of how this effects kids.  I knew by the age of 8 that my uncle was gay.  I saw him in same sex relationships, grew to love his partners as family.  I am not gay, never wondered if I was, I am lucky to be confident in my heterosexuality.  I had a friends son ask me once how my uncle could love another man, he was six at the time.  His mother gasped in horror at the thought of explaining the mechanics of gay sex.  I just looked at him and said, the same way a man loves a woman, or a woman loves another woman.  His response was and I quote, ” OK, can I go play with your playstation now?”  BTW he is not gay either.

  7. this is what happens when “religion” collides with education……it’s disaterous

  8. I agree that SoCons are not pleasant for gay people but militant gay people aren’t helping gays necessarily either. My grand parents were progressives back in their day and they talked about how there was no common word for gay people, they were considered same as others. Only in 20th century have gay people become different/separate from hetereos and I don’t think it is good change. We all should be considered, and treated, exactly the same. 

    I am always suspicious of pols, and others, who take inordinate amount of interest in controlling others morals, sexuality … etc. People who are extremely troubled by others are normally projecting their own naughty behaviours. 

    Will Wilkinson ~ Politics Of Authenticity:

    JOSHUA KNOBE, a pioneer in the field of “experimental philosophy” at Yale, has contributed a fascinating piece to the New York Times’ online philosophy forum on the intuitions of ordinary folk about what constitutes the “true self”.

    Mr Knobe takes up the illustrative example of Mark Pierpont, a once-prominent figure in the evangelical Christian movement to “cure” homosexuality who (surprise!) felt himself strongly attracted to men. So, who’s the “real” Mark Pierpont?

    Mr Knobe writes: One person might look at his predicament and say: “Deep down, he has always wanted to be with another man, but he somehow picked up from society the idea that this desire was immoral or forbidden.  If he could only escape the shackles of his religious beliefs, he would be able to fully express the person he really is.”

    But then another person could look at exactly the same case and arrive at the very opposite conclusion: “Fundamentally, Pierpont is a Christian who is struggling to pursue a Christian life, but these desires he has make it difficult for him to live by his own values. If he ever gives in to them and chooses to sleep with another man, he will be betraying what was is most essential to the person he really is.” ……

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/06/ideology-and-self

  9. I signed this petition, but only because I see that teaching this kind of “education” should be held more appropriately and with more delicate finesse. Children nearly always identify with their genetic, chromosome sex, and that too before and around the time they are three. The only danger I see with this education is corrupting the children’s ideas about themselves, for they are still young and don’t have the capability to understand these concepts as correctly as an open-minded adult would. I believe older students should learn this stuff. But essentially I think to handle this whole situation correctly, is to figure out the right education at the right time. Not that young kids aren’t insightful, just that it shouldn’t be layered onto them too thickly and too soon. There’s still much more for them to learn about the world

  10. My 5-year-old daughter came home from kindergarden one day recently and said “I’m not going to kiss my little sister anymore because that’s gay.”  I found this really sad.  If a more comprehensive sex education program can prevent this sort of misunderstanding, then I’m all for it.

  11. If sex education means teaching my nine year old about same sex marriage, then teaching him about masterbation and then anal and oral sex when he is just 11 then hell no – I do not want my son to be taught this by a teacher in school who does not know him and only cares about teaching a curriculum.  If sex education means teaching my son to respect himself and his body as well as to respect others, even if they are gay, then I am all for it.  I don’t understand how teaching an 11 year old about anal sex is supposed to be healthy.  A lot of people talk about homosexuality as being normal but it is not, only about 5-8% of the population is homsexual.  Also the homosexual act is not healthy either.  Why does no one mention the diseases that can be contracted and the anatomical damage that can be caused to the body – I am trying to be delicate here.   

    The problem with the homosexuality issue is that most people do not like it being forced down their throats.  If you are homosexual, that is your issue.  Why does every one else have to be forced to accept it?  No one would know that a person is a homosexual unless they chose to let people know.  I don’t understand the coming out of the closet concept either.  I mean, who really cares?

  12. I always wonder if the likes of McVety wake up every morning and think
    “be strong, choose to act straight again today, you can do it!”

  13. they were considered same as others. Only in 20th century have gay
    people become different/separate from hetereos and I don’t think it is
    good change. We all should be considered, and treated, exactly the
    same.

  14. Great! About time!… this “self-proclaimed christian” McVety has already and may possibly be still be facing several lawsuits. Why doesn’t Macleans do an exposé?

  15. This is not about sex education at all, this is disgusting, when I was in grade seven I still played with dolls and skipped, jumped and played hopscotch. Learning about reproduction in grade eight was fine, but beyond that it is up to the moral, and ethical teaching of the family. You want your kids to learn about oral and anal sex, you teach them at home!

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