In honor of Trans Awareness Week, a Canadian teacher put together a week’s worth of activities in which children learn it’s possible to be born with a penis but be a girl on the inside, that adults just guess the sex of babies when they’re born, and that being transgender means being “born in the wrong body.”
Sara Savoia, a teacher with the Simcoe County District School Board in Ontario, made the teaching materials publicly available on Twitter. She recommends the activities for junior to intermediate students, which are grades 4 to 10, but stated that primary resources are “embedded within” the package.
On day one, after being asked what it means to be a boy or a girl, students watch a CBC Kids video titled Gender Explained, in which they learn that it’s possible to be born with a penis but feel like a girl on the inside. After being assured that feeling like a girl on the inside has nothing to do with liking pink or stereotypical "girl" things, the children are told that it’s all about how you feel and who you know yourself to be.
Next comes another video, this time a read-aloud of Who Are You? - The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity. From this, Canadian children, many of whom still believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy, are told that grown-ups simply guess a baby’s sex at birth, and are introduced to terms like cisgender, genderqueer, non-binary, bigender, and neutrois.
Then Savoia takes the children back to their original answers of what makes someone a boy or a girl, to see if their answers have changed.
On Tuesday, the trans activist educator recommends kicking things off with reading I Am Jazz, a children’s book about reality TV star Jazz Jennings who was socially transitioned as a young child, put on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones as an adolescent and then had vaginoplasty at age 18. Jennings’ surgeon has stated that Jennings had never orgasmed prior to the surgery, and was unlikely to afterwards, and that the surgery was especially complicated because Jennings had never gone through puberty so there was very little penile tissue to work with. Jennings experienced serious complications post-op and now suffers from an eating disorder. Savoia doesn’t appear to have included any of this important information in her lesson plan.
Following I Am Jazz, the students watch another video about a so-called transgender child. After being told in Monday’s class that being transgender is nothing to do with liking pink and girly things, now the students hear a completely contradictory story.
“I’m a girl in my head and my heart,” says Rebecca, the male child who is the star of My Trans Life. ” I felt like I was a girl because I liked the color pink, and I liked girl clothes and how they wear their hair and stuff.” Rebecca’s mother described how Rebecca will take puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to go through a female puberty.
Also part of the day’s lesson is a slide that tells children being transgender means “being born in the wrong body,” or being born one sex but having the heart and mind of the opposite sex. The Gender Unicorn also makes an appearance with its sliding scales of male/female, man/woman, and students learn that there are over 54 gender pronouns.
On Wednesday children learn the history of the Pride flag, and on Thursday get a lesson from none other than Jeffrey Marsh about what it means to be kind. After being asked to “be extra nice” to adults like Marsh, the students are asked to come up with a minimum of 10 ways to be a good ally to trans and gender-diverse peoples.
Then on Friday, students will observe a minute’s silence for all of the transgender people murdered as a result of transphobia, and then make a pledge, to what we do not know.None of this is part of the official Ontario sex-ed curriculum but is instead a teachable moment. Such moments allow teachers free rein to teach whatever they like with regard to gender. Earlier this year, an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal heard a discrimination complaint brought by Pamela Buffone, the mother of a girl who had been told by her Ottawa-Carleton District School Board teacher that there’s no such thing as boys or girls. This was also a teachable moment, and part of the remedy that Buffone had been seeking was that guardrails be put around the teaching of gender so that young children aren’t exposed to ideas that confuse them about the reality of their bodies. The tribunal however ruled that no discrimination had occurred and that no guardrails were necessary.
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