I must say – 2023 is quite a time to be alive. There are many people alive today who would be able to recall vivid memories of seeing gay or lesbian people harassed, assaulted, or even criminally prosecuted for being who they are. Gender transitioning would have been difficult, dangerous, and perhaps even illegal at that time. It is impactful to think of how far we have come.
The Times sometimes receives unsolicited submissions of opinion columns from all across the country. Most are rejected due to their irrelevance to North Grenville. However, one column we received last week applies to the local area just as much as it applies to all of Canada: the issue of whether educators should disclose gender transition intentions of their students to the students’ parents.
The column was written by Colin Craig, who is the president of a media organization called SecondStreet.org. It is called “Easy Solution to Gender Disclosure in Schools”. When I first read the title, I was very intrigued at the idea that there may, in fact, be an easy solution to this much-debated topic. I don’t always read column submissions from start to end, but I did read this one in its entirety. I was admittedly disappointed. Colin’s solution? Simply have a default policy of passing along gender-related information to parents, and allow parents to “opt out” of receiving this information.
Huh? This is a solution? In Colin’s own column, he points to research suggesting that over 60% of parents with young children believe that educators should be required to pass along gender-related information that their child shares. This should not be a surprise. I have two kids, and I would have said “yes” to this question also, but not so that I could grill my children about their gender – rather, so that I could reassure them that they can talk to me about this in the future instead of being too scared to open up and venting to their educator!
I also speak on this subject as an educator. I have been on the receiving end of “disclosures”. I have made CAS reports both as an educator and as a mental health counsellor regarding situations that were horrifying to me, situations that were shared with me that left me visibly shaking, disclosures that left me crying when driving from one school to another to visit my next client, abuses so awful that I have never come to terms with them or spoken about them with anyone. There was a reason why I – as an educator or counsellor – was given that information by a child or teen who felt they could not share it with anyone else.
As a parent, I absolutely want to know everything that is going on with my kids, but being an educator and counsellor reminds me that I need to earn that from my kids. If they are telling their teacher things instead of me, what am I doing to make them feel that they can’t trust me, can’t rely on me, and can’t talk to me? And why does Colin believe that allowing parents to opt out of receiving gender-related information will help anyone? The parents who are truly a threat to their kids – who are unsupportive and emotionally critical and potentially abusive – are not the ones who will be opting out. Parents who are worried about being kept out of loop should ask themselves “why?”
I suggest this: if a parent asks about their child’s gender disclosures, they should be told. If a parent does not ask, then an educator does not need to breach the confidence of a child who trusted them when they felt no one else could be trusted. Age should also be considered a factor in making this decision, as should the nature of the disclosure.
Parents absolutely have rights, and a balance must certainly be sought, but let’s get one thing straight: a non-solution helps no one.