Hundreds of people passionate about B.C.’s sexual orientation and gender identity education curriculum turned out to duelling rallies for and against the program on Monday in both Vancouver and Victoria.
At the BC Teachers Federation office in Vancouver, one side chanted slogans like “Love wins out!” and “It’s 2018, not 1958!”, while the other side held signs saying, “Stop sexualizing our children!” and “Parents have rights.”
|Pro-SOGI protesters came to voice their support of the inclusive curriculum. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)|
|Soldiers of Odin came to protest SOGI in Vancouver on Monday. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)|
A group of parents and teachers opposing the SOGI curriculum had initially planned to demonstrate outside the BCTF office today, but another group of people supporting the curriculum planned to show up as well.
SOGI was introduced as a pilot project last year and was rolled out B.C.-wide in September. According to the program’s website, it provides tools for teachers to create inclusive classrooms where students of all sexual orientations and gender identities feel safe.
“SOGI is about altering our culture and the political hijacking of our public education system to which parents are saying no,” said right-wing activist Kari Simpson, who led the opposing group.
“We’re going to outlaw SOGI123 in the public education system.”
|Right-wing acitivist Kari Simpson rallies the crowd against SOGI. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)|
Being against the curriculum was not about being against gay rights or transgender rights, Simpson added, but against pushing “a political agenda” on children.
Teacher Julia Poole said she was “shocked” by the lack of evaluation of the SOGI curriculum.
“It is non-inclusive, it is not non-discriminatory and it lacks regard for faith groups.”
|Anti-SOGI protesters came to voice their displeasure with the inclusive curriculum. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)|
Morgane Oger, a transgender activist who spoke at the pro-SOGI rally, told Black Press Media she wasn’t surprised by the strong turnout, especially from students and teachers themselves.
“There are still people here who think that trans and gay people, gender diverse people, are an abomination,” Oger said.
“I’m here because that’s abhorrent and disgusting.”
She said although SOGI might be new to the curriculum, it’s only giving teachers the tools to uphold the protections enshrined for gender identity and sexual orientation with the country’s Charter of Rights.
“Everyone in Canada deserves to be equally protected and equally respected.”
Nine-year-old Michael Boyd and his grandmother, Susan Thomas, attended the Vancouver rally to show support for the SOGI curriculum.
Michael, who is transgender, said he wanted to talk publicly about his gender for the first time at Monday’s rally.
|Pro-SOGI protesters at Monday’s Vancouver rally. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)|
“I want to say it,” Michael said, referring to his chosen pronouns of “him” and “he.”
The Surrey boy first told his family he was trangender “as soon as he could talk,” Thomas said.
“It’s something that, as a grandmother, I feel like I need to have his back and speak up for him.”
|Michael Boyd, 9, says his the teachers at his Surrey school have been supportive. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)|
The Surrey School District has “been awesome” in their support of Michael, she added.
“If we were in any other place, there would be a lot of issues that come from bullying and misunderstanding.”
Editor’s note: The initial story identified Morgane Oger as an organizer for the pro-SOGI rally. Oger was not an organizer, but a speaker at the rally.