Posts Tagged ‘York Region’

Queer Ontario’s Letter to Karen Goan, Principal of King City Public School, about the Cancellation of “Opposite Gender Day”

February 2nd, 2011 Comments off

February 1, 2011

Karen Goan
King City Public School
25 King Boulevard
King City, Ontario L7B 1K9

I am writing to you today on behalf of Queer Ontario, a provincially based network of gender and sexually diverse individuals — and their allies — committed to liberationist and sex-positive principles that question, challenge and seek to reform the laws and social norms that regulate queer people. We are writing to you concerning your recent decision to cancel the student led “Opposite Gender Day” at King City Public School.

As an educator, I’m sure you can appreciate the value in students taking charge of their education, their agency and asserting themselves with what projects and initiatives they wish to undertake. As you stated in your letter to parents explaining the cancellation of the event, there were a multitude of “serious concerns reflecting a wide variety of personal, religious and family values”. Given that the students were in support of “Opposite Gender Day” and, indeed, came to plan it themselves, to subvert their calling for such an event is disappointing to say the least. Especially considering the learning opportunities that were missed through the cancellation of this event.

The way gender and gender roles are constructed and enforced in our culture is systemic and reinforced through institutions like schools. The missed opportunity here to transgress normative ideas of gender and to encourage students to reconsider their own preconceived notions of gender and gender roles can’t be overstated. With the decision by the McGuinty Liberal government to not update the Sex Ed Curriculum to include discussions around gender construction and roles, the responsibility for further education in these areas has fallen on the students through Gay Straight Alliances and/or activities such as “Opposite Gender Days”. Indeed, by succumbing to the multitude of reasons you described, all external to those expressed by the students themselves, you essentially removed a learning opportunity for them that isn’t going to be supplemented anywhere else in the curriculum. Queer Ontario would like to offer any assistance we could in helping to supplement this lacking curriculum – up to and including a visit to your school to explain gender diversity – to aid in this process.

Lastly, through the cancellation of such a day in the face of opposition, you are validating the reductionist and oftentimes conservative rhetoric that denounces the lived experience of Trans individuals everywhere. To speak to the words of Ross Virgo, manager of public affairs for the York Region District School Board: “these children are not old enough to even know what ‘gender identity politics’ are.” While it may certainly be true that students for the most part do not understand gender identity politics, it doesn’t mean that there are no Trans students who are affected by these so-called ‘politics.’ Definitely not. Given that there are Trans children who experience a deep discomfort with their socialized gender and who are often unable to identify or articulate the reasons for their discomfort — a discomfort, mind you, that often leads to depression or suicide — it would be in the best interest of the school to hold this “Opposite Gender Day” so that our Trans students can have the opportunity to discover who they really are. An opportunity that for whatever reason they may not otherwise have at home. Indeed, by denying your students an “Opposite Gender Day,” you are denying Trans students a moment of revelation or happiness that may very well save their lives forever – something that will certainly have a more profound effect than the “discomfort” to the parents of your student body.

Indeed, we hope that next time an initiative such as this one is brought forth by the students, you respect their efforts and refuse to succumb to discriminatory rhetoric that in the end only hurts us all regardless of our beliefs or values.


Casey Oraa
Chair, Political Action Committee
Queer Ontario

Ken Thurston, Director of Education, York Region District School Board
Ross Virgo, Manager of Public Affairs, York Region District School Board
Ripley Antonacci, Prime Minister, King City Public School Student Council

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