I remain deeply perplexed and disturbed by Amelia Naismith’s take on the GSA privacy debate (Sept. 21 issue).
Gender and sexuality issues affect the very essence of a person. Ms. Naismith asserts that a student with a gender or sexuality challenge should be isolated from the parents and that a school peer group (GSA) is of more help and support to them than their own family and the professional community. These challenges are highly complex, involving mental, emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual components that cannot be put in a nice tidy little box and dealt with simply by acceptance or joining a peer support group.
To illustrate, allow me to compare Gender Identity Disorder to Anorexia Nervosa, a complex and potentially life threatening psychological disorder. It requires clinical evaluations from the fields of medicine, psychiatry, and psychology. These spheres may indeed refer an individual afflicted with anorexia to a peer support group after the family has accessed professional resources, not in replacement of them. Can you imagine leaving an issue like anorexia to a peer support group instead of the care of the family and professional community? That would be absurd. So is legally removing the potential involvement of normal loving and caring parents, which is what Minister Eggen plans to accomplish this fall. Portraying GSA’s as an appropriate front line tool in dealing with gender and sexuality issues is naïve.
Ms. Naismith claims that telling parents about their child’s involvement in a GSA violates their human rights. She also states that we should trust students to make their own choices and respect their wishes. Of course I can agree with respecting students, and I can also agree on some levels with trusting children to make their own choices. Children should make more independent choices as they age, starting with things like color of socks, style of back pack, ballet or tap, Math 20-1 or 20-2, etc. But this? To isolate a minor struggling with such issues from their family is dysfunctional and misguided at best, and reeks of social engineering at worst.
Gender identity develops over time as a developmental process, and is affected not only by biological sex and associated hormones, but also by cultural and family influences, perceptions, and positive and negative relationships from infanthood on. Pair this with: typical adolescent angst, the decline of stable two parent families (statistically more likely to produce positive outcomes in the physical, economic, educational, emotional, and social well-being of children), and the confusing and often pornographic sexual images bombarding kids from many sources, including recently from an Alberta Education website (an appalling scandal in itself, worthy of a whole other letter). Is it any wonder some youth face challenges of this nature? Add to this the latest findings in neuroscience, which show that the human brain does not fully develop its long term reasoning abilities until well into the 20’s.
I take great exception to the course of action endorsed by our government and Ms. Naismith. I do believe this: both I and those in favour of the legislation proposed by Minister Eggen truly want to help our children and work toward safe and accepting environments in schools. However, instead of falling into the political ideological traps we all tend toward, we must instead do the hard and humbling work to have difficult conversations, and look objectively and truthfully at the likely outcomes as we move forward. I invite you to consider what Parents for Choice in Education http://www.parentchoice.ca is advocating in this regard.