When my son started preschool two years ago, he became friends with a cute redhead who wore dresses every day and occasionally threw a punch.
This spirited child liked pink, wearing ribbons in his hair and was referred to by his male birth name as well as male pronouns — as per the request of his family.
He was born a boy, but presented himself to the world as a girl, and only time will tell where he lands. It piqued the curiosity of his fellow three-year-olds who recognized there was a difference. They didn’t mind, of course, but they were curious in the way kids are curious.
When my son asked why his friend dressed like a girl, I said “people can dress whatever way they want, everyone is different” and he moved on, completely satisfied.
Fast forward a couple of years and he’s at a new school where he’s made new friends. He’s now close compadres with a two children from same-sex couples.
READ MORE: THE SCHOOL BOARD SOGI MEETING
Once, when observing a difference between one of these families and ours, he noted how much “cooler” they are and lamented it must be because he only gets one mommy. Then he asked why and I told him that was simply decided by a “roll of the dice.”
Honestly, I didn’t know whether these were the right answers at the time. I still don’t. I do know that as he gets older the questions he poses will become more nuanced. The critiques from those around him may become sharper, and the instinct to follow the herd may be harder to avoid than I like to imagine. In an ideal world that herd will be mild mannered and kind, but I’ve read Lord of the Flies.
That’s why we all need a little help to better understand these differences and how best to address them. The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity 123 program attempts to do that.
For those who don’t know, the SOGI program is a set of resource materials addressing race, ethnicity, religion and ability issues that lead to bullying. It also approaches the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity, which caused frustration and upset all across the school board this week.
There’s a group that seems to feel this information being available is somehow an assault on their “democratic rights,” to quote one of the speakers referred to in our Page 3 story (link above). While I could use this moment to question their understanding of the concept of democracy, I’d rather use it to ask how they could possibly oppose something that will allow children who have long since been stigmatized, bullied and ostracized a ladder into greater acceptance.
It’s no mystery that LGBT youth experience a higher rate of bullying and are more susceptible to suicide attempts. Do you really want to be among the group of people who are stopping these children from feeling safe? Stop them from facing ridicule, ostracism as well as verbal and physical abuse?
The world has changed, and in this case, for the better. People are different and there’s no reason for those differences to be anything other than accepted.
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