The movement to oppose gender activism in schools is growing — and science is on its side

The escalating fixation on gender in schools has produced a nationwide swell of protest

In 2017, the six-year old daughter of Ontario parents Jason and Pamela Buffone arrived home in distress. Her Grade 1 teacher, the six-year old said, had informed the class that, “Girls are not real and boys are not real.” It was later revealed that the novice teacher had seized multiple opportunities for promoting radical gender ideology to her students using storybooks and videos.

Gender discussion is not part of the Ontario curriculum for Grade 1, but the teacher circumvented that constraint by presenting the material as “teachable moments” — spontaneous lessons based on a teacher’s personal judgment of their appropriateness. The “teachable moments” on gender continued and the daughter’s anxiety mounted. She transferred to another school at the end of the year.

The Buffones’ complaints were stonewalled up the chain of authority. They eventually filed an application before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on their daughter’s behalf, alleging “discrimination with respect to educational services, because of sex and gender identity, contrary to the Human Rights Code.” The Buffones’ argument was that “gender identity” and “gender expression,” which are protected by Ontario’s Human Rights Code, includes those whose identity accords with their sex — i.e., most children. The school board held that the law only offers protection to the historically disadvantaged. The Buffones lost their case.

Throughout their sojourn, the Buffones were offered private encouragement by other parents, but stood alone when publicly voicing concerns about gender pedagogy at curriculum meetings. Pamela Buffone was galvanized to action by her isolating experience, immersing herself in research of radical gender ideology: its theories, its entrenchment in pedagogy and the (now, finally) controversial affirmation model of transition that emerged from it. She reached out to dissidents in teaching and health care who had been forced to practice rapid affirmation against their conscience and better judgment.

With these allies, Pamela Buffone founded the Canadian Gender Report (CGR). The group presents objective news, commentaries and reports from gender researchers in the North America and Europe, which demonstrate that the policies of the Canadian government and the views held by many in the media are extreme, both in their deference to activist-dictated policies and their indifference (even hostility) to parents’ expressed concerns over their children’s role as pedagogical guinea pigs for unproven theories.

The patience and timidity that was so common among parents in the early days of the Buffones’ travails is over. The escalating fixation on “queer” activism in schools has produced a nationwide swell of protest. The recent multi-city, bullishly vigorous “1 Million March 4 Children” — which was organized by an alliance of Muslim groups, Christian social conservatives, secular classical liberals and other organizations — achieved an important goal: dissent from authoritarianism throughout the education matrix is finally perceived as a “thing.” Parents’ rights as the people who hold the primary responsibility of protecting their children from harm had better be taken seriously by politicians — or else.

Bolstered by recent lawsuits around new social-transitioning rules favouring parents that were filed against the governments of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, the timing is perfect for a just-released report from CGR, with Buffone at the editorial helm, which is in all but name a white paper for responsible legislation on a plethora of gender-identity issues.

Titled, “Canadian Schools Guidance: Towards an Evidence-based Mental Health Focused Policy,” it argues that, “The current policies on gender identity in schools need to be replaced with policies that are informed by well-established, long-standing biopsychosocial models of child and adolescent development which enable gender-questioning youth the opportunity to explore their identities without being told that they were ‘born in the wrong body.’ ”

The introduction sets out the problematic issues the report will address, beginning with the fact that current policies in Canada “treat gender identity as a political and human rights issue,” but eschew “well-established research and theory on child and adolescent development,” including “underlying mental health issues with which the majority of these youth are struggling.” Schools contribute to the problem with teaching that contradicts science, and through instruction beginning “at an age where children are incapable of understanding the complex ideas within gender theory,” especially when presented “as fact.”

I’d love to have 5,000 words to elaborate on the content in this evidence-based, well-annotated report, such as: the faulty assumptions on which current policies regarding gender identity are based; the results of reviews by national health-care systems in Finland, Sweden and England — and reviews in the works by several other countries — suggesting the need for more disinterested research, plus caution on affirmation and limitations on medical pathways; the connection between gender distress and other mental-health issues, particularly in relation to detransitioning and suicidality (“It is critically important for school staff to know that social transition has not been shown to reduce suicidality”); and the over-representation of vulnerable Indigenous children (“Today Indigenous youth represent 18.8 per cent of patients at Canadian gender clinics while Indigenous people make up only five per cent of the Canadian population”).

Chapter 6, “Social Transition without Parental Consent,” deserves special mention. The report writers argue that schools’ secretive facilitation of social transitioning (pronoun, name and physical presentation changes) goes beyond keeping confidences; it is an “active” intervention, and may have significant effects on a child’s psychological and physical functioning. Elsewhere, health services are calling for engagement with families “in an in-depth process of discussion and thinking” around decisions about social transitioning.

In the light of school boards’ and teachers unions’ persisting intransigence, provincial education ministers must assign a high priority to this report’s findings and recommendations. Parents, politicians and pundits who are committed to children’s best interests will also find the report a valuable resource in situations that call for standing their ground.