The sex of our angels

July 6, 2023

From Jean-François Lisée’s blog

Published on 06/19/2023    

Translated from French by DeepL and verified by Michel Virard       

Image distributed to teachers by the CSQ

(TN: Centrale des Syndicats du Québec – mostly a teachers and health workers union).

Sex education has made a strong comeback in our schools. Well done.

But it’s accompanied by the uninhibited promotion of gender theory.

On a March day in a Montreal daycare center, a dozen or so five-year-olds, mostly girls, welcome a special guest. The speaker, a sexologist from an organization specializing in the field, has come to talk to them about gender. How do you know if you’re a boy or a girl?” she asks. Parents are invited. A mother records.

“Girls are girls and boys are boys because of our cells,” replies a child displaying a beautiful self-assurance.

It’s true,” replies the speaker, “that there’s a so-called biological or genetic part that makes you a boy or a girl. After that, how do you personally know whether you’re a boy or a girl?”

A child tries to enlighten her. At delivery, she says, “the doctors know whether it’s a boy or a girl. For a boy, they put him in a towel in blue, for a girl the towel is pink.”

A discussion of color preferences ensues, with girls confessing to preferring blue. Good. But the speaker comes back to the point: “The question I had was how you personally, how you know, how you feel you’re a boy or a girl, are we able to answer that?

Certainly they can: “Because we don’t have a penis!” proposes one little girl. But “we’re not going to show everyone our vulva!”

Certainly. The speaker doesn’t give up: “It’s true that there are differences, as we said earlier, that are biological. But how do you, if I say to you, are you a boy or a girl, and do you really believe it strongly, how do you know?”

“I don’t have a penis!” insists a young girl, speaking louder to finally be heard.

To another child who asserts that she’s a girl, the practitioner asks, “Are you convinced?”

The answer is: when you look, “you can see your vulva or your penis!”

It’s not complicated, though. But it’s getting tiresome. Five minutes have gone by already.

“Can we go now, because we’re bored?” says a girl.

Speaker: “Are you bored with the subject?”

– Yes.

– You didn’t answer my question, though.

– I hate it,” replies the girl, while cries of “penis, penis! (or is it tennis? Because shortly afterwards, two children have to leave for their tennis lessons).

– Stay a little longer

The speaker hammers on: “what makes you a girl is because you feel like one.” “You don’t have to prove it to me, I believe you.” “It’s a feeling that’s inside you.” “So. What makes you a boy or a girl. What’s the most important thing?”

They’re only five, but they’re not freaks. Eventually, they understand what the adult wants to hear. One child replies, “That you feel it inside you.”

Bingo! That’s a really nice answer,” says the caregiver. May you feel it inside you.”

Mission accomplished. These kids thought we were girls or boys because we were born that way. They probably still do. But they’ve just realized that an authority figure insists that they distinguish between biology and inner feeling. They haven’t heard the last of it.

In our schools, gender theory has become a certainty

For several years now, our toddlers have been learning that the sexes don’t exist. That there is a vast range of choices, not only for sexual orientation and gender identity, but for sex itself. You may be learning this here, as I have over the past few weeks, but it’s no secret. Online, the 695-page pedagogical document “Themes and learning about sexuality education” explains to teachers that “children can begin to explore their gender identity between the ages of 3 and 7. This is part of a natural process of self-determination and gender affirmation. This is when children may first feel different from their peers. They wonder why their sex assigned at birth differs from the gender identity they feel inside.” (p.11) You see, sex is “assigned at birth”. It is not observed. It does not exist in itself.

Gender theory is generating debate and colloquiums in academic circles. Arguments abound about the fixed or relative nature of sexual binarity in the human species and other inhabitants of the planet. But this fascinating debate is held to be settled by the Ministry of Education’s pedagogues, who have built the entire curriculum around their certainty that gender theory is not only the right one, but also the right one for early consumption.

The document includes suggestions for books “for pre-school and primary school, covering topics such as heterosexism, stereotypes and trans-identity” (p. 38.). Themes, stories and illustrations, including a widely circulated image produced by the CSQ, present biological sex not as a fact, but as an “infinity of possibilities”, like gender identity, which comes from the brain, and sexual orientation, which comes from the heart.

The GRIS organization (Groupe de recherche en intervention sociale), with its 250 volunteers working in schools, offers students from secondary 1 (age 12) onward in its Guide pédagogique to define their “gender unicorn”, which posits the continuum of sex, gender and identity as perfectly fluid notions. The same concept, but with a gingerbread man – the “ginger person” – can be found in teaching materials distributed in the classroom.

A 10-year-old girl returned from one of these activities and advised her mother to say “female body” and “male body” from now on, as some people are not comfortable with the words “girl” and “boy”. In a letter she sent me, her mother reacted as follows: “How can we introduce these notions to children who, for the most part, have never even kissed a boy or a girl.  Most haven’t even had a lover.  Most little girls haven’t even had their period.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against people who subscribe to gender ideology.  However, I don’t think that teaching the ideology of sexual deconstruction as a basis for sexuality to children in the midst of constructing their identities is a good idea, even that it’s a worrying lack of judgment.” Like most of the others quoted in this article, this mother refuses to allow her name to be identified, for fear that she or her child will be ostracized.

The mother of a high school student from St-Hyacinthe tells me that “the teacher informed my daughter that young people can make a sexual transition from the age of 14 without their parents’ consent, and that this transition is reimbursed by health insurance. My daughter, who knows that this is genital mutilation, was upset and held back from crying in class.” The mother lodged a complaint, but the school replied that the course complied in every respect with the Ministry’s guidelines. Which is perfectly correct: “Respect for confidentiality is of paramount importance” writes the Ministry.

There are no types: only stereotypes

The Ministry’s pedagogues prescribe a clear stance on gender for teachers. Nowhere in this literature are there any masculine or feminine “types” worthy of mention or appreciation and which, if properly nurtured in a culture of openness, are vectors of affirmation for the vast majority of children and adolescents. No, there are only male and female ‘stereotypes’. They are tares, like heterosexism, heteronormativity and hetero-privilege. In the 8 to 11 section of the above document, we read: “These stereotypes, in addition to presenting the feminine and masculine genders as binary and different realities, contribute to dividing rather than uniting boys and girls, who are more alike than they are different . In addition to limiting children’s potential for development and expression, repeated exposure to gender stereotypes contributes to the adoption of sexist attitudes and beliefs which, in turn, hinder the establishment of harmonious relationships between them.” (p 114)

Another Ministry document, “Contenus détaillés en éducation à la sexualité” states the following for Secondary 1: “accompany their reflection on their gender identity and on certain harmful effects of traditional versions of masculinity and femininity that can affect their interpersonal relationships and sexual behaviors”. (p. 4) We search in vain for the paragraph on “certain positive effects” of masculinity and femininity. They don’t exist. All indications urge teachers to counter what is considered masculine and feminine. They are invited to question themselves:

“Am I comfortable with my students making choices that match their preferences and go beyond stereotypes? – Do I encourage students to express themselves in a variety of ways, regardless of gender?  – Do I use a variety of examples that go beyond stereotypes?  – Do I have preconceived ideas about how boys, girls should act?”

The task of deconstructing stereotypes is colossal, agrees the teaching guide, because “stereotypes exist all over the world and transcend cultures.” This is unfortunate. That’s why “it’s important to work with students on stereotypes throughout primary school”.

Cumulatively, this approach presents the heterosexual experience as harmful, constraining, oppressive. On the contrary, books, speakers and plays celebrate LGBTQ experiences. Children aged 8 to 14, for example, took field trips in May to the Maison Théâtre to see Norman, c’est comme normal à une lettre près, about a boy who likes to wear a pink dress. The associated teaching material invites discussion of gender.

Does the denial, by authoritative teachers, of the legitimacy of an assumed feminine or masculine sexual affirmation lead to “harmonious relationships”? Not according to this university-educated mother, who wrote to me about her son, who was exposed to this discourse in secondary 3: “This teaching did not have a positive effect on him. Firstly, he was ostracized by his teacher and classmates when he dared to question it. Secondly, it made him anxious about his own masculinity, and he developed a strong need to assert it.” Not necessarily a healthy reaction, she believes, but “understandable for a young teenager. “

A Secondary 1, 2 and 3 teacher in Montreal recounts, “I attended one of the courses given by the interveners to one of my classes.  Even though the subject wasn’t gender identity (this session was on sexually transmitted diseases), throughout the entire course the speakers never uttered the words man or woman or girl or boy.  These words were replaced by “person with a uterus” and “person without a uterus”. It was very strange. During a training session, “each teacher present had to introduce himself or herself, specifying which pronoun they use”.  These were the pronouns he/she/iel/on/ul, which differ according to each person’s gender identity. “This is what the speakers also do with our students when they teach these concepts to our children.  Although all the teachers sensed discomfort, they all agreed to reveal their “pronoun”.  Except for me.  I find this method a form of intimidation.”

Perverse effects

There’s no question here of questioning the salutary effort made to ensure that our future citizens develop tolerance and respect for each other’s diverse sexual orientations. Nor do we deny the existence of gender dysphoria in a tiny minority of children and teenagers, and the importance of providing them with sympathetic support. We’re elsewhere: in the dissemination among children and teenagers of a theory that asserts the dissociation between biological sex and identity as true, normal and, in fact, preferable. The fact that this discourse runs counter to the experience of the vast majority of human beings, young and old, and that it can have perverse effects on the development of our children’s personalities, seems nowhere to be taken into account. There is no precautionary principle here.

Jean-René Jeffrey, a gay man who worked for GRIS for eight years, testified in schools that he used to dress as a girl when he was a teenager, but has come out of it and is happy in his male body. He was asked to stop giving trainings in 2017, just as the organization integrated trans speakers into its activities. He opened up in a brief to GRIS about his deep concern:

“The presence of trans speakers likely to present, or suggest, in primary and secondary schools, transition as a solution to gender dysphoria is a decision that carries a high level of risk for some students and particularly for dysphoric students. One cannot, nor should one, present or suggest transition (taking puberty blockers, hormones and genital reassignment) to groups of minors without risking harming those among them who are dysphoric but whose problem would resolve itself (85% of people) or fragile individuals (the remaining 15%).”

A counsellor with a youth organization in Gaspésie-les-Îles writes me that she had a trans woman from GRIS in her group. “My gang of girls (7-8 13-year-olds) came to see us a few days after this person’s intervention. They explained to me in all seriousness that they had to be boys. The reasons: they like fishing (it’s quite common on the coast), hunting, mountain biking, they didn’t like make-up and they found it too difficult to be girls.” None of them acted on this sudden urge, adds the teacher, who recounts that she spent six weeks explaining that these hobbies aren’t just for boys. “But if we hadn’t intervened,” she says, “it’s quite possible they would have.” She contacted the speaker to advise her that “her speech had a real influence on young people and that it went far beyond just talking about her experience as a trans woman. [The speaker ]explained that my speech was transphobic and that, according to her “expertise” on the trans issue, I was a repressed non-binary person… According to her, we should have affirmed young people in their gender identity without even asking questions and helped them in their transition.  We know our teens well enough to know that they’re not trans, but they’re not comfortable with their changing bodies.”

She adds: “I’ve tried to bring up the subject of LGBTQ+ NPOs that tour the province’s schools and youth organizations at youth roundtables and with other youth centers. No one dares to criticize as a group; everyone’s afraid of being called transphobic. However, we are a good group to question the content of workshops on transidentity and its impact on young people.”

The question of what attitude to adopt when a child, bathed in this discourse, decides to change his or her sexual orientation is clearly set out in a 2021 document from the Ministry of Education: Pour une meilleure prise en compte de la diversité sexuelle et de genre – Guide à l’intention des milieux scolaires: “Self-identification is the only way to determine a person’s gender identity.” 

In the texts given to teachers, we read that young people can have changing attitudes to their identity and orientation. However, nowhere in any of the documents obtained is there any testimony or directive to the effect that many children and teenagers go through various phases of identification, then serenely assume their original gender and sex. There’s nothing to encourage teachers to be – and to advise young people to be – extremely cautious in any attempt to affirm a change of gender. On the contrary, the guidelines call for every student’s self-affirmation to be respected in every respect, whatever their age, and contain this warning: “Intentional or persistent refusal to respect a trans or non-binary student’s gender identity or expression may be considered a form of harassment or discrimination likely to result in legal consequences.” (p. 10) 

The aforementioned Montreal high school teacher testifies: “In my school, there are several ‘trans kids’.  Most of them are young girls.  Every year, for the past 3 years, there have been more and more of them, and they’re getting younger and younger. All the girls who “identify” as boys suffer from severe anxiety and depression.  They’re absent from school very often, and they’re failing at school.” He continues: “Did you know that at the CSSDM, a child can decide to change his first name to that of another gender, without notifying his parents? Yes, all he or she has to do is tell an “intervener” or a member of the management and his or her new first name will replace his or her old one on the class lists.  Teachers are obliged to use it to avoid being accused of “misgendering” the child.  Sometimes we’re asked to continue using the child’s old name when communicating with their parents, as they’re not aware of it.  Yes, the school is playing behind the parents’ backs. The school encourages and celebrates the child who suddenly reveals a new “gender identity”.  It’s certain that the increase in cases is linked to the discourse of speakers in sex education classes.” He concludes, “I’m worried about the devastating effects I’m already seeing on our teens and even our young children.”

A father writes to me about his 17-year-old teenager, whom he has been accompanying for 3 years through a series of mental health problems: anorexia, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, borderline personality traits. In a letter of reproach he sent to Sainte-Justine Hospital, he wrote of her “that on the first day of her hospitalization [at age 14, in 2020], and in the first few minutes of our meeting with Dr. N., who was on call that day, hormone blockers were mentioned as something that might help her. Before that day, my daughter hadn’t raised any questions about her gender, other than discomfort with her breasts.” Without taking the blockers, the teenager then wears a bandage over her breasts, changes her name at school and uses the pronoun “he”, which, writes the father, “led to a series of sometimes zany situations and contributed to making the problem last (and creating new ones).”

Three years later, the specialists consulted, including at Sainte-Justine, “clearly affirm that gender dysphoria is not my daughter’s problem.”‘ Last year, the teenager, the father continues, confided to her psychiatrist that she wished to revert to her girl’s name, “but that she didn’t know how and was afraid of being judged”. She entered CEGEP this fall, and registered under her female name.

The father believes that “the whole system and society in general – I include the school network, the DPJ, the justice system – currently seems to be organized to ‘affirm’ identity without too much questioning, medically and even surgically if the desire is felt.”

He says he is “deeply disturbed by what [he] has seen, heard and, above all, by the absence of safeguards to protect troubled teenagers”, and believes that “a large number of parents will blindly follow the recommendations of ‘professionals’ or the will of their children, because ‘that’s the way it is today’.

From education to militancy

This new discourse spills over into the classroom. Teachers are bombarded with enthusiastic union material on the subject. Above all, in many schools, committees, made up of students and sometimes supported by volunteer teachers and administrators, are taking on the mandate of enforcing gender theory throughout the school.

These committees can be both reassuring places for truly LGBTQ+ teens and magnets for young people in search of an identity. That’s what this mother believes: “My 14-year-old daughter suddenly called herself a boy a year ago, when she’d never before shown any discomfort with her body. […] When she entered high school, she joined her school’s LGBTQ+ committee, probably at the invitation of a new friend. Then she began a “love” relationship with this friend, who called herself a boy. A few months later, my daughter also called herself a boy, thereby declaring herself a homosexual boy. She started calling herself a boy’s name and gendering herself masculine. Her hair was cut short and her style of dress became masculine. She began a social transition.” A very positive report on one of these committees was presented in March on La semaine des 4 Julie. In it, we meet Line Desgagnés, Community Life Animator at Polyvalente des Pionniers in Trois-Rivières. She created one of these groups and is amazed by its rapid growth, with membership rising from 15 last year to 30 this year, “an all-time record”. She’s delighted.

New standards: queernormativity and transnormativity

To sum up, a tipping point has been reached between the desire to accept, appreciate and even celebrate the diversity of sexual experience – which is always necessary – and the massive dissemination, among our children, of an ideology that represents a break with the past, an ideology that has never yet been tested on humans. A theory which, putting heteronormativity and heterosexism in the dock, assimilated in official texts as homophobic, replaces them with a new queernormativity according to which the difference between sex “assigned” at birth and another choice of gender identity is established and universal. A new norm. Similarly, for children with uncertain gender identities, we are in the presence of transnormativity, presenting prepubescent children with the trans experience, including medical, including without parental consent, as preferable to prolonging the search for self into adulthood.

I understand that this major shift was introduced at a time when the whole of Quebec was pleading for the reintroduction of sex education in schools. But part of the content of this reintroduction was adopted, I presume with due respect for the rigorous stages, but without elected officials and, certainly, the public and parents being fully aware of its significance and consequences.

I know the Minister of Education has his hands full these days. But as he prepares to renew this rather haphazard pedagogy in the new Quebec Citizenship course, I have only one word for him: Pause!

(A considerably shorter version of this text was published in Le Devoir.)

Michel Virard