Sexual orientation
6 min

The Sun wants to know why it’s homophobic

BY ROB SALERNO – You may think that we here at Xtra spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the rightwing news network Sun TV. That’s probably because the 80 or so people who work in our offices constitute a full two percent of Sun’s viewership.

But we do so love it when Sun TV speaks out directly to us. It’s the personal attention that networks with actual viewership simply can’t provide that makes Sun TV stand out.

That’s why we were so flattered when Sun TV correspondent Brian Lilley went on a rant about two stories we recently published in which we interviewed current Ontario Education Minister Laurel Broten and former education minister Kathleen Wynne

The video seems to be unavailable this morning, but Lilley’s posted the text of his rant on his Lilley’s Pad blog (Oh, I see what you did there! Ha!).

Lilley’s upset that we want to see the revised sex ed curriculum that McGuinty shelved in 2010 put back in schools following consultations — exactly what McGuinty promised when he cut it last year. He’s also upset that we want queer students’ Charter freedoms of speech and association upheld in all schools, including Catholic schools, which currently ban students from forming gay-straight alliances. And he’s super upset that both the current and former education ministers seem to agree that these policies should be undertaken.

And he’s sick of being called a homophobe for disagreeing. Elsewhere in his rant, he also complains that Glen Murray, the minister of colleges, training and universities, called him a “homophone,” but that’s just confusing. After all, he’s the one who put a pun in his blog title:

"That’s right, Glen, I’m a homophone and a reactionary because I opposed a curriculum that would have taught kids in grade three about transgenderism and gender fluidity – the idea that we all float from one to another. Yep, I’m a homophobe because I oppose teaching kids to masturbate in Grade 6 and how to perform oral and anal sex in Grade 7.

That’s what was in the curriculum that was pushed back.

Don’t tell me, by the way, that they won’t teach kids how to do oral and anal sex; the curriculum called for them to be taught how to do these things “safely.” How can you teach kids how to do this safely unless you teach them how to do it in the first place?”

Later he quotes Broten pointing out to Xtra that much of this talk is based on lies and misinformation, in part spread intentionally by the Progressive Conservatives under Tim Hudak. He challenges Broten to come on the show and tell him where the lies are. I’ll save Broten the effort, since as an avid reader of Xtra, Lilley should know we’ve covered this in detail.

Through the election campaign, Hudak, the rightwing Canada Christian College and their partners at Sun TV spread a knowingly false, homophobic and transphobic campaign that alleged that the new curriculum forced children to crossdress, set up same-sex kissing booths and march in Pride parades — all untrue and currently the subject of a formal complaint by the Toronto District School Board.

As for his other allegations — listen, I had sex ed in Catholic school. If Lilley thinks that the current curriculum doesn’t mention masturbation and oral and anal sex, he’s got another thing coming. The difference is that those Catholic Fully Alive texts simply mentioned that these things exist but are completely immoral. That’s also what they taught us about condoms and birth control, by the way. Incidentally, the sex ed in those Fully Alive books starts at third grade. Always has. All the kids used to skip right to chapter three as soon as those books were released. Dare you to read the Grade 3 book’s Chapter 3 and tell me if you think it’s inappropriate. 

The only thing kids need to know about safe oral and anal sex is that if they do it, they need to use condoms and they should never use oil-based lubricant (that goes for vaginal sex, too), and that’s as true for gay kids as it is for straight kids (or did you not know that straight teens do this stuff, too?). There’s no need for oral and anal sex manuals, graphic images or videos, and there wasn’t anything like that in the curriculum. There’s no need for or expectation of “how-to” exams like Lilley’s little rant implies.

And that’s way better than letting kids learn about this stuff the way they do now — through schoolyard gossip, porn and dubious accounts on the internet and TV (Oh, did you not know that kids look up this stuff on the internet now? It’s the 21st-century equivalent of how we’d look up dirty words in the big dictionary in the school library). Unless we want our kids running around with dangerous misinformation, the education system has to adapt to 21st-century realities and be inclusive of teens’ sexual realities.

As for learning transgenderism and gender fluidity in the third grade, I can’t speak to the curriculum’s actual content on this, but is that such a big deal? By the time children are eight years old, they should know that there are lots of different types of people in the world, and all families are different. There may in fact be trans people in the school community already — other students, teachers, parents, etc. Eight years old is probably too young to go into the medical science, but certainly you can explain to children that there are some very rare people who believe they were born in the wrong bodies and are taking steps to change them. As for gender fluidity, that refers only to the fact that some girls like to do traditionally boy things and some boys like to do traditionally girl things, and that’s okay. That’s not at all uncommon as a lesson in schools at any age — even when I was a Catholic boy at All Saints CES.

So on the sex ed front, I’ll be charitable and say you’re not homophobic, you’re just willfully misinformed. Here’s a new challenge for you, Lilley: since you want Broten on your show to prove that the curriculum doesn’t include this stuff (how? by reading the entire thing cover to cover?), why don’t you provide one shred of evidence that “graphic” or inappropriate material was included in it? Direct quotes from the curriculum and examples in context only, please. 

As for GSAs: yes, unfortunately, opposing them does make you a homophobe. As does your sneering language about “the gay lifestyle.” (Don’t worry, we’re already used to Sun Media’s long history of homophobia.)

In one paragraph you write that the Catholic schools are doing enough by saying that gay kids — sorry, “students dealing with same-sex attraction” — shouldn’t be discriminated against and should be included in anti-bullying campaigns, and then in another you say that the schools should deny them their Charter right to associate and tell them over and over that being gay is wrong.

Gay-straight alliances are just safe places where gay, straight and questioning kids can hang out and talk. They’re not Pride celebrations or Roman orgies. It’s just a place where kids who feel bullied, threatened or alone can find other friends who’ll accept them for who they are. An anti-bullying room where the teacher says, “It’s wrong that those kids pick on you, but they’re right that you’re a dirty little homo who’ll never know the grace of God until you forget all this gay stuff” is not an equivalent. Just be an adult and leave the kids alone.

I have no problem with allowing the Church to do its religious work — freedom of religion and all that — but when it’s doing work that is only tangentially related to the Church, like teaching a human biology class, then the freedom of religion argument doesn’t hold. Yes, Catholic schools have constitutional protection, but that same document gives students, even gay ones, Charter protections of free speech, assembly and freedom from discrimination. 

To make a legal argument, Catholic schools can’t discriminate against non-Catholic students, either — there were several orthodox and non-religious kids in my Catholic high school. The kids can’t be forced to take sacraments and can’t be prevented from setting up clubs celebrating their own religious affiliations. Why should gay students be treated any differently?

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