News / Halifax

'I felt like I had to hide it:' Halifax advocates launch petition for trans education in all Nova Scotia grades

Jessica Durling says the current model of transgender identities being introduced with sex-ed in Grade 7 is inaccurate, and kids feel alone for years.

Jessica Durling poses for a photo in Halifax

Metro file

Jessica Durling poses for a photo in Halifax

A new petition aims to have transgender education in Nova Scotia schools from Primary to Grade 12 so children don’t think they’re “freaks” who have to hide who they are, one advocate says.

Jessica Durling and Áine Morse of the Halifax Trans Fem/Enby Resistance Collective have launched a petition calling for the Education Department to “teach children that transgender people exist and normalize their lives. This petition supports robust and effective transgender education from early grade levels,” the document reads.

(Enby is short for non-binary, referring to people who don’t identify as male or female and may use they/their pronouns).

Durling, 21, said she’s wanted to push for better education around gender identities in schools for a long time, especially since she herself didn’t learn about it until Grade 7 - from one line in a sex-ed handbook.

“That means for all those years I felt like I wasn’t normal, like I was the only one like this in the world, and I had to grow up feeling that way. This isn’t right,” Durling said on Monday.

Being trans or non-binary is completely separate from sex and sexual orientation, Durling said, so there’s nothing preventing young kids from reading age-appropriate books and learning to accept some boys and girls are born with traits not traditionally associated with their gender - and that’s okay.

“I knew I was trans. I didn’t have the terminology for it … I’m female but I have these characteristics so does that make me male? I felt like I had to hide it,” Durling said.

It would be ideal to have trans education pair with social studies or history rather than sex-ed, Durling said, since trans people are in our communities and contribute to fields like writing, TV, and human rights - including Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson’s historic roles at Stonewall.

"They should be included so that kids can learn about it, learn they’re normal and that they’re not freaks or abnormal. The way it’s currently put just isn’t right,” Durling said.

The petition specifically asks that curriculum have students in Grade 1 to 5 learn about medical misidentification of sex: “that some girls have a penis, that some boys have a vagina, and that some people are neither male nor female,” and “being transgender is normal and that hormone therapy can be accessed to adjust hormone levels.”

Although Durling said she knows there will be some who will feel that elementary kids are too young for trans education, it’s never “too early” for those kids who are trans or non-binary and currently growing up to feel confused and ashamed.

Durling said she’d like to get more than 600 signatures for the petition, and send to the Education Minister some time next year.

Anyone who’d like to print out the blank petition and gather signatures can email Jessica Durling at shieldwolf@live.ca.

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