No, queer curriculum in schools isn’t “grooming” students

We need to crush the idea that LGBTQIA2S+ narratives in school are anything other than a step in the right direction.

PHOTO: Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Bhavana Kaushik, SFU Student

Despite years of progress on LGBTQIA2S+ rights in Canada, the last couple of years have seen a resurgence in naked bigotry towards queer people. One of the most dangerous tactics used to demonize the community has been to reduce teachers to “groomers,” with bigots condemning the involvement of queer narratives in the classroom as being tantamount to pedophilia. 

Before we talk about such an important topic, we need to establish a legitimate definition of grooming. According to a 2001 Criminal Code provision, “preparatory” steps taken to “groom” children under 14 is considered a criminal offence, even before an actual sexual crime is committed or attempted. Grooming is when a person builds a relationship with a child for the purpose of future abuse. It’s a real phenomenon that, especially online, has been on the rise in Canada.

What grooming is not, is education that includes the mere mention of queer people. 

In the past few years, the idea that issues around gender and sexuality shouldn’t be taught in school has been gaining steam in far-right circles. In Florida, the so-called “don’t say gay” bill forbids educators from teaching anything related to sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Florida’s Republican Governor and conservative allies have accused opponents of the bill of being “groomers,” themselves. 

Canadians aren’t immune from this demonization of queer narratives in schools; during the 2022 municipal elections in BC, the Parents’ Voice party ran, partly, on a platform opposing the inclusion of LGBTQIA2S+ topics in school curriculum. During that election, three of the party’s 28 candidates were elected to school boards, where they now serve, contributing to critical decisions about inclusive curriculum. 

An inclusive curriculum is critically important. As of 2021, 4% of Canadians aged 15 and older identify as members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Growing up, that population having a curriculum related to sexual orientation and gender equality will help them feel safer and valued in their learning environment. It also helps students outside of the queer community. Students who grow up learning about what it’s like to be a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community do a better job at being there for students and adults who are different from them. And early, age-appropriate sex-ed discussions make all students safer from actual grooming. 

The LGBTQIA2S+ community and its allies have fought for decades to create a safe space for queer Canadians. But for this to continue, any notion of a link between an inclusive curriculum and the terrible practice of “grooming” has to be shut down before it causes more damage to the LGBTQIA2S+ community.