We should start again, with the problem of the child as a general idea. The child is precisely who we are not and, in fact, never were. It is the act of adults looking back.Kathryn Bond Stockton, The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (Durham: Duke UP, 2009) 5.
Children are thoroughly, shockingly queer, as Kathryn Bond Stockton explains in The Queer Child, or Growing Sideways in the Twentieth Century (2009), where she examines children’s strangeness, even some children’s subliminal “gayness,” in twentieth-century literature and film. Estranging, broadening, darkening forms of children emerge as Stockton illuminates how feelings of pain and shame, the closets, the emotional labor of having to appear innocent, and children’s sexual motives attend all children although many adults seek to deny their existence.
Leave it to the parents!?David Kates, “Favouring a fact-based approach to sex education,” canada.com, 7 May 2015.
In 2015, thousands of parents pulled their kids out of school in protest over proposed changes to the sex-ed curriculum in Ontario. The changes, which cover a range of age-specific subjects starting in Grade 1, have been the subject of controversy, with accusations that they introduce children to concepts they’re not old enough to grasp and place too much emphasis on issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
As they approach adolescence and their bodies are changing, it is important that children understanding what is happening to them. They need to know about the risks associated with being sexually active and the measures they can take to prevent pregnancy and STIs. It’s not a matter of what makes you personally uncomfortable, or how you might personally feel about people of a different sexual orientation or gender, it is fundamental that children have access to information that includes discussions of identities beyond the normative binary division of sex, gender, and sexuality and address issues of our current times such as cyberbullying and sexting.
As you watch:
- Consider some of the language that parents employ to talk to their children about sex.
- Think about your own experience when having conversations about sex and sexuality with your parents or in schools.
As you read:
- Reflect on contemporary attitudes toward and perceptions of what children should or should not know about sexuality.
- Consider what the regulation of sex-ed might tell us about socio-cultural norms.
- Think about the significance of schools discussing sexual difference and (queer) desires openly.
Find the Dyer reading in the supplementary resources block on eClass.