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The Big Story: Going back to a sex ed curriculum from 20 years ago would be dangerous

Thousands of people gathered outside the Ontario Legislature on April 14 2015, to protest the provincial government's proposed sex ed curriculum. The majority of protesters (predominantly Chinese and Muslim) arrived in a convoy of school busses. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Ontario premier Doug Ford has said he will scrap the province’s updated sex ed curriculum, reverting to one last updated 20 years ago.

The latest version of the curriculum was created in 2015, and addresses things like consent, same-sex marriage, gender identity, and online bullying.

A lot has changed since 1998. What would happen if we went that far back? Erica Lenti, editor of This Magazine, says it would be incredibly dangerous. In today’s ‘Big Story’ podcast, she shares her story of coming out as gay in high school, and how her life would have been completely different if she and her peers were taught the updated curriculum.

“I went to Catholic school,” she explains. “We had this book called ‘Fully Alive.’ It was from Grades 1 to 8 and essentially went through all these Christian-slanted views of sex-ed.”

“There’s a section that was like, ‘masturbation is a sin’ and ‘if you feel like touching yourself, you should not.’ That was the basis of what the education was like for us,” she adds.

“For me, as a 13-year-old who was like, ‘I think I might be a little bit different than my straight peers,’ there was a section on homosexuality. It was a separate page — you could tell it wasn’t part of the rest of the sex education. It was like, ‘Some people have passing phases, in which they are attracted to their friends, but it doesn’t mean that they’re gay.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m not gay.’ That was the basis for my education.”

You can hear the full episode and subscribe to The Big Story podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

You can also hear it online at thebigstorypodcast.ca.

Lenti came out to her mother at the age of 14 and says she felt very alone in who she was and her identity, in part of the sex education she received.

“I struggled a lot with anxiety. I still do. I struggled a lot with depression. Throughout high school, absolutely there were days where I was like, ‘I just want to kill myself because I am not like the rest of the people that I’m at school with every day. They hate who I am, and in turn, I hate who I am,” she says.

“I do honestly believe that if I had a better education that told me, ‘People are different. There’s a range of sexual orientations and gender identities,’ I really don’t think that I would have experienced those emotions and those thoughts.”