It’s important to clarify the real purpose of SOGI is to protect children, says Travers, a professor of Sociology at Simon Fraser University. SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) resources provide information with the intention of teaching children inclusivity.
“Our goal is to keep children safe from sexual violence and sexual harm, and not talking to them about it is not the answer,” Travers says.
Different understandings of the SOGI resources have raised concerns, and even substantial protests, amongst parents and religious groups as they worry the program encourages children to change genders or undergo gender-affirming surgery.
In response to the recent anti-SOGI movement, Simon Fraser University will be hosting a forum on February 7 titled, “Mobilizing Fear and Misinformation: Anti-SOGI and ‘Parent’s Rights’ Movements,” aiming to counter people’s concerns and give them a more accurate perspective.
Travers will be one of the panellists at the talk.
Two reasons for misinformation
Travers says one of the two main reasons why misinformation about SOGI is being spread is because of a conservative push to “drive queer and trans people out of public life.”
“Children do not arrive on this Earth thinking that being queer or trans is bad. They’re taught really systematically. So, I do think there are lots of opportunities for unlearning hateful attitudes,” they explain.
Travers says research shows if cisgender children are exposed to gender as a spectrum, it is less likely girls and young women are going to be victimized by gender-based violence by boys and men. They explain that if people continue to not talk about gender and sexuality issues, this can have a negative impact on the queer and trans student population.
“There are always queer and trans students in school. What we have to decide as a society is what is their experience going to be like? Are we going to let them remain silent and invisible? These attitudes tend to lead to self-hatred, self-harm and self-destructive behaviors,” Travers points out.
Travers says the other main challenge that SOGI policies face is politicians trying to “manipulate fear by stoking a moral panic.”
Travers says the research about the positive role of SOGI is unequivocal; however, politicians who are mobilizing fear have ulterior motives.
“The politicians who are mobilizing this fear aren’t interested in the research. They haven’t done their homework. They have no intention of doing their homework and they cannot be convinced otherwise because they’re not actually interested in the truth. They’re interested in power,” Travers says.
No linear pattern to social change
Travers notes, broadly speaking, there has been a social progression on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“I was born in 1962. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would have a life where I could be as authentic and successful as I am today. I have a great life that I wouldn’t have anticipated,” Travers says.
However, when it comes to social change Travers says social progression is not a “linear” event.
In addition to very recent pushback against SOGI-inclusive policies, Travers also points to a recent example of how, in the U.S. Obama administration-era trans issues moved forward, but then faced more pushback when Trump was elected.
As such, they believe SOGI education is helpful to push for social change through education: better allowing trans and queer students to be themselves in school or society.
“Our real purpose is to be really proactive in letting people understand why SOGI education is good for all kids and that there are conservative politicians who are trying to create fear around marginalized groups of people,” Travers says.
SOGI has been around and used in BC schools since 2016.
For more information about the talk, visit http://events.sfu.ca/event/38613-mobilizing-fear-and-misinformation-anti-sogi-and