A socially conservative parents' group is circulating a clip from a radio interview Premier Doug Ford gave on the province's sex-ed curriculum six months ago, saying it shows he agrees with their viewpoint that gender identity is nothing but "Liberal ideology."
Tanya Granic Allen — a former PC leadership hopeful and a social conservative activist — tweeted a clip of the interview Tuesday morning. The reminder of what Ford said in the leadership campaign comes just as he and his government are expected to begin consulting the public on sex-ed and begin writing a new curriculum.
Well said Doug Ford!
Watch/listen to @fordnation discuss gender identity theory as liberal ideology during an interview on the @AndrewLawton show back in Feb. https://t.co/DLSvm5Twz7 #onpoli #FullyRepealWynneSexEd
— Tanya Granic Allen (@TGranicAllen) August 21, 2018
In the February interview, Ford, then a candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, did an interview with Andrew Lawton, then a radio host in London. Ford would go on to win the leadership and, months later, appoint Lawton as the PC candidate in London West — sparking a separate political controversy — and Lawton would ultimately lose his race.
The clip is noteworthy because Ford has generally shied away from speaking about the specifics of the sex-ed curriculum that he pledged to repeal. Whether the new curriculum developed by the Progressive Conservatives will teach students about gender identity remains an open question. Education Minister Lisa Thompson said students would be taught about gender identity in a question period debate in July only to walk the comment back the same afternoon.
The interview touched on some of the major issues of the leadership race, including carbon pricing. About four minutes in, Lawton read Ford a quote from a press release he had sent out, saying the sex-ed curriculum should be "about facts, not teaching Liberal ideology," and asked Ford for an example of what in the curriculum wasn't fact-based.
Ford didn't directly answer, but said that parents hadn't been consulted on the curriculum.
Lawton returned to the issue of what wasn't fact-based. Ford said he wouldn't "get into the weeds" of the curriculum, and spoke about students' math scores and a teacher strike that occurred under the Liberal government.
Then, Lawton tried again. "I get that Doug, but when you put forward in your own words that facts need to take priority over Liberal ideology, I'm just wondering — even without getting into the weeds — if you can provide one example in that curriculum where you think Liberal ideology has hijacked facts."
"Can your listeners, and yourself, tell me what the six genders are?" Ford replied.
Lawton asked if that was an example, and Ford replied, "My point, my point, let's start focusing on basics," before speaking again about how parents need to be consulted. "Let's start focusing on the people. You don't breathe your ideology down their throats."
Granic Allen sought the Progressive Conservative leadership earlier this year, and rallied the party's social conservative base in the campaign. Her supporters eventually helped Ford secure a narrow victory over rival Christine Elliott, when the majority flocked to Ford in subsequent rounds of instant runoff voting after Granic Allen had been eliminated. She later would become a candidate in Mississauga until Ford revoked her nomination over her recorded comments that the idea of gay marriage in her ancestral home of Croatia made her "almost vomit in disbelief."
Granic Allen, who is also the leader of the group Parents As First Educators (PAFE), tweeted the clip and sent it out in an email blast to supporters Tuesday. PAFE is also circulating a petition, putting pressure on the government to keep gender identity out of the new curriculum. (Granic Allen is pictured here at a sex-ed curriculum protest in 2016.)
"Well said, Doug Ford," she wrote in the email blast. "In an interview Doug Ford did earlier this year, Ford dismissed gender identity theory as 'liberal ideology.'"
"Doug Ford is right; gender identity theory is liberal ideology. PAFE agrees with Premier Ford on this point, and so do the parents across Ontario who don’t want their children taught this unscientific theory as part of the curriculum," the email continues. "Doug Ford promised to repeal and replace Kathleen Wynne’s sex-ed. Ontario parents are now counting on the Premier to fulfill his mandate and repeal the objectionable parts of Wynne’s sex-ed curriculum. Most would agree that the unscientific gender identity theory is among the worst parts of Wynne’s curriculum."
Ford's reference to "six genders" echoes a talking pointed used by social conservatives, including controversial Ford ally Charles McVety, in their opposition to the curriculum — but the curriculum itself doesn't actually state that there are six different genders.
However, the curriculum does say that Grade 8 students should "demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual, intersex)."
Asked to clarify the premier's comments — and PAFE's interpretation of them — Ford spokesman Simon Jefferies declined to get into specifics and issued only a short statement to QP Briefing saying: "Premier Doug Ford believes in consulting and respecting parents."
The NDP criticized Ford for the six genders comment in the Lawton interview.
"New Democrats fought to entrench gender identity protections in the Human Rights code for a reason — denying the validity of someone's gender identity can lead to discrimination, harassment, bullying and worse. Telling young students that their gender isn't valid ostracizes them from their classmates, increases their risks of being bullied, and can leave them feeling dangerously isolated," said education critic Peggy Sattler.
"The modern sex-ed curriculum saves lives, and New Democrats will continue to fight to make sure Ontario's students have access to the information they need to understand themselves and their classmates, and to grow up in a safe environment."
Prominent trans activist Susan Gapka told QP Briefing that language such as the "six genders" talking point has been used to cloak transphobia, to spread misinformation, and to stir up opposition to human rights protections for transgender people, who face harassment, discrimination and violence.
And Gapka said it's "mean-spirited" to dismiss people's lives as political ideology.
"We've existed long before Liberals and Conservatives," she said.
Granic Allen did not respond to a request for an interview. This story will be updated with any response.
Gender identity is an umbrella term that refers to whether people consider themselves to be male, female or non-binary, regardless of their biological sex. The 2015 version of the sex-ed curriculum also provides definitions of the related terms that opponents have based the six-genders talking point on:
- Transgender: "A transgender person is a person whose gender identity, outward appearance, gender expression, and/or anatomy are not consistent with the conventional definitions or expectations of male and female; often used to represent a wide range of gender identities and behaviours."
- Transsexual. "A person who experiences intense personal and emotional discomfort with his or her assigned birth gender and may undergo treatment to transition gender."
- Intersex: "A term used to describe a person whose sex chromosomes, genitalia, and/or secondary sex characteristics (e.g., facial hair, breasts) are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An intersex person may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. The intersex community has generally rejected the term “hermaphrodite”as outdated. Intersex people may or may not identify as part of the transgender community."
- Two-spirited. "A term used by First Nations people to refer to a person having both the feminine and masculine spirits. It includes sexual or gender identity, sexual orientation, social roles, and a broad range of identities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender."