The push-back against the “sexual orientation and gender identity” (SOGI) curriculum rolling through B.C. schools is mounting just in time for school board elections Oct. 20.

Some school trustee candidates have made resistance to SOGI a part of their election platforms, so naturally they’re being accused of promoting hatred and divisiveness.

SOGI critics recently rallied at the B.C. legislature to raise awareness of the dangers of the program, titled SOGI 123. They say they haven’t been heard by the government, and the media are ignoring their concerns that the program undermines parental authority and will ultimately harm young people.

Days before that, 200 evangelical pastors and 1,000 Christian leaders in B.C. unveiled a 14-point document providing a theological framework for challenging SOGI 123’s “radical sex activism in public schools.” The West Coast Christian Accord was developed from pastors across B.C. sharing horror stories about teachers pushing the SOGI ideology on children.

Why all this fuss about something the government says is an effort to prevent bullying and harassment? Because the truth is the SOGI curriculum is about more than “valuing diversity and respecting differences,” as the government puts it.

Several education students – future B.C. teachers – say they’re alarmed at how SOGI’s ideology is being woven through their lessons. The students don’t want their names used because they’re still deciding whether to remain in their teaching programs.

One said she felt so demoralized and depressed after a SOGI presentation that she considered leaving the program, not knowing how she can ethically teach that gender is a spectrum.

Other students have already dropped out, unwilling to embrace SOGI concepts such as the fluidity of gender and gender identities that range beyond male and female.

One student is considering dropping out but hasn’t made up her mind yet. “The front line of the culture war seems to be playing out in schools and I don’t want to play ideology politics.”

Some students are choosing to keep silent in class, willing to ride out the program but aware things might get more difficult when they receive their teaching practicums.

The students point out they welcome efforts to prevent bullying and harassment. “Bullying is a real problem,” said one student who called SOGI 123 “well intentioned, but problematic.”

He said combating “transphobia” by teaching children that “gender is on a spectrum” amounts to “proselytizing an ideology that is neither grounded in hard science nor agreed upon by most people.”

SOGI’s ideology “includes the view that sex and gender are not connected, and that one can ‘choose’ their own gender and that gender can change day-by-day.” He’s open-minded about whether there is some basis for those views, “but to teach them as empirically correct would be quite unethical,” he said.

Another education student has personal experience that helps her relate to SOGI’s rationale. She said like many grade-school girls she went through a tomboy phase, dressing and acting like a boy, enjoying sports, and harassed for not fitting female gender norms. She said SOGI unfortunately responds not just by helping teachers address bullying and harassment of LGBQT kids, but fully integrating into the system ways to “teach children to explore, imagine, and try on any number of gender expressions, from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

“If I was a tomboy today, I would be encouraged to consider being a boy and to think outside the box of biological sex norms.”

What impresses me about these students is how genuinely they care about children, and how seriously they’re trying to balance their conscience and their professional responsibilities. They describe SOGI’s intentions as “noble,” and one student said he sees “nothing inherently wrong with defying gender norms, and no student should be bullied for doing so.”

What they’re opposing is the unrelenting way SOGI imposes its ideology of gender as a spectrum on those who disagree with teaching children they can reassign their sex to match their chosen gender identity.

They’re not haters, and they’re not preaching discrimination. They just want a larger conversation that includes the scientific evidence that genetics determine our sex, and gender is based on X and Y chromosomes.