Sex ed for everybody

Cory Silverberg’s latest book answers questions for kids of all ages


Do you have parts of your body you like to hide?
Do you have parts you like to show?
Is it okay to call someone sexy?
When is touching okay and not okay?

Are these questions for children? There are some adults who wrestle with these. But that’s partly what’s glorious about Cory Silverberg’s Sex is a Funny Word, the follow-up to the cheery sex-ed book What Makes a Baby? — the way the book deals with how questions about gender and sexuality evolve throughout our lives is direct and friendly. These are ideas that need to be explored long before and long after one mere Grade 8 sex-ed course, no matter how many neurotic parents may disagree.

“Sexy means different things to different people. One person may think something or someone is sexy, and another person may not.”

As with the previous baby book, the most revolutionary thing about Silverberg’s book is its gentle gender-neutrality, discussing differences between girl and boy bodies while also including trans and intersex bodies in the mix because all of them are natural.

“Most boys are born with a penis and scrotum, and most girls are born with a vulva, vagina, and clitoris,” Silverberg writes, “But having a penis isn’t what makes you a boy. Having a vulva isn’t what makes you a girl. The truth is much more interesting than that!” It’s amazing to see this in a children’s book when one considers the number of adults having trouble with this.

I’ll be curious to see how many school libraries adopt Silverberg and Smyth’s latest, given the ongoing controversy of teaching about gay, lesbian and trans families. The book feels transgressive yet utterly essential, and it’s exciting to imagine a new generation of kids raised with such joyous, non-judgmental rationality.

A former editor of the late, lamented fab magazine, Scott has been writing for Xtra since 2007 on a variety of topics in news pieces, interviews, blogs, reviews and humour pieces. He lives on the Danforth with his boyfriend of 12 years, a manic Jack Russell Terrier, a well-stocked mini-bar and a shelf of toy Daleks.

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