Binary gender snub
New plan for schools
AUSTRALIAN schools should adopt a non-binary approach to gender in a bid to support and educate “genderfluid” and “genderqueer” students, a new guide for teachers says.
Even schools without students who identify as non-binary should “shift focus away from binary gender segregation because it is useful for all students”, said leading gender expert Professor Damien Riggs, of Flinders University .
This may include flying “genderqueer flags”, including non-binary examples in teaching and becoming non-binary advocates for students in relation to their parents and carers.
The Supporting Non-Binary Young People in Schools guide, which is available as an online module, defines non-binary genders as those which exist “outside of the binary of male or female”, such as genderfluid, genderqueer, demigender, polygender, envy and neutrois.
It is used by teachers nationally and internationally and is widely promoted to teachers via social media, seminars and conferences.
It suggests teachers should avoid dividing children on the basis of gender and let students use their preferred pronouns, which may include ze, hou and thon. Even the currently accepted “they/them” pronoun may not be favoured by nonbinary students, the guide says.
Rather, teachers should “check in with people about their pronouns, and do this in a sensitive and confidential way”.
A clip in the online resource quotes a non-binary student calling for teachers to become “allies for trans youth”, more “out” teachers and principals, more comprehensive sex education and more teaching about LGBTI issues.
Prof Riggs said “schools can be a positive education force in sharing knowledge and nonbinary people”. He said many non-binary people will first disclose their non-binary gender during their school years.
Prof Riggs has contributed to more than 150 publications about gender, sexuality and mental health. He is also a psychotherapist working with transgender children under 12, which informed the contents of the guide.