Bi­nary gen­der snub

New plan for schools

Herald Sun - - NEWS - SUSIE O’BRIEN

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.

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