Sex. Gender. Arguments that start from statements like “There are only two genders.”
The information regarding sex and gender have been washed together and interchanged. This mix is harmful to everyone, including people who identify with traditional binary genders. Many are used to using sex and gender as a way to reference society’s acceptable roles for male and female identities. But, ask any scientist, biologist, or psychologist: gender is a socially constructed idea that can shift and change and sex is not just male or female.
The term gender was adopted around the 1970s by feminist scholars who wanted to differentiate the socially constructed aspects of gender from the biologically determined aspects of sex. Over the past few decades, and more recently the past few years, gender has moved away from being defined as a binary and has begun to more frequently be defined as a spectrum. As a social construct, defining gender, whether it be a binary or spectrum, can be determined by an individual, but when it becomes an opinion enforced onto another individual, there’s a problem.
Posters promoting gender as a spectrum have appeared in some of the classrooms around SPA. In a school environment, it is crucial to have as little bias as possible while still providing the facts to allow students the opportunity to develop opinions on their own. Biology and Wellness classrooms provide a great environment to learn about sex and reproductive organs, and it is important to acknowledge that there is more than two biological sexes—science doesn’t lie. But gender is something else — something discussed in the literature read in English classes, as part of History of Gender electives, and messaged through pop culture daily. If psychology says that gender is socially constructed, and science says there are so many combinations of chromosomes and organs thus creating more than two sexes, why should anyone enforce the binary idea about what gender can be?
Controversy is necessary for understanding different perspectives and viewpoints. Without it, the room to form personal opinions wouldn’t exist. Especially in a school setting, classrooms should be a place to ask questions — even if they may appear narrow at times — and educate about unbiased science and how the accurate and inaccurate opinions on (in this case) gender shape society, leaving room for students to navigate the world with a bigger viewpoint as they grow and graduate.
Unfortunately, controversy around identity and societal norms often breeds personal attacks and polarization. An individual’s opinion on how they define gender in their personal life should not interfere with someone else’s ability to live their life in the way their gender is defined. While it how one feels or who they love is an individual choice, it doesn’t make sense to enforce opinions about how these individuals should or should not live their lives when it comes to how we choose to identify. Opinions should not become outwardly facing to hurt others, but different perspectives on gender aren’t going to disappear any time soon.
While the inclusion policy, the pronoun pins, the gender posters (not to mention clubs like GSA and AGE and affinity groups) isn’t the way gender exists outside SPA’s walls, but maybe that’s WHY it exists that way here: because it should. Having this level of gender literacy available for learning is an important step — regardless of how uncomfortable — in building a more inclusive world.