As a high-school student, I go to school to learn more about the world around me and about myself. At school, I can express myself and show my peers who I am—hopefully without judgment. School should be a place that fosters every student’s learning and exploring, not hindering it.
But this isn’t the case for some members of the LGBTQ+ community. The lack of education in schools on gender identity and the gender spectrum limits peers’ understanding of their identities.
Education about the gender spectrum could create an environment where members of the LGBTQ+ community thrive in education and self-exploration.
The lack of education about the gender spectrum can have many effects that interfere with a student’s education. Students may fear to express themselves in a classroom setting, which could impact their grades. If they do express themselves and their gender identity isn’t recognized, they may struggle with who they are and who they want to be.
Society’s binary standards for gender could limit human potential by causing students to not perform to the best of their abilities.
Limited understanding makes us see something as “different,” which often has a negative connotation. Without proper gender-identity education, students may view nonbinary gender identities as wholly different from identifying as a man or a woman—they may not understand that gender identity exists on a spectrum. This can lead to bullying in school and struggling with acceptance at home. (The bullying and discrimination is not limited to students—teachers may also take their biases into the classes they teach.)
Schools today are able to participate in diverse activities and education with students. These programs, like the one at my school called “Patriot Period,” often look at race and religion, attempting to bridge the gap between preconceived notions and reality. Why can’t the curriculum of diversity include gender identity? This would allow students to broaden their perspectives of the gender spectrum and end previous biases.
Education has always had immense power, and when combined with gender identity, it can create a safe space for everyone.
Unfortunately, education on the gender spectrum will not completely stop intolerance of different gender identities. Different religions are taught in schools, yet anti-Semitic and Islamophobic actions still take place in our world today. Education on race alone does not eradicate racism. These are ideas, built over hundreds of years, of the way things “should” be. It’s hard to break that barrier, even with impressionable students. They’re influenced by the views and ideologies they face in their own homes.
Ignorance still exists in the adult world over this topic as well. I remember reading different articles when Sam Smith came out as nonbinary. Even when covering the singer’s story, news outlets still referred to them with the pronouns he/him/his. We need to raise a generation that is accepting of people’s ideas and gender identities, even if they’re not similar to their own.
Respecting nonbinary and transgender individuals starts with referring to them by their correct pronouns and their preferred names.
I wish that my school had education on the gender spectrum and identity. Learning about the gender spectrum would allow me, a straight cisgender person, to better understand my peers and help create a better environment for them. Efforts in my school exist today, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance Club (GSA), but it is about sexuality only and limited to those who want to join. As a collective effort from students and staff members, safe areas can be formed where students outside the gender binary can thrive, too. No matter their gender identity, race, or religion, all students should have the freedom to maximize their human potential in school.