Phrases like 'male' and 'female' could be banned in Australian schools

A call to change school sex education to omit gendered references and make lessons more inclusive for transgender students has sparked debate across the country

Rather than gendered references to reproductive anatomy with words like penis, vagina, sperm, and ovaries, gender-neutral terms to identify these organs could be used, an Australian university study suggests.

“Educators and sexuality education programs must… develop ways of talking about bodies and intimacy that shift attention away from the normative association of particular genders with particular anatomies,” the paper published in the Journal of Sex Education, claims.

Dropping the mention of gender from school sex education has been recommended to make lessons more inclusive for transgender students. Picture: Sunrise/File

“The language of sperm and eggs can produce dysphoria for some young transgender people,” Damien Riggs and Clare Bartholomaeus of Flinders University in South Australia wrote in the report.

The study analysed YouTube videos shared by transgender youths, in which they described feeling ignored by mainstream information about sexual health, The Australian reported.

The references in the mainstream education caused some of the young people to experience a disordered view of their genitalia, which they found distressing and caused gender dysphoria, according to the report.

Same-sex marriage opponents called the study a “smoking gun” and argued changing Australian marriage laws would push schools to adopt Safe Schools-style sex-ed programs in classrooms.

“We have them advocating for the de-gendering of sex education of all students and confirming the concerns raised by parents about how radical LGBTI sex and gender education would infiltrate their children’s education,” Coalition for Marriage spokesman Lyle Shelton told The Australian.

Same-sex marriage opponents argued changing Australian marriage laws would push schools to adopt Safe Schools-style sex-ed programs in classrooms, a claim the author has refuted. Picture: Sunrise/File

However the paper’s co-author Dr Riggs disagreed, telling the newspaper school sex-ed programs had nothing to do with the same-sex marriage debate and said it was disappointing to have it linked to the public debate.

“If we can reduce HIV... reduce unwanted pregnancies and reduce kids being coerced into having sex they don’t want to have, including transgender kids, it’s a good thing,” the associate professor in social work said.

The authors said the aim of the report was to offer Australian policymakers and educators alternative ways to consider sexual health education.