The Pennsylvania Department of Education has published guidance on its website for gender identity. Described on the page is a definition for binary gender, which defines as “The faulty concept that there are only two genders: male and female.” Among the guidance is a toolkit to host a “gender-neutral day” in classrooms for students as early as 3rd grade.
The guidance is designed to provide educators with information about gender diversity, terms and pronouns. A section called “Words You Should Know” outlined the following definitions expanding on different forms of gender and gender identities.
Gender Diversity Terms
- Assigned Gender: The gender a baby is given upon birth, usually based on the child’s birth sex.
- Binary Gender: The faulty concept that there are only two genders: male and female.
- Birth Sex/Biological Sex: A specific set of genetic, chemical and anatomical characteristics that we are either born with or that develop as we mature.
- Cisgender: Describes a person whose birth sex and gender identity align.
- Genderqueer: A broad descriptor many people use to indicate a person does not identify as either male or female.
- Gender Expression/Gender Presentation: How we show our gender to the world through external choices (e.g. dress, behavior, hairstyle).
- Gender Identity: How we feel about our gender in our hearts and minds.
- Preferred Personal Pronouns: In addition to the traditional pronouns (he/him, she/her, they), some people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as ne, ve, ze/zie and xe. If you don’t know a student’s preferred personal pronoun, it’s always best to ask.
- Transgender: Describes anyone whose gender identity and birth sex do not align. The word should be used as, “transgender,” not “transgendered.” For example, “My brother Sam is transgender. His birth name was Samantha.”
Other Classroom Planning Resources
The page includes a variety of educational resources that discuss the gender spectrum and how to promote gender-inclusive learning, and how to help students understand gender and support students who are gender-expansive.
One of the sources used by the Pennsylvannia Department of Education is Gender Specturm, an organization out of San Leandro, California.
Their work focuses on educating students on non-gender-conforming behavior. One recommended book by the organization is Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children. The book’s author, Dr. Dian Ehrensaft, describes her book as offering a new framework for helping each child become his or her own unique, most gender-authentic person.
The Department of Education’s gender guidance page has come under fire from parents and media outlets.
In an article by Fox News, a mother was quoted as saying, “As a Pennsylvania parent, I’d like to know what qualifies them to all the concept of biological gender as faulty?”