Intersex students exist in every school and education institution. Many of us are same sex attracted. Many of us are heterosexual. Some of us may transition gender, while many of us identify with our sex assigned at birth. Just like non-intersex people.
To this extent, actions to promote respect for same sex attracted and gender diverse students directly benefit many people born with intersex traits. We warmly support actions that make it easier for same sex attracted and gender diverse students to be themselves, and to express themselves. But there’s more of concern to us, and more to the work of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia, than these intersectionalities.
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t meet medical and social norms for female or male bodies, and we experience stigma and discrimination as a result. This includes coercive medical interventions intended to make our bodies appear more typically female or male. Those interventions often take place during puberty, when they can impact on a student’s ability to stay in school. Stigma and discrimination also include bullying.
A survey report of 272 Australians born with atypical sex characteristics was published last week. It found that, while 2% of Australians fail to complete secondary school, an extraordinary 18% of people with intersex variations failed to do so. The stories shared with the research team are painful to read. And the consequences of early school leaving, stigma, shame and coercive medical interventions can be seen in high rates of poverty, trauma and disability, and unemployment.
These stories also need to be acknowledged.
Students with intersex traits need a supportive school environment, one that protects them from discrimination and harm due to their physical characteristics, as well as any perceptions about their gender and sexuality.
We are proud to work with the Safe Schools Coalition Australia to ensure that resources for schools reflect the needs of intersex people. We are proud to support a program that helps all LGBT and I students to be more fully themselves; a program that promotes both self acceptance and social inclusion. We are glad that the program has cross-party support.
We have helped to ensure that the “All Of Us” guide includes material on intersex. We are delighted that the resource materials include a video of Phoebe Hart, a heterosexual mother who has important words to say about growing up intersex. We hope and expect further materials to be produced in coming months and years.