As Australian students prepare to begin their 2021 school year, a University of Southern Queensland (USQ) academic has provided significant recommendations for schools around the need for sexuality education that is inclusive of students with intersex variations.
In collaboration with other intersex rights and health advocates and scholars in Australia, Dr Annette Brömdal from USQ’s School of Education has developed a strategic framework to assist principals, teachers, education support staff and administrators to implement a whole-school approach to ensuring students with intersex variations experience an inclusive, affirming, visible and supportive sexuality education.
“Students born with an intersex variation experience significant harm in schooling spaces, including in sexuality education,” Brömdal said.
“This is especially so when their stature, pubertal experience or other elements of bodily appearance do not conform to conventional gender expression, puberty or binary notions of sex characteristics associated with male or female bodies, and this can lead to severe psychological problems.”
“We need to acknowledge that there are more than 40 known intersex variations and may apply to up to one in 60 individuals which is effectively as common as someone being born with red hair, making it much more common than people might think.”
Brömdal stated that schools often fail to engage mindfully with contemporary content about intersex variations that promotes a positive and diverse understanding about intersex in educational spaces, guidelines, policies and the curriculum.”
She further outlined that it’s critical that young people born with intersex variations feel included, affirmed, visible and supported at all levels in the school.
“Navigating puberty and high school is hard enough, and we know that if intersex students are not properly recognised there are numerous consequences, including poor mental health, lower rates of school attendance, poorer academic achievement that often results in poorer employment opportunities, and increased rates of suicide,” she said.
“In Australia, Victoria is leading the way in emphasising that the most effective sexuality education programs take a whole-school learning approach which are most effective when developed in consultation with parents and guardians, supported by learning and teaching that is developmentally appropriate.
“From a health and wellbeing perspective, when students feel included, affirmed, visible and supported they are less inclined to experience health and wellbeing issues and more likely to have improved educational outcomes and employment opportunities ensuring that sexuality education is transformative and is valued as a human right”.