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Intersex for Schools

There is a very good chance that intersex students are not going to be open at school about being intersex, and that some of them might not even know that they are intersex. Different statistics suggest the number of people born with intersex variations to be between 0.05% and 1.7% of the population; making it comparable to the number of people with red hair. It is therefore important that schools are conscious of the issues intersex students may face.

There are approximately 40 different intersex variations, and many of these variations do not become apparent until well into puberty or adulthood. For students born with  observable variation at birth, there is a significant chance that they have not been told yet. If a school is informed that a student is intersex, it is important to work with the parents and the student, in an age appropriate way, to ensure their privacy and safety. It is also critical, however, to be guided by the parents in the first instance, as they may not have informed their child at that stage that they are intersex.

Most intersex people have a binary gender identity and it is important to respect and reinforce that; whether it is about sports events, camping, change rooms or bathrooms. The gender identity of the child should not be questioned or undermined and special consideration should only be offered if desired.

The best thing that schools can do to support intersex students is to incorporate age appropriate and body positive information about intersex variation into the curriculum. When students learn about their bodies in primary school health classes, they should learn that intersex people exist, and that natural biological variation is both common and perfectly acceptable. Sex education in high school should be mindful of, and positive about, intersex bodies. Science classes are a fantastic opportunity to explore and celebrate the diversity among people.

Education can change the narrative for intersex people by reducing shame and stigma from an early age, and equipping the wider public with tools and mindsets with which to support intersex people and their families.

Key Points

  • Intersex may be known from birth, or it can present itself in puberty or later life. It is likely that some intersex students in school will not know that they are intersex.
  • If an intersex student, like any other student, is seeing medical specialists, they may require a few days off from school.
  • Privacy can be a concern on school camps or in situations where students have to change in front of each other. Teachers need to work with students to figure out what they are most comfortable with.
  • Age appropriate discussion about intersex in classes will help break down stigma, equip intersex students with language to learn about themselves and encourage non-intersex students to be allies.