19 August 2022

Should there be more options for gender than male or female on student forms?

| Lottie Twyford
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Education Directorate medical form

One parent has raised concerns about the lack of additional options for students’ gender on Education Directorate excursion forms. Photo: Supplied.

Advocates say the days of only being able to choose between a male and female option for gender on a form should be long gone.

But that’s currently still the case for all ACT Education Directorate forms, including the Excursion Medical Information and Consent Form.

One Canberra dad isn’t happy about it.

He’s been calling on the directorate to change these forms for months now to make them more inclusive.

“Given how rhetorically pro-LGBTQI+ this government is, this form struck me as odd,” Steve* explained.

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Steve took it upon himself to contact the directorate about it early last year. He received a response telling him they were in the process of updating the forms.

So he was shocked to recently discover that the same form had been sent home with his child a few months ago. He was even more shocked when earlier this week, he got the same form again.

This time, Steve said he found it completely absurd and he’s not sure why something hasn’t been done about it.

“My kids, who are [in primary school] would be able to recognise the problems with that form.”

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The Territory Government’s standard approach to most of its forms is in line with the Federal Government’s. It offers male, female and X (indeterminate, intersex or unspecified).

Sometimes this is in the form of a third box to tick, or sometimes it is offered as an empty box where a person can write an answer.

It’s unclear why the Directorate’s forms have yet to be changed in line with this.

Steve hoped it was not a case of under-resourcing in the public service.

Yvette Berry at a press conference

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said on Thursday she believed the Education Directorate’s forms already offered a third option for gender. Photo: ACT Government.

Minister for Education Yvette Berry said on Thursday (18 August) that she understood standard practice was for Directorate forms to have a third option for gender.

“We’re always looking at ways we can be more inclusive with our schools,” she said.

Ms Berry said she was keen to see work underway so that all schools would eventually have gender-neutral toilets.

In a statement, the Education Directorate said it is reviewing some of its policies, procedures and forms to ensure they are aligned with its principles of inclusion.

“This work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” a Directorate spokesperson said.

“The Medical Information and Consent form is one of the forms being reviewed.”

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Executive director of A Gender Agenda Jenni Shoring is blunt, saying a “review” isn’t good enough.

“It’s about giving people the option to identify with what they feel most comfortable with. Not everyone fits into that box,” she said.

“It can be triggering to think you have to fit into [that]. It’s just another example of not being able to identify as yourself.”

A Gender Agenda has seen an increase in the percentage of the population identifying as gender-diverse.

“To people who are on that journey, having that box is really critical,” she said.

There have previously been occasions where people have abused a free text box, Ms Shoring noted, but she didn’t expect to see that at schools if it was introduced.

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Ms Shoring – a transgender woman – said removing the gender information entirely amounts to a “cop-out” response as it was needed in the cases of overnight camps and the like.

Ms Shoring acknowledged there are strong feelings about keeping these discussions about gender identity out of schools and away from children who are supposedly too young to understand but she doesn’t agree.

“It took me until I was 40 to accept myself and transition, but I knew at five,” she said.

“I lived in a world back then where there wasn’t the visibility and there weren’t the words for it. You couldn’t look it up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica unless you knew what to look for.

“It’s about giving children the freedom to choose.”

The ACT Government’s Office of LGBTIQ+ Affairs is also understood to be working on ensuring ACT Government forms are more inclusive.

*Name has been changed upon request.

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Why do we continually focus so heavily on community issues that affect 0.0001% of the population?

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