The lion’s share of such comments—against trans people, against nonbinary people, against all that’s different and unknown—come from a place of ignorance. Large swaths of the public simply do not know about the state of the research in this area because nobody has ever told them about it.

That’s where schools can help.

The obvious places to cover these topics would be in biology and sex-ed classes. In recent years, sociologists and science educators have documented the refusal to integrate non-binary sex education into schools. For instance, in a 2011 study of biology textbooks in Ontario, University of Toronto’s researchers Jesse Bazzul and Heather Sykes found that “any mention or discussion of sexuality or identity beyond the set heterosexual norm or the male/female sex binary is conspicuously absent.” As a 2004 article in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching notes, publishers of science textbooks “are unwilling to make decisions to include knowledge that is embroiled in political controversies and, through their silence, propagate the heterosexual norm.” Unsurprisingly, attempts to fix these problems often face backlash; as a result, recent surveys have found that LGBT issues almost never come up in classroom discussions.

Biology textbooks are not only just ignoring important content: They’re actively misinforming students. This misinformation is partially responsible for the bizarre state of the mainstream discourse on human sexuality, where mobs of angry people claim that anyone deviating from the binary of male and female is unnatural (even when 1 in 100 people are born with some form of DSD).

The problem here is worse than simple naïve ignorance: People are defending an outdated and discredited model of human sex, and then using that scientifically unsound model to deny rights to trans and non-binary people, justify their oppression, and exclude them from society. The “bathroom bills” currently being proposed in several US states, which explicitly define sex in binary terms, are instances of poor education metastasizing into harmful laws.

Changing the way students learn about the biology of sex won’t fix the whole problem. But it’s a step, and one of several ways schools can become more accepting of trans, intersex, and non-binary students. Teaching non-binary gender wouldn’t mean overhauling entire curriculums, either: When teaching students what a chromosome is or how embryos grow, teachers could simply also talk about DSDs and other related topics alongside the lesson plan.

Schools need to update their biology curriculums to reflect the current state of the research, and they need to explicitly address the needs of their queer students through non-discriminatory sex-ed classes. To do anything less is not only unscientific—it is also unjust.

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