Single-Sex Classrooms Great Place To Learn Stereotypical Gender Roles, Reports ACLU

The ACLU reports that single-sex public education is on the rise and the picture it paints isn’t pretty. In the initial findings of the organization’s “Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes” campaign, they report that the majority of the districts studied based their programs on unproven theories surrounding neurological differences between boys and girls and that many of the teachers relied on stereotypes to plan and conduct their classes.

The campaign, which was launched in May, sent requests to schools in fifteen states asking the districts to detail the single-sex programs in their schools. It was introduced in response to the growing trend in public single-sex education — a trend that seems to have taken off after a 2006 amendment to Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 clarified why and how single-sex classrooms can be implemented. That same Title IX that women athletes (and their fans) know and love created curricular guidelines for schools around the country that would help prevent federal money from funding discrimination. The 2006 amendment relaxed Title IX’s previously stringent requirements on single-sex education and displaced Title IX’s singular objective (the elimination of sex discrimination) with goals such as the “achievement of an important governmental or educational objective.”

Hello I am a boy and I am so totally and completely incapable of sitting still and paying atten — Oh hey! Watch me do this thing where I flip my pen around my fingers!

There’s a good deal of speculation that that amendment was sparked by concern over the supposed “boy crisis.” In 2006, news of the boy crisis was everywhere. While the trope has been making rounds since women started demanding the right to be viewed as human beings and continues to make guest appearances when it starts feeling lonely and forgotten, the political climate of that particular era was ripe for boy-focused legislation. Remove the barriers for single-sex classrooms, so the story goes, and the boys — unfettered by educational models that play to girls’ strengths — will again find themselves among the top academic performers.

Of course, the boy crisis has been repeatedly shown to have little scientific basis. And from ashes to ashes, dust to dust. The ACLU found that many of the programs surveyed operated under the mistaken belief that boys are girls are “hardwired” differently. One Virginia school reported that,

“[b]oys prefer reading material that is non-fiction, or if fiction, adventure oriented. In math, boys can get interested in ‘pure’ math and geometry, without linking it to the real world applications. The female brain does not prefer such action. … girls prefer reading fiction material that does not necessarily contain much action. In math, girls generally prefer a real world application that shows them why it is meaningful. They are generally not interested in ‘pure’ math for its own sake.”

Many of the schools cited these brain differences as the primary reason for offering single-sex classes. While it’s true that there are plenty of boys who enjoy non-fiction and girls who prefer their geometry in real-life examples, the differences among boys and among girls are actually greater than those differences between the two sexes. Some schools pointed to distractions and flirting that goes on in co-ed classrooms as a motivation for instituting segregated programs. The gender essentialism and assumptions of heterosexuality implicit in both of these justifications is just too glaring to ignore. What happens if a boy decides he’d rather be drinking cocoa (I couldn’t make this ish up) with the girls next door? What kinds of messages do LGBT kids get about their identities? Rather than fighting stereotypes by fostering a diverse environment that encourages kids to work out their differences, these classrooms seem to cement them at an early age.

I am a young lady and I could just sit in this big circle of sisterhood with my legs daintily crossed and talk about feelings and Heathcliff all day.

Taking a moment to revisit the boy crisis, it’s worth pointing out that while boys overall are only barely lagging behind girls, among minority and lower-class children there is a more significant gender gap. One of the schools studied (Foley Intermediate School, Alabama) introduced single-sex programs specifically to address lower test scores among minority boys. But the history of sex-segregated classrooms in the south is long and twisted; in an effort to prevent black boys and white girls from bring in the same room, single-sex became the norm after Brown v. Board of Education forced racial integration. The role that race and socioeconomic status play in the debate isn’t one that can’t be overlooked.

The report shows that, at the very least, the 2006 amendment has led to a broad misapplication of Title IX. Rather than fighting discrimination and creating opportunities for men and women, the changes have led to the reinforcement of stereotypes. Moreover, there has yet to be a single academically rigorous study that proves that single-sex education leads to better outcomes. While many have been offered up, they all fail to control for some crucial factor such as class size, funding, parental involvement or previous achievement. The ACLU is recommending that the legislature repeal the 2006 amendment. By removing the language that allows schools to invent their own “educational objectives,” schools will be required to consider not whether more of their boys will get into college, but whether their programs help to end sexism.

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Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

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51 Comments

  1. Thumb up 4

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    This is really sad. I attended an all-girls secondary school, and not only was it some of the best years of my life, it was the most inclusive, open minded, and empowering environment that really stands in sharp contrast to the ideology being upheld in these programmes. And best of all, it had brilliant cooperation with not only other girls schools, but public co-ed schools, and boys schools as well.

    How does it even get to be so backwards as this?

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      I was going to try and say something smart but you said it first. I think that a lot of girls including myself were totally empowered by going to all girls environments. You carry that confidence to college.

      I went to a catholic school by the way. we weren’t given any of that remaining pure for your husband, god’s princess stuff I’m reading below. Yes they tried to teach abstinence but it was more an abstinence to avoid STDs and pregnancy than grounded in religion.

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    As someone who goes to a women’s college and was educated in single sex schools pre-college for a bit, I have to disagree. Not having the opposite sex in the classroom can do WONDERS for girls, because it removes competition among girls to catch the attention of the boys, and the whole “girls aren’t as good at science and math as boys are” thing. It allows for a safe space for feminism and to discuss issues relating only to females. There’s also a greater chance for history classes to focus on the oft-passed-over females of various histories.
    It’s just great.
    The only issue I see is religious-based single-sex education. I went to a Christian girls’ school in high school, and while it was still better than going to a co-ed Christian school, there was a lot of focus on remaining pure for your future husband, being “God’s princess,” eventually becoming a good wife and mom, etc. It was pretty bad.

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      my women’s college experience made me the person i am today, hands down. if i had not gone to a women’s college, i would not be as confident in myself, in my queerness, in my decisions, in the way i choose to live my life outside of the norms. it made me the best and bravest possible version of myself, and that is absolutely something i owe to the fact that it was a women’s college.

      classroom experiences were not technically single-sex because haverford and swarthmore and penn students can take classes at bryn mawr, and yes, some of those students are cismales, but our traditions and our mission is still to be a women’s college.

      the only issue i have taken with single-sex education is a) the exclusivity to transwomen (as someone who worked for admissions, i’ve heard all the arguments for and against firsthand, and i understand that women’s colleges cannot admit transwomen by technicality because of title ix, but i still think it’s bullshit that needs to be challenged) and b) the notion that a women’s college is for women only, when we had and have students at bryn mawr who were trans*, male-identified, genderqueer, etc. not everyone who goes to a women’s college is a woman. and i feel that those who want to be there have the right to be there no matter what. we’re a self-selecting bunch. we know what we want, and the very unique experience of a women’s college is what we came for. i hope in the very near future that dream becomes realized for EVERYONE who wants to be there, and not just those who the government deems biologically appropriate.

      but yes. women’s colleges were formed out of a need to protect the interests of those who would otherwise be rejected by society and blocked out of education. there’s a strong focus on community, diversity, and working for anyone who has been downtrodden by our white patriarchal bullshit system. i was able to say and do things at bryn mawr that i would NEVER been able to say at another college, and more importantly i was incredibly SUPPORTED in those things. god, i love my college. ANASSA KATA.

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          A woman’s college should accept trans women BUT NOT TRANS MEN! Trans men need to get out of women’s spaces, period! The whole X-identified is just a PC way to invalidate a trans person’s gender anyway…

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          It is appalling to me that someone who understands what it’s like to not feel included because of their gender identity would want to further exclude others for those same reasons.

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          Do you think that men who only figure out they are men halfway through university should be immediately booted?

          And you are still acting like men and women are the only people who go to college. Women aren’t the only ones who suffer in male-dominated/focused spaces.

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        I think the difference here is that with college, women choose to attend a women’s only college. In elementary or middle school, it is the parents, teachers, and administration choosing for the children for what they think are the best reasons. While there are definitely benefits to single-sex education, there are downfalls as well. The biggest one pointed out in the article being the heteronormative biases on which many of these programs are based. There’s also the unfounded notion of girls not enjoying action based fiction or “pure” math, or that boys and girls cannot behave themselves around each other. These are tiny humans, not wild animals.

  3. Thumb up 7

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    I went to an all girls school for four years before I dropped out for health reasons. I honestly loved it, I thrived under a high pressure environment. I think it gives girls the confidence to be more competitive in a lot of academic subjects in school, you don’t end up thinking, well only boys at good at math/science when there are no boys! It was definitely not a ‘we are all girls who are cool with it and thus treat each other well’ though, lots of ‘I’m sorry I said your face looked like a minefield but it does.’

    I also really enjoyed that assembly in sixth grade when the sex ed teacher stood on the podium, looked over the class and said ‘look around you, at least twenty girls in this room are going to be gay in ten years.’

  4. Thumb up 3

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    Wow. Math can’t be fun, because you are a girl. What a load of crap. Why can’t these people just come visit Georgia Tech and meet some of the women here? I know a couple female computer scientists they need to chat with.

  5. Thumb up 3

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    I’m really surprised that gender segregation is getting increasingly popular in the US, here in Ireland it’s going the opposite way, every public school that’s been built since the 70s has been (I think possibly has to be?) co-ed, and a lot of places that have historically had a girls school and a boys school have merged the two together. Starting new single sex schools seems like going backwards.

    I attended an all girls school for secondary and I really loved it, one reason being, as others have said above, that I never felt pressure to live up to stereotypes because there were boys around. I’ve also found though, because single sex secondary education is common around here, that it can lead to people of both genders feeling socially awkward around the opposite gender because they just arent used to them, which is something I never had trouble with being the only daughter with three brothers.

    I’ve also had experience teaching in single sex schools, and have to say it really depends on the school. One class I had were 11-12 year old boys and I was so anxious going in there, expecting it to just be crazy testosterone and high energy, but they were the nicest and best behaved kids I’ve ever taught, hands down, and really sensitive too.

    One of my friends taught in an all girls school with the same age group and found that the school didn’t do Physical Education. At all. Because “girls aren’t really interested” in that kind of thing. Obviously she taught it anyway, because that’s bullshit and PE is part of the curriculum, and obviously the girls for the most part loved it, and were more relaxed in general when she’d given them the chance to work out some energy.

    In summary, my feeling about same sex schools is they can work well if you’ve got good people running them, but school is supposed to prepare kids for life, and life isn’t (or at least shouldnt be) segregated like that.

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      I agree. I don’t think segregating people based on their genitals and brainwashing them accordingly is ever a good thing, no matter how well-intended and progressive your agenda may be.

      The all-girls’ school I went to happened to be extremely liberal and run by first-wave feminists. It was a lot of Rosie the Riveter, old lesbians as teachers. Awesome, right? But it ended up being limiting in other ways. Rather than giving us young ladies an opportunity to find our own place in the world, my school took a bunch of old stereotypes and replaced them with all new stereotypes which in the end were just that, stereotypes. For example, we weren’t *allowed* to have a home economics class, because we were liberated women, damn it! We had to play golf and learn physics! It was like the pendulum had swung too hard and suddenly we were discouraged from doing anything stereotypically feminine.

      On top of all that, we were essentially taught to believe that all males were part of some inferior species. I suppose it set us apart from the norm of supposed patriarchal dominance, but it still is not a healthy paradigm to teach developing people. “Oh, boys, they’re so stupid.” Comments like these were never dissected and no one seemed to realize that they were only reinforcing the harmful gap between the sexes.

      Maybe I’m being ignorant and whining about non-problems when I say this (and please put me in my place if I am), but I kind of wish that I had been exposed to the crazy notion that (gasp!) men and women are able to functionally participate in the same things. That, in some cases, your gender can be the least relevant thing about you.

      On the other hand, my girlfriend went to co-ed school and then majored in pure math–not to make a political statement, but because she likes it. Anyone see what I’m saying??

  6. Thumb up 19

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    I think it’s important to recognize that there is a huge difference between young adults specifically choosing a single-sex educational environment because they believe in its values and goals and young impressionable children being forced into a single-sex environment for reasons they don’t understand.

    I think women’s colleges are great, but they are indeed self-selecting. And young women who choose them can also choose to transfer if it’s not working out for them. But kids can’t make their own education choices and shouldn’t have to be subjected to stereotype-based schooling.

  7. Thumb up 4

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    I am on the fence about this, I think that if done right, single-sex classrooms can be beneficial for all the reasons mentioned above. Girls are programmed to defer to boys, and when sexes are mixed in a classroom (especially in science, math, or technology classes), studies have shown that girls will raise their hands and speak up less than in single-sex rooms.

    I just think it needs to be done right- just because the classrooms are sex-specific does not mean that they have to rely on stereotypes. But that depends on having the right teachers who are skilled and interested in looking beyond stereotypes.

  8. Thumb up 3

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    My mother as a teacher always felt that girls did better in a single sex environment. I particularly remember her raging about a tv interview done with the Head Boy and Head Girl at the mixed sex school up the road. The boy did all the talking, while the girl looked pretty and said not word one (and it wasn’t that boy’s personal fault either, he lived down the road and was in every respect a nice lad, it’s just … that’s how things worked at that school). I’m sure there are plenty of examples of a mixed sex school working perfectly well, but there probably needs to be some conscious correction for engrained attitudes and behaviors favoring boys on the part of the institution.

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    I go to an all girls high school and personally I would not suggest it. Actually it’s interesting, I get the impression that an all girls high school and a women’s college are very different. It seems like (speaking from personal experience) that most girls at all girls high schools don’t choose to go there, and they’re just as boy crazy, cliquey and bitchy as girls at co-ed schools, if not more. The girls who go to women’s colleges, however, choose to go there, and seem to be just the opposite of girls at all girls schools (not as interested in boys, nicer, more intellectual and driven, etc.) Obviously I’m generalizing, but I feel that single sex high schools aren’t a good environment, whereas women’s colleges are very empowering. This is just my perception of it, but it’s something I’ve actually been thinking about lately because I’m going to be applying to colleges this year, and while there are some women’s colleges on my list that I really like, I’m kind of nervous about them after having such an awful time in an all girl’s high school. But like I said, I think the two are very different from each other, and women’s colleges seem more open, welcoming, and intellectual.

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      I think you’re right, Jenny! As a alum of a public co-ed high school and a private women’s college, I think that the choice has a lot to do with it. I chose Bryn Mawr proudly and loved every second of it.

      I’m so glad you aren’t cutting women’s colleges out of your options entirely because of a bad high school experience!

  10. Thumb up 7

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    I love maths for the sake of maths. I like numbers. I like formulas. I like finding patterns and I love putting numbers into formulas to find patterns. I know girls AND guys who feel the same, I know people who don’t see the point in maths unless they’ll use it, and I know people who just don’t do maths cause fuck-school and #yolo and I’m-going-on-the-dole-anyway.

    In conclusion, maths is awesome.

  11. Thumb up 2

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    Also I agree that “among minority and lower-class children there is a more significant gender gap”. Most ‘lower class’ (we don’t really use those terms in NZ) girls I know are determined to get away from the poverty cycle, go to uni, get away from their families etc. (A lot of girls I know are about to be the first in their families to go to uni). But most of the guys I know are probably going to be living the same way their whole lives.

  12. Thumb up 6

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    To those above discussing the element of choice… I was sent to an all-girls school aged 11 and I really really did not want to go. Most of my friends were boys and my brother (who I am very close with) was being sent to the boy’s school. For the first year I stubbornly refused to enjoy any moment of it and convinced myself that it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me…

    However I honestly have to say that it was one of the best things that has happened to me.sobers heartbroken when I left school and had to leave. The level of education, the concentration and focus within the classroom, the fact that my amazing teachers were on personal missions to prove to both us and outsiders that their students could do anything and everything that “boys do”, camaraderie and friendships that I don’t believe could have happened in a mixed school… Single sex education, for all it’s flaws and stereotypes, is the best thing that ever happened to me.

    When I went to mixed college aged 18 it was a huge culture shock to discover how people behaved and interacted differently when learning in a mixed environment. Teenage boys seemed intent on distracting the girls and teenage girls were intent on impressing the boys. Other girls seemed surprised at all the sports and subjects we’d played/studied – saying “but those are boys sports”. 

    I realise that single sex education can be hugely problematic for LGBTQ youth. But as a lesbian who came out whilst still studying at a single-sex school, I can honestly say it made me who I am today.

    Also I got to go to school with loads of hot girls. Just sayin’.

  13. Thumb up 5

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    “While it’s true that there are plenty of boys who enjoy non-fiction and girls who prefer their geometry in real-life examples, the differences among boys and among girls are actually greater than those differences between the two sexes.”

    MONEY QUOTE. For every boy you can think of that fits the stereotype, you can think of three more that BREAK the stereotype, and the same goes for girls.

    Also, people who went to all-girls high schools- that’s not what this is talking about. The current education movement and this article are talking about separating the sexes EARLY and treating them DIFFERENT. And educators BUY INTO this shit all the time, from choosing books to read in classrooms, to writing math word problems, to picking writing prompts, it’s ALREADY IN SCHOOLS that aren’t even single-sex. Gender-conforming is insidious, and single-sex schooling is an extension of that.

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    i should probably mention too that i went to an all-girls high school and loved (almost) every minute of it. i don’t think single sex schools, in and of themselves, are a bad thing. especially, as some commenters pointed out, high schools and colleges when student self-select to attend them. i don’t even thing all single sex elementary schools are a bad thing. the problem here is that title ix is being used to create bigger distinctions between the sexes instead of fighting sexism.

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    I’m jealous of all of you that had great experiences in school, because mine was a traumatic nightmare that I am still trying to recover from. Though I’m not sure the gender would have helped, really.

    I was in all-girls-schools all through primary & secondary school. It was supposedly one of the best in the state, but I think that reputation has either reduced or overrated. My sister went to the same schools before me and I think my parents were more after ‘best schools’ than ‘onoez not the boys’ (my childhood neighbours were boys and we were close friends), though I wouldn’t discount the gender thing completely.

    In Malaysia – at least where I was – there wasn’t as much gender stigma attached to subjects. Instead Every Malaysian Student Ever was expected to take up the Sciences (Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Add Math) because you were supposed to get straight As, be a Doctor (always a doctor), earn good money, support your family. If not a doctor then Engineer, Lawyer, Accountant. But that’s IT. And you had to be academically bright to be allowed to take the Sciences because only stupid underachievers take the Humanities.

    I had good grades. wanted to be a writer. I wanted to take English Lit but my school didn’t offer it so I took Malay Lit instead. Which meant that on assembly day, when our teachers read out our class placements for Form 4 and put me in 4C (Sciences, no Accounting, ironically I was actually good at accounting), I stood up and moved myself to 4F – just General Science, class made up of people who flunked their exams, but at least there was Malay Lit. And caused an uproar.

    Well, one of many uproars anyway. My schooling years were traumatic largely due to deep racism. Even with the egalitarian subject choices there were still ideas of proper femininity – being pious, being prim & proper, not even THINKING about sex or boys (let alone seeing girls in a more-than-friends way, EW LESBIANS). One classmate got in trouble for shaving her hair – and we all had to wear Muslim headdresses so it’s not like anyone would have known! It was subtle, and different, and I don’t know how much of it was “be a proper woman” and how much was “be a proper Muslim woman” – something I’d fail because I was Bangladeshi and not Malay and therefore “doing Islam wrong”.

    sigh :(

  16. Thumb up 4

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    Thanks for this article! As a product of a number of years of single sex education myself, I think this is such an interesting topic. On the one hand, I feel like I benefitted immensely from my years at an all girls high school and women’s college, so I want opportunities like the ones I had to be open to as many children as possible. On the other hand, it’s hard to see a way to do that without letting the gender essentialists take over.

    Another point I think is always worth raising in discussions like this:

    These supposed learning differences between boys and girls are (surprise!) not a strict binary. some (most) people prefer a mix of pure math and applications, or a mix of active, kinesthetic learning and quiet reading time, or reading a mix of fiction and nonfiction books.

    Furthermore, even if the learning differences were close enough to a binary that you could roughly sort kids into the “mostly likes pure math” and “mostly likes applied math” groups, for example, why not just sort kids by learning difference instead of gender? Have one section of math with an applied bent and one with a pure bent, and sort kids by which kind of math they prefer, regardless of which pronouns they use.

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      I really really really like your idea of sorting based on learning differences/preferences rather than sex or gender pronouns. Especially because so many don’t have gendered pronouns at all! And because I would rather be in a learning environment (specifically, as I like life outside of academia to be with all kinds of people who see the world differently) with those who preferred to learn the way I learn best, in a course that catered to that way of thinking.

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    This is really sad. I always dreamed of attending an all-girls school because, well, girls, girls everywhere! It’s sad to know that they’re not the beautiful oasis of girls and unicorns that I always imagined them to be.

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    I really came close to giving a mighty roar of frustration at this: “In math, boys can get interested in ‘pure’ math and geometry, without linking it to the real world applications. The female brain does not prefer such action.” THE FEMALE BRAIN DOES NOT PREFER SUCH ACTION?!

    I’d always been a little suspicious of this new wave of interest in single-sex education but it was more a gut reaction than anything — disappointing and crazy-making to learn that this faux-neurological claptrap is actually *explicitly* shaping how some kids are being taught.

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    I went to all girls schools from age 4 to 18 and definitely don’t regret it. A lot of people here have mentioned the importance of choice, which I obviously didn’t have at age 4 but did have at ages 11 and 16. When I was 16 I actually left one all girls school and transferred to another, despite having a scholarship to a mixed school. I never felt like I was being forced to conform to gender stereotypes or actively defy them, which I think applies to all of my friends from single sex schools as we all have plenty of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ traits and hobbies. I was encouraged to do well in all of my subjects, including science/maths/design technology (where we learnt how to saw/drill etc). As long as the schools focus on achievement for everyone, single sex schools can be both productive and enjoyable.

    I do agree that gender segregation at school does mean that it’s often harder to interact with the opposite sex when in social situations (although puberty does generally cause awkwardness around the opposite sex so it’s hard to tell how much of it was the single-sex atmosphere).

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    I live in Ireland where single sex education has zero to do with feminism or anything and more to do with the catholic church. However I do remember one time my teacher showed us a science copybook of a nun from the 20s, who would have been like 17 and it was the neatest thing in the world. It made me really realize that a lot of those nuns were revolutionary in their own way, giving up so much to be educated.

    However, as time went on, the school I was in was intensely conservative and being the ‘ideal woman’ was pushed very hard. It operated more like a finishing school than anything else and lesbians? Don’t even bring the word up. I do think had I gone to a mixed school, I probably would be much more grounded and confident in myself than I am now after years of feeling like a complete outsider.

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    I like same-sex education primarily for the reasons being denounced here and because to some extent I find gender roles comfortable, common, and safe. I played little league baseball on a boys team, which was my first co-ed extracurricular activity and the coach and the other boys on the team (who were also 8 years old) treated me awfully. I had to change in the van, I only got to play two innings and I was called a lesbo for the first time by an adult. My parents sued the team and I took up tennis and actually the story has a really happy ending, but what I took away from it is the way girls and boys and are socialized. There is even some research that would suggest from birth that we reason and relate very differently. I think my same-sex education gave me all the confidence I needed and I hope I can one day do the same for my kids.

    Also I understand that gender and sex are different. Maybe there should be schools for trans kids, or they could take advantage of the currently available co-educational options, but I think the spirit and letter of the law re: title ix reflects not a trans issue but an issue for the second sex and our exclusion based not on identity, but on biological difference that was then and is currently a basis for discrimination. It is same-sex education, not same gender, brain sex isn’t real, and this whole gender issue is a farce. Woman used to just mean an adult female, I’m mourning that loss, but female is a sex and I am really tired of having to pander.

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      I’m sorry, but this is awful. Nothing like being told you’re not real by someone who was born the way you wish you were. I really would like to be more nice and calm in dealing with this, but I just can’t. “[T]his whole gender issue is a farce.” Really. A little conclusory, aren’t we?

      As backhanded as it was, it’s still a slap in the face and I shouldn’t have to turn the other cheek and live as a nothing between the cracks of gender identity just because you wish your cisgender privilege wasn’t challenged by people who don’t “find gender roles comfortable.” And it’s no answer to tell me “there should be schools for trans kids.” There is no way that this is not an invalidation of trans people who identify within the binary but differently from the sex we were assigned at birth, and those of us who transition male to female enjoy NO benefit of having male anatomy with female presentation. It just makes people more dismissive and violent toward us than they already are toward women assigned female at birth. What society do you live in?

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        I think gender identity is dumb. I think males (sex) can be feminine (gender) and females (sex) can be masculine (gender) I think your gender can probably be fluid in terms of how you express it and it is a personal choice. I see it kind of the way my nephews might pretend to be a dinosaur or ask me if they can wear my lipstick (which is really just chapstick). How far a person takes the self concept is really a personal choice, but playing dress up does not a sex change make. Surgery doesn’t really change your sex. Your sex is more or less beyond your control and while it is unfortunate that civilization has attached gender roles to your primary sex, you possess the ability to present differently. It doesn’t mean you are now a member of the opposite sex. I consider myself very much without gender because it is limiting in all most every way living a fulfilled life. I am not violent towards trans* individuals, I just understand that segregation by sex doesn’t include gender.

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          You might be without a gender. That might be why you completely fail to understand gender as binary cis and trans people innately understand it. That’s okay. You don’t have to understand it. I cannot either. But your lack of understanding does not justify your bigotry.

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          I have had this discussion before, where I get called names like transphobic or bigot for simply stating that sex and gender are different, that gender isn’t something you just know how to do, and therefore can in most open environments be expressed in a half a million ways. You can’t however change your sex and that is why we have separate bathrooms, and why the olympics have seperate events for males and females and why our military and correctional facilities house service members and inmates seperately by sex.
          …and I’m probably Cis although I don’t appreciate the creation of an othering term when I am apart of the majority. I hardly believe the way to influencing people to join the gender trend is by isolating them. I’m a woman, a real one, just woman, no prefix, and I support same sex education.

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          I’m sure you wouldn’t take the same shit from heterosexual people who complained about being “labeled” as straight, since they are “a part of the majority.” I guess your particular axis of privilege is beyond question, though. I apologize. I’ll crawl back into the sewer with the rest of the trash and leave you without such uncomfortable discussions.

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    L, I think you have missed a few things. First, gender identity and gender expression are not the same thing. There are butch trans women and femme trans men, just and there are butch cis women and femme cis men. A person’s innate sense of being male, female, both, or neither has little to do with their interests or personal style.

    Second, it is unclear why you think that allowing trans* people to participate in single sex education as the gender they identify as would take anything away from the experience. I cannot think of a single reason to segregate individuals based on their chromosomes or genitalia, neither of which is remotely relevant to the classroom experience. If the issue is male socialization, I think this concern is misplaced. If anything, trans women/girls are likely to be especially sensitive to women’s issues. After all, they have experienced what it is like to be treated by the world both as male and as female. Trans women make a conscious decision to abandon male privilege in order to be true to themselves. They willingly take on both the disadvantages women still face in our society and the additional dirty looks, harassment, and threats of violence experienced by those who are read as transgendered.

    As for “mourning the loss” of a time when the word ‘woman’ meant exclusively an adult who was assigned female at birth, you have offered no explanation for your feelings. As cis women, our identity is not threatened by allowing trans women access to female-only spaces. No one is claiming that we are somehow less female as a result. There is no loss in being more inclusive – only a gain.

    Trans* people, women in particular, face enough challenges (including devastatingly high rates of depression, suicide/suicidal ideation, and poverty) without their identities being attacked from within the queer community itself. The idea that we need to respect trans* people’s personal identities as much as cis people’s isn’t pandering – it’s basic human decency.

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    I also went to an all-girls high school, and it was a great experience. Made me think that the world was my oyster. In the absence of boys, the girls in my high school stepped up into positions of leadership. We saw ourselves in positions of authority. Didn’t have the boys to defer to. Were pushed academically by our teachers. AND… girls are alot nicer to each other without boys around to compete for.

    I’m not so sure about differing curricula for boys and girls (except I do believe that young boys have an all-encompassing need for more physical activity). My argument for single-sex-ed is more for just separating the sexes during school time.

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