Don’t Just Change Single-Sex Schools, End Them

“If you knew your friend was eating dirt, what would you do? You know it’s not nutritional. It doesn’t do them any good. Why would you let them go on living like that?”

This question was asked of my religion class in 2014 during our lesson on homosexuality. Never mind that a handful of students in the room, including myself, were not straight. I felt unsafe and terrified of what would happen if I came out as gay. I was too scared to even let myself think about the possibility of being transgender because I knew, deep down, that my aversion to being called a girl was a sign that I wasn’t one in the first place.

Today, as an out and proud nonbinary trans person, I’m met with gasps when I talk about my high school experience. I went to a single-sex Catholic school that conflated sex with gender, calling itself an “all girls” school. Sometimes, it was the worst. Other times, it felt like a secret world with nearly all the elements of a feminist utopia: freedom from the gaze of teenage boys, women in nearly every leadership role, and young women being assured that they’re smart and capable.

I used to ask my mom why boys couldn’t come to our school. We had a great art program, International Baccalaureate classes, and some really amazing faculty. Everyone should be able to access great education, but in my case, it came at a major cost: my gender identity went against the most basic prerequisite of admission. I was not a girl. I’m a nonbinary trans person.
My required religion classes made it clear that LGBTQ+ people were to be loved but that we were sinners who needed to repent and change in order to get to heaven. In biology class, I remember leaving class fuming after learning about sex chromosomes. “XX means you’re a girl and you have the babies. XY means you’re a boy and you have the sperm,” my teacher said. She shut down myself and others when we tried to bring up transgender and queer people, reminding us that “it’s none of her business but it’s not what nature intended.” That class solidified what I’d always suspected: my queer and trans identity was not to be acknowledged because it was viewed as wrong and unnatural. I remember when a staff member got fired for attending her daughter’s wedding because there were two brides. My mom worked at my high school and I could not bear the thought of her losing her job because of my identity.

Why do single-sex schools exist in the first place and what experiences have other trans folks had at single sex high school schools? Grey, a nonbinary alumnus of Notre Dame Academy in Ohio, shared the following: “I wish I had known that there were other options (other than the binary) for me to explore and understand. I had to do most of the research into gender on my own and it took me about 3 years before I felt confident that I had learned enough to tell others how I identified. I wish that my high school classes (or clubs, or teachers, or classmates) could have shared knowledge so I wasn’t alone in the experience.”

Single-sex education has been around for centuries, often justified using religion and studies on the benefits of single-sex education. At times, single-sex schools were created specifically to ensure women were able to access education at times and places when educational opportunities for women were sparse. Such is the case with women-only institutions like Salem College, established in 1772 with the goal of providing education to women who were often denied entry into traditional co-ed schooling. In 1972, became illegal for federally funded (meaning public) schools to discriminate based on sex following the Education Amendments of 1972, which included Title IX. This set of amendments decreased the number of public single-sex schools, pushing them to the private, often religion based school systems. All this changed in 1996, though, when a Supreme Court ruling made public single-sex schools legal again following research findings that suggested improved academic performance in single sex schools.

“The consequences of not being seen or affirmed in high school as a nonbinary person contributed to years of disordered eating, depression, anxiety and social isolation.”

In other cases, the root reasons for creating these schools is often based on the idea that men and women are fundamentally different and learn in different ways. In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education conducted a systematic review of research on the effects of single-sex education following the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that allowed public single-sex schools to grow in numbers in the early 2000s. The review found some minor academic related benefits to single-sex schools but found that the overall benefit or harm of single-sex education was not significant.

Our culture has operated on the false assumption that sex assigned at birth always aligns with gender identity and expression, effectively ignoring the existence of transgender and nonbinary people. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has denounced single-sex education on the grounds that “sex segregation in public education perpetuates antiquated gender stereotypes” and “diverts resources from initiatives that actually will improve the education of both boys and girls, such as reducing class sizes and increasing teacher training.” These sentiments are echoed in articles written by psychologists, education experts, and the previous president of the American Psychological Association. In 2020, most single-sex American schools are private and many have religious ties.

Though numbers are declining, these schools can still do great harm to trans and cisgender students by hammering in harmful gender norms. “The consequences of not being seen or affirmed in high school as a nonbinary person contributed to years of disordered eating, depression, anxiety and social isolation,” said Caelan Holcombe, who attended Our Lady of Mercy, a single-sex high school in New York, “It is only now as I physically and socially transition that I am starting to heal from decades without social support for my identity.” Given the harm single-sex education can cause, society seems to have progressed past any reason for them.

Many of the trans folks I interviewed had mixed feelings about their experience at single-sex schools. Like me, K, a genderfluid and nonbinary student, was able to benefit from seeing girls growing in an environment run by women. “I feel like going to an all girls school both helped and hindered the development of my gender identity,” K said. “On one hand, I saw many different girls expressing themselves in many different ways — not just as femme, masc, or anything in between — in a relaxed environment where no one felt the need to ‘dress up’ to show off. On the other hand, I felt like because I was going to an all girls school, I had to portray myself as a feminine girl and couldn’t look to traditionally male oriented fashion.” K captures the contradictory feelings expressed by nearly every trans person I talked to about the issue. Above all, trans folks I spoke to prioritized inclusive sex education, a supportive administration, and ultimately, the knowledge and affirmation required to express their gender freely, all things hindered by single-sex education.

“I did not have internet access during high school and I lived in an extremely small and isolated community with an anti-LGBT cult. This impacted my knowledge on being LGBT and my safety.”

The sex a person was assigned at birth should not impact the quality of their education. Forcing students into hyper gendered spaces is a slippery slope to harmful experiences for transgender students, leading them to possibly dislike who they are, stay in the closet for safety, and become fundamentally uncomfortable with their own identity. With repeated enforcement, these harmful side effects of single-sex schools can cause trauma with ramifications far outlasting the four years spent in high school. Transgender people’s lives are already at risk especially for Black and Brown trans folks. A survey by GLSEN found that 75% of transgender students feel unsafe at school and near 50% of transgender youth attempt to take their own lives. The life-threatening effects of a school that does not match a student’s gender identity should be reason enough to rethink single-sex schools existence. Trans people of color, who face the compounded effects of racism and transphobia, are at even higher risk of suicide or premature death. “I was frequently beaten, called queer, and a fag, and sexually harassed at school,” said Jay, a First Nations and Inuit student at a single-sex school in Canada. “I did not have internet access during high school and I lived in an extremely small and isolated community with an anti-LGBT cult. This impacted my knowledge on being LGBT and my safety.” Gender policing in single-sex schools reinforces the trauma that trans people of color face on a daily basis and, given that many single-sex schools are private and overwhelmingly white (nearly 70% in 2015 in the U.S.), trans students of color are likely to face racism and race-based gender discrimination as well.

With all the harm single-sex schools can do to trans youth — and to cisgender youth, who are also impacted by strict gender roles — single-sex education is outdated. Trans youth should learn and grow in an environment built on principles of inclusion and equity, ultimately doing away with the exclusionary and binary structures enforced by single-sex schools.

If I had attended an all-gender high school with inclusive attitudes about gender, my life would be very different than it is now. Access to knowledge about being transgender and nonbinary would save me the years I spent undoing trauma. Freely existing as a nonbinary person during my formative years would have allowed me to radically love myself and those around me. Had I been encouraged to celebrate gender differences rather than police them, I would have found the love and acceptance I craved during a time when I desperately needed it. As school season begins once again, what young people deserve at the very least is an end to single-sex schools.

Jenni Holtz is a film and culture writer based in Chicago, IL.

Jenni has written 1 article for us.

28 Comments

  1. This criticism might be better if firmly stated that it is on sex-segregated high schools. It is an important criticism, but it is unfair to put women’s colleges within this scope of criticism.
    I attended a women’s college, and discovered my gender identity there and was encouraged in exploration and establishing who I am. Women’s colleges now include all people except cisgender men. I had numerous friends transition during college. Applying the blanketed arguments that these institutions teach outdated gender science is something that women’s colleges have been consistently refuting for the past hundred years within the States.

    • I heartily agree with this commenter as a non-binary gay person who went to a “women’s college”. I don’t think I would have felt safe to find out who I was anywhere but a women’s college. I could be myself there. I learned about other genders than cis men and women there. I became strong and brave in that safe haven, the only haven I had until I was in my 30s.

    • I would also say that my aggressively secular single sex high school gave me the same freedom you’re describing. I think religious single sex girls schools are a different kettle of fish entirely

      • I have a similar experience- I went to a single sex high school (and a religious one at that) that was explicitly affirming of nonbinary and trans students. I felt really safe to explore my experience of my gender and presentation there. That said, I don’t think that’s the culture at most single-sex religious schools. But there is diversity even within religious “girls” schools.

    • Sorry, but no. Every education survey ever done shows that girls do better in single sex schools and boys in mixed ones. Why take that away from girls?
      A bad school is a bad school regardless of whether it’s mixed or single sexed. Maybe it’s religious schools that should go.

    • I also attended a historical women’s college and feel like the scope of the article should be clarified because the experience of college vs. high school seems extremely different and perhaps some of the goals were different as well? I did not attend a religous school, I went to public high school, so I cannot speak on that experience, but my college was explicitly trans accepting. It was also the queerest place on earth and where I first found out about a non-binary world of gender.

  2. Interesting. I wonder how much of that experience is specific to the segregation and how much is because of the religious specifics. I only wonder because while I went to mixed-sex schools, we had sex-segregated phys ed classes from grade 7 through grade 10 (public/secular schools in Canada back in the ’90s). I don’t know how it was for the “boys” side, but in the “girls” classes, I found that being sex-segregated gave more of a freedom to play with gender roles (and with that very sports-specific kind of macho posturing) in a way that I don’t think would have happened in mixed-sex classes. Maybe that would have been very different if it included all classes, but I don’t know.

  3. Great Read. Found this bit interesting: “The review found some minor academic related benefits to single-sex schools but found that the overall benefit or harm of single-sex education was not significant.” That is one argument I often hear in favour of such schools, so it is good to be able suggest otherwise.

  4. I so wish this piece had been framed as an opinion rather than irrefutable truth. I believe the author – I believe this is the experience of many students in single-sex high schools, but I also believe it is the experience of many, if not most queer students in any school. And it is not a universal experience of single-sex schools, particularly, as other folks have shared, many secular “girls” high schools or “women’s” colleges in the U.S. where gender, sexuality, and presentation are often explored in ways that would not feel safe or acceptable in the context of an “all-gender” institution (which I find to be a very nice way of saying a binary space because the binary is never more radically enforced in my experience than in co-ed institutions). I am deeply curious about the assertion that the author’s life would have been drastically different now had they not attended a single-sex school, as well… maybe it would have been. The school they are describing, though – all gender, racially integregated (the disproprortionate attendance of single-sex institutions by white students being named later on in the piece as a strike against those schools), affirming of LGBTQ+ and GNC students, with an inclusive culture supported by the administration and queer-inclusive sex-ed… I don’t know that this school exists. Or, if it does, it is rare. And wonderful! But rare. Schools reflect the larger culture. All schools. This is why the vast majority of schools are still effectively racially segregated. Why trans and nonbinary and queer students don’t necessarily feel safe to come out. Why funding is doled out based on class size, productivity, efficiency, and local wealth.

    I think it is a logical fallacy to assert that the trouble comes from the single-sex designation of the school rather than a larger culture of religion, capitalism, conservativism, homophobia, and transphobia. While I went to public high school in a blue state, I most certainly never felt comfortable challenging binary expectations there, and did not experience that sort of security, in fact, until transfering to a women’s college in undergrad.

    Additionally, there’s a question of access. In reading this piece, I understood the author to be saying to some extent “maintaining ostensibly single-sex spaces like girls schools denies access to better education to people of other genders unless they obscure their true selves.” To an extent this is true – holding space for one population does necessitate restricted access. However, I offer that the issue is the system of education as a whole. Setting aside space for one group or historically and systematically oppressed identity to access better education is not the thing that stops others from accessing good education. It’s a white supremacist, capitalist country that devalues access and life for poor, BIPOC, immigrant, disabled, queer, and trans folks across all sectors – this plays out in all schools, and particularly public schools. Which were created to serve all students and should be a universally viable option for students who don’t feel comfortable in single-sex spaces. Single-sex schools most often being private and therefore prohibitive to many, many students – going to an ostensibly single-sex school in the US is a choice and one most people don’t even consider an option.

    This is not something I’ve studied. I only know my own experience as a cis, white queer – I may be all wrong. But I don’t think this is the answer to the question of reducing harm to queer, trans, and BIPOC kids in high school. I’m not sure the author got to the root of the thing here… I think we need to go farther.

    • I agree with Sarah – perhaps it may be better to position the article more as an opinion, and to look beyond single-sex schools to investigate the embedded religious, socio-economic, and sexist influences that often colour one’s experience of that particular flavour of single-sex schooling.

      I went to both co-ed and single-sex schools. The co-ed school I went to from 11-13 was where I was constantly bullied by boys for the way I looked – ranging from pimples, interest in computer games, and edging towards sexism and homophobia with comments like: ‘You look like a man,’ or ‘Don’t talk to me unless you get plastic surgery.’ The experience didn’t leave me with much self-esteem, but moving to an all-girls’ school for the rest of my education rebuilt a lot of that and I look back fondly on my time there.

      The all-girls’ high school I went to was non-denominational, welcomed visibly LGBTQ+ teachers, and was the place I found my queer circle of friends (our particular cohort had the true statistic of 1 in 5 people were gay). It felt like a safe space to discuss and develop our opinions on any topic with students and teachers, without being interrupted by the all-too-familiar cis white man who just wants everyone to hear his opinion. I was properly introduced to the adult soul-crushing misogyny of the world only during university.

      Of course, my experience is just that – my own experience. Unfortunately, the year after I left that all-girls’ high school, the new principal was a cis white man who recruited teachers from Catholic and Anglican schools that then publicly outed a 16-year-old student to her homophobic parents and interviewed her peers to ask if she had hit on any of them. It snowballed to her parents pulling her out of school and her running away from home and living on the streets.

      It goes to show how quickly a school’s culture can change – what was one a secular safe haven for my queer friends and me changed into a nightmare for that 16-year-old girl. Since that incident, the ultra-conservative religious teachers that sparked the ‘investigation’ have left, but how much have they damaged that girl’s life?

      A one-size-fits-all approach to single-sex schools won’t fix the problem so many LGBTQ+ students face, but perhaps a deeper dive into how we can change the prevailing thoughts and beliefs of students, parents, and teachers may just work.

  5. While I respect the writer’s experience, I agree with an earlier comment that I wish this had been more an opinion piece and less stated as an absolute truth, true for everybody.
    I am so so grateful for the 6 years I spent at an all girls school — those very formative middle and high school years no less. While, like most school experiences, it wasn’t perfect and had it’s own issues, I’m so grateful that I didn’t have to wrangle with gender bullshit while at school. I could just focus on school and who I wanted to become. Sometimes we had makeup and outfit mean girl one-uppmanship bullshit, but for the most part, we didn’t care. A couple women dressed like boys and looked like boys and while there was some general awkwardness about it in 7th grade, there was general awkwardness about everything in 7th grade. No big deal was placed on it and so we grew out of the awkwardness. It was just about the kind of work you do and the kind of person you want to be. It was very freeing. I never wore makeup, I never even brushed my hair most days, and I kicked ass in Math and Science and didn’t even think twice about it. It wasn’t until I was in Engineering School when I was in a class of 90% men, most dismissing my opinions and ignoring my work that I really understood the value of all that time at the all girls school, how much it strengthened my confidence in my work. I was stronger then when I got to the “real world” where gender politics dismiss and erase women’s voices especially in engineering. I had already formed a confident opinion of myself and what I could do separate from my gender and it made it easier for me to weather bullshit and hold my own.

    I’m sure experiences vary. Schools are so different. My school was also parochial, but Episcopalianism is way more progressive than other denominations. Our head Chaplain was a woman. The headmistress was a woman. They were fresh out of the women’s movement of the 70s and thinking a lot about how to support us. It was a very empowering place to grow up and be surrounded entirely by smart women in power kicking ass. I’m sorry there aren’t more places like this for women to grow up in today.

  6. I can’t help but feel a distinct twinge of envy when other queer people talk about their positive experiences in sex-segregated education, because as a transfemme person of color, it’s only been an all-too-real nightmare and an unattainable dream. As a teen, the threat of the all-male boarding school hung over my head, things like P.E and the Boy Scouts absolutely punished any sort of gender nonconformity, and going through an early puberty made me feel like too much of a “threat” to go into any women’s or queer spaces.

    I feel like defenses of spaces as diverse & inclusive tend to always have a blind spot for the ways they exclude people. I’ve been in plenty of “multiethnic” spaces that were overwhelmingly white and alienating, and similarly, I’ve been in plenty of “trans-friendly” spaces that were still transmisogynistic. This isn’t an indictment of their existence, so much as the fact that any space will replicate the dynamics and discrimination of society at large unless they actively and intentionally fight them. Women’s colleges have only begun admitting transfemme people within the past decade, and still vary widely on policy, with many requiring medical transition (something out of the hands of many, *especially* adolescents) for admission. Plus, how many of these colleges are actively recruiting and providing scholarships for transfemme people, considering transphobia in education at large?

    I’m not really going anywhere so much as venting at this point. I hate to discount the positive experiences of others or say that they shouldn’t exist, and maybe I’m just being bitter, but it feels like people like me tend to slip through the cracks or be acceptable casualties in gendered spaces.

    • I would agree with the points others have made about mixed schools being just as gender normative, transphobic and homophobic as segregated schools, and just as rife with white supremacy (at least, they are where I’m from). And I can see how many AFAB people feel protective of schools where they are less likely to be interrupted in class discussions, or where the absence of cis boys enables a level of engagement that wouldn’t be possible.

      But you raise an important critique: trans girls are excluded from gender-segregated girls’ schools and it’s awful to think of them going to all-boys’ schools. Even if girls’ schools begin accepting younger trans girls without major restrictions, that depends on the girl in question being out and supported by her family, so a lot of girls will be excluded.

  7. I agree with other commenters, AS should clarify whether or not this is an opinion piece when publishing. I absolutely believe that affinity spaces are and always will still be valuable, and I would never advocate to unilaterally end educational institutions that prioritize and celebrate women and girls. Undoubtedly many hateful school cultures, religious and otherwise, do exist, but this article is inappropriately conflating all kinds of different schooling environments. Again, opinion pieces based on personal experience are perfectly legitimate, but this is not fair reporting on the state of single sex schools as a whole.

  8. I agree with much of what other posters have said about this being more of an opinion piece. I also think a differentiation needs to be made between religious and secular single-sex educational experiences, and perhaps even more so for Catholic vs. other religions. I attended an all-girls school for high school, and even though there are SO MANY THINGS I would change about that experience (which on the whole was more negative than positive), the single-sex piece of it was wonderful for me.

    I learned to speak up for myself, have confidence in my opinions, make mistakes, truly listen to and understand others, and take the space I needed to explore my interests. Obviously I don’t know what would have happened in a mixed gender environment but I saw my friends have that experience and I spent elementary and middle school in a mixed gender environment – and those spaces did not bring those skills about.

    I can only imagine how difficult it would be to be nonbinary, trans, or genderqueer in this environment, and can’t speak to that experience. I appreciate hearing about the author’s experience. It has made me think more critically about my experience.

    • Yes! I think there is a WORLD of difference between catholic schools and anything else really. Women’s colleges and secular “all girls” schools are totally different and do not share much of the same issues.

      Just think this distinction is beyond important. Really the answer is that RELIGION HAS NO PLACE IN SCHOOL.

  9. Have to say this is Bunk, as someone who benefited immeasurably from time at women’s college, where I had more trans women, trans men, and non-binary people around me than I ever had before in my life btw so trans exclusion isn’t a valid argument to end women’s colleges either. If anything! We need women’s public schools and community colleges rather than only private women’s education systems

  10. I disagree with this piece.

    I’m a butch/gender-nonconforming cis queer woman, and attending a women’s college changed my life. I studied computer science and gained self-confidence that has proven crucial to surviving in a field dominated by cis men. In class, when I interacted with my professors, my appearance and gender presentation seemed to be irrelevant; I felt normal, in a way I’ve never experienced in the workplace and certainly not in my coed public high school. Outside of class, there were hundreds of queer people to socialize with and date. Several classmates came out as transmen and continued to live on campus and attend classes — the administration had an official policy of supporting these students. This isn’t to say my school was perfect with regard to queer and trans issues (far from it), but I do feel confident in asserting that it was and continues to be one of the safest and most supportive academic environments for young queer people in the world.

    Several years ago my alma mater began accepting transwomen and AFAB-nonbinary folks, and I’m incredibly pleased with that decision; but I think going full coed would destroy the institution’s culture and identity. It would contract the already limited safe space for queer people (and cis women) in the world rather than expand it.

  11. I went to an “all girls” Catholic high school that is institutionally quite welcoming of queer and trans people, and I have a good handful of queer and trans friends who were out while we were at school or came out shortly after. I can’t imagine that being in a school with cis boys would have inherently accelerated or clarified that process for me or anyone I knew there, and I’m more grateful for having had that high school experience than not. I don’t think I follow or agree with the author’s idea that ending “single-sex” education would somehow make school a more gender-affirming place for trans people by design, but I think we all agree that’s a good goal for schools to work toward, probably in lots of ways.

  12. I went to an all girls Opus Dei (conservative catholic) school in Colombia, and let me tell you that my sex education sucked. I was taught that homosexuality was unnatural but common and that it wasn’t OK. The only birth control I was taught in school was abstinence. Thank god my parents were liberal and let us talk openly about sex at home and that I had internet.

    On the plus side… since there were no boys, I always volunteered to do the “man part” when we were practicing traditional dances. Which I liked because it meant I could wear pants and avoid wearing a skirt. I never felt comfortable wearing skirts.

    So a lot of what the author says resonates with be, but at the same time… having no boys around let my little queer self explore gender roles in a somewhat safe way. I also cross dressed whenever I could: for school plays, for assignments, I loved wearing my dad’s jackets until they started to fit too small for me (I’m a foot taller than my dad).

    I had never really thought about this before, but actually being in an all girls school did help me play with gender and help me (recently) realize that I am nonbinary.

  13. I went to a private “all girls” high school in Toronto, and my school has (in recent years) brought in a transgender policy which essentially defines what the school would be expected to do if a student came out while at school and wanted to stay a student at the school and it also says that the school will accept any applicants who are female, regardless of assigned sex. As a student there we started a pride week, which was overall very successful for a few years in a row, and the administrators were generally receptive of new ideas for making the school more accepting.

    All this to say that although I agree that the religious elements of single-sex schools can be pretty harmful, I found that the benefits of being at an all girls school were good enough to compel me to say that “all girls” schools can be reformed and shouln’t be done away with entirely.

    “All boys” schools though, they can rot in hell.

  14. I think it’s a great idea to debate the topics brought up in this piece, but I agree with most of the other commentators here who stress that this should have been framed explicitly as an opinion piece.
    I attended a women’s college that changed my life for the better, allowed me to discover myself and come out as a lesbian, and also introduced me to just how broad the gender spectrum could be. It also helped to increase my confidence as a woman in a patriarchal world. As far as I know, and several examples were noted in the other comments, many women’s colleges at least (if not high schools) are accepting gender nonconforming students, so anybody but cisgender men. And I would say that is a good thing, and that is the direction to go in. But abolishing these schools altogether? I’d say that’s putting the cart before the horse, to say the least.

  15. I’m an afab non-binary woman and I felt pressured into strict feminine ideals well into my 20s—and I never had the privilege of attending an all-women’s school of any kind. If I had that kind of safe space I would not have to bear so many of the scars of misogyny that I experienced as a teenager constantly under the shadow of the misogynistic teenage boys who dictated the dynamics of our social groups, keeping the atmosphere constantly Male Gaze-y and making fucked up, sexist jokes that the teenage girls (and later, some enbies) did not yet know how to defend themselves against.

    Most of the AFAB enbies I know have the same experience—went to mixed gender schools, experienced soul-killing misogyny, and felt pressure to feminize themselves well into their 20s, where they eventually found non-patriarchal social dynamics that allowed them to breathe and experiment more with their gender identity and expression.

    Going to an all-gender school doesn’t give AFAB enbies any kind of “freedom of gender expression/experimentation.” It reinforces gender norms by keeping them under the male gaze and subject to institutions with a patriarchal bent. It reinforces the gender binary more than all-girls schools by putting enbies in proximity with the oppressor half of the gender binary.

    Even as an openly non-binary woman, the misogyny didn’t somehow disappear when I went to a mixed-gender college, either. I literally dropped out of my program because my soul could no longer bear the weight of the misogyny, in all its forms, subtle and obvious, in academia. I just woke up one day and could not get out of bed and could not do it anymore. If I had enough money to go to an all-women’s college, I would have finished my degree. I left directly because of the misogyny I experienced from individuals and also on a cultural level.

    Maybe the argument should be “add non-binary education to the curriculum of all-women’s institutions” and not “destroy women’s safe spaces.”

  16. I’m glad others have already mentioned the importance of publishing/labeling this piece as an opinion piece. I found this statement particularly dangerous “The life-threatening effects of a school that does not match a student’s gender identity should be reason enough to rethink single-sex schools existence.”

    It’s difficult to find statistics, but I found this on wikipedia “A different survey in 2016, from the Williams Institute, estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.”

    Even if you double or triple or quadruple that number, it’s still a tiny minority. So you’re saying that although an extremely high majority of students who attend same-sex schools are not trans, those schools should be eliminated because of the “life-threatening effects” on trans students. What about the impact on the remaining students? This piece would have been so much more impactful had it also provided research/evidence/experiences from cisgendered students who may have agreed with the author.

    I personally attended what was called an “all-girls” boarding school in the UK and loved the experience, even though I was a minority of a minority. I don’t know if it had an impact on my sexuality as I believe I was born this way – a lesbian cisgender woman. Of course there were parts of the “all-girls” boarding school experience that I didn’t like, but overall it provided me the independence that I needed as a shy introverted young girl with low-esteem. Of course there are areas that need to, and can be improved, and perhaps the energy of this article should have been focused on discussing methods to improve rather than dismantle same-sex schools and colleges.

  17. “The sex a person was assigned at birth should not impact the quality of their education.” I cried reading this sentence. A member of my family recently started using they/them pronouns, and also just started their high school experience at a single-sex school. I’m excited for them to explore their identity and figure out who they truly want to be, and at the same time, I’m terrified for them. I don’t want them to hate themselves, I don’t want them to harm their own body, and I do, I truly do, want them to know that they’re so worthy of love. I want to send them this article, but I don’t know if their parents are “up to speed” on some things. Maybe they’ll find it on their own. I just want them to know they’re worth it. Thank you for these words, Jenni.

    • I (bisexual and genderqueer) went to a Catholic “all-girls” high school and I think it was much more welcoming of queer students than any of the coed Catholic schools in town. Not sure about the public schools but I suspect it was more inclusive than a lot of them too. It is indefensible in some ways, like any private school, but I had a positive experience.

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