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My school science department is confusing sex with gender

(125 Posts)
beatrice14 Sun 14-Feb-21 18:30:49

To all you wise mumsnetters out there,

I know I'm not really the right demographic for this board, (I'm 15), but I've really enjoyed lurking and reading posts here, and I was interested to see what people on here might think about this. My science teacher just sent round this email which mixed up sex and gender and then said that sex was a spectrum, and conflated intersex with transgender. I'm gender critical myself, and I disagreed with a lot of it, and found it rather odd. I've pasted it below, with the links they sent.
As we approach half term midway through this month of LGBT+ History month, you might like to read some of the materials below on the biology of sex and gender. We think it’s important to recognise that, whilst biology textbooks teach about sex in a fairly binary way, X and Y chromosomes are by no means the only factors that determine biological gender. It’s also important to note the damage that a binary concept of gender can have on the physical and mental health of those who don’t identify as male or female, or as their assigned gender. The following links might give you some interesting scientific material that presents the concept of gender in a much more recognised spectrum. To quote the final article in this list, which summarises it so well:

“Science tells us that gender is certainly not binary; it may not even be a linear spectrum. Like many other facets of identity, it can operate on a broad range of levels and operate outside of many definitions. And it also appears that gender may not be as static as we assume. At the forefront of this, transgender identity is complex – it’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to attribute it to one neat, contained set of causes, and there is still much to be learned.”


Sex Redefined: The Idea of 2 Sexes Is Overly Simplistic - Scientific American

Sex isn't binary, and we should stop acting like it is (

Sex redefined : Nature News & Comment

When Sex and Gender Collide - Scientific American

Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity - Science in the News (


BBC Radio 4 - BBC Inside Science, Sex, gender and sport - the Caster Semenya case and the latest Denisovan discovery

We hope these provide an interesting source of material for you to extend your understanding of this important topic.

OP’s posts: |
persistentwoman Sun 14-Feb-21 18:49:28

Hi Beatrice. Welcome.
Goodness - a science teacher prefacing looking at science / biological with emotive guilt tripping statements about how exploring facts might damage mental health in some people. hmm.

Do you want to challenge them in some way? Or are their emotional blackmail techniques an indication of a closed mind along with an overwhelming ego?

alexk3 Sun 14-Feb-21 18:53:31

Where does she mix up sex and gender?

Barracker Sun 14-Feb-21 19:00:25

Wow, that's a lots of unscientific claptrap from muddling up biology with 'gender' from a supposed science teacher!

I know you'll get some great advice from posters here Beatrice. Try not to let any disruptive posters make you waste your time explaining to them the difference between sex and gender. It's a tactic we often see. You already know the difference and you're quite right, your teacher has hopelessly lost the plot.

Hopefully you'll get some wise advice.

Flapjak Sun 14-Feb-21 19:01:58

Gender has got no place in anything other than social science. Sex is binary, intersex isnt on a spectrum. Your teacher needs to educate him/her/theyself and take a step away from wokesville 🤯

Thingybob Sun 14-Feb-21 19:10:15

Hi Beatrice. Im sorry your generation are bombarded with this sort of twaddle but huge respect to you for being smart enough and brave enough not to succumb to this craziness. What do your parents think and could they help you challenge the teacher/ school? I'd also suggest you contact the Safe School Alliance.

Soontobe60 Sun 14-Feb-21 19:14:08

I’d forward their email to the Head and ask for clarification. Also, Safe Schools Alliance can help you out.

Daughterofmabel Sun 14-Feb-21 19:15:01

Hello Beatrix and welcome to this ' hotbed of radicalisation!'
Dear me what a lot of rubbish your teacher has fed you! And as for those links.. Im sure that Nature paper was discredited a while back. Also the Bbc are very pro gender. You could look at Transgender trends website which is very helpful on these issues. Good luck.

reallyisthisallthereis Sun 14-Feb-21 19:18:25

Science teacher here. The teacher is not teaching material on the science curriculum and is definitely promoting their own viewpoint (which is flawed as they clearly don't understand the difference between sex and gender).
Complain to the head of science department /head of Biology/ headteacher or all 3! The science teacher may not have a background in biological sciences (chemist or physicist).
This is not acceptable as science teaching. Good luck and hopefully the teacher isn't the head of department (and if they are - I may have to go and cry a little).

fastwigglylines Sun 14-Feb-21 19:31:12

Are you able to post the links? I'm sure we could have a good go at debunking them if that's helpful?

NotFabulousDarling Sun 14-Feb-21 19:43:59

Why is she even covering this in a science lesson, it's not on the GCSE curriculum and I'm amazed she's found anywhere to squeeze in something "off-topic" like this. I barely had time to get through the content every year, and even a single D of E or school play on the wrong day would throw out my planning for the year, it's basically one topic per lesson for Y10 and 11!

MoodyMarshall Sun 14-Feb-21 19:49:09

Hi OP.

Your best bet is to share it with your parents, who can contact your headteacher and the school governors.

This is just opinion being taught as scientific fact, and would result in a fail at Biology GCSE.

Gcnq Sun 14-Feb-21 19:52:58

We think it’s important to recognise that, whilst biology textbooks teach about sex in a fairly binary way, X and Y chromosomes are by no means the only factors that determine biological gender.

Gender isn't biological it's social. Sex is biological.

Start there?

By the way it's very brave of you at 15 to think critically about all this!

hallouminatus Sun 14-Feb-21 19:56:25


Why is she even covering this in a science lesson
Are you assuming that the teacher is woman? Anyway it looks like they're suggesting students do this extra reading in their own time, rather than covering it in a lesson. I do agree that it is wrongheaded, confusing, unscientific, ideological nonsense.

reallyisthisallthereis Sun 14-Feb-21 19:56:46

Gosh, I am sorry I didn't realise it was your teacher you were posting about (I assumed it was your mum posting - please take that as a compliment as it didn't read like a 15 year writing it)
Definitely ask your parents to make the complaint. You are in the right to complain so it should be taken seriously.

Gcnq Sun 14-Feb-21 19:58:50

It’s also important to note the damage that a binary concept of gender can have on the physical and mental health of those who don’t identify as....

Gender is a social constructed idea that can literally mean anything from binary to spectrum, based on anything from gender stereotypes to inner spiritual being. No one is really insisting gender is binary apart from those mixing up sex with gender.

Sex however, is binary, and this basic fact needs to be taught at school.

Anyoneelsewilldo Sun 14-Feb-21 20:07:31

I would point out that your biology book currently only shows the male body and the female body and when will you be studying the bodies of other genders given that gender is not binary and the teacher believes gender and sex are interchangeable.

andyoldlabour Sun 14-Feb-21 20:32:27

Beatrix, thanks for posting. I am so sorry that you have a "science" teacher who thinks like this.
Sex is based on science, it is not a spectrum and although we know that a certain percentage of people are "intersex", they are a very small percentage and have nothing to do with gender.
From what we are now being told, there could be more than 100 genders, which definitely tells us that gender IS a spectrum.
Science is very much based on fact and logic, gender on the other hand is a social construct, and ideology if you like. Sex is immutable, you are what you were born. No human being has ever changed sex. Gender on the other hand is very maleable, where a person could one day think of themselves as boy like or girl like, then come to the conclusion that they are non-binary, or possibly gender neutral or any of the other terms.
However, their sex will never change.

Beamur Sun 14-Feb-21 20:38:04

Beatrice, you are totally the right demographic for this board.
We're not ageist.
Cool name btw wink

OverTheRainbow88 Sun 14-Feb-21 20:43:03

I would raise it with the head of science in the first instance. Good luck!

dayoftheclownfish Sun 14-Feb-21 20:43:25

Point out that most of these sources are opinion pieces. The Scientific American article was cited by Margaret Atwood on the BBC once - but it is an opinion piece, not a peer-reviewed paper.

If there are more than two sexes, can your (idiot) teacher explain their reproductive function? If not, why not? And is having a medical condition such as Turner syndrome the same as having a sex?

Sorry, OP, that you’re having to put up with this. It’s always so dispiriting when we lose respect for our elders.

pensivepigeon Sun 14-Feb-21 20:43:44

Just look at chromosomes with regard to the science, internal organs with regard to sex.

If we are looking at psychology, brain plasticity and hormones things can get slightly more complex. There we would probably talk about gender (as in characteristics socially but not necessarily biologically associated with a particular sex and this varies from society to society) in terms of how hormones affect behaviours.

pensivepigeon Sun 14-Feb-21 20:44:43

And internal organs that should read. Sorry there was a typo there.

CodenameVillanelle Sun 14-Feb-21 20:46:45


Where does she mix up sex and gender?

The bit where is says 'biological gender'??

beatrice14 Sun 14-Feb-21 20:54:12

Hi all,
Thanks for all the replies – they’re really helpful. Basically, it’s my biology teacher who sent the links. She’s the head of the biology department – she sent it to all of our year as part of LGBT history month. I think it’s wrong – I’m a tomboy and I worry that some people in my year might take it very seriously, one classmate who is gay now says she is agender.

OP’s posts: |

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