According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, children as young as three years old can identify themselves as transgender, and the department recognizes the pronouns “ne, ve, ze/zie, and xe” as valid options for use.
As stated on the Department of Education’s website in the section titled “Creating Gender-Inclusive Schools and Classrooms,” teachers are urged to inquire as to their students’ preferred pronouns to prevent making inaccurate assumptions about their gender identities.
“In addition to the traditional pronouns (he/him, she/her, they), some people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as ne, ve, ze/zie and xe,” according to the website. “If you don’t know a student’s preferred personal pronoun, it’s always best to ask.”
The website also provides a definition of “binary gender” as the “faulty concept that there are only two genders: male and female.”
From Pennsylvania’s Department of Education:
Gender Diversity: Words You Should Know
- Assigned Gender: The gender a baby is given upon birth, usually based on the child’s birth sex.
- Binary Gender: The faulty concept that there are only two genders: male and female.
- Birth Sex/Biological Sex: A specific set of genetic, chemical and anatomical characteristics that we are either born with or that develop as we mature.
- Cisgender: Describes a person whose birth sex and gender identity align.
- Genderqueer: A broad descriptor many people use to indicate a person does not identify as either male or female.
- Gender Expression/Gender Presentation: How we show our gender to the world through external choices (e.g. dress, behavior, hairstyle).
- Gender Identity: How we feel about our gender in our hearts and minds.
- Preferred Personal Pronouns: In addition to the traditional pronouns (he/him, she/her, they), some people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns, such as ne, ve, ze/zie and xe. If you don’t know a student’s preferred personal pronoun, it’s always best to ask.
- Transgender: Describes anyone whose gender identity and birth sex do not align. The word should be used as, “transgender,” not “transgendered.” For example, “My brother Sam is transgender. His birth name was Samantha.”
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The definitions on the education department website were cited from a 2013 article by Carrie Kilman called “The Gender Spectrum,” which claims that “some kids know their gender identities and birth sexes don’t match almost as soon as they begin to talk” and that kids are capable of identifying as gender-fluid as young as 3.
“This article shares research and insights on how gender identity differs from biological sex, and how educators can help support students who are gender non-conforming or gender expansive,” the PDE website says about Kilman’s article.
The education department webpage, which is intended as a resource guide for educators, also includes a lesson guide for teachers to host a “gender-neutral day” in their classrooms for grades 3-12.
The guide says that as part of the activity, students should pick two to three ways they will reject gender stereotypes for the day, and the teacher should make specific commitments to challenge gender norms in the classroom.