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Orange County Register

Living Textbook: Gender Identity Awareness Needed

Feb. 2, 2014

Editor’s note: With our Living Textbook feature, the Register invites university faculty to share their knowledge and expertise with readers. Karyl E. Ketchum, assistant professor of women and gender studies, spearheaded the development of Cal State Fullerton's first-of-its-kind online course “Understanding and Addressing LGBT and Gender-Based Bullying,” offered through University Extended Education. She holds a Ph.D. from UC Davis.
The Jan. 1 effective date of California's School Success and Opportunity Act, or AB 1266, offers an opportunity for all of us – teachers, parents, administrators, school board members and community members – to become more knowledgeable on the complexities of gender identity.

AB 1266 states that all students in public schools must be “permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records.”

For a variety of reasons, not the least of which are the limitations of our common language, Western cultures frequently confuse gender identity, gender expression, biological sex and sexual orientation. Adding to this confusion are oversimplified understandings of the body that often do not recognize human biological variation, discount or deny connections between the mind and the body, and can attach shame, silence and even fear to people concerning sexuality.

For some, AB 1266 may be unsettling because it shines a light on all of this confusion as it inherently challenges many of our assumptions about bodies, genders, sexualities and identity. In order to get closer to how gender and biological sex are actually experienced, and begin to understand AB 1266, let's first examine our language. Specifically, we need to make distinctions among biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation explicit.

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