New gender guidelines push for unisex toilets in schools to embrace inclusivity

The Department of Education has reportedly put together a document with guidelines to make public schools more LGBTQ+ friendly. File picture

The Department of Education has reportedly put together a document with guidelines to make public schools more LGBTQ+ friendly. File picture

Published Nov 4, 2022


A document outlining the Department of Basic Education’s guidelines for the inclusion of different gender identities in schools, and circulated among a limited audience this week, has revealed a range of proposals including encouraging schools to install unisex toilets.

The guidelines proposed are reportedly an attempt to become more inclusive and move away from gender norms in order to accommodate transgender and non-binary children.

In an article published by “The South African”, some of the guidelines set out by the Department of Basic Education include the following:

– Schools will soon be required to provide “genderless/unisex toilets and changing rooms”.

– Individual stalls, gendered bathroom signs and more cubicles are touted as a solution.

– Teachers are to be told they must avoid gender-segregating, by splitting classes, lines, or groups into “boys and girls”.

– The provision of gender-neutral uniforms must also be made available to all pupils who require them.

– “Dead-naming” will also be outlawed. That means a student identifying with a different gender cannot be called by their previous name.

The guidelines, which aim to combat discrimination, have already sparked some debate, including that of a more conservative political group, the Freedom Front Plus.

In a statement, the FF+ MP and spokesperson on basic education, Dr Wynand Boshoff, said the executive authority provided vague replies to the party’s questions about the matter.

He questioned how unisex toilets could be installed while many schools were still using pit latrines.

Further, Boshoff said that the observation of the FF+ was that the ideology of radical individualism was “attempting to take control over education”.

“The general opinion is that every person is a free-floating individual who has a choice in everything – and in this case, even their gender. According to radical individualism, community norms restrict the individual – self-fulfilment can only be achieved once those norms are abolished. Moreover, the only appropriate response from the family and members of the community is to support the individual's choices,” he said.

The FF+, however, has a different view of a person’s place in the world, said Boshoff.

According to the party’s statement, an individual person is inconceivable without the community and is in fact “literally conceived by the community”.

“Communities are made up of families and extended families, and ultimately form part of even larger communities, both cultural and political. An orderly society cannot exist without community norms. And yet, within any community there are exceptions, people whose personal identities do not conform to the general community norms.

“A totalitarian community that forcefully imposes its norms is indeed not ideal. In a caring and functional community, exceptions are recognised and respected, but still considered exceptions. Every aspect of the community, from marriage to bathrooms at schools, cannot be re-conceptualised as if the exception is the norm,” the party stated.

Boshoff said the FF+ would support school governing bodies that wanted to maintain the “community approach” in their schools.

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