Oakland Lessons on Gender Diversity in Animal Kingdom Under Fire

Lessons in an Oakland, California school are attempting to introduce ideas of gender variance to children in an age-appropriate way by talking about sex-changing members of the animal kingdom. These have provoked a conservative and so-called “traditional values” legal group to decry the legitimacy of the lessons and warn that such lessons are not wanted because they don’t comport with the majority’s values.

From the San Fransisco Chronicle:

A one-hour elementary school lesson on gender diversity featuring all-girl geckos and transgender clownfish caused a stir in Oakland on Monday, with conservative legal defense organizations questioning the legitimacy of the topic and providing legal counsel to parents who opposed the instruction.


So, fourth- and fifth-grade students learned about the crazy world of gender within the animal kingdom with lessons about single-sex Hawaiian geckos, fish that switch genders and boy snakes that act “girly.”

“That’s a lot of variation in nature,” Gender Spectrum trainer, Joel Baum, told the students. “Evolution comes up with some pretty funny ways for animals to reproduce.”

And that same kind of diversity applies to people too, said Baum, the education director for the San Leandro nonprofit. For example, some boys can act like girls; some girls can have boy body parts; and some biological boys feel like a girl inside their hearts, he said.

“It turns out that there are not just two options,” he said.

Conservative groups have said that telling kids that there aren’t just two options when it comes to gender is a problem, with Pacific Justice Institute attorney Kevin Snider quoted as saying: “This instruction does not represent the values of the majority of families in Oakland.”

Lessons on gender difference amount to just a small part of a much larger effort to create a warm, welcoming and nurturing environment for children, something that Principal Sara Stone said that parents fully supported when asked last year.

Stone says she is also surprised by the amount of attention the media has given the lessons, presumably because the lessons are just stating biological facts about sex characteristics in the animal kingdom and saying, in age appropriate terms, how gender variance might present in human beings.

Parents were also told about the program a few weeks beforehand, though they can’t opt-out under California law. The Chronicle notes that only a few parents said they would want to keep their children at home because of the program.

I find opposition to this program rather overinflated and ill-conceived. Facts surrounding sex-variant animals and gender variance in human beings remain facts regardless of “values” and they can not be changed to suit the temperament of a few dissenting voices that, at any rate, the aforementioned legal group seems to be actively courting in order to presumably cobble together either an informal challenge or a legal one.

Regardless, so long as these lessons are provided in an age-appropriate manner, there seems little to object to, which is probably why the majority of parents have so far raised no issue with the scheme.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to sroemerm.


W. C
W. C4 months ago


W. C
W. C4 months ago


William C
William C4 months ago

Thank you for the article.

Eva Ovalle
Eva Ovalle4 years ago

So, let me get this straight, if I lived in an area of the world that still believes the earth is flat, then my children shouldn't be taught, in school, that the world is round because it would go against the values of the people who live there? I thought school was about introducing scientifically-corroborated ideas for reasoning and discussion; not about introducing ideas that only "represent the values of families" of said area.

Fiona T.
Past Member 5 years ago

This is a lesson for all

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

their thing is "it happens in nature, so it is good and ok" those bonobos seem to engage in pedophilia to calm nerves. so is it ok for a 30 year old to be in a relationship with a 16 year old? i think stoats impregnate young stotes, being a mustilid (famous for delayed implantation) the female can get auto pregnant when she reaches maturity.

Mary W.
Mary Williamson6 years ago

So now we have to change wild nature to meet some narrow view of 'right'? What is, is and disapproving won't change it in nature.

Wioletta S.
Wioletta S6 years ago


Jami Winn
Jami Winn6 years ago

I dont see what the big deal is its the natural way of things kids should be allowed to know these things in order to understand them better

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.