Copenhagen primary schools abandon the the gender binary to promote inclusivity

Stock Photo: Tuesday, August 15, Copenhagen Pride starts the week in Copenhagen. The Town Hall Square is hit by rainbow flag. (Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Scanpix 2017)

Authors: Emma DiMaggio, Stephanie Rosado

The municipality of Copenhagen passed a new policy to further promote gender and sexual inclusivity at the primary school level that will go into effect this year.

The goals of “En ligeværdig del af fællesskabete,” translated as “An equal part of the community,” details a revamped anti-discrimination program to be implemented in primary schools to “increase Copenhagen school pupils’ insight and counteract discrimination of LGBT+ people.”

One of the concrete initiatives of the policy is to make sexual education a compulsory subject in elementary school from grades 0 to 9.

“When we say that Copenhagen is for everyone, we mean it,” the policy introduction by Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen said. “That means that we do not accept homophobia and transphobia such as hate crimes, discrimination, abusive behavior or stigma.”

Danish schools already participate in gender-based education

This is not the first policy to introduce gender education to students aged six and up.

According to Secretary General of the Danish Family Planning Association Bjarne Christensen, Danes have participated in compulsory sexual education since 1970. He agreed that it is essential that sexual education is addressed from class 0 and up.

“Week Sex,” a campaign that takes place in week 6 of schools, already boasts an 85 percent participation rate among Copenhagen primary schools, according to the policy document.

The campaign had an enrollment of 430,000 pupils this year, with 20,000 teachers using materials provided by the Danish Family Planning Association, Christensen said.

“It is really well used in the public schools, and also in the private schools,” Christensen said. “Our goals for the curriculum are quite good and ambitious.”

What does the education entail

According to Christensen, gender and sexuality education in Denmark covers a number of bases, intending to break down stereotypes related to gender, sexuality and body types.

“It’s pretty basic that children should, of course, be aware that there are many kinds of sexuality, that there are many kinds of sexual identities,” Christensen said. “If we always talk in stereotypes, which are not reflecting how society looks, then certainly you have problems if you don’t belong into these stereotypes.”

Vivi Jelstrup, a former primary school teacher who has volunteered with LGBT Denmark for the past 13 years, believes that breaking down social norms is the key to equality among all genders and sexualities.

“The norms everywhere are that you are a cisgendered, heterosexual person, if nothing else has been said,” Jelstrup said. “If you question this, there’s a possibility that not only the LGBT persons themselves, but the others in the class will be aware that we are more different than we appear.”

A quick overview of the new policy

Video: Stephanie Rosado

The future of LGBT+ rights in Denmark

“The Copenhagen policy is only for Copenhagen,” Jelstrup said. “I hope it will come to other municipalities.”

One problem that Jelstrup outlined is a lack of funding from the state level for organizations like LGBT Denmark to reach out to the Danish community. Looking towards Norway and Sweden, who have similar organizations that started at the same time, she cites state support for their continued success in eliminating gender biases.

“Nothing comes from one day to another, it really takes time,” Jelstrup said. “[In the future], I hope that it will be possible, for instance in schools, to talk about these things in any subject.”

One key feature in the future of LGBT policies in Denmark is party support. According to Christensen, Denmark is fortunate in having political parties on both sides of the spectrum that advocate for LGBT rights.

“It is not a very controversial issue, and [for us] that is quite fortunate,” Christensen said. “I know compared to many other countries, the issues and the values on equality and sexual rights is quite accepted from all parties, more or less.”

However, navigating the political spectrum comes with its own challenges.

“We have to work further on equality, and also inclusion of the sexual rights issues and the gender issues,” Christensen said. “The issue of how do you then transform [these ideals] into policies and practices, that of course is also the difficult and challenging point.”

The policy will remain in effect until 2023. Upon expiration, LGBT+ organizations within the municipality and Finance Committee will be consulted about creating a new plan or choose to continue to promote LGBT+ equality in a different form.

Infographic by Stephanie Rosado


Target Audience: This story was created for an American audience, specifically that of California which is particularly active in LGBTQIA+ rights. It could be published on Los Angeles’s main LGBT news outlet.