Conservatives have attacked an academic proposal to remove gender from school discussions of sex and anatomy.

The proposal to focus on function rather than ‘male’ or ‘female’ parts is part of an effort to make classroom sex education more trans-inclusive, The Australian has reported.

Flinders University researchers Clare Bartholomaeus and Damien Riggs called for sex education to go beyond “the norm of… a male with a penis and female with vagina”.

Their study found that young trans people experience barriers to good sexual health, including being ignored by mainstream sex education.

“Educators and sexuality education programs must… develop ways of talking about bodies and intimacy that shift attention away from the normative association of particular genders with particular anatomies,” the report says.

Conservative opponents to marriage equality have seized on the report.

“We have them advocating for the degendering of sex education of all students and confirming the concerns raised by parents about how radical LGBTI sex and gender education would infiltrate their children’s education,” said Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby.

Dr Riggs said sex education in schools had nothing to do with marriage equality, and it was disappointing to see them conflated in public debate.

“If we can reduce HIV, reduce unwanted pregnancies and reduce kids being coerced into having sex they don’t want to have, including transgender kids, it’s a good thing,” he said.

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