Students in Nova Scotia, Canada will soon be offered a third gender option in schools.
Currently, the computer programs used in Nova Scotia schools only record a student’s assigned sex, not their gender identity. However, later this month, the category of ‘sex’ will be replaced with ‘gender.’ This allows students to choose M for male, F for female, or X if they are nonbinary or genderfluid.
Students will not have to legally change their gender identity in order to request a change at school.
‘Safe and inclusive learning environments are essential to children and youth’s engagement and success in school,’ a note sent to parents by the Education Department last week reads. ‘When they feel validated, affirmed and secure, their ability to learn is significantly enhanced.’
Students in grades 7 through 12 can request the gender marker change themselves. Kids in preschool through 6th grade will need parental consent to do so. If there is a disagreement between parents and students, ‘schools will make the decision that causes the least amount of harm to the child/youth,’ the note states.
Why it matters
‘I think that this is a really substantial change for a large number of our students across the province,’ Joanne Syms, the Safe & Inclusive Schools Consultant for the Education Department, told CBC News.
Kate Shewan, the executive director of LGBTI advocacy organization the Youth Project, agrees.
‘Anything that is going to help the students feel more included in a school I think will benefit the learning environment,’ she told CBC News.
Shewan has seen many cases of students being misgendered or deadnamed in class. This is especially common among substitute teachers who go by the official attendance list. These situations can cause a lot of distress for trans students. In some cases, they can even pose a safety risk.
‘Trans students are subject to high levels of harassment and violence. So being outed as trans can subject a student to those kind of actions,’ Shewan explains.
Hanley Smith, an 11th grader, is one such example. This change now means that Smith won’t have to explain their gender identity every time they meet a new teacher.
‘It means that I’m not going to have to worry about whether a teacher will accept me when I have to tell them face to face who I am,’ Smith told CBC News. ‘The change is something that not only me but a bunch of people have been fighting for since we were kids.’
‘This is one of the best ways we have done yet to fight ignorance.’