Why districts are adding nonbinary gender options

Inclusion is a safety issue for Montgomery County Public Schools and some neighboring districts
By: | February 18, 2020
A students speaks at Montgomery County Public Schools’ first LGBTQIA Forum, which the Maryland district held in May at Thomas S. Wootton High School.A students speaks at Montgomery County Public Schools’ first LGBTQIA Forum, which the Maryland district held in May at Thomas S. Wootton High School.

Transgender students in the LGBT community can now list gender as nonbinary when registering in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.

That’s because school safety means more than protecting students from physical threats—it also requires ensuring that transgender and LGBT students feel welcome and comfortable in classrooms and buildings, says Derek Turner, the director of public information and web services.

“Safety can look like a lot of things,” Turner says. “Safety means telling students that they’re valued members of the community and their backgrounds are valued.”

The district began offering the nonbinary option to transgender students at the beginning of this school year.

Other nearby districts, including Arlington Public Schools and Alexandria City Public Schools in Virginia, and District of Columbia Public Schools in the nation’s capital, have made similar changes, according to WAMU-FM.


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Montgomery County hasn’t tallied how many transgender students have identified as nonbinary and hasn’t had any issues with reporting student data to the state, Turner says.

Students who aren’t ready to choose nonbinary at registration, but who identify as transgender, will be addressed by their preferred names and receive other requested accommodations, Turner says.

The district also no longer asks about gender on many day-to-day forms. Paperwork, however, is just a part of the district’s effort to support LGBTQ+ students and staff, Turner says.

The district will send a contingent to the Human Rights Campaign’s Thrive Conference, which focuses on the inclusion and safety of LGBTQ youth.
Montgomery County schools also held its first LGBTQ+ forum last school year and will reprise the event in the spring. It’s an opportunity for students and staff to discuss issues in the school system.

“They will talk about when they felt a teacher or a principal was 100% percent behind them and other times when they walked through the school and no one addressed them by their preferred name,” Turner says. “We have strong policies and we want to make sure they are being implemented.”


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