Non-Binary Student Population Almost Triples In Two Years In Massachusetts Public Schools

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It’s becoming more common for students to be identify as non-binary in Massachusetts public schools.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s public school enrollment data used to break down gender into two categories: male and female. However, since the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the state has also been tracking a third gender category:  non-binary.

While there are people who explicitly identify as non-binary, in this instance it’s an umbrella term. It encompasses anyone who identifies as a gender other than male and female. (The state does not use the term sex.)

The state’s enrollment data — based on student enrollment on October 1 of the school year — shows that identifying as non-binary, although rare, is becoming more common. The amount of non-binary students in Massachusetts schools has increased over the past two years; it more than doubled from the 2020-2021 school year over the 2021-2022 school year, according to the state’s data.

The first school year the state reported the amount of non-binary students in public schools (2019-2020), the figure was 345 out of the 948,828 kids in public school (0.0364 percent), according to the state. The following year, it became more common despite a decrease in public school enrollment. During the 2020-2021 school year, 478 of the 911,465 public school students identified as non-binary (0.0524 percent), the state said. And this school year (2021-2022), 994 of the 911,529 public schoolers identify as non-binary (0.109 percent), the state’s data shows.

That’s an increase of 516 non-binary students from the 2020-2021 school year to the 2021-2022 school year. Since the 2019-2020 school years, the number has increased by 649 — an almost 200 percent increase in two years.

While the federal government typically offers two gender options on forms, including the 2020 U.S. Census, schools aren’t the only place where Massachusetts offers more than two gender options. Since 2019, people have been able to identify as non-binary on their driver’s licenses. In addition to “M” or “F” for male or female, those licenses now also have an “X” for non-binary.

In September 2021, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to allow people to change their birth certificates so they can identify as non-binary on them instead of male and female. If it becomes law, it would also allow minors to change the gender on their birth certificate, if they provide an affidavit from a parent or guardian. The Massachusetts House of Representatives has not voted on the measure yet.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Second Education could not be reached for comment on Thursday.


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