Hamilton’s public school board releases detailed gender identity policy

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Procedure will allow students to compete on the sports team that corresponds with their “lived gender identity”. 


Hamilton’s public school board (HWDSB) released a new detailed version of its “gender identity and gender expression procedure.”

The new procedure, which consists of a 22-page document for students and a 12-page document for employees, includes the board’s policies for bathroom usage, pronouns, and sports teams. 

The procedure states that students are allowed to use whichever bathrooms and change rooms correspond with their “lived gender identity” and compete on whichever sports team that corresponds to their “lived gender identity.”

Board chair Dawn Danko seemed to indicate to the Hamilton Spectator in an interview that the policies in the documents are not new, but that it’s simply the first time that the board is putting some of the finer details into words.

For example, Danko told the Hamilton Spectator that students have been able to use the washroom of their choosing since 2014.

It should also be noted that Hamilton’s Catholic School Board (HWCDSB) does not appear to have an equivalent gender identity document.

The Catholic board’s website simply states that “Each Belongs” and that “bullying or rejection on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, appearance, economic status, ability or any other reason is not and will never be tolerated in our Catholic schools and board buildings.”


The new 22-page student-specific document reads that it seeks to communicate the “roles and responsibilities of the Board, employees, and school communities in promoting and safeguarding the well-being of all Two Spirit, transgender, non-binary, intersex, gender non-conforming and/or gender questioning students.”

The document provides definitions for a number of terms, including the word “equity”. It reads that “equity involves treating some people differently” so that they may “meet the same outcomes as others.”

It reads that the school administrators have the responsibility to “provide opportunities and support implementation of equity education” and to ensure “that all forms of biases, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination (including transphobia, cisnormativity and gender stereotypes) are identified, challenged, and eliminated.”

It adds that “it is the right of all students to be referred to by the name and pronouns that correspond to the gender with which they identify” and notes that the right is “regardless of age.” The board teaches children aged four and up.

It says that “the intentional and/or persistent refusal to acknowledge a student’s gender identity or use their lived name is unacceptable.”

The document also appears to indicate that students are permitted to request name and pronoun changes of their own volition and will not necessarily need parental consent. 

It notes that “student privacy” is always their “primary consideration.”

In regards to washroom and changeroom usage for students, the policy says that “an individual’s self-identification is the sole measure of their gender identity; as such they may choose to use one, or both, gendered washrooms or changerooms.”

It also says that school staff must “not monitor the use of the washrooms and/or change rooms” and cannot bar entry to anyone.

The new document addresses curriculum and school library materials saying that they “must be inclusive of diverse gender identities and gender expressions.”

School librarians “must acquire fiction and non-fiction books that are representative of a variety of gender identities and gender expressions.”

Additionally, employees “have the right to use the honorific with which they most identify.” The policy lists the examples of “Mr.”, “Ms., and “Mx.” but also says that teachers have the option to refrain from using an honorific.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the honorific Mx. is a “gender-neutral title” that is pronounced as “mix” or “mux.”


The policy also makes it explicit that students can play on either the male or female sports teams at their school based on their “gender identity and gender expression.”

It adds that “gender is fluid” so “students may at different times throughout the school year, or in different school years, change the gendered team with which they choose to participate.”

As an example, the document says that “a student might identify as one gender in basketball season at one point in the school year but identify as a different gender during soccer season later in the same school year.”

The board notes that their policy is in line with the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA), whose by-laws state that “OFSAA supports student-athlete participation on a team of their lived gender.”


A student census conducted by the board in 2021 indicates that 68 per cent of its students identify as heterosexual, with 32 per cent identifying themselves as “part of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Of that 32 per cent, 13 per cent identified as questioning their gender identity, eight per cent bisexual, five per cent asexual, five per cent lesbian, queer, or gay, four per cent pansexual, four per cent were not sure, three per cent transgender, and less than one per cent two-spirit.

The census had a 48 per cent response rate with 24,177 of the board’s approximately 50,000 students giving answers. Although the census received a high number of responses, it technically cannot be considered statistically representative since the sample was not randomly selected.

All staff have reportedly received training on these new documents in advance of the upcoming school year which begins in three weeks.


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