California state law opening doors for transgender students receives governor’s signature

Jerry BrownA controversial bill surrounding transgender students’ rights in California received the governor’s signature, opening doors for a growing population of transgender youth.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, which allows transgender students to participate in school groups and use school facilities based on their gender identities, Monday. Introduced by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), transgender students are now permitted to enter restrooms and locker rooms and play on respective sports teams based on their gender identity.

“Being accepted or not accepted at school makes all the difference in the world for these kids,” Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s in terms of both their abilities to succeed in school in the short term and their long-term health and well-being.”

Though state law already prohibits discrimination based on students’ gender identity, the bill’s proponents say this new legislation will go the extra step in ensuring transgender students feel “comfortable and safe at school,” The Chronicle reported.

Opponents of the legislation worry students “now may be subjected to some very difficult situations and their parents to even more objectionable situations,” state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. He continued, saying the law is “an extraordinary consequential piece of legislation.”

Nielsen’s fellow Republican senators fear other students may take advantage of the law to play on a sports team with members of the opposite sex, and the lawmakers called on the California Interscholastic Federation — the state’s governing body for high school sports — to determine what it would do in such instances.

However, those in favor of the law argue barring a transgender students from using the locker room aligning with his or her gender identity can create academic issues. For instance, preventing a student from joining a sports team because of his or her gender identity can lessen their involvement in school. And for students requiring access to a locker room, barriers pertaining to gender identity may prevent him or her from achieving credits needed to graduate.

Assembly Bill 1266 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, but several cities across the state have had policies in place regarding transgender students’ access for year. In San Francisco, transgender students have had access to locker rooms and restrooms of their gender identity since the 1990s.

And California isn’t the only state faced with affairs related to transgender students’ rights. An elementary school in Wisconsin sparked controversy after hosting a school spirit day called “Switch It Up Day,” in which students were encouraged to dress in garb typical of the opposite sex. And Colorado first grader Coy Mathis — born a boy — and her family won a landmark civil rights case after she was banned from using the girls’ restroom at her school.

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