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Transgender student rights bill OK'd in California

Agencies/China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-14 08:18

California on Monday became the first US state to enshrine certain rights for transgender students from kindergarten to the 12th grade in state law.

The new legislation requires public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown announced that he has signed the bill, which also allows transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys' or girls' sports.

The law gives students the right to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.

Supporters said it will help to reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students.

The move comes as the families of transgender students have been waging battles with school districts across the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use, disagreements that have sometimes landed in court.

"Will transgender students make some other children uncomfortable? Perhaps," said the author of the bill, Democratic state legislator Tom Ammiano.

"I don't want to minimize that, but new experiences are often uncomfortable. That can't be an excuse for prejudice."

The California Catholic Conference objected to the law, which it said was proposed to help just a few students, but will have an impact on all of them.

"Inevitably, some mischievous or malicious individuals will use this sweeping policy change as an opportunity to disrupt school settings for the purpose of intimidating others, exactly the behavior we wish to address," it said.

California, the most populous US state, has been at the forefront of a nationwide debate on gay, lesbian and transgender rights.

In June, the US Supreme Court declined to reinstate the state's so-called Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage, allowing such unions to resume five years after a referendum initiative banned them.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union of California were among the bill's supporters. Detractors, including some Republican lawmakers, said allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students' privacy.

Such fears are overblown, said Carlos Alcala, spokesman for Ammiano, of San Francisco. Alcala said that in general, transgender students are trying to blend in and are not trying to draw attention to themselves.

"They're not interested in going into bathrooms and flaunting their physiology," Alcala said.

He also said the state's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has had such a policy for nearly a decade and reported no problems. San Francisco schools have also had a policy similar to the new law, and numerous other districts signed on in support of the legislation.

AP-AFP

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