California Lawmakers Pass K-12 Transgender Rights Bill

Great news: yesterday, the California senate approved a state-wide K-12 transgender rights bill. The bill, AB-1266, would mandate that public schools respect transgender students' identity by giving them the right to "participate in sex-segregated programs, activities, and facilities" — meaning that trans students would finally be able to choose which restrooms to use and which sports teams to join based on their gender identity instead of their chromosomes.

Although certain school districts around the country have independently implemented similar policies, this bill is significant because the first time that this treatment has been mandated by state. It's really a wonderful step forward.

According to the Transgender Law Center:

California law already prohibits discrimination in education, but transgender students are often still unfairly excluded from physical education, athletic teams, and other school activities and facilities because of who they are. This exclusion negatively impacts students’ ability to succeed in school and graduate with their class.

AB-1266, which passed the Senate with a 21-9 vote and the House with a 46-25 vote, would seek to address this, ensuring that transgender students are able to fully participate in all school activities. According to its supporters, its necessary in order to protect transgender students from bullying and abuse. In the words of Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

There should be certainty that every kid has the chance to go to school and be treated equally and fairly. We know that these particular students suffer much abuse and bullying and denigration. We can't change that overnight, but what we can do is make sure that the rules are such that they get a fair shake.

Its detractors, obviously, harbor paranoid fears that it could make students "uncomfortable." According to Republican Senator Jim Nielsen, the bill could also allow "youthful sex offenders" to concoct devious plans; Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Sen. Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood) add that male athletes could feign a female identity in order to "take advantage of the system." Yes, because a cis-gendered youth would definitely pretend to be transgender — bullying, denigration, and abuse be damned! — in order to get into that elusive locker room or win that big wrestling tournament. Can't argue with that absolutely stunning logic.

Says Ashton Lee, a 16-year-old transgender boy from Manteca, "“I’m so happy the state is taking action to make sure I have the same opportunity as everyone else to go to school and graduate... I can’t learn and succeed when every day in that class leaves me feeling isolated and alone.”

The bill is now headed to Governor Jerry Brown for approval.

"Calif. lawmakers pass K-12 transgender-rights bill" [KSBW]
Image via Zurijeta / Shutterstock.