California Gets Closer to Transgender Equity

3418426185_587994bddbTransgender students in California could soon enjoy more rights and protections. A bill was approved Thursday in the California Assembly that would allow transgender students to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities. This means that athletic teams that are all girls or all boys will be open to students who identify with either gender.

The bill also stipulates that public schools allow restrooms and locker rooms to be open to any student who identifies with that gender, regardless of what gender is listed on school records. The bill will now go to the state Senate, where it is expected to garner a lot of support.

State laws already prevent public schools from discriminating against students based on gender identity, but this new bill, spearheaded by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano from San Francisco, will go further in giving transgender Californians the security they need in school and ensure uniformity in school districts across the state.

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, is glad that further action is being taken on these overlooked issues that affect trans students. He said:

We have heard from scores of parents concerned that their children are at risk for dropping out of school merely because they are transgender. It breaks my heart to see our youth excluded from activities at school simply because of who they are. This bill is urgently needed to ensure that every student has a fair chance to fully participate and graduate.

The California Assembly passed this bill on the heels of another recent bill that would make it much easier for trans people to change the name and gender on their birth certificate and other documents without having to get a court order.

The issue of transgender rights has picked up speed in recent years, as several states—including Washington, Colorado and Massachusetts—have created policies or guidelines that allow students to participate in activities that correspond with their expressed gender. Similarly, the NCAA has adopted bylines to protect trans athletes who were born male but then later identified as female and wanted to play women’s sports.

In addition to school sports and programs, trans students can also face obstacles when using school restrooms and locker rooms—places that can turn into sites of terror and bullying. The California Assembly’s decision to push forward a bill that would protect trans students’ equal access to these school facilities is a move being mirrored on college campuses as well: More than 150 universities, from UCLA to New York University, now have gender-neutral restrooms, and even more schools are in the process of implementing policies on restroom access.

Even in Arizona, where the state legislature recently tried to introduce laws hostile to trans people and their use of bathrooms, the progressive University of Arizona implemented a bathroom policy that grants all students the right to use facilities that correspond with their expressed gender.

These nationwide pushes in schools and universities to bolster the rights of trans students demonstrate the growing zeitgeist of inclusion surrounding trans people, and a broadening of the public consciousness on gender identity.

Opponents of the California bill said that, since puberty can be a confusing time, other students may feel uncomfortable with students who seem to be of a different gender using restrooms and locker rooms. But Assemblyman Ammiano, who is gay, argued:

Because someone is uncomfortable is not a reason to discriminate. I can walk into many of your districts and many of your constituents would be uncomfortable with me.

Photo courtesy of onesquareblock via Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. The problem, of course, being that what is meant by ‘gender-neutral’ restrooms ends up being simply: restrooms without urinals. And I guarantee you that it will still not be considered acceptable for a straight male to enter a restroom that is used by females.

    Because everyone knows that straight white men are just potential rapists and would only be in such a restroom for predatory purposes. :p

  2. Honest Question: The article state “The bill also stipulates that public schools allow restrooms and locker rooms to be open to any student who identifies with that gender, regardless of what gender is listed on school records. ”

    Is there a standard for one who “identifies”? I mean, it’s so vague and I’m not sure if there is a lot of law yet on what it means to sufficiently identify with a gender? Could I just walk into a men’s lockerroom and be like “oh, wait. I identify as a man so i’m allowed in here.” Could a man just walk into a women’s lockerroom and say “i’m identifying as a woman.”

    At what point do we sufficiently say it’s okay? The day I decide I’m a man is it okay? 6 months after living as a man is it okay? 1 year? I’m concerned pervy people might try to take advantage of this

    • There are ‘pervy people’ who go to the lingerie section of department stores and attempt to get the female clerks to ‘help’ them pick out panties. Should we not have lingerie sections because of this?

      My point is, yes, there will probably be some pervy people who try to take advantage. But there are already unisex restrooms across the nation, and as we haven’t had a huge upswing in perv-related events, I doubt that it will be enough of a threat to keep us from moving forward with what should already be: people allowed to use the facilities that best represent them. I don’t think it matters how long a person has realized his/her/hir identity, and I highly doubt we’d have any way to gauge that anyway. It’s not like there would be door guards or card scanners or something that says, “You have identified for 124 hours. You may enter.”

  3. Patricia says:

    Gender Neutral Restrooms, or single stall restrooms, are needed everywhere!
    I am a caregiver of one who is opposite gender and have trouble everywhere. Parents of children of different genders have problems with safety issue and just want clean safe restrooms.
    The American Restroom Association, ( “advocates for the availability of clean, safe, well designed public restrooms.
    Our scope of interest includes: Documenting the problems faced by people who avoid activities that put them out of range of proper toilet facilities.
    Restroom(1) design and technology, Restroom availability and accessibility, and Pertinent legislation and regulations.”
    I enjoyed this site for the regulations and examples of companies and the ways the companies do not comply. I have used some of the laws to make sure that access was granted according to the law. ie. “out of order” signs, and “employee only” signs. See the laws that came about because of a New York “Village” incident, and also the new laws which require a large sign indication where the restrooms are.
    PHLUSH and World Toliets are two other websites advocating availability and accessibility through desing and technology.
    All persons need to have safe and accessible restrooms,

  4. Lauren Donna Graham says:

    I am a 67-year-old post-op, male to female transsexual, having transitioned from 2000 to 2002 when I had surgery. For a year, I had to go up 15 floors to use a unisex bathroom, until the company changed their policy. I can only imagine the frustration of a student having to deal with this issue, on top of all the other issues brought on by others who have a problem with someone being trans.

    This being said, I hope that this law has some parameters prevent those who are not trans to use this for evil intent. I am a rape survivor, so having men in the women’s bathroom, who are not trans, concerns me. This is why I have an issue with making public bathrooms unisex. Unisex bathrooms may work in Europe (particularly Scandinavia), but the number of sex crimes in America would make unisex bathrooms here dangerous.

    For a transsexual woman to have to use the men’s bathroom puts her in extreme peril. Statistics show that if a transwoman is physically attacked, there is an over 80% chance that she will be killed outright (as opposed to getting gay bashed), and there is only between a 20% to 25% chance that the crime will be investigated beyond asking a few witnesses if they saw anything, and filing a weak coroner’s report. The arrest of a perpetrator is not likely.

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