California Schools Prepare for Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law Changes*
By Joshua M. Patton
Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a controversial bill that would require schools to recognize transgender students’ rights to choose to play on sports teams and use bathroom facilities that correspond to their self-perception and not their biological gender. In essence, anything in school that is sex-segregated would be open to students who otherwise might be restricted from them. For example, a biological male who identifies as a female would be permitted to use female bathroom and locker room facilities and try out for the sports and activities typically limited to female-only participants (and vice versa).
Shortly before the Christmas holiday, Fox News reported that groups opposed to this law filed a lawsuit, claiming that county governments are ignoring their petition to subject the law to a referendum – as California has done in the past with other controversial legislation such as Proposition 8, legalizing gay marriage. The filers say that they collected and submitted 620,000 signatures in order to put the referendum on the November 2014 ballot, 115,000 more than is typically required. However the governments say that they are either still “reviewing” signatures or, as is the case with the signatures dropped off in Mono County, they were not delivered in time.
So while challenges are likely to continue, the law goes into effect New Year’s Day, and, according to NPR, school officials across the state are left unsure of how to proceed. Perhaps though, the real problem with anti-discrimination legislation and policies is not that these kids are transgender, but that they’re kids. According to KTVU, the West Contra Costa Unified School Board is considering altering their anti-discrimination policy after (what else) a video of a school fight found its way to the internet.
What was originally deemed a “hate crime” against a transgender female (biologically male) student may actually have been a result of that student’s physical aggression. However, there are conflicting reports wherein the transgender student may have hit one of the three girls first, prompting her friends to rally to her defense. The question then becomes if this fight was borne from the fears and ignorance that fuels discrimination or the fears and ignorance that is ubiquitously part of adolescence?
This is the main problem that the current debate ignores. The opposition’s suggestion that this law could lead to the violation of students’ privacy displays an inherent ignorance to the transgender perspective. “Boys” in “girls” locker rooms—which seems to be the go-to example, the opposite somehow not as “bad”—seem to imply that privacy violations don’t apply to kids of the same gender. Changing or showering in a room with strangers can be disconcerting to anyone even slightly body-insecure. Transgender students are not going to be flaunting their physiological differences, and might very well be the most bashful person in the room.
There is a chance if the lawsuit brings about a ballot initiative that the measure would be defeated, again like Proposition 8. Thus if the similarity continues, the California courts would most likely end up ruling that such discrimination was unconstitutional in the first place.