The Religious Right in California has found a new fight: manufacturing controversy to oppose a bill that would ensure schools honor trans kids’ rights.
Introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, AB1266 would actually only formalize existing nondiscrimination mandates. Currently, California schools are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of enumerated classes like race, sex and gender identity.
Ammiano’s bill would ensure that there is no ambiguity and that schools must honor a child’s gender identity in access to facilities, sports programs and all sex-segregated activities. This simply adds to a stipulation against sex-segregation that is already enshrined in California’s education code and makes explicit that trans kids are covered.
Trans kids are much more likely to drop out of school at an early age, and part of the reason for this can be the stigma they are made to feel when they are forced by school administrations to use segregated facilities.
Furthermore, when trans kids are made to conform to assigned-sex expectations, they face mounting academic challenges. Sports participation, for instance, is a healthy and constructive way to build physical and social skills.
Trans kids, however, are often given no alternative but to choose between compromising their identity so they can participate in sex-segregated sports or face the academic penalties of refusing. According to trans rights experts, this is a persistent issue.
“We have heard from scores of parents concerned that their children are at risk for dropping out of school merely because they are transgender,” Masen David, Transgender Law Center executive director, is quoted as saying. “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.”
Furthermore, this legislation would only serve to nationalize what is already policy in a number of districts, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. To date these policies have never garnered complaints or any abuses. Yet the Religious Right in California is breathless with objections.
The Capitol Resource Institute, a Sacramento-based group that lobbies for religious conservatives, highlighted Ammiano’s bill in a newsletter sent to its members shortly after the bill was filed. In that newsletter, they reportedly promised to “fight for” students who “object to sharing bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms with students of the opposite sex.”
To be clear, there is nothing in the legislation about sharing showers. This is purely an invention of the Institute. Despite this, Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, has been the go-to for doom mongering for the media.
SF Gate quotes England as saying the idea of being trans “is solely at the discretion of their opinion of themselves. We should not be mandating state law based on that.”
Except gender identity is already defined under state law and would be further defined by a gender dysphoria medical diagnosis if such a diagnosis is warranted, and will be open to clarification during the legislative process.
England is quoted as also saying that being transgender “is really a rare thing.” She then makes the claim: “This drastic, radical mandate on the schools for an extremely rare situation is just hijacking the school system.”
In San Francisco alone, estimates suggest there are around 150 middle school students and 300 high school students who identify as transgender. That’s just one snapshot from one district, and it’s not a figure to be sniffed at.
England, who previously opposed California’s LGBT-history inclusive education law, has a history of anti-gay and anti-trans sentiment. What’s interesting here is that the Capitol Resource Institute is being quite open about its aim to generate a controversy surrounding this bill.
There should be no controversy, though.
There will be no fiscal burden on schools as the bill does not require them to make any facility changes, and this is not a “radical” change to school policy: it only clarifies what is already law in California. Yet, we can still expect another Fair Education Act-style battle as the Religious Right wages a new front for its culture war. Just, let’s not let them pretend this is in any way about child welfare when they are willing to so blatantly disregard the rights of trans kids.
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