Why Trans Kids in California Can Smile This Week
An effort to repeal California’s landmark trans student rights law has likely failed, despite opponents running a dirty campaign filled with anti-trans “bathroom bill” smears.
California’s landmark trans student rights bill, known as AB 1266, appears to have escaped a potential vote at the ballot in November after the state of California announced this week that opponents had failed to submit the necessary number of signatures to trigger a popular vote on the law.
Opponents, a coalition of religious conservative groups under the misleading banner Privacy for All Students, needed at least 504,760 signatures to force a public vote. They submitted 619,387. The initial random sample tally was too close to call, and so California officials began the arduous task of a full signature count. This week they posted that opponents of the law had only managed to amass 487,484 signatures.
Of course, the signature count had been looking on the low-side for quite awhile, so the group Privacy for All Students has for about as long as the count has been going on also been threatening court action when it looks through the signatures and attempts to argue that some that were thrown out were in fact valid.
Said Privacy for All Students in a grandiose release on its website:
After months of waiting, we now get to see why so many signatures were thrown out. Certainly some signers were not registered to vote or had moved without changing their address. But it is also certain that many of those signatures were rejected based on reasons that will not survive a legal challenge. This was not totally unexpected. We knew that we would have to fight to have every valid signature counted. And we have already taken the Secretary of State to court once in this process. In that case, the judge ordered that thousands of signatures be counted. While we prepare for the legal battle ahead to have invalid signatures deemed valid, we should not lose sight of what we are fighting for.
In that short time, the issue has moved beyond California. Across the country, activists are intent on sexually integrating our children’s bathrooms and locker rooms. We are told that this is necessary to relieve the discomfort of a few that are uncomfortable in traditional sex separate facilities. But the much greater number that would have their privacy and safety compromised by this radical change are regarded as irrational or irrelevant. And those that are fighting to keep bathrooms separate are labeled as hateful.
Admittedly, there is an outside chance that Privacy for All Students could find enough signatures to reinstate the ballot initiative but that appears very unlikely.
While Privacy for All Students might lament the fact it has been called hateful, it’s precisely because of its hateful campaign that it has been so dubbed. They have labelled AB 1266 the “Co-Ed Bathroom Law” and have incorrectly peddled the idea that boys will now, on a whim, be able to go into female facilities simply by saying they “feel” that they are girls themselves. This, Privacy for All Students says, will lead to emotional and even physical abuses and must be guarded against. At no point have they produced any evidence for these assertions despite the fact that many schools in California already had similar policies to AB 1266 already on the books.
Furthermore the law, signed by Governor Jerry Brown last year, went into effect on January 1, 2014. As we might have predicted, no such verifiable instances of abuse have occurred. In fact, we have seen what the full breadth of the law really means to those students it was designed to protect, and in turn how if anything it will benefit other students.
As mentioned above AB 1266 wrote into law what was already policy for many California schools, saying that trans students must have access to sports, gym classes, locker rooms and bathrooms based on their gender identity and not their biological sex. Essentially, this law is simply meant to allow children to live gender affirmed and use the facilities and be part of the teams with which they consistently identify. It also gives schools a guideline in order to make policies throughout California uniform on this issue, ensuring consistency as children might move around the state.
Given that people who were assigned the wrong gender at birth tend to have higher discrimination, joblessness and suicide rates in adult life, helping to facilitate safe-spaces for kids as they figure out their own identities is a worthy goal.
Prior to the legislation coming into force, hearings were employed to establish why this legislation is so important. At one of those hearings, Manteca High School student Ashton Lee gave his testimony as to why this legislation mattered to him. Speaking as a trans youth, he told lawmakers:
“My school separates 10th grade boys into core or team sports, and 10th grade girls into fundamentals of dance or aerobics. I’ve been systematically placed in a class of all girls. Every day, going to that class I’m reminded that I’m different. I leave feeling alone and devastated, making it extremely hard to focus on my other classes. I’ve had two desperate attempts to change my schedule, and get out of the class, but my school was unwilling to change my schedule.
You can watch Lee’s full testimony below and really get a sense of how concrete the need for AB 1266 is:
Perhaps what is the most galling for Privacy for All Students is the fact that its “bathroom bill” campaign didn’t work like it might have only a few years ago. After all, going after children looked like a safe bet. Indeed, it was in part the “Think of the Children” line that helped pass Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage in 2008. However, in just a few short years the American public has seen the fruits of Proposition 8, and California residents are unlikely to want yet another ballot battle.
Also, America is starting to see what it means to be transgender through thoughtful depictions in the media. By no means has this yet eradicated discrimination and flat out prejudice–Privacy for All Students’ campaign attests to that fact–but it has meant that attacking trans children and punishing them so you can keep your prejudice alive doesn’t seem to have caught on like it might have once.
Sadly though, we can’t conclude that the bathroom bill meme’s time is through. This is California where, despite a conservative vein, social politics is liberal. There are many other states that are incredibly hostile for trans kids, and some states that refuse to recognize they have trans citizens at all, Tennessee, Idaho and Ohio for example.
Yet California’s landmark AB 1266 isn’t alone. There are efforts in other states to protect trans students, and slowly those will be rolled out across the US–and the longer that AB 1266 stays in force, the longer there is a living, breathing example that protecting trans students rights is, at its heart, good for all students.
Photo credit: Thinkstock.