Last year, California Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill allowing transgender students to choose between segregated sports teams, restrooms and locker rooms based on the gender that they most identify with. This law went into effect for kindergarten through 12th grade students in California this January.
Many people who support this law argue that it makes school a more comfortable place for students. “For many teens, especially those that are struggling with their sexual and/or gender identity, high school can be seen as an unfriendly and uneasy place,” senior Lyndsey Romjue said. “But with the new California laws, even if students choose not to switch sport teams or whatnot, there is definitely some small amount of hope and comfort that comes with knowing that you do have those options.”
To understand exactly what this law is saying, one has to understand whom it may affect. There are three major classifying terms: sex, gender identity, and gender expression. Sex refers to the biological parts and chromosomes of a person. Gender identity refers to a person’s psychological identification as male, female or other. Gender expression refers to all of the external characteristics that are viewed as either masculine or feminine. Transgender is an umbrella term that includes people who are transsexual, crossdressers or otherwise gender non-conforming. Transgender literally means ‘across gender’, meaning that sex, gender identity or gender expression don’t all fall into the same category.
Prior to this law, students were only permitted to use gender-segregated facilities that matched the sex listed on their birth certificates. The new California transgender law is receiving mixed reactions. Gay and transgender rights groups view it as a major step up for the rights of students, while others see it as too large of a change.
“I think its a great idea, but a little risky in the teenage environment … Although I believe that transgenders should have the right to go participate in whatever they want, I also see how it may be a little uncomfortable for a girl having a guy in a bathroom or vice versa,” said Lecya Tyaglo, President of Tam’s Gay-Straight Alliance.
“The answer is not to force something this radical on every single grade in California,” executive director of Capitol Resource Institute, a non-profit organization that provides education and advocacy for family values, Karen England said.
A survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality showed that nearly 90 percent of gender nonconforming people report harassment and 41 percent of the more than 6,400 respondents said they had attempted suicide, compared to a rate of 1.6 percent for the general population.
“Any law that basically supports someone being who they are and acting in a natural way is a good thing, now we just have to figure out how to support that in a tangible fashion,” Tam counselor Alex Hunt said.
On the other side of the argument, teacher and parent from Dunlap, California, Gwenn Sutherland, told WORLD News Group why this law violates student’s privacy.“This law caters to a minority while putting the majority at risk,” Southerland said. “This is about parents who love their kids, who value their privacy, and want them to feel safe when they drop them off at school.”
Since this is a relatively new law, the outcome on California as well as the Tam Community is still unclear but the overall hope is to ensure a safe environment for students.