On August 12, Governor Jerry Brown signed State Assembly Bill 1266, which defends the rights of transgender students in public schools by giving them the rights to choose which bathroom or locker room to use and to compete in sports according to their gender identities.
California is now the first state to enforce transgender rights through law. Although statewide statistics are unknown, a study in the San Francisco school district showed that out of 55,000 students, about 350 identify as transgender. Supporters say the law will improve the safety of transgender students as the law will decrease bullying against them.
Many have praised the bill, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
A transgender student at Folsom Lake Community College, Devon Marchant, told CNN that “…I believe this will give [transgender students] the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities or sports without fear of discrimination or prejudice…”
Yet the law has also raised concerns.
Sabrina Wu, a sophomore at Whitney High School, expressed worries about the potential impact on competitiveness in high school sports, “I think it would be unfair to allow a transgender woman compete against another woman. She may have certain advantages, such as broader shoulders or longer legs.”
Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute of Sacramento, has voiced a different fear, saying, “No 13-year-old girl should ever have to worry about a 16-year-old boy entering showers where she’s showering on the pretext that he is a she.”
Despite these objections, however, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) spokesman Troy Flint has said that “human rights are non-negotiable.”
Moreover, Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD) has received no complaints of inappropriate incidents involving transgender students or students posing as transgender since implementing an identical policy in 2005. And while transgendered athletes may have competitive advantages in some sports, the small number of transgender students suggests that the number of transgender athletes will also be small.
The new law will officially go into effect on January 1, 2014.