A breaking story from the San Jose Mercury News reports that earlier today, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB-1266. This Bill amends the California Education code to allow transgendered students the right to use the bathroom and locker room facilities consistent with their identified gender, as well as the right to choose whether they want to participate in sports on a boys’ or girls’ team.
To put it simply, supporters (such as the ACLU) believe that the law will “reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students,” while opponents contend that the law is a violation of the privacy rights of other students.
I do not attempt to take on either of these camps — instead, here are some pros, cons and points to think on.
1) This is a victory for transgendered students, who are now more able to live as their identified gender.
2) Transgendered students are likely to feel more accepted by society as a whole (even if that society is only the liberal sides of California) because of this law.
3) It forces the issue of equality into the spot light beyond just the same-sex marriage debate, and forces people to realize that there are many other areas in which people are treated differently because of who they are. (This point is based on the acceptance that transgendered individuals are “born in the wrong body,” not that they simple “chose” to be the opposite sex.”)
1) While the ACLU and other supporters maintain that the law will decrease bullying against transgendered students, there is a distinct possibility that the opposite could be true — that targeting of transgendered students will increase. Students who are opposed to or do not understand trans-sexuality may feel threatened by a female-to-male or male-to-female student suddenly in their bathroom or locker room, and this could cause an outbreak of hate crimes across the state.
2) There is a fear that certain individuals will see this as an invite to “claim” transgendered status in order to be peeping toms in locker rooms. Furthermore, there are criticisms that male-to-female individuals, specifically, will have an unfair advantage in sports because they are still physically male (with higher testosterone levels, etc).
To both of these criticisms, an easy solution is to ensure that students claiming transgendered status are on transitional hormones; are actively working with a therapist to assist in their transition; has come out to family members and family members have spoken to the school, etc. Any of these could be used to at least ensure that the student is truly transitioning. Additionally, if the student is on hormones, that will effectively mitigate any physical advantage that a male-to-female student may have in sports.
However, and perhaps not surprisingly given politicians’ general lack of foresight, the bill does not require any of these “control” factors. Now, it can be argued that no one would actually want to claim to be transgendered if they are not because of the social stigma, but it is still within the realm of possibility. The fact that the law does not account for this is a major flaw — it leaves serious gaps that can be exploited by persons looking to make a mockery of trans-sexuality. This is indeed the biggest con of all for the law.
Ultimately, it cannot be denied that this law is an attempted step towards further equality for the LGBT community. However, its lack of structure raises serious questions about how schools should proceed, and it is safe to say that there is still a long road ahead for this issue.
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