AB 1266 is a new California bill approved by Governor Jerry Brown this past August to allow students to participate in school programs and activities, and use the appropriate facilities consistent with their gender identity. Opponents of the bill have submitted a petition to the state to put the initiative on the 2014 ballot; thus, keeping the legislation from going into effect on January 1, 2014. Each of California’s 58 counties was required to count the signatures to verify their validity and determine whether or not they have enough to repeal the law.
Through our TransYouth Speak project, Survivors’ Truths supports young transgender people to raise awareness on the issues they face and challenge the dominant narratives in society about them. Transphobia is a real issue for the transgender community and AB 1266 was enacted to address this. We have learned many transgender students drop out of school because of bullying and other social stresses, but the collective impact of basic logistical challenges such as navigating restrooms can be just as harmful. This law is an effort to ensure all California students can use all restrooms and other gender segregated facilities, and be equally comfortable as any other student.
However, AB 1266 opponents have contested otherwise by making unfounded assumptions of the effects the law will generate. Transgender youth and allies find one of the suggestions that male students will falsely claim a female identity to be allowed into girls’ facilities to be quite silly, but it is many of the people who have less experience interacting with transgender individuals who believe such a scenario is likely to occur. These assumptions fly in the face of the successful implementation of the same transgender policies in the San Francisco Unified District of the early 1990s, and in the Los Angeles Unified School District of almost a decade ago. Happily, there have been no major problems caused by policies granting transgender youth the same rights granted to all students. With precedence, we are assured the negativity directed towards the legislation is based on fear rather than reality.
Regardless, the stereotypes persist. Transphobic pundits continue to offer unsubstantiated arguments to negatively influence those without any knowledge of transgender society into believing false stereotypes and verifiably untrue anecdotal “evidence.” AB 1266 is clearly not an act to promote perversion amongst our children, nor is it an effort to invade a young girl’s privacy in a school restroom. Rather, it is an attempt to pursue equality for marginalized and misunderstood individuals. Our communities are built on equality and acceptance; if we wish to be true to our principles, then AB 1266 should be upheld to maintain a transgender friendly environment.
AB 1266 demonstrates a willingness to move away from unfriendly ideals, but the opposition we are witnessing shows how much more we have to do to bridge the gap.