California has become the first state in the nation to allow boys and girls access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice — regardless of their gender.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced Monday that he had signed AB1266 – seen as a landmark decision for transgender Americans. The new law gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.
Supporters said the law will help reduce bullying against transgender students. It comes as the families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts around the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use.
Detractors said allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students’ privacy.
“We stand ready and willing to defend anyone who will be victimized as a result of this new law,” said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. “That includes someone whose privacy rights are violated in the bathroom, in the locker room, in the showers, or someone who is prevented from playing on a sports team because someone from the opposite gender took their place.”
Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute said the law forces “San Francisco values on all California schools.”
“This is a very radical idea,” she said. “You’re going to have first-grade boys going to the restroom next to first-grade girls without any supervision.”
England said the law would allow students of any gender to access public school bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. It would also students to participate in sports activities based on “that student’s assertion that he or she identifies as having a different private sense of their own gender regardless of their biological gender at birth.”
San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said the law simply clarifies existing non-discrimination provisions in the education code. He said districts must offer transgender students equal access to programs and facilities based on their gender identity.
“No student can learn if they feel they have to hide who they are in school,” he said in a statement.
He identified gender identity as a “person’s internal, deeply-rooted identification as male or female.”
England said parents or students who feel uncomfortable with their daughters showering next to boys – are being accused of being bigots.
“And now if a girl doesn’t want to shower with a boy, there’s something wrong with you,” She said.
The assemblyman’s office provided a statement acknowledging that some parents and students may be uncomfortable with the law.
“Discomfort is not an excuse for discrimination,” he said in a statement.
Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told SF Weekly that California is “blazing the trail for transgender young people and their families.”
“This a watershed moment not only for California, but for the entire nation,” she told the newspaper.”The public’s understanding and acceptance of transgender youth have grown exponentially in the past few years, and today’s law is a huge step forward in ensuring that these young people are truly welcomed and included in our state’s public schools.”
With reporting from Associated Press