California has become the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender K-12 students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown announced Monday that he had signed AB1266. The 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. "Every time we have legislation that embraces the LGBT community, we reduce stigma, discrimination and prejudice," said Dr. Jill Gover, the director of counseling and wellness programs at the Center in Palm Springs.
The organization works to reach out to the local LGBT community. Dr. Gover works directly with valley schools to provide support for students. "This is a very high-risk population because there's so much dysphoria and discomfort," said Gover. She says 71% of transgender adults have had suicidal thoughts. Advocates hope the new law lowers that number and reduces bullying, but it's not without some controversy.
Detractors said allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students' privacy.
"I wouldn't know what to think," said Benjamin Osuna. I think it'd promote more bullying, because I think the kids are more exposed to certain parts that are normally a little more discreet."
Dr. Gover contends the law will do just the opposite in creating more comfortable and diverse schools. "That's who they are," said Dr. Gover. "I think any transgendered male or female would say, 'I'm male, I'm female."