In a bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown law on Monday, California has become the first state to require schools to allow transgender students to choose which bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic teams align with their gender identity.
The law was approved by the California Senate in a 21-9 vote last week, CNN reports, and it will go into effect January 1. Among the nine holdouts was Republican senator Jim Nielsen, who suggested "youthful sex offenders" would take advantage of the new law. He's not the only Californian voicing opposition:
"Just because they're confused doesn't mean they have to confuse everybody else," Maria Garcia told CNN affiliate KXTV.
Jordan Borja, a senior at Tokay High School in Lodi, had mixed feelings.
"I would feel uncomfortable if somebody was to walk in the bathroom and they'd be transgender," she told KXTV. "I mean, I'm not against it, but I'd feel really uncomfortable about it."
Note that the student twice repeating his discomfort around transgender students carefully adds that he's "not against it."
But even without unanimous approval, the news constitutes a landmark bill in the thorny area of legal protections for transgender youth, who are frequently excluded or alienated by school facilities and activities because of their gender identity. It's the first state law to specifically address the issue, though a National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director told CNN various states have "general policies to the same effect."
In June, for example, a Colorado first-grader who was born male but identifies as female was allowed to use the girls' bathroom after her parents took the case to the Colorado Rights Division. Calling the decision a "first of its kind ruling in the country regarding the rights of transgender students," CNN pointed to a tangled web of state policies governing transgender students' rights around the country: New York bans student discrimination on the basis of gender identity (though this apparently doesn't extend to letting students decide which bathroom to use), while Maine recently upheld a school's policy not to allow a transgender student to use the girls' bathroom.
Widespread discrimination against transgender students—from classmates, administrators, and even parents—won't likely grind to a halt with the California law's implementation. But as Roger Blake, the California Interscholastic Federation's executive director, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "There's transgender kids playing sports right now. I haven't seen the world come to an end."
Nor will it when they begin using the bathrooms they prefer.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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