Transgender students in California may face setback

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Privacy For All Students, a political coalition organized around the effort to repeal AB 1266, the groundbreaking California law that grants transgender students in the state’s public school system the right to use the facilities and programs in a way which honors their gender identity, may have collected enough signatures to suspend the law in lieu of a referendum, which would take place November 2014.

According to California law, the group needs to submit 504,760 valid voter signatures to qualify a referendum, where voters will decide whether to approve or reject the new law, which was signed into effect by Governor Jerry Brown in August 2013.

On Sunday, November 10, PFAS submitted over 620,000 signatures to California state election officials—400,000 were collected by volunteers, and 220,000 by paid staff. The signatures will go through a verification process which includes a raw count, and a random sampling of the signatures to verify their legitimacy. If they pass the review process, the law, which was scheduled to take effect Jan 1, 2014, will be suspended pending a voting referendum which would take place November 2014.

PFAS runs on a platform that distorts the reality of transgender discrimination and the intention behind AB1266, which is to make public school environments safe for gender variant students in the K-12 system.

The language that PFAS uses in the website and petition effort to repeal AB 1266 erases transgender identity by calling into question the validity of a person’s gender identity, and makes false claims about elicit sexual conduct that takes place when such legislation is passed.

AB 1266 “gives students the ability to utilize intimate school facilities such as showers, rest rooms and locker rooms based on their so-called gender identity and not their actual sex,” reads the website.

“Because gender identity is based on feelings and perceptions, he or she can be both transgender and heterosexual at the same time. Because of the lack of requirements, some teens and young adults will undoubtedly game the law,” continues the argument.

The idea that gender identity is invalid, and that the feelings and perceptions of an individual who identifies as transgender are invalid, is prejudiced and grossly discriminatory to the gender variant community.

The ACLU reports that transgender individuals face a wide variety of discrimination on a daily basis, discrimination that most cisgendered people have a profound lack of awareness around. Transgender people have a harder time finding employment, housing, and adequate health care, as well as face daily invalidation of their identity, “like in the simple act of going to a public restroom.”

Speaker of the California State Assembly John A. Pérez released a statement on November 10 addressing PFAS’ attempt to overturn AB 1266 by gathering enough signatures to call for a referendum on the legislation.

“This law is about making sure there is a safe place for transgender students to fully participate in their schools,” he stated.

“For too long, transgender members of our society have suffered through the indignity of exclusion, and this bill rights those wrongs by giving protections that would keep transgender students safe and give them recognition for who they truly are.”

Should the law go to referendum next November, it is likely that PFAS, which has the support of the National Coalition for Marriage, will launch a full scale political campaign to repeal the newly granted rights of transgender students in California.

Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center, the organization behind the push for AB 1266 in California, pointed out that transgender issues are the next in line for a conservative right that that has lost the fight against same-sex marriage.

“The groups behind this referendum effort are the same ones who brought us Prop 8,” said Davis in an email to 429Magazine.

“They know they can’t win on marriage equality, so now they are trying to target our kids. Fair-minded Californians see through this, though, and have no interest in stigmatizing transgender youth…protecting our youth, including transgender youth, is a top priority for the LGBT movement,” he continued.

With the support of the LGB community for transgender individuals being called into question by activists and scholars in public arenas such as the “New York Times,” the time is ripe for a new frontier of LGBT activism, and for a look beyond the current issue of same-sex marriage which mostly benefits gays and lesbians.

Will the rest of the queer community step up for transgender people, or will the fight for marriage rights, and for inclusion of gays and lesbians at higher levels of government and corporate institutions, prove to be the only interest of the gay community?

The fight for AB 1266 in California may be a telling sign.

429Magazine

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