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Arturo Garcia Sierra, Spring 2014

Controversial California law brings change for some transgender youth

Transgender Activist Amber Tiffany-Furuya at a rally against the AB 1266 referendum. Weeks later, AB 1266 supporters gathered at the same street to celebrate the referendum's failure. Photo by Arturo Garcia Sierra

Transgender Activist Amber Tiffany-Furuya at a rally against the AB 1266 referendum. Weeks later, AB 1266 supporters gathered at the same street to celebrate the referendum’s failure. Photo by Arturo Garcia Sierra

Transgender youth in San Diego are now able to use the restroom or locker room with which they identify, since the adoption of Assembly Bill 1266 in August 2013 despite opposition from groups who don’t approve of the change.

The act was challenged by groups that nicknamed it the co-ed bathroom bill; their main concern was, well, allowing transgender youth inside the bathroom they identify their gender with.

The Trans Umbrella

The term transgender is an umbrella term for people who associate with both genders, neither gender or go back and forth.

By law, schools now have to affirm transgender students’ identity by allowing them to use whichever type of facility the school provides. If schools provide only gendered restrooms – female- or male-identified facilities – they aren’t accommodating all of the transgender community.

A common misconception is that the transgender community is comprised of only transgender women or transgender men, but “genderqueer” people are also part of the transgender gender identity. The term surfaced in the mid 1990s and it’s derived from earlier concepts such as androgyny.

Hillcrest Youth Center Coordinator Sophia Arredondo said a way for schools to be inclusive is providing gender neutral bathrooms for genderqueer students.

VIDEO: Arredondo says schools need to create gender neutral bathrooms to accommodate genderqueer students. A gender neutral bathroom does not identify or segregate between genders, so it works for people who don’t wish to identify with a gender.

Amber Tiffany-Furuya, who is the graduate student assistant at San Diego State’s Pride Center and identifies as a genderqueer person, said genderqueer students struggle because these facilities are difficult to find in K-12.

VIDEO: Tifany-Furuya said making all bathrooms gender neutral is a way to not make genderqueer students feel marginalized. Some schools opt to provide a gender neutral bathroom in the teacher’s lounge or principal’s office.

Hillcrest Youth Center Volunteer Will Williams said AB 1266 does not ignore genderqueer youth, but the schools without the proper facilities for these students do. The law is crafted with language that allows schools to create gender neutral bathrooms, so genderqueer can use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

VIDEO: Williams said it’s up to the schools to apply AB 1266 in a way that includes all students, including those who do not wish to identify with a gender. 

A failed referendum

Opponents attempting to repeal AB 1266 through a petition drive argue that the bill is “an invasion of student privacy to open sensitive school facilities such as showers, restrooms and locker rooms to students of the opposite sex.”

Soon after Gov. Brown signed the bill in August 2013, AB-1266 opponents called for a veto in support of what they say is privacy for all students.

A total 504,760 valid signatures were required for the veto to pass. They failed to collect enough valid signatures, which would have placed AB 1266 in the hands of voters in November.

Although more than 600,000 signatures opposing the bill were collected statewide, the petition fell about 17,000 short of the 504,760 required because 20 percent of the signatures were deemed invalid.

According to the Office of the Secretary of Senate, invalid signatures are those duplicated or belonging to non-registered voters.

San Diego was among the top five Southern California counties where more than 50 percent of the valid signatures to repeal AB 1266 were collected. The county with the most valid signatures collected was Los Angeles.

San Diego County gathered 12 percent of the total valid signatures collected in California, the second-to-highest signatures collected in a single county. Los Angeles County was number one with 20 percent of the total valid signatures.

Bill opponents collected signatures in four San Diego County spaces, including the El Cajon office of Republican State Senator Joel Anderson.

Zane Mitchell, who interns at Anderson’s office, said the office was listed because the senator wanted the petition to be more available for people to sign . Mitchell signed the petition because, he said, there are already accommodations for transgender students in K-12 such as using the bathroom inside the teacher’s lounge.

“I don’t understand it,” Mitchell said. “There is no reason for it to be on the books, but I understand arguments on both sides.”

Other two locations that served as distribution centers are the East Clairemont Southern Baptist Church and the Salt & Light Council San Diego headquarters.

Several attempts to interview opponents of the bill were declined. Salt & Light Council President Dran Reese didn’t grant an interview because she said, via email, the media doesn’t portray her side with “the heart of love we have for the natural order of the family and God’s intended plan.”

“We as Christians are made out to be bigots, hate mongers and are persecuted for believing in what God says in the Bible,” Reese wrote. “We are the victims of harassment and intimidation by the homosexual community.”

The bill survives

There were cheers, chants and car honks at the corner of University and 6th Avenue in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood as leaders from the LGBT-rights canvassing nonprofit Canvas for a Cause unified with community members to celebrate AB 1266’s stay February 2014.

Activists lined up with signs at 6th Avenue after the referendum to defeat AB 1266 failed. The news came minutes prior to Canvas for a Cause’s scheduled rally.

Among large, colorful banners that read pro transgender-rights speech. Kelly Barnes, San Diego Unified Council’s Parent Teacher Association historian, stood next to her 4-year-old son, each holding small cardboard signs that showed PTA’s solidarity.

“If there is bigotry at your school, where do people learn it from? Their families,” Barnes said. “That’s where people are learning the bigotry and that’s who wants to be in charge of the bake sale. We’re working on this generation; they can be different. There is a toe in the door.”

Barnes said the school district’s PTA voted to rally with Canvas of a Cause in support of AB 1266.

The six points of the new law

Although the bathroom choice is drawing the most attention, the new bill makes six amendments to the California Education Code; only one of them concerns bathrooms. The following is a list of the amendments and how they could be applied.

                           Amendment                                                                                                                                                What it means

Class, including non academic or elective courses, are to be conducted without regard to the sex of the student. No more lining up boys apart from girls.
Students cannot not be prohibited enrollment to a class because of their sex. Boys can take pottery; girls can take carpentry.
School districts cannot require students of one sex to enroll in a particular class, unless the same class is also required to students of the opposite sex. Boys and girls must take pottery and carpentry.
A school counselor, teacher, instructor, administrator or aide cannot offer career or higher education guidance to a student of one sex that is different to the guidance offered to a student of the opposite sex. School personnel working in career counseling should explore possibility of careers or higher education that are nontraditional to that student’s sex. Counselor must talk to boys about becoming a nurse and tell girls about engineering.
Particular physical education activities or sports required to students of one sex should be available to students of each sex. If boys can have a football team, so should girls.
All student should be allowed to participate in programs, activities, athletic teams and competitions that have been traditionally and are commonly sex-segregated. Students should use facilities consistent with their gender identity, regardless of the gender listed on the student’s records. No activity is limited to gender. Also, transgender youth can use which ever bathroom or locker room with which they identify.





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