The day Assembly Bill 1266 was signed into law by Governor Brown was a very good day in my books. A.B. 1266, otherwise named the “School Success and Opportunity Act”, requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and ensures that students can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs, and facilities that match their gender identity. The issues affected by this bill are not just concepts to me, but things I think about and talk about on a very regular basis. More importantly, I see and hear about the impact this issue has on many different kids and teens all the time.
In my practice, I have heard about a student being told they may not participate in everyday activities at school like changing for PE with the rest of their peers, making them clearly stand out. I have seen kids who feel rejected and ostracized at school because they are forced to use the nurse’s bathroom and may not use the bathroom with their peers. I have had my teen clients tell me they dehydrate themselves and “hold it” all day to avoid having to use the bathroom at all. I have had teen clients have to mask their true gender identity in order to be allowed to continue to play a sport they love and at which they excel. Therefore, you can only imagine my elation when I heard about the bill that will protect students like this. However, not long after the celebration of this victory came the opposition. People speaking up who adamantly oppose the existence of this bill. I (again) find myself surprised at the ignorance and discrimination I hear and read.
Many opponents of this bill have inaccurately named it “The Bathroom Bill” because they seem to ignore the other aspects of equality that are being offered by the bill going into law and focus solely on what it means for transgender students being allowed to use the appropriate bathroom. Therefore, I will focus on that part of the bill in this blog post, for now.
So what are we talking about here? We are talking about girls being able to use the girls’ restroom, and boys being able to use the boys’ restroom. It explicitly states a student may use the facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records. It does not say “all students” can pick which bathroom they want to go in, depending on their mood. We are NOT talking about boys using the girls’ bathroom and girls using the boys’ bathroom. We’re just not. If someone says we are, he or she does not understand what makes someone a boy or a girl.
Having a penis or a vagina does not make someone a boy or a girl. Being a boy or a girl references one’s gender identity, which exists in one’s brain. Talking about genitals only references one’s natal sex. (For more information on this, re-read my post “Gender Vs. Sex”.) For those people who insist having a penis or a vagina is what determines whether someone is a boy or a girl, why?? WHY must genitals trump brains? I don’t understand. What is this focus on genitals? Why do some people act as though what someone has in their pants is more important than what they have in their heads?? I mean, you could function and lead a productive life without a penis or a vagina (provided there were modifications made for the elimination of urine), but you can’t function or lead a productive life without a brain. Brains trump genitals, as they should in the gender debate and many other issues I won’t mention here!
Speaking of being hyper-focused on genitals, people seem to be confused about how transgender people use their genitals in the bathroom. Some seem to think it will be a transgender person’s goal to show off their genitals in the bathroom. I recently read a quote in the LA Times: “What if a kid with a penis is standing at the boys’ urinal wearing a dress and a pretty hair bow?” This is not quite how it’s going to go down, guys. First of all, if this quote references a transgirl and being allowed to use the restroom that matches her gender identity, she would be in the girls’ restroom. There are no urinals in the girls’ restroom. Additionally, transgender children and adults are typically going to be incredibly careful to stay covered when using the restroom. You’d probably have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than seeing a transperson’s genitalia in a public or school restroom.
Others seem convinced a transgender person is going to be interested in looking at other people’s genitals in the bathroom. That whole “man in a dress in the women’s restroom” argument? Only serves to prove the ignorance of the opponents. A transgender woman is not a man in a dress, she is a woman. She likely has the same interest in seeing the genitals of the other women in the restroom as the general population. (How high do you think that is? Pretty low, I would imagine. I’ve not seen a lot of girls/women trying to catch glimpses over the bathroom stalls in all my years of using school and public restrooms, but I digress.)
Want to know how I think a transgender child, teen, or adult uses their genitals in the bathroom? To eliminate urine. Surprise! Oh, and thanks to social stigmatization and ignorance, that same individual will probably do their business and then hurry out of the restroom as fast as possible. Not what I want for the people I care about.
Lastly, I’ve heard and read concerns that a male child or teen may “pretend” to be transgender just to get to use the girls’ restroom. (The fact that no one is worried that a “girl” is going to “pretend” to be a boy just to get a peek in the boys’ bathroom says other negative things about society at large). Let me tell you, I just don’t see that happening. Bear in mind this is not about “I feel like a girl today” or “I feel like a boy today”. This is about a consistent, persistent cross-gender identification that will likely be discussed and explored at length by parents and professionals prior to a child transitioning and therefore using a bathroom different than that in line with their natal sex.
To the opponents: please, sit down. Be quiet. You know not what you do. You are protecting children who do not need protecting and harming children who do. As a professional who has cared for and worked with many transgender kids/teens/families/adults, I know more about this issue than you do. I understand what it means to be transgender more than you do. I understand the bathroom behavior of transgender individuals better than you do. I care about this issue more than you do, and I’m on the other side.
This is about being treated like a decent, normal student along with one’s peers. This is about being able to play on the team in line with one’s gender identity and be included with same-gender peer for activities such a P.E. This is about not forcing a GIRL to play on a boys’ team or not forcing a BOY to be in a girls’ group for P.E.
Even if this bill “sticks”, and I hope it does, everyone is not yet safe. Transgender individuals being “allowed” to use the restroom that matches their brain gender identity is not enough. The understanding of gender identity needs to be increased in the general population. Please, if you care about this issue, speak up. Urge those around you to avoid signing petitions in opposition to this bill. Educate others who may misunderstand what this bill is all about. Consider signing this pledge to support transgender youth. https://www.change.org/petitions/i-support-transgender-students
For more in-depth information about this bill and to read more about “myths” about this bill, please visit: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/news/2013/08/23/72800/californias-new-protections-for-transgender-students/. It’s one of the better articles I’ve read.