A.B. 1266- School Success and Opportunity Act

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 their 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, they does not understand what legitimately constitutes gender.

Having a penis or a vagina does not determine one’s gender.  Being a boy, girl, both, or neither references one’s gender identity, which exists internally. 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 gender, 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 genitals (provided there were modifications made for the elimination of urine), but you can’t function or lead a productive life without a brain, a mind, conscious thought. Minds 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 version of genital show-and-tell. 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, folks. First of all, if this quote references a transfeminine individual 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  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 their assigned 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, regular 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  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 authentic 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.

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d click the “love” button on this if I could! Very well said.

  2. Time for UNISEX PUBLIC TOILETS to be installed everywhere!! No one can complain and everyone is happy!. This will also help fathers taking their daughters to the bathroom,

  3. Reblogged this on de Frémancourt and commented:
    Very thoughtful and well-written piece

  4. Thank you for this article. Please be patient with those of us who are open-minded but just starting to explore this issue. I’m sure you understand that our society has been programmed to connect gender with sex organs. The first thing the doctor does in the delivery room is take a look and announce “it’s a boy” or “It’s a girl”. I am in complete support of recognizing individuals the way they want to be recognized, but I am still thinking through all the layers of this issue. Our society and media put waaayyy too much meaning on genitalia and I see no problem with transgender people using the bathroom they are most comfortable in. Maybe I’m shallow, but as a former high school and college athlete, I see a bigger, though probably rare, problem with sports. If a transgender teen has male genitalia and hormones, won’t they have an advantage playing women’s sports? As a teen, sports was the only thing I excelled at and I would have been resentful if I’d lost track races to a transgender competitor. Again, please be patient with those of us who are new to this issue.

    P.S. It took my husband years to come around to supporting same sex marriage, but he finally got there. Keep up the respectful, informative fight and progress will happen.

    • Great input, thanks Crystal! It’s SO hard to be patient when I see the effects and the pain of discrimination. You are absolutely right, society has been programmed to connect gender with sex organs. My hope is that now that we know better, others will be open to changing their understanding and become educated on this issue before impulsively reacting out of fear and taking away civil rights. I’m sure participation in sports has some kinks to work out. I do know that pre-puberty and post-hormones (a certain number of years), musculature and other things even out. Surely with more understanding and research, guidelines can be established for those who are post-pubescent and pre cross-sex hormones. In the meantime, I can assure you I am patient with those who are trying to understand and who are remaining open minded, even if they don’t fully “get it” yet. When I speak of opponents, I’m mainly speaking of those running the petitions to take away this newfound equality. Thanks again for your feedback!

      • Thank you for raising awareness and advocating for the under represented.

  5. Thank you for this information. We’re now just beginning this process and it’s been difficult to say the least. Information and words like this gives us the tools we need to bravely move forward even though we are scared to death.

    Nikki Carlson

  6. Even though I don’t understand transgender individuals and the thought processes of feeling like a different gender, I am irritated at the people who think that a boy will “just say” he’s a girl to get into the girls locker room. Come on people.

  7. Another great blog Darlene! To the previous commentor, THANK YOU for trying to “understand” and “keep an open mind” to those taking the time to educate yourself on what Transgender encompasses for an individual and family for that matter. I am curious if the law is over turned allowing transgender children and teens to use the school restroom that matches their gender identity, how will California enforce the law that transgender children and teens can not use the restroom that matches their gender identity. Will the State of California hire bathroom monitors? Are parents willing to have these bathroom monitors ask their child/teen to pull down their underwear for a genitals inspection to make sure they are using the correct restroom? These monitors would have to do this everday of the school year. Why you ask? How about the little girl who needs to dress like a boy and cut her hair over the weekend and start the 16th week of school as a “him”. How about the boy who has grown his hair out for most of the school year in preparation for his transition and bravely transitions over Spring break. My point is that this transition could happen any day for these individuals, so you better make sure the bathroom monitor checks everyday. I know this sounds silly, especially since there is probably one transgender student, not in every school, or every other school, not even one in every school district but rather far and few between. As for PE and team sports, well I love the senario about the 6’4 transgender girl on the girls basketball team. It really cracks me up because a high percentage of these kids are on puberty blockers which does not let them grow to 6’4. That is the point, no transgender person transitioning from a male to a female wants to be 6’4 and stick out in the crowd. It is all about trying to halt the hormones that “characteristically” make them match their birth sex. Again, I don’t know of any schools with so many transgender children trying out for sports that it would be “unfair” to the other students trying out for the same sports. As Darlene mentioned, transgender children/teens are not running around the restrooms/locker rooms exposing themselves to their classmates. Believe me, they are looking to be discreet, use a covered stall and take care of a bodily function in a safe environment for them while attending school. The problem here is not with the child/teen, but with our society that views things so very black and white. Again, we are not talking about millions and millions of transgender children/teens. We are talking about providing a safe space for transgender children/teens to use the restroom and locker rooms in schools far and few between. Keep up the wonderful blog and work that you do Darlene! KUDOS!

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    A.B. 1266- School Success and Opportunity Act | Gender Blog by Darlene Tando, LCSW

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