Politics

Editorial: Bills intended to shame and scare transgender students are despicable

Republican lawmakers across the nation have introduced more than 400 bills to restrict the rights of LGBTQ people in the current legislative cycle, according to Human Rights Watch. One of them is Assembly Bill 1314, an odious proposal by California Assemblymembers Bill Essayli (R-Corona) and James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) to compel teachers, counselors and other school staff to notify parents if their kid is transgender.

Apparently the state’s Republicans aren’t quite as concerned with privacy as they pretend.

Under the bill, notification would be triggered if any school employee finds out that a student is identifying as a gender other than what is on official school records or if a student participates in a sex-segregated school program or athletic team or uses facilities that don’t align with the student’s official gender. Converting school staff into the gender police will do nothing to improve education and add yet another task to already overworked schoolteachers and other staff.

The bill runs also counter to California’s anti-discrimination laws intended to protect LGBTQ students, which prohibits schools from disclosing a student’s transgender identity, even to parents, without consent. And with good reason. Disclosing a student’s transgender identity means they are more likely to be harassed and bullied, and may violate the student’s right to privacy.

Happily, such a hateful bill is unlikely to advance in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature, and was likely filed only to rile up California liberals who still believe that all people have the same rights to privacy and bodily autonomy no matter their gender or sexual orientation.

But what’s chilling is that bills targeting transgender youth do have a shot at becoming law in other states. Just this week, the Republican-controlled Georgia Legislature sent to the governor an anti-transgender bill barring certain gender-affirming healthcare for minors. Despite opposition from medical groups such as the American Medical Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatricians, which say that these healthcare procedures are medically necessary to help transgender people stay healthy, similar bills have been passed in Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee.

It’s no wonder that the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and Equality California are among the groups who have denounced the bill for its potential to cause serious harm to transgender students. These students are at higher risk of considering suicide, particularly when they do not feel supported at home and school. And that’s sadly common; only 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youths feel that their home is supportive, according to a national survey on youth mental health by the Trevor Project. Students should have the freedom to decide to reveal their gender identity when they feel that they are in a supportive environment and not one that will trigger negative repercussions.

Shame on these California legislators for pushing a mean-spirited bill to score political points from their conservative constituency. Laws intended to punish students who express gender nonconforming behavior have no place in California or elsewhere.

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