Throughout President Donald Trump’s time on the campaign trail and in his acceptance speech, he pledged to protect the LGBT community from violence and oppression.
However, Feb. 22, Trump revoked a cornerstone of the Obama administration: the federal guideline specifying transgender students’ right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity.
Despite this change, transgender students in California are still free to use their preferred bathroom because state law allows it.
In 2013, California state lawmakers enacted AB 1266, a law specifying transgender students’ right to participate in school activities and use the bathrooms or locker rooms for the gender with which they identify.
Although he warns that someone can never say that they are “fully protected under the law,” local attorney Douglas Heumann said that transgender students are covered in California.
According to Title IX, students are federally protected from being subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex. In California, state courts ruled that sex discrimination laws such as Title IX also cover discrimination against transgender people.
When it comes to LGBT rights in California, the biggest argument is around laws such as AB 1266 and the Fair Act that directly affect schools. The Fair Act “requires that California K-12 schools provide Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful representations of people with disabilities and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in history and social studies curriculum.”
“Our state has many more protected classes including gender identity and expression. It’s going to hurt the other states that don’t have the protections we do and that’s sad,” Heumann said.
The question of bathroom use is an important one for transgender people around the nation. According to Tammy Cravit, a local transgender advocate and author, the reality is transgender people are overwhelmingly likely to be the victims of violence in bathrooms.
Cravit is a co-facilitator of Trans Tuesdays, a weekly meeting open to those questioning their sexual or gender identity. The support group discusses topics all around the gender spectrum as an extension of Tranz Central Coast– an organization dedicated to providing resources and support to transgender people locally while advocating for the community at large.
“We’re proposing a law in different states that has a measurable negative effect on the lives of transgender people and doesn’t solve a nonexistent problem,” Cravit said. “It’s not going to stop predators from victimizing women. What those laws really seem to come down to is being about expressing moral disapproval for the fact that somebody is transgender.”
In San Luis Obispo
Throughout the San Luis Obispo Unified School District, bathrooms haven’t been misused, according to Director of the Student Support Services Program Chris Dowler.
“We don’t have boys wanting to use the girls’ dressing room or anything like that,” Dowler said. “All of these fears that people have just don’t realistically play out and haven’t in our schools.”
There are transgender students throughout the district’s elementary, middle and high schools. The district hasn’t received a lot of pushback since the gender inclusive state laws were implemented, Dowler said.
“I believe that most of their peers know who they are, and quite honestly, probably a lot of the parents do,” Dowler said. “We haven’t really heard a lot of people upset with the fact that these students are going to have to exercise their rights and access to the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.”
To Jessica Lynn, the emergence of anti-transgender laws sends a dangerous message of disapproval to an already marginalized population.
Lynn is a transgender woman and public speaker based in Santa Maria. Since losing parental rights over her youngest child, she has dedicated her life to public speaking, sharing her story and spreading awareness for the transgender community. She describes herself as the only biological parent in United States history to have her name removed from her child’s birth certificate for being transgender, as reported by The Huffington Post.
While Trump revoking the Obama administration’s federal guidelines won’t likely have a large effect locally, the symbolism is still a potent remark to the transgender community.
“The transgender community is one of the most vulnerable communities,” Lynn said. “Bathrooms are just the opening door. It’s discrimination in the workplace, for health care, housing.”