by Annamarya Scaccia
September 10, 2013
On August 12, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the School Success and Opportunity Act (AB 1266), enshrining transgender students’ legal rights to full access of school facilities and sports programs. The first piece of legislation of its kind in the United States, AB 1266 requires California schools to allow transgender and gender non-conforming K-12 youth to use bathrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams that match their gender identity.
Just four days before, though, the University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted, without public discourse, to ban gender-neutral housing, save for married couples and siblings, on all 16 of the university system’s campuses. The ban, which happened in the face of a gender-inclusive housing policy green lit by UNC Chapel Hill, arrived on the heels of a failed bill introduced in April that would have accomplished much of the same. One of the bill‘s sponsors, Sen. David Curtis (R-Gaston), even dubbed the concept of such housing “frivolous social experiments.”
The Landscape for Transgender Students
The current educational rights landscape for transgender and gender non-conforming students is uneven. While victories are coming out of California and Colorado, where transgender 6-year-old Coy Mathis won the right to use the girls’ bathroom, other states are working to dismantle or at the very least curb lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. From Tennessee’s botched “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would’ve banned primary and secondary school faculty from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the choice by Pennsylvania’s Red Lion Area School District not to read transgender student Issak Wolfe’s assumed name at graduation (not to mention listing him as a prom queen, instead of a king, candidate), transgender students are facing more roadblocks in guaranteeing equal representation and protection.
Calls received by the Transgender Law Center from transgender youth who’ve experienced discrimination and exclusion in school are often similar, Mark Daniel Snyder, communications manager for the California-based civil rights nonprofit, told RH Reality Check. Transgender and gender non-conforming students frequently report having to use a secluded or faraway bathroom, are banned from participating in school sports and extracurricular programs, or are prohibited from using other school facilities matching their gender identity.