Breakthrough for Transgender Students' Rights in California

California made history on Monday in passing a bill proponents herald as an important breakthrough in transgender rights that will help chip away at systemic bias and violence against transgender students and make significant improvements towards equal access to education for transgender youth.

The bill, AB 1266, requires schools to respect transgender students’ gender identities, including allowing them full participation in sex-segregated activities and use of sex-segregated facilities as their current genders—not the sex they were assigned at birth.

This means they can join the sports teams and use the bathrooms that reflect their gender identities.

“In reality, this is about the safety of our trans students,” Ben Hudson of the Gender Health Center told the CBS Sacramento Affiliate. “These students are often in fear of their own safety, and their own protection. They’re concerned about being bullied in school.”

“I’m so excited that California is making sure transgender students have a fair chance to graduate and succeed,” said Calen Valencia, an 18-year-old transgender student from Tulare. “I should have graduated this year, but my school refused to give me the same opportunity to succeed as other boys. Now other transgender youth won’t have to choose between being themselves and graduating high school.”

The bill, which will go into effect January of next year, was backed by dozens of organizations, including teacher and parent groups, as well as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU of California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Equality California, Gender Spectrum and Transgender Law Center.