California's really on a roll these days. On Wednesday, the state Senate passed a bill 21-9 which would allow transgender students in public schools to choose which teams they join—and which bathrooms they use—based entirely on their gender identity.
Bill AB1266 would allow students in state public schools ”to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities based on their self-perception, regardless of their birth gender.”
Although that policy is followed in some other areas of the country—Massachusetts and Connecticut both have similar practices that protect transgender discrimination—this would be the first time a state has actually made it a law.
The bill was carried by Senator Mark Leno, who said: "We know that these particular students suffer much abuse and bullying and denigration. We can't change that overnight, but what we can do is make sure that the rules are such that they get a fair shake."
One such boy is 16-year-old transgender boy Ashton Lee, who said in a statement emailed by the Transgender Law Center: “I just want to be treated the same as all the other boys, but my school forces me to take P.E. in a class of all girls and live as someone I’m not. I can’t learn and succeed when every day in that class leaves me feeling isolated and alone.”
But not everyone agreed with Leno.
Senators Steve Knight and Rod Wright claimed that boys might abuse the new policy by sneaking into girls' bathrooms or locker rooms. They also suggested that weaker male athletes might choose to play on female teams, just so that they could win more easily. Really.
"There are kids out there that are struggling, that are having difficult times," Knight said. "But there are also kids that are going to take advantage of the system."
Luckily, there were some people on the Senate floor who made sense.
"To date there's been no single reported incident of any misconduct," said Senator Ricardo Lara. "Let's not confuse silly behavior issues with sensitive gender identity issues."
The bill had already passed the Assembly, and now it goes to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature.