Governor signs transgender student rights bill

SAN DIEGO – Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Monday allowing transgender students in California the right to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities.

Assembly Bill 1266 will take effect on January 1, 2014. The bill allows kindergarten through 12th grade transgender students to use whatever bathroom and participate in sports they believe matches their gender identity.

It’s a big change from what Blue Montana had to do as a student.

Montana, who was born a woman, but now identifies as a man, said he is hopeful for the future of the transgender community.

“I wasn’t that little girl that got up every morning and went to school,” said Montana. “I was a little boy inside that was just trying to be who I was and back in the early 1980s, that wasn’t understood.”

“I couldn’t play football,” said Montana. “I was stuck on the girls’ softball team. Did I want to do that? No. But I didn’t have a choice.”

LGBTAssembly Bill 1266 is not the first of its kind. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington and Colorado also have policies to protect transgender youth. California is the first to address the issue for public schools statewide.

“California has been on the leading edge of a number of equality issues for the LGBT community,” said Stephen Whitburn, General Manager of San Diego LGBT Pride. “This is just another example of that. And another reason we as Californians can be proud of the way we treat other people.”

Whitburn said amending a law doesn’t always mean immediate change.

“We hope to see this expand across the country,” said Whitburn. “A law is only a law. While this provides legal protection to these young people, we have to make sure these students and teachers in these schools actually respect that person for who they are. And that’s what the transgender people want just like anybody wants.”

Something Montana and the rest of the LGBT community hope will happen with time.

“I think it’s about changing minds and hearts one at a time and embracing change, equality, and understanding that people are different. Now that they have access to resources [like the LGBT Community Center], it’s easier for the parents to help the kids. I think it will hopefully be easier for society to stand behind the parents to let them raise their child as they were born to be.”

There were many opponents of this bill, including the California Catholic Conference, California Federation of Republican Women and three anti-gay groups. They said this would push the “radical LGBT agenda” onto children through the public school system.

However, LGBT groups said this is a huge step forward for their community.