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Proposal would out transgender students

Art by Rachel Lee

Abill, which would require school officials to tell parents if their child identifies as a gender not aligned with government or school records, was re-referred to the California Committee on Education in early March.

Assembly Bill 1314, proposed by Bill Essayli (R), would require schools to notify parents when students participate in sex-segregated facilities and school programs, including athletic teams and bathrooms, that do not correspond with their sex assigned at birth. School officials would also have to notify a student’s parents when they become aware that a student publicly identifies as a gender identity inconsistent to that listed on their government or school records.

Senior Mars Bau, who identifies as nonbinary, said they oppose this bill because it would forcefully out students. They said coming out should be a personal decision.

“Someone’s gender identity, sexuality and anything like that is very personal to them,” Bau said. “It’s really something that no one else has the right to disclose to anyone else.”

California AB 1266, which took effect in January 2014, currently protects transgender students and allows them to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities and use facilities consistent with their gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the student’s records. However, the California Education Code requires that changes to a minor’s name or gender on school records be made by their parent or guardian.

After Mars publicly came out at school, they attempted to change their name on school records without having to disclose the change to their parents.

“On Infinite Campus, ‘Mars’ was put as a nickname in parentheses next to my name,” Bau said. “So I emailed (my counselor), and he (said) I needed to get a form, and I had to sign it, and my parents had to sign it. And that was at a point where I wasn’t comfortable asking them to do that. So I was just like, ‘I’m just gonna leave it.’”

In a March 13 press conference, Essayli said AB 1314 aims to increase transparency between students, parents and schools.

“The law will reset the appropriate relationship between educators and parents and reaffirm that children are the domain of their parents, not the government,” Essayli said.

However, Bau said forcefully outing someone has more problems than benefits.

“Because my parents aren’t queer, they don’t understand the things I’ve been through,” Bau said. “We live in a heteronormative society, so when (parents) are supportive, it’s a nice surprise. But there are a lot of cases where parents aren’t supportive, and they can be more destructive than helpful.”

AB 1314 contains a provision that requires schools “bring parents and guardians into the decision-making process for mental health and social-emotional issues of their children at the earliest possible time in order to prevent or reduce potential instances of self-harm.”

However, senior Reed Jadzinsky, who identifies as male, said the bill would end up causing what it aims to prevent, eliminating the supportive environments many schools have cultivated.

“It will likely increase depression and increase suicidal thoughts or suicidal rates among LGBTQ+ youth,” Jadzinsky said. “When we’re starting to force people to be outed and start forcing adults to tell parents about their kids’ gender, it gets really messy. People need a safe space, and this bill is going to prevent that. A lot of people are going to feel isolated if they can’t talk to their teachers, school counselors or school therapists.”

But at his press conference, Essayli cited a 2023 NPR study that LGBTQ+ youth are less likely to feel depressed when they have parental support, and he said that is another reason he was proposing the bill.

Although Jadzinsky agrees parental support is important for the mental health of transgender youth, he said this bill incorrectly addresses the complex subject of gender identity.

“Parental support is probably one of the most important things when coming out, especially when you’re a kid, since (family) tends to be your biggest support group,” Jadzinsky said. “But I don’t agree with the (idea) that being outed to your parents by school will automatically create parental support.”

Bau said the bill is unlikely to pass given Democratic control of all three of California’s branches of government but the implications of the bill still perpetuate misrepresentation of transgender youth.

“It seems like (Essayli) doesn’t understand what the queer experiences because a lot of it is fear and fear of being rejected,” Bau said. “There’s a huge emphasis on coming out when you’re ready, respecting someone’s decision to come out or not and letting them be in control of that.”

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