Proposed California bill threatens mental health, rights of transgender students

In early March, California State Assembly Bill 1314, which would require schools to notify parents if their child identifies as transgender, was proposed by Assemblyman Bilal Essayli. If signed into law, the bill says schools would need to notify parents “within three days of discovering students identify at school as a gender that does not align with the child’s sex on their birth certificate.”

This bill would endanger transgender students by forcefully outing them to their families, and The Campanile urges legislators to vote no on its passage. This bill, along with a March 24 House bill that would require schools to obtain parental consent before honoring a student’s request to change their gender, demonstrates a distressing future for the mental health and civil liberties of LGBTQ students.

Luckily, due to California’s liberal majority in the state House and Senate and the state’s general support of the LGBTQ community, The Campanile sees AB 1314 as unlikely to pass. Still, it is distressing to think that we still have politicians who continue to not understand nor support the LGBTQ community.

Essayli claims that his bill will help parents better support their transgender child. In a March 13 press conference, he cited a 2023 NPR study, which found that parental support can help decrease depression in LGBTQ youth.

However, this claim stems from the assumption that parents will be supportive of their LGBTQ child after they come out, which is definitely a flawed assumption. According to a 2016 study led by developmental psychologist and researcher Sabra Katz-Wise, only one-third of LGBTQ youth received support from their parents while another one-third experienced parental rejection. The final one-third, according to this study, didn’t reveal their LGBTQ identity until adulthood.

Essayli also says his bill would improve communication between transgender students, parents and schools, improving social and academic success while also reducing the potential for self-harm.

Yet this claim once again neglects the reality that many parents may be unsupportive of transgender youth. The threat of parental rejection may even increase the potential dangers that transgender youth encounter in their lives.

For example, a 2015 study published through the Williams Institute examined the results of the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Provider Survey, a survey of 138 youth homelessness human service agency providers. The study found 67% of the agencies’ transgender clients became homeless after they were either forced out of their homes by their parents or ran away because their parents wouldn’t accept their sexual orientation.

Furthermore, the Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found only 32% of transgender youth identify home as a gender-affirming space, while 51% identify school as a gender-affirming space. For students who are not yet ready to come out to their families, AB 1314 would force them to become more closeted at school too, turning both homes and schools into unsafe spaces for gender expression.

If the goal of the Assembly Bill really is to improve communication between parents and youth with regard to gender identification, it should contain provisions that require better parental support for transgender youth. Some methods could include increasing access to information about LGBTQ teens through school-sponsored programs and providing counseling services for parents. Once parents become more supportive, transgender youth can be more comfortable expressing their gender identities at home, and improved communication will ensue.

AB 1314 does not protect transgender youth and instead would cause more harm to their well-being. The bill is based on the faulty assumption that parents will support their transgender child. The Campanile hopes governments at both the state and federal levels will avoid endangering the safety of already vulnerable transgender individuals and instead create solutions that truly protect them.