By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com December 17 2013 3:51 PM ET
Although the status of California’s School Success and Opportunity Act, a bill designed to provide protections to transgender students statewide, remains up in the air, the Sacramento City Unified School District plans to vote on the addition of transgender-specific language to its district nondiscrimination policy Thursday.
Should the district’s Board of Trustees decide to enact the policy, the California capital would become the fourth major city in the state to explicitly prohibit discrimination against students on the basis of their gender identity, joining Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. Sacramento's pending policy would guarantee that transgender students are referred to by their preferred name and with pronouns that reflect their identity.
The Sacramento policy mirrors statewide legislation, AB 1266, signed into law in August, in that it also provides transgender students with restroom and locker room alternatives. If a student doesn’t feel safe using the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth, students can request that they be allowed to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. This request would then prompt a meeting with the student’s legal guardians before either approving or denying the student’s request. The policy specifically notes that students cannot be forced to use the facilities that correspond with their sex assigned at birth.
Opponents of the policy have recycled many of the arguments used by those opposed to the statewide School Success and Opportunity Act. Ralph Merletti, a substitute teacher for Sacramento City Unified School District told The Sacramento Bee that he is concerned about "this attempt to normalize and mainstream every type of abnormal behavior there is." Merletti’s language highlights the general ignorance large swaths of the public have regarding issues facing transgender youth.
Gender dysphoria, the new name for the condition previously referred to as gender identity disorder, is a clinical diagnosis for those who experience a feeling of incongruence with the sex they were assigned at birth. Although gender dysphoria is listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists who worked on the latest edition, the DSM-5, stress that the diagnosis reflects a temporary mental state rather than an all-encompassing disorder. Similarly, gender dysphoria's inclusion in the DSM-5 does not mean that a transgender identity qualifies as "abnormal behavior," which would suggest that being transgender is based on choices and actions, rather than a deeply held internal identity.
Other concerns often raised by those opposed to trans-inclusive legislation, like the fear that transgender students will harass other students in gender-segregated spaces, are typically unfounded. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland have had such policies in place for as many as 10 years and have reported few or no issues resulting from the policies.
Sacramento's school district created an LGBT task force in 2005, and it now hopes to standardize district policy with statewide law the enactment of the proposed policy.
"Right now, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis," Lawrence Shweky, the coordinator of integrated support services for Sacramento district, told the Bee. "There isn’t a standard protocol in place,” suggesting that the implementation of this policy would help alleviate discrepancies among the district’s 83 schools.