Policy

Challenge to California's School Transgender Law Fails to Make Ballot

Too many signatures thrown out to force a vote

|

So that's how the issue became trendy …

Transgender California school students will still be able to use the restrooms and join the sports teams for whichever gender feels right for them. An effort by social conservatives to force a law passed by the state legislature last year onto the ballot has failed. Opponents of the law gathered enough signatures, but more than 100,000 ended up tossed out as invalid.

Here's what the law says:

"A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil's records."

In November, I wrote critically about efforts to kill the rule, arguing that there's no sign that fears that boys will pretend to be transgender to harass and stalk girls in the bathrooms is based on anything that has happened in the real world. Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle points out that school districts in Los Angeles and San Francisco have already been operating under such guidelines. Given the size of those school districts, no doubt abuse of the system would have come out now were students inclined to do so.

Some commenters were a bit surprised at my stance in November, so let me explain that while I have a lot of personal experience with transgender people, my support for letting transgender teens and their families make these choices is based on what I believe are libertarian foundations. First of all, if I were to make a list of people who have the authority to define a person's gender, it would start with the person involved and would not include any government officials. Classification of people's sex organs fails to qualify for the list of things for which we need government. While birth certificates are valuable tools, they are not sacred objects brought down from on high like Moses bringing lugging down the Ten Commandments. There is a certain component to transgender skepticism that reads a lot like an appeal to authority.

Second, the state uses force or the threat of force to compel students to attend school. As long as the state is going to continue to do so, it can bloody well accommodate any noncriminal, nondisruptive behavior by the students it is forcing to attend. As I said back in November, school choice provides much better solutions. California is becoming a fairly accepting state for charter schools (more than 1,000 as of 2013). Perhaps there will eventually be a market for schools designed to serve families with children working out their gender identity and allies. But until that point, if the state is going to force transgender students to spend the majority of their time under their thumb, they can damn well use whatever bathroom they want.