New state law promotes equal access

Transgender students can use restroom, join sports team, according to their gender identity


Photo by Dellanira Alcauter

Senior Shawn Hightower has gone through a proccess including changing his name in order to change his gender.

Adrianna Owens

He walks through the hallway, passes the “boys” sign on the restroom, and heads to Healthy Start to use the facilities there. Because on their door, there’s no male or female classification. It’s just a bathroom.
And even though Shawn Hightower identifies as a male, he makes this journey every time he goes to the restroom to avoid torment from his peers. He recalls a time when someone he knew said that “if they even saw me in the men’s bathroom again they would beat me up.”
Hightower is transgender.
Transgender means that a person classifies as another gender that doesn’t match their birth gender. Whereas most people classify themselves as they were born, male or female, a transgender person can identify as one, both or none of the two.
California law AB 1266 was signed in July by Governor Jerry Brown and this month, the so-called “bathroom law” was set in motion for all of California’s K-12 schools. The law entails that transgender students will be able to use whichever restroom or locker room that they feel more comfortable in, regardless of their birth gender.
Furthermore, the law allows transgender students to join segregated sports teams.
For students like Hightower, the law will give a chance at equality on campus. Smiling, he said that the law will “make (us) feel like a human rather than being an outcast or a freak.”
Teachers have more to worry about, though, as they must make sure all students are safe. Rosslyn Halekakis, physical education department chair, feels that while the law has good intentions, it’s difficult for the teachers to make sure that the transgender students will have an easy time transitioning.
“We don’t watch every move in the locker room,” she said. “I don’t want anything to happen that shouldn’t happen.”
Before this law, she would open up the bathrooms outside of the locker rooms “to accommodate them.” Now, however, it will be a struggle for teachers to make sure that the students aren’t being mistreated.
Administration understands the fears that teachers have, but they are dedicated to abiding by the law to make transgender students feel as comfortable as possible, even if this means dealing with students who don’t agree with the law.
“We’re going to support those individuals that the law protects,” Principal Andre Phillips said. “I’m all for it. We may have to adjust with students who aren’t comfortable with it.”
Though administration aims to fully support the law and the rights of transgender students, they still hold similar fears as teachers.
“I’m hoping that those individuals won’t get harmed,” Phillips said. “All it takes is one person.”
He compares the law to the Civil Rights movement. “I’m sure there was a lot of bullying and push back then,” he said. “Over time it will dissipate.”
According to CBS News, Carlos Alcala, spokesperson for the bill’s author, said that the students are “not interested in going into bathrooms and flaunting their physiology.”
And while this law will be important to some students in order for them to blend in, rather than stick out, Hightower feels that “there’s always someone that ruins it for others.”
“If you implement this law in everyday life, for the most part you’re not typically going to get a creepy guy walking into the girl’s bathroom,” he said. “High school is different, though.”
There is no process that will confirm someone’s gender identity, so as of now, the teachers have to take it for face value.
“By law, we have to allow it to happen,” Halekakis said.
Phillips agrees with the law and said “I truly believe that individuals have to feel comfortable in their own skin.”
Hightower sees it as a matter of not only being comfortable with himself, but blending in as well. “What if the roles were reversed?” he asks. “What if they told you that you were in the wrong bathroom? Wouldn’t you want to be accepted, too?”