When the Rev. David Weekley, a transgender clergy ordained in the United Methodist Church, attended school in the 1960s, he endured discrimination from peers, teachers and school administrators had on his mental and physical health. He told me this week:
“I know the depression and increased risk of suicide resulting from such oppressive treatment. The lack of gender-neutral or access to appropriate restrooms has caused chronic health issues in my adult life. No student should have to endure these conditions in any setting, especially in a learning environment dedicated to the safety and development of each person.”
Research conducted by Jody Herman of the Williams Institute at UCLA on gendered restrooms suggests that Weekley’s experiences may be common among transgender youth. “The top line finding on education is that 10 percent of transgender survey respondents who attended school in Washington, D.C., reported a negative impact on their education, including having excessive absences and dropping out of school due to issues related to restroom access.”
A new California law signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Monday ensures that students will not have to endure discrimination on the basis of their gender identity and expression. This law (Assembly Bill 1266) which goes into effect January 1, 2014, requires that California public schools respect students’ gender identity and makes sure that students can fully participate in all school activities, sports teams, programs and utilize facilities that match their gender identity.