California made significant strides with the passing of three state bills in support of LGBT rights legislation this past October 10th.
The Gender Nondiscrimination Act requires gender identity and expression to be its own protected category at work, at school, in housing, at public accommodations and in other settings; the Vital Statistics Modernization Act makes it easier for transgender people to obtain court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate; Seth’s Law will tighten anti-bullying policies in schools by making sure there are clear and consistent policies, provide better training and guidelines for teachers and faculty, and establish shorter timelines for investigating claims of bullying.
A fourth bill, with the purpose of amending anti-discrimination policies in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, was also signed by Governor Brown on October 8th. Specifics in the bill include the requirement that California state universities and community colleges allow students to identify their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in the annually collected demographic data. Recording accurate numbers of LGBT identifying students will help institutes of higher education grasp the amount of student services necessary for the LGBT community and awareness training for faculty and staff, reported The Daily Californian.
These new pieces of legislation may have greater implications beyond the state of California—they have the potential to lay the groundwork for other states as well as play a role in influencing colleges and universities in confronting the role of gender identity in their anti-discrimination policies. Moreover, this landmark legislation has the ability to additionally set a precedent for women’s colleges and their policies around transgender students.
Women’s colleges were originally founded as a means of educating young women in a time when there were no other alternatives for females to seek higher education. Their existence in the 21st century has been questioned, in a time period where private universities are co-ed and women are less oppressed than in times past. Not only do women’s colleges have to defend their mere existence in 2011, but they’ve also been faced with a lingering quandary over sex and gender identity: where do transgender students fit in? The question is taking on new resonance as the majority of single-sex institutions have yet to cultivate systemic changes in their official policies that specifically address transgender students.