Widgets Magazine


Anti-Transgender Campaign Shows Lack of Awareness and Education

El. Gee. Bee. Tee. The acronym LGBT (short for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) has largely surpassed “gay” as the socially acceptable term for referring to sexual and gender minorities. LGBT sounds newer, younger, and more progressive. But how much attention is really paid to the fourth letter? Many newspaper articles speak of LGBT issues while only enumerating “gays and lesbians” as the relevant population. An estimated 52% of Americans support gay marriage, but how many of those people have an awareness of transgender people and their histories, challenges, or victories?

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity does not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a transgender woman might have been assigned “male” at birth but identify as a woman, and some people identify outside of the male/female gender binary entirely.

Currently, in the state of California, transgender students’ rights are in contention. Six weeks after the Supreme Court of the United States decided in favor of gay marriage in two landmark cases, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law the School Success and Opportunity Act (SSOA). SSOA states that all students have the right to participate in gender-segregated activities and use gender-segregated facilities according to their gender identity. It was authored in response to reports that transgender students were being prohibited from using gendered restroom facilities and appropriately participating in activities such as sports or physical education. The law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2014.

This law addresses a dire need in our schools. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey published in 2011 found that 78% of transgender students were harassed in K-12 education, and 15% left school due to harassment. Exclusionary policies have deep rooted effects on students. The National Center for Lesbian Rights explains that “being singled out and treated differently than their peers is detrimental to a transgender student’s psychological, social, and academic wellbeing and development.”

Although this legislation may only be a small step in countering transphobia, with SSOA transgender students will no longer need to worry that their gender identity will be denied by the school itself. When it comes to bathrooms, gym classes, and sports teams, transgender boys will be treated like other boys, and transgender girls like other girls. Will it cause trouble? Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest district in the state of California, implemented a similar policy in 2005 and has “encountered nothing but positive results.”

Unfortunately, there has been considerable backlash to this law. The National Organization for Marriage, the Pacific Justice Institute, the Capitol Resource Institute, and Faith and Public Policy have bankrolled the conservative coalition Privacy for All Students to use California’s referendum to put the law on the ballot next year. As of November 10, Privacy for All Students has gathered 620,000 signatures, largely by taking advantage of the public’s lack of awareness about transgender people. One organization’s homepage prominently features a misleading banner urging readers to stop the “Co-Ed Bathroom Bill,” a line of argument that has been used extensively to scare voters into signing the petition for the referendum effort. Another example of scare tactics used by Privacy for All Students are the Pacific Justice Institute’s publicly-admitted lies about a transgender student harassing classmates while using the women’s restroom.

Until widespread awareness is raised about transgender issues, the public will continue to be misled by conservative groups. If SSOA ends up on the ballot, it will only contribute to the damage done by years of silence around transgender issues. (As of press time, it is not yet clear if the referendum effort was successful). But the silence must stop somewhere, and at Stanford University we can do our part.

Stanford has a visible and growing transgender population, and it is our responsibility as community members to become educated about transgender issues. Challenge yourself to think critically about how our society systematically discriminates against those who do not conform to gender norms. Access the countless resources available to you on and off campus in order to learn more about your transgender peers.

When your dorm or student group has a meeting, ask people to state their preferred gender pronouns so as not to assume the gender identity of any community members. Many queer-specific student groups include preferred gender pronouns as part of group introductions, but other student groups including Stanford NAACP and the writing group Spoken Word Collective also have adopted the practice.

Take action not because you want to be politically correct. Take action because your efforts will make Stanford a safer place for all students. Take action because without widespread effort in our society, legislation protecting transgender people will be overturned too easily with malicious misinformation.

We ask you to broaden your enthusiasm for lesbian, gay and bisexual rights and stand beside transgender students as well. California’s students deserve SSOA, and all people deserve a world where they can express their gender identity authentically and safely.


Sasha Perigo ’17 and Violet Trachtenberg ’16 are members of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation.

  • christian_transgender

    Thank you Stanford! Although I am a USAF veteran, having risen to the rank of E-5 Staff Sgt during my first (and only) enlistment which few are able to do, I have lost a job from transgender discrimination in 2010 from vvchosp.com in 2010. I believe that most transgender persons are of above average intelligence and certainly your student body reflects this to be accurate.

    This amounts to nothing less than a religious takeover of our schools. Were it the other way around, the very groups spearheading this anti-trans effort would be on high alert.

  • Erica W.

    I love you, Stanford! As a transwoman myself, it brings tears to my eyes to see that there’s hope for transfolk in our society, particularly among our youth. I encourage everyone to follow the advice and learn about trans people and issues, as it’s a fascinating part of the spectrum of life and will have you questioning many old ideas and traditions in an engaging way.

  • christian_transgender

    Nothing can be more delusional than seeing what is not there as if it were. Delusions of perceived danger (DOPED) is a real mental disorder, if not official, yet over and over convicting innocent persons of crimes not yet committed except in the mind of the accuser continues to be sold as “fact.”

    There is no law forbidding male parts in female areas. The only requirement is that of a legal, same gender. With a background in public safety at various levels, I can assure you that “possession of a penis in female areas” never rises to the level of being illegal (lewd conduct is an entire different matter) nor is it considered as being a “forceful” act, despite those who delude themselves to believing such is the case. These anti-LGBT “inciters to trans violence” conflate harassment with privacy, access with criminal acts, proximity as rape. It really is exceedingly difficult to get more delusional than “pretending something has happened” when the evidence is to the contrary.

    This oft-recurring plot of “trans crimes yet to happen” is so prevalent that I offer a proposal: It must be given a name and isolated for the purpose of debunking it as the fiction it is. I propose that it be called “DOPED” for Delusions of Perceived Extreme Danger. Hows that for turnabout?