A revolutionary new bill has been signed in California — and the state's children will be better off for it. Assembly Bill No. 1266 grants young people who identify as transgender the right to be treated based on their gender identity rather than their physical sex. This bill, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, will allow students “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” of their choosing. These activities include the sharing of public restrooms and sports programs, among other educational activities.
Of course, conservatives are beside themselves. It’s no surprise Fox News had a lot to say about this statewide law. According to Media Matters for America, “Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Greg Gutfeld have both claimed that they would pretend to be transgender to sneak into women's restrooms and locker rooms.”
These types of statements give insight into the impact gender segregation has in society. If society operated in a way that did not view men and women differently and treat anatomy as a political playground, the sharing of restrooms and other public facilities wouldn’t be of great concern. This isn’t strictly a transgendered issue, but a societal one regarding gender discrimination and separation. The lack of understanding of the "other" because of institutional gender partition has created invalid fears and insecurities around gender identity.
The conservative backlash to the bill was expected, given the society we currently occupy. Both O'Reilly and Gutfeld not only ignored the fact that being transgender has no demonstrated link to being a "peeping tom," they implied an inherent gender difference between boys and girls — that boys are by nature perverts who would do anything to take a peek at girls' bodies, even posing as transgender. Conservatives within California aren't happy either. As Raw Story reports, “Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly wrote in a column at World Net Daily, ‘This will take the normal hormonal battles raging inside every teenager and pour gasoline onto those simmering coals. The right to privacy enjoyed by every student will be replaced by the right to be ogled.’"
How have we become so disoriented and fearful of the other sex? Moreover, why do political leaders like Donnelly advocate for such baseless claims when they could be instigating change and educating people on how to respect others’ bodies and identity choices.?
According to Feministing, “Segregation by gender doesn’t work and in fact promotes harmful stereotypes and social behaviors.” When we don’t understand one another, we make ill-founded assumptions resulting in negative portrayals. The average teenager grows up with a better idea of what a porn star in the shower looks like, than what the inside of a women’s restroom looks like. This dynamic expresses itself over and over again within racial, gender, sexual, and economic relations.
The California bill simply allows teenagers who are going through a tough transition in life to feel more at ease, and represent themselves as they see fit. Through the enactment of policies that promote gender integration, we gravitate towards a more accurate understanding of one another which, in turn, creates a more balanced society.