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CA legislators tell state colleges to stop deadnaming trans, nonbinary students

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Assemblyman David Chiu's AB 245 would allow transgender and nonbinary students to have their lived names used on public college and university documents, including diplomas. Photo: Courtesy Assemblyman Chiu's office
Assemblyman David Chiu's AB 245 would allow transgender and nonbinary students to have their lived names used on public college and university documents, including diplomas. Photo: Courtesy Assemblyman Chiu's office  

California lawmakers have adopted legislation that ends the deadnaming of transgender and nonbinary college students on their diplomas and other academic records. Should Governor Gavin Newsom sign it into law within the next 12 days, the policy will commence with the 2023-2024 graduating class.

The state Assembly Monday, August 30, on a 58-1 concurrence vote passed the revised legislation, Assembly Bill 245, having previously adopted it earlier this legislative session. It cleared the state Senate August 23 on a 29-8 vote with three senators not voting.

Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced AB 245 this year after a similar bill he authored in 2020 had to be tabled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Chiu's bill, titled "Affirming Transgender and Nonbinary Student's Names in College," would require California's community colleges and public universities to use current students' lived names on their transcripts, diplomas, and other documents as of January 1, when the bill would take effect.

"The day a student receives their diploma should be filled with happiness and pride," stated Chiu. "When a diploma doesn't match the student's name, it can turn an otherwise great day into another obstacle to overcome. It can put up barriers to future employment and out a person in an unsafe situation. This simple policy ensures transgender and nonbinary students have one less barrier to overcome. I look forward to the Governor signing this crucial bill to lift up all of our students."

Former students who already graduated or left campus for whatever reason could petition their alma mater to upgrade their name and gender on their academic records. But they would have to do so legally, as the bill requires they show a government-issued document like a driver's license, birth certificate, or passport bearing their current name and gender.

Currently enrolled transgender and nonbinary students would be able to use their lived names even if they have not legally changed their names under Chiu's AB 245. With the health crisis impacting people's employment, trans and nonbinary graduates seeking new jobs may be outed to employers and face discrimination if their academic records list their wrong name, Chiu earlier this year noted in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

Last November, the UC system released a new policy on gender identity that all of its campuses will need to implement by December 31, 2023. It includes using students' lived names on their academic records.

City College of San Francisco implemented a chosen name system for its trans and nonbinary students and staff last year. Under its gender diversity and inclusion policy the use of chosen names is mandatory except for certain financial and legal documents.

The trustees of City College of San Francisco had called on state lawmakers to pass Chiu's bill. Charlie Garcia-Spiegel, 22, a queer nonbinary trans man who attends City College, had told the B.A.R. adoption of the state bill will send a message of needed support to transgender and nonbinary students at a time when other states and countries around the globe are enacting laws and policies that harm trans youth.

"This would be a huge step because even on the state level, different parts of the state have different amounts of protections for trans students and different amounts of basic human rights. On that level it is really important," said Garcia-Spiegel. "When you zoom out and go to the macro level, across the country and across the world even, you see huge legislative fights over basic human rights for trans students."

Co-authoring the bill are Assemblymen Alex Lee (D-San Jose), the first bisexual member of the state Legislature; Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae); and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) also signed on as a co-author.

Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (D) signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

"Every diploma earned by a student in California commemorates years of hard work and achievement despite tremendous challenges — especially for our transgender and gender nonconforming students," she stated. "Today's passage of AB 245 is an important step towards protecting and supporting these students, who are at risk of discrimination or harm if the name on their transcript or diploma is different than the name they use and identify with. By sending this bill to the Governor for his signature, the Legislature has sent a strong message that California values and affirms its trans and gender nonconforming students."

AB 245 follows an earlier bill Chiu was able to enact requiring public K-12 schools in the state to update the records for transgender and nonbinary students so that they match their legal name and gender identity.

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