Newsom signs bill to protect trans college students

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 6, 2021
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Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill to allow for trans and nonbinary college students to use their lived names on diplomas and academic records. Photo: Courtesy AP
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill to allow for trans and nonbinary college students to use their lived names on diplomas and academic records. Photo: Courtesy AP

A bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom will bring benefits to transgender public college students in California. It is in marked contrast to what has occurred in numerous statehouses across the country this legislative session, where lawmakers have adopted legislation targeting their state's transgender community, particularly trans youth.

On October 6, Newsom signed Assembly Bill 245, which prohibits public universities from deadnaming trans and nonbinary students — that is using their former names they were given based on the sex they were assigned at birth — on their diplomas and academic records.

Its author, outgoing Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), had revived the legislation this year after he had to shelve it in 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic upending the Legislature's workload.

It builds on an earlier bill authored by Chiu that became law and requires 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.

AB 245, titled "Affirming Transgender and Nonbinary Student's Names in College," requires 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 takes effect. Currently enrolled transgender and nonbinary students would be able to use their lived names even if they have not legally changed their names.

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.

"A diploma represents years of hard work. Students should be able to celebrate their academic achievements without fear of being deadnamed," stated Chiu, set to become San Francisco's first Asian American city attorney November 1. "Deadnaming a student on a diploma can put up barriers to future employment and out a person in an unsafe situation. I'm grateful the governor signed this bill to ensure we are protecting and lifting up all of our students in California."

Last November, the UC system had released a new policy on gender identity that all of its campuses were to implement by December 31, 2023. It included 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.

"College students make tremendous sacrifices and put in years of hard work earning their degrees, and the outcome of all that dedication should be a diploma with the name of their choice. In signing AB 245, Governor Newsom is ensuring that California continues to lead the way in supporting trans and nonbinary students in our schools," said gay City College board vice president Tom Temprano, who had his colleagues pass a resolution this spring in support of Chiu's bill.

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