City College trustees back CA bill to end deadnaming trans, nonbinary college students

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday January 28, 2021
Share this Post:
The trustees of City College of San Francisco, whose Science Hall is shown here in 2018 pre-COVID, are calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would end deadnaming trans and nonbinary college students. Photo: Rick Gerharter
The trustees of City College of San Francisco, whose Science Hall is shown here in 2018 pre-COVID, are calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would end deadnaming trans and nonbinary college students. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The trustees of City College of San Francisco are calling on state lawmakers to pass a bill that would end deadnaming trans and nonbinary college students on their diplomas and other academic records. The public community college adopted such a policy in 2020.

The community college board unanimously voted 7-0 at its January 28 meeting to adopt a resolution in support of Assembly Bill 245. Trustee Tom Temprano, a gay man who is vice president of the board, introduced it, as the Bay Area Reporter's Political Notebook first reported this week.

Board President Shanell Williams, who is bisexual, and student Trustee Vick Van Chung, who is genderqueer, cowrote the resolution with Temprano. At the meeting the other four trustees asked to be added as cosponsors at the request of Chung.

"It means a lot to be able to make a difference for my community," said Chung, adding they hoped the language in the resolution could be mirrored in the state legislation.

It notes that "because we live in a patriarchal, heteronormative society, transgender and nonbinary individuals face compounding systemic barriers at educational institutions." And it specifically states that "students should not be 'deadnamed' on their diploma, which is the ceremonial document commemorating years of hard work and achievement."

The resolution also highlights how the process students must navigate to ensure their academic records accurately reflect their names "varies widely and is not standardized across higher education institutions."

"It is a no brainer," said Williams of the board backing the resolution and the bill. "We want this to be the safest place for students in California. I think this is a really important next step to get there."

As Charlie Garcia-Spiegel, 22, a queer nonbinary trans man who attends City College, told the B.A.R. ahead of Thursday's board meeting, 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. Just this week Montana's House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban trans women from participating in women's interscholastic sports in the Treasure State.

"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."

Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) introduced AB 245 this month after a similar bill he authored last year had to be tabled in light of the COVID 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 students' lived names on their transcripts, diplomas, and other documents.

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, Chiu earlier this month in an interview with the B.A.R. noted trans and nonbinary graduates seeking new jobs may be outed to employers and face discrimination if their academic records list their wrong name.

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.

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.

In 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.

"I think City College has rightly led the way on pushing for policies that protect our trans and gender-nonconforming students, including allowing students to use chosen names in a variety of college documents," Temprano noted in a phone interview with the B.A.R. "I think we owe it to lead not only by example but to push other colleges around the state to do the same to protect their students."

Despite City College adopting its own policy last year, there continue to be issues with its enactment. As the B.A.R. previously noted Garcia-Spiegel has yet to receive a college-issued email address that uses the correct first initial for his first name.

Temprano pledged to see that Garcia-Spiegel receive a new email address and referred to the issue in a Facebook post this week when he shared the B.A.R.'s initial story about the resolution he co-authored.

"City College has led the way with our gender diversity and inclusion policy, but we still have work to do when students like the one interviewed in this article have waited for three years to get their email changed to match their chosen names," wrote Temprano.

At Thursday's board meeting Williams said the college must "continue to do as much as we can to protect our students and to make them feel safe on our campuses."

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.