1 trans bill signed; sex workers bill delayed

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday October 11, 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

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that will bring benefits to transgender public college students in California, while a second piece of legislation that would benefit sex workers has been delayed until January.

As the Bay Area Reporter reported online 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. Newsom's action 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.

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.

'Walking while trans' bill delayed

As Newsom issued his final bill signings October 9, Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, was missing from the list. Co-authored by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), it would repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, the law that criminalizes loitering for the intent to engage in sex work. It also allows those convicted of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, particularly the Black women and transgender individuals often targeted under the law, to seal their records.

In a text message late Saturday, Wiener stated that he held the bill, sometimes referred to as "walking while trans," until next year.

"We will send it to the governor in January," he wrote. "It doesn't need any more votes in the Legislature."

A statement from Wiener's spokeswoman, Catie Stewart, tweeted by the Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert September 10 noted that the temporary delay will give the lawmaker "more time to make the case about why this civil rights bill is good policy that should be signed into law and why this discriminatory loitering crime goes against California values and needs to be repealed."

Last month, Wiener explained the importance of SB 357.

"Arresting people because they 'look like' sex workers is discriminatory and wrong, and it endangers sex workers and trans people of color," stated Wiener in September after the bill cleared the Legislature. "Anti-LGBTQ and racist loitering laws need to go. Sex workers, LGBTQ people, and people of color deserve to be safe on our streets."

While those opposed to the bill claimed it would put child sex traffic victims at risk, despite the fact a 2016 bill adopted into law decriminalized loitering for prostitution for minors under the age of 18, proponents argued it was time to do the same for adult women whose lives have been negatively impacted from being charged for such a crime.

New York state repealed its loitering law in February. Pushing for the Golden State to follow suit was a broad coalition made up of former and current sex workers; LGBTQ+ groups like Equality California and Transgender Gender-variant and Intersex Justice Project; the American Civil Liberties Union; and the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, known as CAST LA.

"By ending one form of criminalization, the state takes a monumental step forward in protecting our safety and our livelihoods," the DecrimSexWorkCA coalition stated last month in urging Newsom to sign SB 357.

Earlier this summer Newsom signed into law several other bills related to gender identity issues. AB 439 by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) allows for deceased Californians who are nonbinary to be identified as such on their death certificates.

The governor also signed into law two bills, one by Bauer-Kahan and another by gay state Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), that replaces "archaic gender-specific pronouns" used to refer to the state's various elected leaders and appointed officials in state codes with gender neutral terms. Currently, most parts of the state code use "he" or "him" pronouns.

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