Political Notebook: SF college board set to back trans diploma bill

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday January 27, 2021
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SF City College Trustee and Vice President Tom Temprano. Photo: Courtesy Tom Temprano
SF City College Trustee and Vice President Tom Temprano. Photo: Courtesy Tom Temprano

The board of trustees for City College of San Francisco is expected to endorse state legislation that would outlaw deadnaming public college students on their diplomas and other academic records. The public community college adopted such a policy in 2020.

Trustee Tom Temprano, a gay man who is vice president of the community college board, introduced the resolution in support of Assembly Bill 245. The college board will vote on it when it meets Thursday.

Both the resolution and 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, said Charlie Garcia-Spiegel, 22, a queer nonbinary trans man who attends City College.

"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 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 Bay Area Reporter noted trans and nonbinary graduates seeking new jobs may be outed to employers and face discrimination if their academic records list their wrong name.

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. "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."

Because of CCSF's own policy on student names, Temprano told the B.A.R. he expects his board colleagues will vote in support of his resolution about AB 245.

"The longer we take to allow our trans and gender-nonconforming students to use names of their choice, the longer we are putting them, frankly, in danger and making our higher education institutions less welcoming and supportive of those students," he said.

While Garcia-Spiegel has had no issues with the name used on his college records or student ID, his City College-issued email still uses the first initial of his former first name. Since starting classes in 2019, he has yet to be able to update his school email and tries to use his personal account as often as possible.

At times Garcia-Spiegel does have to use his City College email, thus outing himself to his fellow classmates as happened recently in a biology class during an assignment where the students shared documents via their school email addresses.

"I know people are doing their best," he said. "But I am now in my third year of this school; I would hope they would be able to figure it out by now."

The CCSF board meeting begins at 4 p.m. Thursday, January 28. To watch it via Zoom, go to https://ccsf-edu.zoom.us/j/91340113747

State Senator John Laird. Photo: Courtesy John Laird  

Bill aims to improve services for HIV+ seniors
At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the mid-1980s, John Laird joined with five other gay men to launch the Santa Cruz AIDS Project in order to support people living in the seaside city who were becoming HIV-positive. Laird also helped to address the health crisis from inside City Hall.

He served on the Santa Cruz City Council, including two stints as the city's mayor, during most of that decade. After being termed out of office in 1990, Laird was hired as executive director of the AIDS agency, a position he held through 1993.

Nearly three decades later, now serving in California's state Senate, Laird is authoring a bill aimed at improving the social services HIV-positive seniors can access. His Senate Bill 258, introduced Tuesday, January 26, aims to include older people with HIV as part of the population of "greatest social need" when it comes to programs and services administered by the California Department of Aging.

"Right now senior services are targeted to certain older people with needs and now it will make sure older people with HIV are part of that target group," explained Laird in a phone interview with the B.A.R.

While seniors living with HIV have some programs and services specially devised for them funded through the federal Ryan White CARE Act and by local health agencies, Laird pointed out they are not designated as a community that should be prioritized under the federal Older Americans Act. A network of 33 Area Agencies on Aging across the state oversee the programs funded by the OAA.

"This bill would add them to the priority list," said Laird, 70, who is the oldest member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

According to a fact sheet about SB 258 that Laird's office shared with the B.A.R., California's current definition of "greatest social need" under its OAA programs includes various characteristics such as physical or mental disability, language barriers, and cultural or social isolation caused by, among other things, racial and ethnic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

With people living with HIV now advancing well into retirement age because of progress in treatment for the virus, Laird argued it is time California expand its definition of "greatest social need" to include HIV-positive seniors. The Golden State would be following the lead of Illinois, which in 2019 became the first state to designate older adults living with HIV as such a target population.

As of 2018, more than 50% of people living with HIV in California were aged 50 years or older. People 50 and older also accounted for 15% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018, according to a report from the state's Office of AIDS Surveillance.

"As someone who was an HIV agency director during the height of the epidemic before the drug cocktail, we were trying to just keep people alive," recalled Laird, referring to the introduction in 1995 of the first antiretroviral therapy for HIV. "Now with improvements in treatments over the last decades, we are facing a generation of people aging into the senior category with HIV."

National LGBTQ senior advocacy organization SAGE noted in a 2020 report by its HIV and Aging Policy Action Coalition that older adults living with HIV face unique challenges and barriers to accessing services. The issue is particularly acute in smaller cities and rural areas where there is a lack of competent health care providers and limited service availability.

"There are services for older adults that include meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, health promotion, and benefits enrollment. It would make sure that older adults with HIV are considered one of the priority groups for all of those services," Laird said of his legislation.

According to Laird's office, SAGE, APLA Health, and the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality California are co-sponsors of SB 258.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column highlighted the record number of state Democratic lawmakers receiving less than perfect scores on an LGBTQ group's 2020 scorecard.

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Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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