Newsom signs set of trans bills

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday October 13, 2023
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Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office
Governor Gavin Newsom. Photo: Courtesy Governor's Office

The last two remaining LGBTQ-related bills adopted this year by California lawmakers have been signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. Both concern the needs of gender-nonconforming individuals.

Under Assembly Bill 1163 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) various state agencies and departments have until July 1, 2026, to revise their public-use forms so they are more inclusive of individuals who identify as transgender, gender-nonconforming, or intersex. The agencies also now need to collect data pertaining to the specific needs of such individuals, such as their medical care and mental health disparities, as well as the population size of the various communities.

It is the latest effort by Golden State lawmakers to improve the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data by state agencies. But as the Bay Area Reporter has previously reported, the gathering of SOGI information has run into myriad problems at the local, state, and federal levels.

The state's auditor earlier this year called out the California Department of Public Health for its failures in collecting LGBTQ health data. The agency has been working to address the issues cited in the auditor's report, as it recently noted in a response to the audit findings.

AB 1487 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) establishes the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Wellness Reentry Fund in order to provide grants for reentry programming "specifically to support transgender, gender variant, and intersex people who have experienced carceral systems." Although Newsom signed the bill creating it, there is no funding for it.

It will be up to the governor and state lawmakers to allocate funds toward it in future state budgets. The bill's backers have said they would like to secure at least $5 million for the reentry fund.

It mirrors the state fund created in 2020 by the passage of a bill Santiago authored that pays for trans health care services across the Golden State. Newsom appropriated $13 million for it in 2022, while the Office of Health Equity within the state's health department is responsible for administering the fund and awarding the fiscal grants to organizations providing trans-inclusive health care.

Newsom's office announced Friday night that he had signed the two bills into law.

Earlier in the day, the state health department announced it had awarded $2.4 million from the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund to five agencies providing gender-affirming care services. Among them was one Northern California agency, the San Francisco-based Lyon-Martin Community Health Services.

The other four provide services in Southern California, such as The TransPower Project, formerly known as Queer Works, and Desert AIDS Project in Palm Springs. The others are Alianza Translatinx based in Santa Ana, the TransLatin@ Coalition and Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and the St. John's Community Health and Transgender Health and Wellness Center in Los Angeles.

"The TGI Fund clinical care grant will save many lives in Orange County and it will help strengthen our ability as an organization to provide access to gender-affirming health care services to TGI community members in OC," stated Alianza Translatinx President and CEO Khloe Rios-Wyatt.

Under AB 1487, the same office within the state health department will have oversight of distributing whatever funding is allocated to the reentry fund to TGI-specific reentry programs run by TGI-serving organizations. As defined in the legislation, such programs can include emergency, transitional, or permanent housing provided to TGI people leaving prison.

Other programs eligible are ones offering employment assistance, workforce development and career development training, or entrepreneurship opportunities to formerly incarcerated TGI individuals. Mental and general health care, identity document updating services, legal assistance, computer training, services navigation, case management, financial assistance and literacy, and other wraparound and comprehensive services for such TGI individuals are also covered under AB 1487.

Working with the California TGI Policy Alliance to see both bills become law was interACT. The agency, which advocates on behalf of the needs of intersex individuals, also had ensured that Rivas' legislation was amended to specifically include the collection of data on intersex people.

"Without this bill, little to no demographic data is being collected on intersex status - which makes it harder to argue for improved rights and monetary support," noted Maddie Moran, the agency's director of communications, in an October 10 email asking its supporters to contact the governor's office and request that Newsom sign it.

As for Santiago's bill, the advocacy organization had noted that intersex, transgender, and nonbinary people are incarcerated at higher rates. In addition to being at increased risk for abuses in prison, such individuals also "face systemic challenges to reentry," noted interACT.

"Community based reentry services provide logistical and material support to some of the most marginalized people in our community," wrote Moran, who is intersex, queer, and nonbinary.

With his support for the two bills, Newsom ended up signing into law in recent weeks 16 bills that either provide protections for LGBTQ Californians or address their health needs. He also vetoed four LGBTQ-related bills sent to him during the 2023 legislative session.

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