'Kids are having to use their deadname': Students say gender policies make schools feel unsafe

Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Lifestyles

Many students consider them "forced outing" policies. And they are already creating fallout.

The recent spate of regulations passed by school boards in conservative pockets of California requiring schools to notify parents if a student does something to indicate gender nonconformity is seeping into campus culture in ways some students describe as dangerous and repressive. And the students most affected, they said, are those who have valid reasons for not yet being open with their families about their exploration of gender identity.

"Multiple trans kids are having to use their deadname," said Max Ibarra, a high school senior in the Chino Valley Unified School District in San Bernardino County, referring to a student's birth name before they identify as transgender. "They can't start their new school year by being themselves, because if they do, they will be outed to their families, and there are many cases where that's not safe."

Chino Valley Unified in San Bernardino County in July became the first district in the state to adopt a policy requiring schools to inform parents if a student appears to identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming. Under Chino Valley's policy, district staff are required to notify parents in writing within three days if they become aware of students using names, pronouns or changing facilities such as bathrooms that do not match their biological sex.

Similar policies have since been adopted by other districts across the state: Murrieta Valley Unified and Temecula Valley Unified in Riverside County; Rocklin Unified in Placer County; Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County; and Orange Unified.

Ibarra, who is transgender and uses they/them pronouns, has been open with family and classmates about transitioning. But for many trans students, coming out as gender-nonconforming at school was a haven when their homes were not, Ibarra said, and now they are being "shoved" back in the closet.


In Murrieta Valley Unified, 12-year-old Celeste Stoller has also been open with family about exploring gender identity. Stoller identifies as agender, denoting a person who does not identify with any gender. The district's new policy, Stoller said, has left students in more tenuous situations in grave fear of being outed for gender nonconformity.

"It could put them into dangerous situations with their family and their households," the seventh-grader said. "I just don't think that's right."

Students interviewed were baffled and exasperated by the outsized attention being focused on transgender issues in public school districts led by conservative activists, and more broadly as a mainstay of the culture wars taking place in conservative-led states like Florida and Texas, where lawmakers have banned gender-affirming care for minors.

Transgender students make up a tiny fraction of the population. Trans youth make up about 1.9% of California adolescents ages 13 to 17, according to a survey by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, which researches public policy around sexual orientation and gender identity. Nationwide, 1.4% of the age group identifies as transgender, the survey found.


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