April 14, 2014

What I Learned Because of the Safe Schools and Opportunities Act in California

GLSEN Student Ambassador Blog

Kane Tajnai

I am a transgender student in California and this is my senior year of high school. During the summer, I was out to close friends and family, but no one older than my parents knew. It was hard to even imagine coming out at school.

It wasn’t until GLSEN’s Media Summit that I even thought I had the courage to come out to my grandparents and shortly after I had come home, I had heard about the Safe Schools and Opportunities Act, or simply AB 1266, being signed by California Governor Jerry Brown. This was the final push that I needed to come out, so I did.

In short, AB 1266 simply said that transgender students were allowed to use gender-segregated facilities (locker rooms and bathrooms), activities (PE classes), and sports teams that aligned with their gender identity.

I came out at school and even though the law didn’t go into effect until January 1, my school treated me like they would have to under the law. I was put into PE and allowed to use the boys’ locker rooms and bathrooms. It felt wonderful.

But not much later did the opposition come rolling in. Privacy for All Students joined the fight in getting a referendum put on the ballot. The plan was to put the voters to a test and get them to overturn the bill.

That was when I got active. I started getting interviewed in the local news, the Wall Street Journal, smaller newspapers in the area, and more, just to tell my simple story of what it was like to be treated as if the law was in place. I wrote articles for my school paper about what this law meant and I was consistently trying to better my interview techniques, something I found out I needed. So, now that the referendum attempt has failed, the opposition having failed to get the amount of signatures required (though they are now protesting that they got plenty and valid signatures were thrown out), I have learned a few things since this all started:

  • In the case of media, always focus on the positives of what you’re trying to do. Even if it’s only for a question or two that you talk about the negatives, they may focus on that instead of what you want to get across.

  • The media still isn’t sure how to report on transgender people, from being misgendered to having publications use wrong or odd terminology. Despite that, they’re trying.

  • People will lie and phrase things oddly in order to get you to sign a petition, as in the case of my AP Government teacher who was told the petition for the referendum was to stop harassment in the bathroom.

  • People will listen to your story, especially if you have a stake in it. At my dad’s work, someone was working to get signatures and by telling them about me, his son, many of his coworkers refused to sign.

  • Teachers, even with guidelines like AB 1266, still need help in figuring out how to implement these practices, especially from students like me.

  • Lastly, activism is hard, no matter how fun it is to get interviewed for TV.

With such an important bill on the books and the activism that students like me did around the state in order to keep this bill in place, it’s obvious that young people are making a difference in the world. While it’s tiring and hard to keep track of all your talking points, the work being done really does matter. I am sure about that.

Kane Tajnai is a GLSEN Student Ambassador. 

Camille Beredjick

About Camille Beredjick

Camille Beredjick is the Digital Communications Associate at GLSEN - the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

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