The word “anti-discrimination” is usually something to celebrate. But two new anti-discrimination bills passed in California on Monday might not be so positive. Don’t get me wrong — we all deserve our rights. But the Gender Nondiscrimination Act (AB 887) and Vital Statistics Modernization Act (AB 433) are less about rights and equality than about making it easier for people to declare they are transgender.
That’s not to say people who redefine their gender shouldn’t express themselves, or that they do not deserve the same rights.
They do. But is it really necessary to create a law to expedite that transition?
Does there have to be a specific prohibition against discriminating for “gender identity and expression”? Surely there are larger problems to worry about.
The truth is, many people might not be comfortable accepting others for their personal decisions. While metropolitan cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles tend to be more liberal and accepting of an individual’s preferred sexual orientation or identity, college students become isolated in our university bubbles and assume that everyone should support these laws because they fall under the category of “anti-discrimination.” We should instead be more accepting of the people who aren’t as comfortable with working with people who identify as transgender.
In an ideal world, everybody gets along and there’s no such thing as discrimination, period. And it’s a constant struggle to respect everybody’s rights, including transgender people. But there’s a fine line between imposing and accepting. Changing one’s gender is a personal decision in most cases, and people who choose to identify themselves in a different way need to be aware of the effects of such decisions.
The law functions to ensure order in society, but there are some arenas the government has no place in. Surely we all deserve protection under the law, but everything should be in moderation. The problem with legally allowing people to freely and easily declare themselves as transgender is that not everybody is willing to accept the classification. It’s just reality.
It’s now easier to change your gender on your passport than it is to change your name. This raises the question of whether the California government is focusing on the right issues to target discrimination. A multitude of factors, including minority status socioeconomic status, and education might have much to do with why, according to the Transgender Law Center, 23 percent of transgender people earn wages below the poverty level.
Perhaps it’s not the state’s place to tell employers, teachers and other people in society they must be blind to an individual’s personal decision.
The much broader category of minority rights in general and the complex socioeconomic factors associated with “coming out” are more appropriate avenues to deal with prejudice and discrimination.
So instead of making laws about very narrow, personal issues like whether we identify as male or female, maybe our representatives can actually fix our broken budget, or realize that there are worse forms of injustice than discrimination against whom people choose to be.
Engie Salama is a freshman majoring in biochemistry.