Boys in the girls room, oh my!

Religious conservatives attack new antidiscrimination legislation in California public schools.


Carol Lloyd
November 30, 2007 9:00PM (UTC)

The issue of gay civil rights is creeping into California's public schools and, according to certain conservative groups, it's a short road from here to total anarchy. As explained in this San Francisco Chronicle story: "Religious conservatives sued Tuesday to overturn a state law barring public schools from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or identity, saying it would force school officials to allow boys into girls' locker rooms." The lawsuit, issued by a group called Advocates for Faith and Freedom, was described as a "fundraising ploy" by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, who went on to say that Senate Bill 777 doesn't expand the state's antidiscrimination policies but simply rewrites existing statutes that have been on the books since 1999 into a more coherent form.

But what's a simple clarification of antidiscrimination laws for some is a radical social experiment for others. Robert Taylor, lawyer for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, stated in a press release that the law would "have disastrous effects in our school system." The impending disaster? All those boys who claim to be girls, raiding bathrooms and locker rooms. The legal complaint goes so far as to warn that if the law passes "there is a substantial danger" of students being "subjected to extreme embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, intimidation, and emotional distress" as well as danger to their physical safety.

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Since it's hard for me to believe the horny football player will change his gender identity to get into the cheerleaders locker room, what are these guys really afraid of? The idea that transgender teenagers can no longer be openly tortured? The radical notion that the gay basketball player is protected against bullying? The group (whose Web site inanely quotes Alexander de Tocqueville by saying that "America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great") claims to be devoted to "religious liberty and America's heritage and [educating] Americans about our fundamental constitutional rights." But the organization's case history is a walk along memory lane in the fight for bigots' rights. The group sued San Francisco for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It helped defend two physicians who refused to inseminate a lesbian woman because she was not married. It also defended a high school kid for wearing a T-shirt expressing his homophobic views.

What strikes me about all these battles is how far right-wing defenders of traditional values will go to recast the perpetuators of the discrimination as victims. In this case, where there's no evidence that there will be a party hurt by school antidiscrimination laws, they've resorted to fantasies about locker room humiliation. But as anyone knows, it doesn't take the presence of a gay, lesbian or transgender person to make a high school locker room the site of excruciating humiliations. For years those victim-bigots have held down that job just fine.


Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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