Fox News launched a smear campaign against a historic California law that would allow transgender public school students to have access to school facilities and athletic teams that match their gender identity. The network peddled a number of myths about the measure, adding to Fox's long history of promoting damaging transphobic misinformation.
California Passed “Landmark Law” Protecting Transgender Students
California Governor Signed “Landmark Law” Prohibiting Discrimination Against Transgender Students. From an August 12 USA Today article:
California passed a landmark law Monday that allows transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for either gender, as well as play on either girls' or boys' sports teams.
California on Monday became the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender K-12 students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed AB1266, which also will allow transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys' or girls' sports. The new law gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender. [USA Today, 8/12/13]
Law Is Intended To Reduce Transphobic Bullying, Harassment In Schools. From an August 12 Los Angeles Times report:
The measure, which takes effect Jan. 1, is intended to reduce bullying in schools and help transgender students feel more comfortable on campuses, said its author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).
[S]upporters of the measure said four school districts, including those in Los Angeles and San Francisco, with similar policies have had no major problems.
The law says a student transitioning from a girl to a boy can try out for the boy's football team, but coaches could still decide whether they make the team on merit, including athletic ability, said Carlos Alcala, a spokesman for Ammiano. [Los Angeles Times, 8/12/13]
Fox News Figures Attacked The Bill As “The Biggest Con In The World”
Fox Peddled “Bathroom Bill” Misinformation About The Law. In an August 9 Happening Now segment, Fox's chyron inaccurately referred to the measure as a “bathroom bill,” with Fox News reporter Adam Housley furthering myths about students taking “advantage” of the new law, stating:
HOUSLEY: Those opposed say we're going too far with students and actually hurts the general population as a whole. They say that kids potentially could take advantage of this and parents will have to start worrying about boys showering with girls and vice versa. [Fox News, Happening Now, 8/09/13]
Greg Gutfeld Mocked “Confused” Students Covered Under The Law. From the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News host Greg Gutfeld misrepresented how teenage students could abuse “the so-called school bathroom bill”:
GUTFELD: The legislation requires school to allow gender-confused students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their perceived gender identity, not their biological sex.
GUTFELD: As a devious teen growing up, I would tell girls that I'm a girl trapped in a boy's body, just so I could sneak into the girls' bathroom. In fact, I do that now at Fox News. ... Gretchen Carlson threw me out of the bathroom just last week. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/9/13]
Martha MacCallum: Transphobic Bullying, Harassment Is “Not A Big Problem.” During the August 13 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum downplayed the real problem of transgender students being bullied in schools, stating:
MACCALLUM: So you're going to have a boy or a girl who maybe says “I feel more like a boy today” and then what if two months down the road he feels more like a girl the next two - There's a lot of confusing things that come into this. I know that people have very deep seated conflict with these issues that can be very painful for them. It does affect a certain number of people. It is not a big problem. And I would suggest that in a state where you have barely fifty percent, just over fifty percent proficiency in reading and in math that perhaps we need to put our focus on those issues before we kind of start opening up something that may be problematic for those children and for everybody else. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 8/13/13]
Bill O'Reilly: Allowing Transgender Students To Use Appropriate Facilities Is “The Biggest Con In The World.” On the August 13 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly joked, “I'm sorry if I'm being politically incorrect,” before declaring that the California law “is the biggest con in the world”:
[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/13/13]
Sean Hannity: Schools Are Accommodating The ".00001 Percent" While Forgetting About Other Students. From the August 13 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity suggested the California law would affect an insignificant portion of the student body:
HANNITY: What do we do with the 7-year-old girl who goes into the locker room and there's a 14-year-old boy naked in the girls' locker room because that's where he chooses to be?
HANNITY: So forget about the 99 percent. The accommodation goes to the .00001 percent. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/13/13]
“Bathroom Bill” Horror Stories Haven't Come True
California Law Only Affirms Existing Protections For Transgender Students. According to the Associated Press, California law already prohibits discrimination based on gender identity:
California lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would require public K-12 schools to let transgender students choose which restrooms they use and which school teams they join based on their gender identity instead of their chromosomes.
Some school districts around the country have implemented similar policies, but the bill's author says AB1266 would mark the first time a state has mandated such treatment by statute.
Existing state law already prohibits California schools from discriminating against students based on their gender identity, but the legislation that passed the state Senate on Wednesday spells that out in more detail, said Carlos Alcala, a spokesman for the bill's author, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco. [Associated Press, 7/3/13, emphasis added]
Los Angeles Unified School District Enacted A Similar Policy With “Nothing But Positive Results.” According to an August 12 op-ed in the Huffington post by Judy Chiasson, program coordinator for human relations, diversity and equity for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which enacted a similar nondiscrimination policy:
Since the LAUSD implemented its policy, there has been a transformation in the district's schools. Now numerous transgender students are succeeding, with the help and support of their families and schools.
Opponents of A.B. 1266 have expressed concerns that students will abuse the policy, imperiling the safety of others. But our experience stands in stark contrast to such fears: In all the years since the LAUSD implemented its policy, we have encountered nothing but positive results. We are committed to providing safe schools for all children. Our equal access policy enhances, rather than diminishes, school safety.
In fact, both parents and students have welcomed the news that transgender students in our school district have access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. [Huffington Post, 8/12/13]
CA Lawmaker: “No Single Reported Incident Of Any Misconduct” In School Districts With Similar Policies. According to the Huffington Post:
Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said several major California school districts have had similar policies for years covering thousands of students.
“To date there's been no single reported incident of any misconduct,” Lara said. “Let's not confuse silly behavior issues with sensitive gender identity issues.” [Huffington Post, 7/3/13]
Access To Appropriate School Facilities Reduces Bullying, Improves Academic Performance
Colorado Rights Division: Denying Access To Appropriate School Facilities “Creates An Environment That Is Objectively And Subjectively Hostile, Intimidating, Or Offensive.” According to a June 24 CNN article discussing the case of Coy Mathis, a transgender first-grader in Colorado who won the right to use the girls' bathroom :
A transgender first-grader who was born a boy but identifies as a girl has won the right to use the girls' restroom at her Colorado school.
The Colorado Rights Division ruled in favor of Coy Mathis in her fight against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District.
Coy's parents had taken her case to the commission after the district said she could no longer use the girls' bathroom at Eagleside Elementary. In issuing its decision, the state's rights division said keeping the ban in place “creates an environment that is objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive.” [CNN, 7/24/13]
American Psychological Association: Transgender Youth Should Be Free From Discrimination In School Environments. According to the APA's statement on Transgender, Gender Identity, & Gender Expression Non-Discrimination:
Whereas gender variant and transgender people may be denied basic civil rights and protections (Minter, 2003; Spade, 2003) including: the right to civil marriage which confers a social status and important legal benefits, rights, and privileges (Paige, 2005); the right to obtain appropriate identity documents that are consistent with a post-transition identity; and the right to fair and safe and harassment-free institutional environments such as care facilities, treatment centers, shelters, housing, schools, prisons and juvenile justice programs;
Whereas many gender variant and transgender children and youth face harassment and violence in school environments, foster care, residential treatment centers, homeless centers and juvenile justice programs (D'Augelli, Grossman, & Starks, 2006; Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, 2003; Grossman, D'Augelli, & Slater, 2006);
Therefore be it further resolved that APA supports efforts to provide safe and secure educational environments, at all levels of education, as well as foster care environments and juvenile justice programs, that promote an understanding and acceptance of self and in which all youths, including youth of all gender identities and expressions, may be free from discrimination, harassment, violence, and abuse; [APA Policy Statement on Transgender, Gender Identity, & Gender Expression Non-Discrimination, August 2008]
Transgender Students Face High Levels Of Bullying, Harassment. According to a May 2011 report for the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender students typically face “a hostile school climate with regular harassment from peers”:
Mounting research demonstrates that bullying and peer violence based on gender identity and gender stereotypes represent a serious, national problem, touching the lives of nearly every transgender and gender nonconforming young person in our nation. Of transgender 6th through 12th graders around the country (n=295) who responded to the National School Climate Survey, most experienced a hostile school climate with regular harassment from peers. (Greytak, Kosciw & Diaz 2009). Results included the following:
- More than four of five transgender youth (82%) reported that they felt unsafe at school because of who they were.
- Nearly nine out of ten reported experiencing transphobic or homophobic harassment from peers, and most reported that it happened “often” or “frequently.”
- A majority of transgender students said they had been shoved, pushed, or otherwise physically harassed at school in the last year.
- Nearly half (44%) of transgender students said theyâÂÂve been punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon on at least one occasion in the last year.
- Three out of four (76%) reported that they had experienced unwanted sexual remarks or touching from peers.
- Large majorities reported both cyberbullying (62%) and the theft or destruction of their property (67%) by peers. [National Center for Transgender Equality, May 2011]
Anti-LGBT Harassment Has Long-Term Health Effects On Students. According to the Tuscon Sentinel, students who experience bullying due to their sexual orientation or gender identity are “more likely to report physical and mental health problems” later in life:
A new study shows that LGBT students who experienced high levels of school victimization are more likely to report physical and mental health problems in early adulthood.
San Francisco State University's Family Acceptance Project, the only community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease rejection of LGBT children, conducted the study with 245 California LGBT adults between the ages 21-25.
Out of the participants, 90 percent reported hearing the word 'gay' in a derogatory way, 85 percent had been verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation, and 44 percent reported physical harassment.
LGBT students who reported high levels of victimization, compared to those who reported low levels of victimization, were 2.6 times more likely to report depression above the clinical cut off, and 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide at least once, and having a suicide attempt that required medical attention, the study showed.
Also, students who reported high levels of victimization were more than twice as likely to having reported a STD diagnosis, and having been at risk for HIV infection.
In comparison, LGBT young adults who reported low levels of victimization reported higher levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction and social integration compared to those who experienced higher levels of victimization. [Tuscon Sentinel, 5/19/11]
Experts: Fox's Misleading, Transphobic Coverage Leads To Violence, Discrimination. Experts on transgender equality have condemned Fox News' misleading coverage of transgender issues, warning that the network “further stigmatizes” the transgender community and contributes to transphobic violence and discrimination. [Media Matters, 7/18/13]