Society is only beginning to understand transgender identity. For a young person who feels at odds with the physical gender that he or she sees in the mirror, there are major obstacles to be faced in the world at large, where acceptance is just about where it was for gay people 30 years ago. Even for those transgender children or teenagers who have supportive parents — and many don't — it's not an easy existence.
The state of California and the California Interscholastic Federation have stepped up on behalf of these young people in admirable ways. In addition to banning discrimination based on gender identity in jobs and housing, state law broadly prohibits discrimination against transgender students. In February, the federation adopted a progressive policy, which takes effect in the fall, under which transgender students must be allowed to participate on sports teams of the gender they identify with rather than the teams of their physical gender — after a panel reviews each situation to determine that the athlete truly is transgender.
But these are still fraught questions in some places. In some schools, transgender students are now allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify rather than the ones that match their physical gender; other schools don't allow it. Transgender students describe going on field trips to school-related camps and being assigned to sleep in separate cabins.