Marginalization of Trans Students Must Stop


Haelee Chung

Trans students marginalized inadvertently by California law.

As it is for most students, freshman year, for me, was an awkward and confusing period of transition. And while, like everybody else, I was worrying about my classes, new friends, and new clubs, I was also publicly coming out as transgender, much to the dismay of my parents.

Despite the roadblocks that lay ahead, I was largely optimistic. I knew that Campolindo was far from conservative, and assumed that faculty would try their best to be accommodating, despite an assumed lack of knowledge or understanding. It didn’t take long for my preconceived positivity to sour into the cynicism that many students at Campo are well familiar with.

1 of my most definitive early experiences at Campolindo was during the 1st time that I attempted to change my name in a school document. I was preoccupied, at the time, with anxiety about yearbook season, and what that would mean for me as a student from an unaccepting family. I didn’t want my yearbook to contradict the information that I’d asserted so strongly about myself — specifically, that my name is Ollie. Encouraged by my friends and counselor, I walked to the yearbook teacher’s classroom after school to request a name change.

He denied my request to change my name, told me that my “legal name” was required in the yearbook. I looked down, feeling extremely embarrassed. He opened his mouth again to say something in a voice, meant, I think, to be reassuring, with his eyes averted, and told me that he thought I was so brave.

At the time, I accepted the failure as 1 among a series of many to change my name and gender on an assortment of school documents. At the time, I wasn’t informed of my rights as a trans student in California. At the time, I trusted Campolindo’s staff, and expected them, naively, to be on the side of the little guy. I was incorrect.

For about 2 years at Campo, I lived with my birth name on my yearbooks, attendance sheets, student IDs, seating charts, and email. It’s very likely that, due to that name being on all of my paperwork for so long, more people from Campolindo know me by that name than they do by my preferred name. It’s also likely that more people call me by that name than by my preferred name.

I’m not stupid. I, like every other trans person, know how most cisgender people think of me. They don’t want to provoke, they don’t want to be disrespectful, but, for the most part, they have no interest in understanding trans people’s perspectives or self-advocacy. That’s not on the fault of the faculty, or any person in particular. However, by intentionally providing the information that they have to the student body, Campolindo has empowered those that see me as a token or a punchline.

California’s state protections of trans students are some of the strongest in the world, but Campolindo has repeatedly avoided abiding by these civil protections. They often require legal prerequisites to change one’s name in arbitrary paperwork such as attendance sheets, yearbooks, and emails, as well as unnecessary red tape to participate in student sports and use facilities that align to a student’s preferred gender. These unnecessary complications overwhelmingly target trans students from unaccepting families, often requiring parent signatures and meetings that are inaccessible to a large chunk of trans minors that risk tension, conflict, and perhaps even their own safety at the hands of the purposefully incompetent Campolindo administration. While this may sound dramatic, it’s not far off from the truth. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 73% of trans adolescents report experiences aligned with psychological abuse from parents, and 39% report physical abuse — numbers that dwarf the self-reports of their cisgender peers.

All of these actions are largely in violation of California’s 2013 School Success and Opportunity Act, which works to empower and uplift students of all backgrounds, including those with marginalized gender identities and expression. The School Success and Opportunity Act clearly states that students must have their preferred names on all unofficial school documents and must be able to access facilities and activities aligned with their gender identity, regardless of how they are legally registered. By undermining these rights, Campolindo is making a frustrating and disempowering environment for trans students, and, arguably, getting away with breaking the law by subverting the rights of students that have no power to protect themselves.

Campolindo’s actions to improve inclusion and diversity are mocked by conservative and liberal students alike, largely for perceived performativity and condescension. When the administration does respond to the mass complaints of marginalized students, which is rare, these responses are often bizarre, obnoxious, and ineffective. Some of these attempts have included the introduction of the dreaded feeling compass, mandatory Zoom cohorts at 8:30 AM to watch YouTube videos about gay people with your history teacher, and slideshows on equity that take up whole academy periods, despite inexplicably mostly being pictures of optical illusions. Campolindo as a community exists in a gray area. We insist on taking a political stance, no matter how inconvenient, unnecessary, and dividing, but refuse to take personal action, no matter how pertinent. It doesn’t matter if our staff and students use all the right buzzwords and have all of the same opinions — not conservative, but not radical enough to necessitate change or controversy — if we continually avoid providing marginalized students with the resources and environments needed for them to thrive.

If you’ve experienced incidents of bigotry or threats of your safety, but faculty ineffectively responded, and you want to talk about it, email me at [email protected], the email address that this school repeatedly refused to change without the permission of my parents. I won’t compromise your safety or your anonymity, and, if you’d like, I or another member of The Claw’s staff could cover the incident in a separate article.