Before Bruce Jenner was famous for living in front of the camera on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” he was an Olympic champion, taking home the gold medal in the 1976 decathlon at the Summer Games in Montreal. Winning the decathlon gave Jenner the unofficial title of greatest athlete in the world, and secured his place as one of the best competitors the United States has ever produced.
Nearly 40 years later, Jenner could potentially become a champion in a different respect. Recently, news reports have surfaced that the 65-year-old father of six is beginning the process of living his life as a woman.1 Though he has yet to speak out on his transition, many sources close to Jenner and his family have reported that he identifies himself as a transgender person. With that change comes the opportunity to become a leader in the fight for transgender rights, a social group against whom discrimination is still legal in many states and countries around the world.
According to the Gender Equity Resource Center at the University of California, Berkeley, the term “transgender” is an umbrella term that refers to any person whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to the biological gender of their birth. Transgender covers the spectrum from persons who have had surgery to be physically transformed to the other sex to persons whose identity is expressed through their clothing, grooming, or behavior. Transgender also applies to persons who identify as neither male nor female.2
What are the Rights of Transgender Persons in California?
California is among a handful of states that have specific protections against discrimination on the basis of a person’s transgender status. California Government Code sections 12940-12951 and 12955-12956.2 – the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) – prohibit discrimination against anyone based on his or her gender, gender identity, or gender expression. The law makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against transgender employees, and for landlords to discriminate against transgender buyers or tenants.3 Services provided by the state government cannot be denied to transgender persons, nor can their participation in state funded activities be limited on the basis of their gender identity.