Gov. Gavin Newsom signs AB 245 to allow transgender students to use lived names on diplomas

Photo of gender equity resource center
Eran Kohen Behar/Staff
A bill signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom allows transgender students to have their lived names printed on their diplomas without the need for state-issued court documentation.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Oct. 6 that gives students, particularly transgender students, at state public universities the ability to have their lived names printed on their diplomas.

AB 245, authored by state Assemblymember David Chiu and sponsored by Equality California, ensures that students are not “deadnamed,” or called by their names assigned at birth, on their college diplomas, according to a press release from Chiu’s office.

“Many transgender students have changed their name to something that conforms with their gender instead of their sex assigned at birth or their name assigned at birth,” said Zoe Hayes, internal director of the Queer Alliance and Resource Center. “To use someone’s dead name instead of someone’s lived name is a disrespect of the trans student and the trans student’s identity.”

Dania Matos, campus vice chancellor of equity and inclusion, said in an email that the campus Division of Equity and Inclusion “celebrates” and supports the changes brought by AB 245.

Matos said the UC system has previously issued a similar guideline to “empower” transgender students.

In 2020, UC President Michael Drake had announced a policy ensuring that all individuals are identified by their accurate gender identity and lived or preferred name on university-issued documents and in UC’s information systems, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King. The policy went into effect Nov. 6, 2020.

Hayes, however, noted that students were required to provide court documentation to change their names on such university-issued records. They added that court documents were generally inaccessible and that the process could be “triggering” for some.

AB 245 bypasses those requirements, making it easier for transgender students to graduate feeling like their “authentic self,” Hayes said.

“Being able to have trans students’ names on their diplomas not only shows that they are accepted as they are, but it’s an indicator of how much they’ve grown as a person there,” Hayes said. “They’re getting a degree from the number one public university in the world as their authentic self, and I think there’s something poetic about that.”

Hayes added that the Queer Alliance and Resource Center is “very excited” about the bill.

Sonia Katyal, a UC Berkeley School of Law professor and member of the campus LGBTQ Citizenship Cluster, also said in an email that they “could not be happier” about the bill.

“Centering the well-being of our transgender and nonbinary students is of primary importance in education,” Katyal said in an email. “We should do anything and everything in our power to support equality and gender self-determination for all.”

Campus associate professor of gender and women’s studies Eric Stanley noted, however, that the bill does not automatically correct past records, which happens only when a student legally changes their name.

Stanley added that they were “not convinced” that the policy will be uniformly implemented.

“Decreasing administrative barriers is always important, however for trans people to thrive on campus we need much, much more than this,” Stanley said in an email.

Kavya Gupta is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @kavyaguptta.