A new California law requires public colleges to update diplomas and records for transgender students who have changed their names.
The new law, which took effect on Jan. 1, requires the state’s public colleges to update records for students who have legally changed their names. It also allows graduates to request an updated copy of their diploma at no cost to them.
Then, starting with the 2023-24 class, it will require institutions to allow students to self-identify their names on diplomas, even without legal documentation of a name change. (The legislation does not specifically require colleges to let students self-identify their names on educational records besides diplomas without legally changing their name. It also does not affect how people are identified on legal documents used for tax, immigration status and other purposes.)
California is the first state to enact such a law. A previous version failed in the Legislature in 2020.
The right to self-identify one’s name on a college diploma helps protect transgender and gender non-conforming students, advocates say. Research shows that transgender people are at higher risk of discrimination and violence.
More than one in four trans people has experienced a “bias-driven assault”, with rates even higher for trans women and trans people of color, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Academic records listing a student’s name and gender as assigned at birth could potentially “out” that student’s identity, which can put them at a significant disadvantage when seeking housing and employment, said David Chiu, who authored the bill while representing San Francisco in the state Assembly. Chiu, now the San Francisco city attorney, said he was asked by Equality California and other transgender activist groups to draft the bill.