California became the first state to recognize Transgender History Month through the passing of House Resolution 57 in early September. Speaking as a transgender teen in California, this represents a major win for fellow trans people in the state and a possible sign of hope for trans people across the country.
In late August, I lobbied with Equality California at the State Capital for the protection of LGBTQ+ lives, especially those within K-12 education. While in Assemblyman Matt Haney’s office, he let it slip that he’d be introducing a resolution to honor Transgender History Month the following week with a strong chance of it passing. Excitingly, it did, and now Transgender History Month will be recognized — beyond just the city of San Francisco — every August beginning in 2024.
The importance of this gesture and month is particularly notable at a time of increased hatred and attacks towards trans people in the United States. Transness is a hot-button “issue” for the Republican Party, with nine of eleven Republican presidential candidates actively opposing transgender rights. Trans people are actively being stripped of their human rights in states across the country, rearing to be a nationwide reality dependent on the 2024 election.
Transgender History Month signals that California stands with its transgender citizens, honoring the rich history of trans resistance and resilience. The state acknowledges that trans people have existed for a long time, longer than California’s existence, and that we as a people deserve a history that is celebrated, recognized, and further invested in. We can hope that as long as we’re in California, we have some level of recognition from the state that our being is valid and rightfully protected.
Considering the function of other months of recognition, hopefully, institutions will take the initiative or at least make space in the month of August to discuss transgender history, making way for more conversations and action around trans inclusivity. Most K-12 schools begin in August, giving schools and teachers the opportunity to start their school year creating space for transgender and gender-expansive students to feel seen and represented within the curriculum or with an assembly. Companies can uplift stories of trans leaders and trailblazers, showing respect for the contributions trans people have made to their communities, the state, and society at large.
Having a state-sanctioned Transgender History Month presents new legitimized opportunities to create and facilitate conversations educating others on trans history and issues, but not requiring trans people to over-explain their identities to be seen as valid within them.
As much as this victory should be celebrated, it’s also important to recognize that it is a symbolic step towards progress, and it does not explicitly create the kind of material support needed to truly protect and secure trans lives in this state. Trans people are disproportionately represented among the growing houseless population, experience higher rates of police harassment and violence, job insecurity, harassment in schools, and healthcare coverage issues; all of which are exacerbated by the rising cost of living in California. These problems aren’t solved by having a history month (or increasing police budgets while divesting from social services and education) but can be remedied through adequate policy, resources, and action. What Transgender History Month can help with is shifting ideology to value trans people as equal members of our society deserving of fair treatment and standards of living.
We have a long way to go in the fight to protect the lives of transgender people. I’m proud to say that my home state is at least leading the effort of honoring our history, demonstrating symbolic appreciation for our existence. I only ask that California doesn’t stop at our history but address our present and future too.
X Vazquez (they/she) is based in the Bay Area and studies LGBTQ Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Gender and Women Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
Edited by NaTyshca Pickett