(Sacramento, CA) – Last night, for the first time in California history, legislation written by currently and formerly incarcerated transgender people was signed into law. Senate Bill 310 (the Name and Dignity Act), authored by Senator Toni Atkins of San Diego and co-authored by Senator Beall, Senator Wiener, Assemblymember Chiu, Assemblymember Garcia, Assemblymember Gloria, and Assemblymember Stone, makes it possible for transgender people currently in custody to petition the superior court for a legal name and gender marker change. This legislation allows transgender people to have their chosen names respected while incarcerated and eases the re-entry process for transgender people by ensuring that they have legal documents that match their gender presentation upon release. This breaks down barriers in accessing housing, employment and healthcare.
“Transgender people are disproportionately impacted by recidivism due to being pushed out of traditional economies, housing and healthcare,” said Janetta Johnson, Executive Director of the TGI Justice Project. “A person exiting prison with identification documents that actually match who they are has an exponential impact on their ability to access life-giving services without some of the discrimination that comes with having identification documents that don’t match their gender presentation.”
Current law allows transgender prisoners to apply for a legal name and gender marker change. However, prisoners must petition several different departments in CDCR, including the warden, and requests are regularly either sent through endless bureaucratic loops or denied. Since 1994, only four transgender people in prison have legally changed their name and gender marker through this process, and two of those cases were a result of litigation. SB 310 will now allow transgender prisoners the same direct access to the superior courts that non-incarcerated transgender people have.
“For too long, California prisons and jails have denied the humanity and dignity of transgender people in their custody by refusing to recognize who they truly are,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “This law, developed by currently and formerly incarcerated transgender people, is a welcome step towards addressing the severe discrimination transgender people face in prison and upon release from prison.”
“We applaud the State of California and Governor Brown for signing SB 310 into law. This legislation comes directly from currently incarcerated transgender people and was run by an almost entirely transgender cohort. This is absolutely innovatory and shows that California can be a leader in protecting the rights and honoring the dignity of transgender people, especially incarcerated transgender people,” said Aria Sa’id, Policy and Development Director of the St. James Infirmary.
As President Donald Trump continues to chip away at gains around transgender people’s rights at the federal level, it is timely that California shows such a leading edge and deep investment in transgender people’s safety and well-being. Advocates across the state are celebrating the signing of SB 310, the Name and Dignity Act, into law.
This bill is co-sponsored by the Transgender Gendervariant Intersex Justice Project, the St. James Infirmary, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, the Transgender Law Center, the Women’s Foundation of California and Equality California.