California Activists File Ballot Initiatives to Counter State's Transgender Policies

Proposals would require schools to alert parents if their child is trans, restore sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms in high schools, and ban puberty blockers and sex-change surgeries for minors

Tony Thurmond (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
August 29, 2023

California activists on Monday filed three ballot initiatives to counter some of the state’s transgender policies, including those allowing minors to obtain sex changes and requiring high school girls to compete against biological boys.

The proposals from Protect Kids California would require schools to alert parents if their child asks to be treated as a different gender, prohibit biological boys from competing on girls’ sports teams, restore sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms in high schools, and ban puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and sex-change surgeries for minors. Activists see California, which led the way in enshrining gender ideology in state law, as a major battleground in the nationwide movement to safeguard children from irreversible sex changes.

"We have achieved massive wins, culturally, legislatively, and judicially all over the states, but honestly there is no place quite like home," said Chloe Cole, a detransitioner who filed the first U.S. lawsuit against the California hospital that removed her breasts when she was 15. "My home is now looked down upon because it has become a safe haven for medical experimentation on children by doctors who are looking for cash grabs and political points."

The group is hoping the announcement will kick off fundraising for what promises to be a costly effort to get on the ballot, and then a battle against the special interest groups behind California's transgender laws. Jonathan Zachreson, the group's founder, told the Washington Free Beacon he hopes to win backing from high-profile figures like Elon Musk, who has condemned the state's gender policies for kids and called for life in prison for any parent or doctor who "sterilizes a child."

Groups opposed to California's liberal transgender policies have gained strength this year. A statewide poll in June found that 62 percent of California voters would support a law requiring schools to tell parents if their child is "identifying, requesting to identify, or being treated as a gender that doesn’t align with their biological sex." Several school boards in the state have passed pro-parent policies that require teachers and schools to alert parents if their kids are experiencing gender confusion, ratcheting up tensions with state leaders. On Monday, the state attorney general filed a lawsuit against the Southern California school district that passed the first parental notification rule. 

Still, they face a stiff fundraising challenge to publicize their cause in California, where ballot measures are a high-cost proposition. Last year, companies and special interests spent more than $700 million on seven initiatives, including making abortion up until birth a state constitutional right and expanding sports gambling. The proposals to counter the state's trans policies seem poised to draw opposition from deep-pocketed groups like the ACLU, the California Teachers Association, and the LGBT group Equality California—all of which back the policies that the ballot measures would overturn.

Republican state lawmakers rallied behind the initiatives along with activists like Cole, Erin Friday, who co-leads the parents’ group Our Duty, former athletes, and parents. They slammed critics for labeling them anti-transgender, saying they want to safeguard children and families from irreversible harm and protect girls' and women's sports and privacy.

San Francisco's Democratic state senator Scott Wiener, one of the legislature's most prolific authors of bills promoting gender ideology, previewed the opposition Monday as he tweeted that "extremists who are so obsessed with trans kids" are "pushing proposals that will result in more of these kids staying in the closet & committing suicide."

The initiatives must undergo a public comment period and fiscal analysis that could take up to 65 days. Then supporters will have six months to gather 550,000 valid signatures to put these measures up for a statewide vote next November.

Two of the initiatives would overturn existing laws. Legislation from 2013 decreed that kids could use a locker room or restroom and play on the sports team of their choosing, on the basis of gender identity. But it largely escaped public awareness until the past couple of years, as more boys are competing against girls and taking elite competition slots and minors are using opposite-sex facilities, making their peers and adult faculty who have to supervise locker rooms uncomfortable. A poll from Harvard’s Center for American Political Studies found that 77 percent of Americans believe minors should not be able to get sex-change treatments or hormones, including 75 percent of Californians.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) signed a law authored by Wiener stating that kids from states that ban sex-change drugs and surgeries for minors can come to California to get taxpayer-funded treatment, even without parental consent.