Like to munch on those gummy bears or jelly beans or candy corn as you spruce up your Halloween costume? Well, for every handful of what you think might be good, clean fun or a childhood sense memory, you’re putting money into the pocket of one of the men who’s trying to take away the rights of trans and non-gender-conforming expressive students.
These are kids like 12-year-old Jazz, who wanted to play on the girls’ soccer team at school, and 6-year-old Coy Mathis, whose family fought back after the school said she was not allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. For their courage—and that of their families—the two trans girls (pictured above) were honored by GLAAD at the organization's 24th Media Awards gala in New York City last March
Herman Rowland Sr., Chair of the Jelly Belly Candy Company, is a major contributor to the Privacy for All Students initiative campaign—led by Prop. 8 strategist Frank Schubert, who is now the political director for the National Organization for Marriage. Just as he did with the misrepresentations and scare tactics of the Prop. 8 campaign, Schubert is trying to collect enough signatures to put an initiative on the 2014 ballot to repeal the historic “School Success and Opportunity Act, ” AB 1266, authored by out Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. The transgender student law goes into effect on Jan. 1, unless the measure qualifies, which would put the law on hold.
In a recent L.A. Times opinion piece, George Skelton interviewed both Schubert and Wendy Hill, identified as “a state Assembly staffer who helped guide a new transgender-rights law through the Legislature.”
"Our challenge is to get on the ballot," Schubert says. "If we do, I don't think we'll have a great deal of difficulty winning the campaign. Most people I talk to can't believe they [Gov. Brown, the California Legislature, Democrats] did this. What were they thinking? To say that we need to open up our school showers and bathrooms just doesn't make sense."
But Hill, the legislative staffer who also does private transgender counseling, says the common fear that a boy could be showering with girls, or vice versa, is outdated. Public schools generally haven't had open showers for many years, she says.
They can't afford the water, the towels or the janitorial service, she asserts, "and most important, they don't want to be responsible for watching all the naked minors" and worrying about accusations of teacher molestation. "In some schools that still have showers, they're single-stalled, with curtains."
"They have bathrooms and changing areas," Schubert counters. "Kids are going to be exposed."
Hill, a lesbian, responds that "the very last thing" transgender children want to expose is their genitalia: "It gives them away." They're not old enough to have had transgender surgery.
But wouldn't some straight boys fake it just to get their jollies in the girls' bathroom? Hill dismisses that notion.
She notes that Los Angeles and San Francisco schools have had transgender policies similar to AB 1266 for years and haven't reported any major problems.
To be considered transgender, she says, a student must be living the gender daily — not just momentarily wearing a bra to ogle girls in the bathroom, or to land on the girls' volleyball team where the boy could be a star.
In schools that don't have AB 1266 policies, Hill says, "some transgender students just don't go to the bathroom. They hold it all day long. There are higher incidences of urinary tract infections. They don't eat breakfast — the most important meal of the day — or even drink water in order to avoid going to the bathroom. Dehydrated, hungry kids aren't learning as well. They cut school and even leave school."
But Schubert says "the intensity of opinion is clearly" on his side. He cites a campaign poll that shows voters overwhelmingly rejecting the new law.”
So Schubert and company tell unsuspecting citizens and donors what they know will create that intensity, galvanize volunteers and raise lots of money to get the repeal measure on the ballot and pay Schubert’s salary. From his timeshare in Hawaii in early October, Schubert mocked the very idea of gender identity in a phoner with The Daily Beast.
“We accept these terms as if they have some deep-seated meaning and they don’t,” he told The Daily Beast. “'Gender identity' is the same thing as racial identity. Maybe you are confused about your gender, maybe you have a psychological disorder. That’s fine. But let’s not act as if gender identity is some innate, inborn characteristic of humanity because it’s not. It’s a political creation designed to advance an agenda.”
That despised LGBT 'agenda' others call equality. Sara Train, head of Project SPIN (Suicide Prevention Intervention Now) at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, works very closely with the Los Angeles Unified School District. She says:
“For almost 10 years, the LAUSD has led the nation with policies that support trans students. What we’ve found through our collaboration with the LAUSD is that these policies have solved problems—not created them. Students get it. Most students don't know that one of their classmates is transgender. When students are allowed to use the facilities that they identify with, other students get it. By contrast, forcing students to use facilities that don't correspond with their gender identity is uncomfortable for all. LAUSD has never had a problem with a transgender student's behavior in the facilities. AB1266 only strengthens policies that LAUSD has had in place since 2004.”
In The Daily Beast interview, Schubert said they needed to raise $300,000 more to add to the $250,000 they already have in order to hire professional signature gatherers. But one source said a campus activist spotted one signature-gatherer on the UCLA campus on one occasion. Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, says he hasn’t heard of anyone working on behalf of the anti-trans campaign.
“If they’re trying to gather signatures on the cheap, they will not make the ballot,” says David Fleischer, Director of the Leadership LAB at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.
The Center is part of a coalition—including Equality California, Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights—that is monitoring the situation.
“We are closely monitoring the opposition’s lack of progress, and we have no evidence to suggest they were able to achieve 500,000 signatures,” as Schubert claimed in his interview with the L.A. Times, Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center said. “Regardless, we are confident that fair-minded Californians will prevail. I know this issue might be new to some folks, even in the LGB community, so let’s be clear: transgender boys are boys and transgender girls are girls, and all students should be supported and able to attend school as their authentic selves. Every student should have a fair chance at success, that’s what this law is all about.”
On Tuesday, EQCA’s John O’Connor put out a request to supporters:
We're asking you to make a promise to support all students, and decline to sign any action from opponents who are trying to stand in the way of students' success and even their ability to graduate from high school.
After you make your promise, please consider sharing this email with your family and friends, letting them know that you care about this issue, you care about students in our community, and then ask them to stand alongside you in support of all students.
Nonetheless, Schubert’s ties with NOM and with anti-LGBT Catholics have certainly helped raise money. You might remember that Jelly Belly disavowed any anti-gay attitudes in 2010 when the sad NOM-back Latino tour bus (tracked by the Courage Campaign) tried to pay a visit. Instead of a warm welcome, Jelly Belly Consumer Affairs Manager Kit McCoy said they were unaware of being a highlighted stop on NOM’s itinerary. “Jelly Belly does not allow any group to promote their special interests, pass out flyers or approach our visitors for their own interests at our public tours,” McCoy said.
Except when they do—such as the March 2012 rally for Rick Santorum. The New York Times reported:
The rally Thursday was hosted by Herman G. Rowland Sr., chairman of the board of Jelly Belly Candy Company, who calls himself “an ultra conservative” and whom Federal Election Commission records show has contributed to the campaigns of Mr. Santorum’s opponents: Newt Gingrich, Mr. Romney and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. When asked about it, Mr. Rowland said a check for Mr. Santorum “is sitting on my desk, and he’s going to pick it up today.”
Rowland’s $5,000 contribution, however, is dwarfed by those of Sean Fieler, managing member of New York-based Equinox Partners and the Kuroto Fund. A bio at the Catholic Finance Association indicates that Fieler “is the president of the Williams Catholic Network and a board member of the International Crisis Group AB, Witherspoon Institute, Institute for American Values, National Bible Association, and the Committee for Monetary Research & Education.”
Well, he was with the Institute for American Values. Fieler left when Institute for American Values President and Prop. 8 trial star witness David Blankenhorn wrote a New York Times op-ed saying he was quitting the fight against marriage equality. “Instead of fighting gay marriage,” Mr. Blankenhorn wrote, “I’d like to help build new coalitions bringing together gays who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same.”
The New York Times reported:
Sean Fieler, the president of Equinox Partners, a New York hedge fund, was Mr. Blankenhorn’s largest donor, until he quit the board. Mr. Fieler, whose average annual donation “ranged from $200,000 to $250,000,” said that a pro-marriage movement could not so easily accept gay and lesbian allies, not if they were seeking marriage rights.
“The problem with gay marriage and the position David has taken,” Mr. Fieler said, “is it promotes a very harmful myth about the gay lifestyle. It suggests that gay relationships lend themselves to monogamy, stability, health and parenting in the same way heterosexual relationships do. That’s not true.”
So you can just imagine what he thinks about trans students, which is why he gave and gave and may give some more:
Oh, and then there’s this: “Admittedly I'm way out of my league here, like most people are on this topic,” George Skelton wrote in the L.A. Times. “But maybe many students today are more tolerant than in previous generations. Maybe if a student dresses like a girl, she should use the girls' bathroom.”