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Opponents of the bill worry that it sacrifices the privacy of non-transgender students who might not feel comfortable using a restroom or locker room with someone who is medically considered to be of the opposite sex.
“Those of us involved have nothing but compassion for any individual who feels awkward in a traditional sex-separated bathroom and locker room,” said Tim LeFever, an executive committee member of Privacy for All Students, a group that is campaigning to overturn the bill at the ballot box. “But we also have compassion for those students who feel it would be an intrusion to bring them into their bathroom or locker room.”
LeFever said the group’s main concern is privacy; it has no official stance on the participation of transgender youth in sports or activities.
Privacy for All Students spent about a half-million dollars gathering more than 600,000 signatures to qualify for a referendum. The secretary of state announced last month that it had disqualified more than 100,000 of those signatures (about 500,000 are needed). The group contested that decision and is fighting to restore some of those names.
Though Cordova-Goff was an advocate of the bill, she doesn’t actually feel comfortable using the girls’ restroom at school. She is unsure how her classmates would react and wants to avoid awkward encounters. Instead, she often goes to two private bathrooms that Rubalcaba opened. The school also built three separate changing areas in its locker room for Cordova-Goff and other student who might want more privacy.
Rubalcaba is carefully trying to implement the law at Azusa High School, where 90 percent of the students are Latino and the same percentage are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
“We’re going to make sure the process is done in a way that consistently supports everyone and is also respectful and mindful of the implications it has for other students and their rights as well and the concerns of their families,” he said.
On a recent balmy afternoon the school’s varsity girls’ softball team, the Aztecs, gathered for practice. Cordova-Goff stood in the right outfield catching pop flies and skittering line drives. She occasionally let out a yelp of horror when her mitt missed the ball. This was not her best performance, she later admitted, but she’s getting used to a new role.
She grew up playing third base, a position that sees a lot of action, and that’s what she likes most about it. “You’re always on your toes,” she said. “You’re always trying to just be a ballerina.”
Later, when given a chance to play her favorite position, she drifted off the base, leaned into a squat, her mitt facing upward as she waited for the batter to swing. She snatched a fast-paced grounder and sent the ball straight to first base in time to tag the runner out. There were no yelps for this play — just a broad smile. It was a rare moment of unequivocal happiness on the field
Since Cordova-Goff tried out and made the team in February, she has found the media attention a little exhausting. She has heard rumors that other teams don’t want to play Azusa, and it saddens her to think that she might negatively affect the team’s season. But she also resents the criticism that her presence might give the Aztecs an unfair competitive advantage.
“I really do feel that automatically assuming I’m going to dominate the field is an insult not only to me but to other softball players who have worked their whole lives,” she said. “They’re kind of assuming I’m going to be better than all of the girls, when in reality I’m not.”
The idea of competitive advantage wasn’t a central concern for the California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees the state’s high school sports. In February 2013, well before A.B. 1266 passed, the CIF issued new guidelines for permitting transgender students to try out for and participate in athletics. The process begins with the school, and if a student feels unfairly excluded, he or she can appeal to the CIF.
Cordova-Goff knows she is part of the vanguard and sometimes enjoys that feeling.
“I like breaking barriers,” she said.
That includes joining the homecoming court as a princess and founding her school’s first gay-straight alliance club. . Last summer she became an activist and organizer through the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Network, a national youth organization. She is hoping to be admitted to Harvard and other top-tier universities.
“I feel like for Pat the sky is the limit,” said Ariel Bustamante, the Southern California program coordinator for GSA Network. “She’s always stood out as having a positive and creative attitude that inspires her peers and the adults around her.”
At one of the season’s first games, Cordova-Goff suited up in the team’s black-and-blue uniform, her nails painted bright yellow and her black hair tied up with a ribbon. She played two innings at right field and bunted at bat. “It was a blast,” she said.
“There are moments where we forget about what everyone else is saying and we’re just playing a sport we love,” she said. “And those are the moments that I’m trying to make the whole season.”