California law requires long-term care professionals use preferred pronouns for transgender patients

Written by: 
Nathan Graham

California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill No. 219 into law, which demands long-term care professionals to address senior transgender patients by their preferred pronoun, according to the Associated Press. This law has stirred debate among BYU-Hawaii students on if it violates Constitutional rights of free speech, while others mentioned it helps to recognize another person’s humanity.

Jackie Tapia, a senior in political science from Washington, D.C., explained the complexity of the situation as she expressed her belief that while LGBT community members should not be discriminated against or mistreated, other members of society should still be allowed to express their beliefs and opinions because of their first amendment right.

Tapia quoted California resident Greg Burt, who testified before the California Assembly Judiciary Committee, "‘How can you believe in free speech, but think the government can compel people to use certain pronouns when talking to others? Compelled speech is not free speech.’”

Tapia added, “It’s hard for our religious community because we know what is accepted by God, and so we have to learn to have respect for the LGBT community. But at the same time stand up for what we believe in. As a society, we have to find the balance because we should be able to voice our opinion but so should they. Where does one person’s rights end and another’s begin? It’s a hard line to draw.” 

Meg Stricklin, a senior in biochemistry from California, said she aspires to become a doctor and expressed her wish that people could leave the politics of free speech out of the problem and simply respect others.

Stricklin said, “I have had the opportunity to shadow a primary physician… by simply sitting in that room I could see the trust these patients had for their doctor. It was almost a spiritual experience watching this doctor treat his patients, and you can’t have any of that unless there is respect and trust.

“This new law is similar to when we show up on the first day of school and the teacher asks your name and what you would prefer to be called, and then he calls you by that name out of respect.

“I think it’s silly that a law such as this has to be put in place. As a professional, you willingly go into a profession and agree to a code of ethics, and as a doctor part of the code is to do no harm. By refusing to respect someone’s desire to be called a certain pronoun you are doing damage.”

Stricklin expressed her frustration about the lack of love and respect in the global community today, saying that while it is a difficult situation she hopes to never be on a side that helps to contribute to the dehumanization of other people.

Micha Tanuvasa, a local Laie resident who is openly gay, said he couldn’t make sense of such a law or the need for one, but more understanding came as he learned its purpose to protect transgender patients who cannot afford to move between care providers to find one that treats them with respect.

“It’s hard,” said Tapia as she explained there is no clear answer; she said she sympathizes for those healthcare professionals who might hold religious beliefs that would make using pronouns such as ‘her’ or ‘she’ when referring to a biological male difficult.

Tanuvasa said, “It makes sense. We all deserve to be treated with respect.” 

The bill can be read at: By clicking on this link, you will be leaving the BYU-Hawaii and Ke Alaka'i website.

Date Published: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Last Edited: 
Thursday, October 19, 2017