SACRAMENTO (KPIX-TV) — Retail stores in California may be required to maintain gender-neutral sections for clothes, toys and childcare articles under a new proposal from a Bay Area lawmaker.
The bill introduced by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) would require retail department stores with 500 or more employees to maintain areas on their sales floor not divided by gender, which he says stigmatizes children who want to wear or play with something marketed for the opposite sex. “Rather than having a separate boy’s or girl’s section, let’s just have a kid’s section. And that’s what the conversation is about. Let’s make sure that we remove the kind of stigma, the type of bullying that we still see, especially in this day and age,” Low told KPIX.
Low’s bill, AB 1084, would also fine stores up to $1,000 for violating the policy.
Julia Burnett said she is the mother of a transgender child who often felt constrained by rigid gender stereotypes and expectations. “I’m in favor of combining things and then people can choose. Kids can choose,” Burnett said
But not every parent was ready to embrace the idea. Some questioned its necessity or usefulness.“You have the opportunity to walk to wherever you want to. Just because it has a male or female designation, doesn’t mean you can’t walk to a “male” toy and vice versa,” says parent Robert Alvarez.
Gabrielle Antolovich, Billy DeFrank Center Board President, says that freedom with be a relief to parents and children that either don’t fit or believe in traditional gender roles. “The children will be saying, ‘Why can’t I have that?’ And it’s not in the category that the parents think it should be. And that’s where parenting sometimes goes awry,” said Antolovich.
Major retailers have increasingly made gender-neutral clothing and products a priority, as demographics and Generation Z purchasing power evolve. According to Pew Research, 35% of people born after 1996 know someone who identifies as non-binary and prefers gender-neutral pronouns.