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Texas Legislators Pass Discriminatory Bathroom Bill

credit; Thad Allton

This Monday, Texas legislature passed the infamous bathroom bill in a 94-50 vote. For those unfamiliar with the bill, its function is to keep transgendered people from using public bathrooms of their gender identity. For example, a trans female, born male, would have to use the men’s restroom, regardless of the fact that she is no longer male. This lays the legal foundation for prosecution of trans citizens – simply for using the bathroom of their choice.

Proponents of the bill claim it acts in the interests of the people by protecting women from “pedophiles” and “rapists” — but as of today, there are zero reported cases of a trans person attacking someone in a public restroom in the United States. Non-discriminatory ordinances do not make assault legal in any way or raise the risk of assault. In fact, the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have put in place laws that prevent discrimination in public accommodations (including restrooms) on the basis of gender identity – and none have reported a rise in assault cases.

If the government is to pass a bathroom bill, the bill should focus on protecting trans people, not discriminating against them. Because in actuality, in the last 35 years across the world there has been only one incident of someone using gender identity as a guise to assault someone in a restroom. But in a survey conducted recently, 68% of trans people reported harassment of some kind, with 9% reporting actual physical violence

I interviewed students at my public high school in Texas who would be directly affected by this bill. Zoe Sowards, a trans female, gave some perspective into the fear trans people face when using public restrooms. “If I’m with friends and if the area is empty…I’m more comfortable then. But whenever I do use the restroom otherwise I try to make the visit as quick and subtle as possible to avoid possible confrontation.” Julian Johnson, a trans male, “never [uses] the men’s restroom” at our school. “I’m scared of seeing someone I know and judging me. My biggest fear is someone noticing my high pitched voice, realizing that I’m not biologically a male, then physically or mentally hurting me.”

This is the narrative we should be paying attention to. Even without the bill, members of the trans community face being harassed, especially in traditionally conservative states like Texas. The suicide rate for trans youth is more than two times the suicide rate of teens in general, at 25% compared to 10%. “Texas lawmakers need to realize that fearmongering is just dividing everyone further apart…These laws have no basis in reality.” Zoe says.

“What’s your deal?” asks Sam Huggard, a nonbinary senior. “We’re not perverts or criminals. We just want to use the bathroom and wash our hands. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be…this will, and has, agitated and frightened several members of the community who now feel even LESS safe going to pee than they did before”.

Julian finished our interview with a final plea to lawmakers – “I promise we aren’t here to hurt you in any way. We just want to do our business where we feel most comfortable, then leave. We are normal people just like you.”

If rape and assault really are the primary concern of Texas legislators, maybe they should turn their eyes to the 19,501 untested rape kits in their state. Rape in public restrooms is indeed a serious issue – but it isn’t one we can attribute to the trans community, and doing so would only heighten the discrimination against trans Texas residents.

To those concerned about this issue and willing to act against it, I urge you to contact Texas Governor Greg Abbott and tell him to veto this bill.

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Haniyah Burney
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Haniyah writes to refine her thoughts into action. Despite being born and raised an American, she takes great pride in her Pakistani roots. Her strongest belief is in the invaluable nature of love and kindness. She enjoys sipping warm cups of chai and reading Jane Austen with a cat on her lap.

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