Bathroom Bill Falsely Promises to Protect Women While Putting Transgender People at Risk

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, introduced Senate Bill 6, which would bar transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Business groups in Texas estimate the state's economy could lose $8.5 billion annually and 180,000 jobs if Texas this bill becomes law. We spoke with Katie Sprinkle, a transgender woman and Dallas lawyer, about the personal and political ramifications of the proposed legislation. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said passing a bill to require transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificates is a top priority for him this session. Why is he wrong?The bill is simply a solution in search of a problem. Transgender women are women and transgender men are men. Patrick is not motivated by any pressing need, but rather an ideological and political need. The fact is that 18 states and over 200 cities including Dallas have public accommodation measures that allow transgender people to use the restrooms that correspond to their gender identities and there have been no increases in issues involving public safety. Even Patrick has said transgender people have been using restrooms without any trouble, yet he wants to punish the transgender community for what he claims might happen by someone other than a transgender person. He wants people to believe that protecting transgender people puts other people at risk, which is completely false. Isn't protecting safety and privacy of a public accommodation of legitimate state interest?Transgender people are just as concerned about safety and privacy as any other members of society. However, a bathroom bill does not promote safety and privacy but instead promotes hostility toward the transgender community. The basic premise that if we protect a transgender person, then we compromise the safety and well-being of other people is false. The myth that men are going to rush into women's rooms has been proven false by cities such as Dallas, where it hasn't happened.What's behind this national push now?Far Right ideologues have used the same-sex marriage fight to galvanize their political base. Now that they've lost that battle, they need another target to direct their fear mongering tactics toward in order to further political ambitions. Can you talk a bit about your personal journey and any tipping point moment that brought everything into perspective for you?For many years, I was successful at hiding my true self from friends, family and co-workers, but the burden of living two lives takes an enormous toll. I battled depression and fear of discovery. When you are transgender, you must risk losing everything dear to you in order to live an authentic life. I had been in support groups with people who had been rejected by family and friends as well as people who had lost their jobs and even their careers after coming out. I was terrified that I would lose everything if I came out, but eventually, the pain of living in the closet outweighed the fear of losing everything. I believed that at some point I would have this grand epiphany that would mark the beginning of my transition. Instead, I had a moment of clarity when all the small steps and small discoveries that I had made during the preceding 20 years pointed in a single direction. I realized that I had already begun the journey and that it was the journey that would free me of the emotional baggage brought on by living in the closet. It was a path to living an authentic life. Many people think that transitioning from one gender to the other is complete at some point when in reality, it is a life-long journey. As I transitioned, my friends, family and co-workers transitioned with me learning to use my name and the correct pronouns. How have you dealt with the emotional and practical issues associated with having to make a bathroom choice? The emotional toll of using a restroom often causes a physical toll as you attempt to hold off using the restroom until you arrive home, which is not only uncomfortable but unhealthy as it can lead to urinary tract infections. The practical issues are waiting until the restroom appears to be empty or nearly empty before entering and exiting. Using the first open stall so that you are closest to the exit so that you can leave quickly. You don't check your makeup, your hair or even wash your hands. A bottle of Purell hand sanitizer in your purse takes the place of hand washing. Have you been bothered in public restrooms? I have been very fortunate that my appearance matches my identity, which allows me to fully integrate into my community as the woman that I am. I am not bothered by other women because they recognize me as a woman. Unfortunately, not all transgender women -- or even non-transgender women -- meet society's standards of femininity, and they will suffer the greatest burden. In May of 2016 in Frisco, a woman was followed into the bathroom by a man who wanted to make sure that she was a "real" woman. In fact, the woman, a non-transgender female, was being scrutinized because a man didn't believe she was a female. Most people will say they believe in equal rights, so what do you draw from voters last year rejecting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance?Fear and disinformation made people believe the ordinance would do something that it would not do --- which is to allow men into women's restrooms.How would you respond to someone who favors a bathroom bill on religious grounds or wants schools and minors "protected"?We already have a religious freedom law on the books in Texas and in the cities and school districts such as Houston ISD, where the policy to protect transgender students has been in place since 2011, there have been no issues. Religious freedom is alive and well-protected in Texas and is not compromised by protections for transgender people.What are your thoughts about the New Jersey case involving a transgender boy who is being denied the opportunity to participate as a Cub Scout?The Girl Scouts have welcomed transgender girls starting in 2011 so we would hope that the Boy Scouts would follow suit in allowing transgender boys to interact with their peers as members of the scouts.  Continue reading...

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