Where to go the restroom: it’s a simple question that’s grown increasingly complicated.
Transgender bathroom laws could be a hot topic in Texas’ next legislative session starting in January.
State Sen. Charles Perry expects to see several versions of the proposed law.
The Lubbock Republican is particularly concerned about the ones that affect Texas public schools. Last spring, the Obama administration sent a letter to every public school district in the country ordering them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.
“Public schools shouldn’t be the venue for social reengineering due to a political agenda,” Perry said. “Rural America, from a values standpoint, doesn’t think that’s good stuff … I have not found a single parent that says, ‘It’s OK for my 14-year-old daughter to shower with a boy in public school.’ ”
As a conservative Christian, Perry considers boy-girl bathroom sharing wrong. After making rounds at town hall meetings in his Senate District 28, he’s found his constituents agree.
“At the end of the day, I think people recognize this is a faith issue,” he said. “This is a moral issue. This is one more separation from a sovereign god who created us. It is contrary to my personal faith and to the faith of most people.”
The state senator is also optimistic about post-election administration changes. With a GOP-controlled White House, Senate and House of Representatives, his party certainly has company in Washington.
“I think everything’s going to change now,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of things that are going to be different.”
Women’s Privacy Act
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s proposed “Women’s Privacy Act” would require transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender at birth. Political activist Kerry McKennon opposes the proposal for various reasons. First, as a member of the Libertarian Party, the Petersburg resident finds it overreaching. “If individuals at whatever age want to live as whatever gender they want, they should be able to do that,” he said. “A bill criminalizing that is unjust and does not speak to Texans or the founding fathers’ ideology of individual liberty.”
And as a gay man, he considers it LGBT harassment. Mainly, though, he feels it boils down to human rights — transgender folks should be able to use a bathroom where they feel comfortable.
“I have yet to find a case of an actual transgender woman who attacked another woman in a bathroom,” he said.
McKennon is concerned transwomen could be the ones with the safety issues. First, they represent a group that’s already subject to harassment.
“I think that it creates an atmosphere for bullying to take place (and) for assaults and abuse to happen,” he said. “… Patrick’s proposed law does not address, alleviate or protect from bullying transindividuals. It adds to it and makes it OK in the eyes of the law.”
For that reason, the activist finds ironic the bill’s stated purposes of protection and privacy.
“What he doesn’t seem to understand is that transwomen are women,” he said. “By saying it’s a women’s privacy act, he is leaving out transwomen … This bill is not about privacy and protection. This bill is about bigotry and hatred, because if it was really about all Texans, he would have compassion in regards to the bullying that happens to transchildren in our school system.”
If the Women’s Privacy Act is established, how would violators be charged?
Perry said, “I don’t know that there’s been a definition for the penalty yet.”
The state senator speculates most violations would be misdemeanor offenses, but could vary significantly case-by-case. For instance, say a man absentmindedly wanders into the women’s restroom without noticing the sign. Then, he could likely avoid charges. If he stays in the restroom and harasses its female visitors, it would be a different story.
But McKennon is skeptical of how the bill would be enforced. He’s worried not only could bathroom-monitoring divert law enforcement resources, but that determining the gender of a masculine-looking woman or feminine man could trigger more privacy-invasion issues than it solves.
He pondered, “Who’s gonna be the genital police?”
If you took an abnormal psychology course a few years ago, you might have learned about gender identity disorder. Today, the updated edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes gender dysphoria.
“It’s basically having a gender identity that does not match up with your sex — brain and body don’t match up,” Jeff Ross said.
The psychology professor compares the DSM’s removal of gender identity disorder to when it stopped classifying homosexuality as a disorder in the 1970s.
“Researchers came to understand it was more of a biological condition that a psychological disorder, and that’s where we’re going with gender identity,” he said.
Ross and his nephew, Brant Farrar, teach a human sexuality course at a community college. They requested A-J Media not name the institution.
Farrar, whose background is in sociology, points out an array of physical and psychological conditions that can blur the line between male and female. “We tend to think in terms of male or female, but really what we have are spectrums. In nature, things vary,” Farrar said.
Transfolk are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetuators. Ross and Farrar pointed out, and have a higher-than-average suicide rate.
The sociologist considers proposed bathroom laws discriminatory: “Is that what America should be about? And as a Christian, I ask myself, is that what my religion should be about? I think not.”
Some critics consider bathroom bills wasted resources.
Farrar said, “I feel like we’ve got lots more issues we should be focusing our taxpayer dollars on, like fixing our education system.”
Ross added, “Instead of guarding bathrooms.”
Perry can agree with his opponents on one thing: Texas has bigger concerns.
But while consumed with budget-planning, health care and a Child Protective Services crisis, bathroom laws are not the senator’s top priority. He sees legislation as reactionary to the Obama directive:
“The state of Texas didn’t ask for that letter. We didn’t ask for this fight.”
McKennon, the Libertarian, pointed out the millions North Carolina lost after passing a similar law. Organizers of rock concerts, basketball tournaments and other events moved them to different states in protest.
“Not only is it a human-rights issue; it’s an economic issue,” McKennon said.
But bathroom leniency could have its costs, Perry said. Recalling his example of a 14-year-old boy allowed to shower with girls, he suggested legal action could follow. Upset parents switching to private or home-schooling wouldn’t help school funding either, he said.
But the bigger picture, he said, cannot be monetarily measured:
“I don’t weigh public policy on cost. What’s the long-term cost of allowing this to go forward? You’re going to have a loss of innocence, you’re going to have a loss of values. It’s not clear what the long-term ramifications are going to be, but I can’t think of anything good.”