A policy brief released by The Fenway Institute and the Center for American Progress examines controversial state and local legislation that would prevent transgender people from using gendered public facilities, such as restrooms or locker rooms, that align with their gender identity. The brief debunks myths about safety concerns regarding the use of these spaces by people who are transgender, and describes the many negative outcomes that these discriminatory bills could cause. Lastly, it calls on states to pass laws that protect the rights of all Americans to access public accommodations regardless of gender identity.
“A Texas bill would make it a felony for transgender people to use public restrooms consistent with their gender identity, and would place responsibility for enforcement with those who operate the public restroom,” said Tim Wang, LGBT Health Policy Analyst at the Fenway Institute and lead author of the report. “Preventing people who are transgender from accessing public restrooms consistent with their gender identity could promote abuse and discrimination.”
In 2015, the state legislatures of Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, and Missouri all considered bills restricting access of transgender people to public bathrooms and locker rooms. More recently, Houston repealed an equal rights ordinance which banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity, among other protected categories. This new wave of anti-transgender legislation follows historical precedents of using legislation to preempt or invalidate laws or ordinances that provide equal rights and protection from discrimination to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
Proponents of the anti-transgender bathroom bills argue that they are common sense policy measures to prevent transgender people from sexually harassing other people in public bathrooms. However, there are no data showing that allowing people who are transgender to use public restrooms that align with their gender identity will lead to an increase in sexual harassment or abuse of the other people using the facilities. In fact, research has shown that transgender people are often the ones who experience discrimination and harassment in public accommodations, and this discrimination is associated with a variety of negative physical and mental health outcomes. Discrimination in public restrooms and other public spaces also has a negative impact on transgender people’s access to equal opportunities for employment, education, and socialization.
“Denying transgender people access to facilities that are necessary for all of us to go about our daily lives, like restrooms, contributes to minority stress and can exacerbate negative health outcomes already affecting transgender people,” said Laura E. Durso, Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “These efforts significantly limit the ability of transgender people to fully and equally participate in civic and public life.”
The policy brief, State anti-transgender bathroom bills threaten transgender people’s health and participation in public life, is available here.
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