The sun rises, birds sing, grass is green, and trans people in Florida and Tennessee are embroiled in legal debates over what public bathroom they use.
NewNowNext reported March 5 on Tennessee House Bill 1151, a bill redefining indecent exposure “to include incidents occurring in a restroom, locker room, dressing room, or shower, designated for single-sex, multi-person use, if the offender is a member of the opposite sex than the sex designated for use.”
Queer advocates in Tennessee have taken aim at the bill’s language, saying that it could be used to discriminate against trans people. Language like: “A medical, psychiatric, or psychological diagnosis of gender dysphoria, gender confusion, or similar conditions, in the absence of untreated mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, does not serve as a defense to the offense of indecent exposure.”
The day after, NewNowNext also reported on an ongoing courtroom battle surrounding 18-year-old trans man Drew Adams and St. John’s County School Board in Florida. When Adams began his transition, school administrators required him to use gender-neutral bathrooms and not the boys’ bathroom. Adams, his family, and attorneys from Lambda Legal sued the school board and won in federal court.
Later, the school board appealed this decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 11th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction includes Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. A decision here would set precedents for trans people using public bathrooms in the deep American South, where this kind of bathroom drama keeps on happening.
Yet again, with the certainty that the sun will rise in the morning, there continues to be outcry and controversy surrounding the fear of trans people using the bathroom. We have had this debate over and over again, and it feels like we should have solved this by now. Nearly three years ago, North Carolina passed into law what came to be known as House Bill 2. The law required that schools and public facilities only allow people into single-gender bathrooms if their birth certificate corresponds with it.
The bill was nakedly anti-trans, immediately challenged by queer legal advocates, and found to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act by the DOJ. And after mounting legal and social pressure, the North Carolina legislature partially repealed the bill.
Despite legal precedent against the cases of the school board and Tennessee House Bill 1151, the idea of trans people using the bathroom still sparks fear. It sparks enough fear to make cases and bills like these even possible. With the outcry against North Carolina’s House Bill 2, there is also precedent for bills and cases targeting trans people to be fought against. Public opinion turned against House Bill 2; it can turn against Tennessee’s bill and the school board’s appeal.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.