Arizona Bill Would Penalize Transgender Individuals For Using Their Bathroom Of Choice

Arizona State Representative John Kavanagh wants to pass a bill that would ban transgender individuals from using a bathroom different from their biological makeup. Police would have the right to stop any individual from using a restroom to show I.D. to prove their biological identity, even if it doesn't match their gender presentation.

“Phoenix has crafted a bill that allows people to define their sex by what they think in their head,” Kavanagh said. “It also raises the specter of people who want to go into those opposite sex facilities not because they’re transgender… but because they’re weird.”

This isolated event is only the latest in a string of news displaying intolerance and ignorance towards LGBT rights' most misunderstood letter — the T.

S.B. 1432, also being dubbed as the “show me your papers” bill states:

“A PERSON COMMITS DISORDERLY CONDUCT IF THE PERSON INTENTIONALLY ENTERS A PUBLIC RESTROOM, BATHROOM, SHOWER, BATH, DRESSING ROOM OR LOCKER ROOM AND A SIGN INDICATES THAT THE ROOM IS FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF PERSONS OF ONE SEX AND THE PERSON IS NOT LEGALLY CLASSIFIED ON THE PERSON’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE AS A MEMBER OF THAT SEX.”

According to GLAAD’s website, transgender individuals are an overwhelming minority — in a 2008 poll, only 8% of Americans were familiar with a transgender person while 78% were familiar with a gay or lesbian person. GLAAD defines transgender as “an umbrella term often used to refer to people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. However, people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth may not self-identify as transgender; some may identify as transsexual, trans, genderqueer, a person of transgender experience, etc.”

This dimension of LGBT rights has just begun to make its way into the public consciousness. The New Yorker ran a piece recently, titled, “About A Boy” which focused on an F.T.M (female to male) transgender high school boy called Skylar.

And while the gay rights movement has strengthened wider acceptance of sexual orientation, transgender individuals still face heavy amounts of discrimination. For many, the idea of an individual not identifying with their biologically assigned gender identity is too hard a pill to swallow.

In Colorado, a six-year-old boy that identifies as female is undergoing a lawsuit after her school dictated that she should use a gender-neutral bathroom rather than the girl’s bathroom in her school. Her parents pulled her out of school and currently have her home-schooled as a result. In the New York Times piece covering the story, Coy Mathis said that other children were being “mean” to her and insisting that she is male even though she feels and her parents have allowed her to express otherwise. At a high school in Mississippi, a transgender girl called Leah has received backlash for preferential treatment for breaking school dress code by being allowed to wear female clothes. 

“How distracting is it for you walk down the hallway and see a boy you've known since Kindergarten, now a girl, wearing high heels walking, that's distracting to you,” said a senior student and protester of the incident.

The school’s stance on Leah supported that she is not breaking any rules, since she is female. A Facebook page has since been created in her honor and school leaders are currently re-negotiating the dress code.

A tough pill to swallow or not, the fact of the matter is that transgender individuals exist, and they deserve the ability to be able to express themselves in the way that feels most natural without persecution. Kavanagh’s bill started a petition at AllOut.org nearing the 15,000 mark to urge the Arizona State Legislature to make certain it doesn't pass. This oftentimes harsh notion towards transgender individuals is cultivated by a lack of understanding and exposure. To progress with transgender rights, and to prevent another tragedy similar to that of Gwen Araujo and others, we all need a good lesson on acceptance, not laws or rhetoric that foster ostracizing.