If Arizona Representative, John Kavanagh has his way, soon police might be able to throw you behind bars for using the “wrong” restroom.
Kavanagh’s proposed amendment to bill S.B.1432 would allow police to stop anyone they suspect is not using the public bathroom, shower, or changing room that matches the sex on their birth certificate. The accused would have to show proof of sex, and if they don’t have ID or if the sex on their ID doesn't match their gender identity, the offender could face up to six months jail and a $2,500 fine. The legislation, which unabashedly targets transgender people, will be heard Wednesday.
As if government in our bedrooms weren’t enough, Kavanagh is trying to bring it into our bathrooms as well.
Public bathrooms have long been a point of discomfort and even danger for trans people. Trans individuals who are transitioning and don’t neatly fit in either category struggle with which bathroom to use to avoid drawing attention. Some trans people avoid drinking liquids all day simply to avoid the harassment, complaints, or even assault that using a public restroom might bring.
The amendment is part of the right-wing backlash against Phoenix, Arizona’s recent anti-discrimination legislation that protects gender expression and ensures equal treatment for trans and gay individuals. In legal terms, the question is whether the new ordinance allows a person born a woman but identifying as a man to use the men’s restroom and vice versa. According to Kavanagh’s poor attempt at fear-mongering, the anti-discrimination law, “...raises the specter of people who want to go into those opposite sex facilities not because they’re transgendered, because maybe that they’re just weird.”
So “weirdness” is justification to have your rights taken away?
Ironically, Kavanagh claims he believes in limited government, but a statute forcing law enforcement to police gender expression is government overreach to the extreme. Think about it: this bill literally forces citizens to show ID to pee because some vigilante thinks they look “weird.” It forces anyone who’s non-gender conforming (“butch” lesbians) or appears non-gender conforming (cancer patients) to carry their birth certificate in public just in case they might need to use a bathroom. If the women’s bathroom has a long line and a desperate female soul has to use the empty men’s room, she’d be culpable as well.
Worryingly, this proposal targets citizens who already face disproportionate amounts of violence, and subjects them to even greater scrutiny. Around one in four transgender people experience hate motivated physical or sexual assault or attempted assault, and they are murdered in much higher rates than the cisgender population. Trans activists are worried about the increased harassment and violence this amendment could bring, and rightly so. A glance at recent headlines shows trans people struggle to be treated with understanding and respect. Yesterday, a transgender primary school teacher in the U.K. committed suicide after being harassed for her gender expression. Back in the U.S., Texas Representative Steve Stockman said he opposed the Violence Against Women Act because it contained protections for transgender individuals. Battle lines are being drawn in Colorado as a young girl (born a boy) struggles to live according to her gender identity at a public school.
No one should have to “show their papers” to use the restroom. Tell the Arizona legislature to stop demonizing one of the most vulnerable group in our society, and work to promote their safety instead.
Here is a searchable online database of gender neutral and/or wheelchair accessible bathrooms by city.