2016 is just a few weeks old and already bills are making their way onto the floors of state houses. Two particular bills out of the Virginia House of Delegates are creating controversy.
The Huffington Post labels HB 663 and HB 781 as "creepy". The two bills seek to define who can enter public restrooms, locker rooms, and showers at facilities owned or leased by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Those that violate this law would be subjected to a $50 civil penalty.
Knee jerk reaction
Introduced on January 13, 2016, by Delegate Mark Cole (VA-R), the two bills were in response to an "incident", in Stafford County, in which a transgender student wished to used the girl's restrooms at a local elementary school. Initially the school complied with the request, but outraged parents forced the school to reverse their decision.
Parents and the school board approached Del. Cole to help resolve the issue. "We looked into the code of Virginia, and it was silent on who could use restrooms. You know, it kind of surprised me, but then again, I think its always been common sense that is you know, that if a facility is designated male of female you have a reasonable expectation of privacy that when you use that facility that only males or females will be using that."
Who will be the bathroom police?
This defense of "privacy" seems to ignore other privacy concerns. Namely in the form of enforcement of said law. Opponents argue that there will be "bathroom police" doing "genital inspections."
Cole responds to these allegations as "outright lies", and enforcement will be based on an investigation of a complaint. So, while it's unlikely that an officer will be asking children to drop their pants for an inspection, it is likely that some proof of gender will be required. Most likely in the form of a birth certificate. In Virginia, the gender marker can only be changed on a birth certificate following gender surgery.
Not only will this intrude into the lives trans people, but of all people who don't fit the perceived norm of gender. For trans people, it will be doubly problematic as many neither have the monetary resources nor desire for genital reconstruction. This forces them with a very difficult decision. Be harassed or assaulted in the wrong restroom, or risk a citation by going into the other.
A pattern of rejection
These bills come on the heels of the defeat of Houston's HERO ordinance. Opponents attacked and labeled it a "bathroom bill". For HERO, that was a very small part of the anti-discrimination bill that also included protections for Veterans. With not so clever slogans like, "No men in women's restrooms', they painted transgender people as rapists and perverts.
The opponents of HERO used all of the same predictions that the evangelical organization Focus on the Family used in its attempt to defeat Colorado's anti-discrimination bill in 2008. To this date none of the predictions of rape and assault have come to pass. No man "pretending" to be "transgender today" has spied on anyone's wife or molested their daughter.
2015 was a breakout year for the Transgender community. With stars like Laverne Cox from Netflix's Orange in the New Black, and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner have brought the issue of trans rights to the forefront of Western Culture.
2016 is unlikely to be any different with activists like Janet Mock and former Navy Seal Kristen Beck running for congress leading the way. But, as much as we see progress there will always be someone trying to hold it back. Delegate Mark Cole and his bathrooms bills are not the first and unlikely to be the last. #GOP #Education #Government