Help Us Fight Florida’s New Anti-Trans Law

Photo: Toby Talbot/AP Images.
The right to use the bathroom in public is probably not one you think about very often — but we bet you'd notice fast if it were taken away from you. A bill in Florida is threatening to strip that right from the state's transgender population, and we want you to help us fight it. If passed, the Single-Sex Public Facilities Act would mean that a male-born trans person who entered a women’s toilet could be fined up to $1000, slapped with a misdemeanor, or even jailed for up to a year. The bill just passed a House committee last week, the first step toward it becoming law. “This bill and bills like it subject transgender people to the risk of harassment, discrimination—even violence—when they enter public restrooms,” Leslie Cooper, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT Project told us. Given the significant hurdles trans people are already up against, “We shouldn’t make it worse,” she says.  Republican Rep. Frank Artiles (D-Miami), who filed the bill, says that it’s not aimed at disenfranchising transgender communities so much as protecting citizens from potential predators and sexual deviants. “It’s not that the transgender or gender identity community is dangerous by any means,” he told the Miami Herald on Friday, “but [the ordinance] creates a giant loophole for criminals, sexual deviants and sexual predators to walk into a shower, a woman’s locker room under the cover of law.” But the discrimination against transgender people is implicit both in the tenets of the bill as well as Artiles’ rhetoric: In his comments to the Herald, he equated transgender identity to being a man who happens to “feel like a woman that day.” And his bill would mean that, even if local laws expressly prohibited this kind of discrimination, trans people would not have gender identity and expression protections in bathrooms, locker rooms, or dressing room—and could be criminally prosecuted for using a public bathroom mapping to their gender identity instead of their birth sex. Furthermore: The bathroom bill legislates against an issue that doesn’t really exist. Trans people are far more likely to be the victims of the kind of violence Artiles claims it will prevent than the perpetrators. (Exact stats vary, but one recent report found trans women have one in twelve chance of being murdered.) And, when you consider the fact that a trans person who otherwise conforms to their gender identity risks outing themselves when entering their birth-sex assigned bathroom, that opportunity for violence against them increases. Florida isn’t the only state trying to pass this kind of discriminatory legislation: Arizona and Maryland have their own, and a similar measure forbidding trans students from using opposite sex bathrooms passed this month. At their core, these laws marginalize the trans experience, and show a “complete lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender,” says Cooper. The ACLU has created a petition to encourage Florida lawmakers to end this discriminatory piece of legislation — because, at the end of the day, it's not about using the bathroom, so much as it's about basic human dignity. Click Here To Sign The Petition. Want to read more stories about the lives and rights of transgender Americans? Check out our full Trans America series here.

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