Today is Transgender Day of Visibility, and at this moment transgender people, their rights, and the discrimination they face are arguably on the average cisgender person's mind more than they've ever been. That's in part thanks to the incredible work of people like Laverne Cox, Gavin Grimm, and the many gender non-conforming people who take to platforms like Instagram and YouTube to share their stories.
But it's also partly due to anti-transgender legislation that continues to be proposed in state after state, most notably the "bathroom bill."
Bathroom bills, like the nickname implies, aim to regulate who can use which public bathroom by making it illegal to use a restroom that does not line up with the sex you were assigned at birth. In other words, transgender men would be forced to use the women's bathroom, transgender women would be forced into the men's, and, presumably, intersex people either have to hold it or pray they can find a gender-inclusive bathroom.
These bills are blatantly discriminatory, and yet they keep popping up. So, in the spirit of staying informed, here's everything you need to know about bathroom bills.
How many states have proposed bathroom bills?
Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming all introduced bathroom bills in the 2017 legislative session.
Two other states, Oklahoma and New Jersey, still have bills pending from the 2016 legislative session.
How many have been passed?
"For over a year now, House Bill 2 has been a dark cloud hanging over our great state," North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said, according to CNN. "It has stained our reputation. It has discriminated against our people and it has caused great economic harm in many of our communities."
The "economic harm" he mentions is the cancellation of many sporting events and concerts, and companies like PayPal pulling out of plans to build business in the state after the bill was passed — including two concerts Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas were supposed to hold in North Carolina in 2016.
Losing money the state would have gotten from these events is part of the reason the governor signed a measure into law that reverses parts, but not all, of the bathroom bill. While the new law overturns HB2's restrictions on public bathrooms, it also prohibits local governments from passing nondiscrimination laws relating to private employment or public accommodation — meaning that discriminatory legislation still exists for gender non-conforming people in North Carolina.
Whom do bathroom bills affect?
Technically...everyone. If bathroom bills turn into actual laws, they dictate that everyone use the bathroom in accordance with their sex assigned at birth, at least in government buildings like schools and court houses. While privately owned buildings — think restaurants and bars — can make up their own rules about who can use what bathroom, those rules wouldn't protect anyone caught using the "wrong" bathroom if someone were to call the police.
But if they're passed, bathroom bills would clearly be most problematic for anyone who doesn't identify or present within the gender binary. Of course, making bathroom bills into official laws wouldn't mean transgender and gender non-conforming people will suddenly face discrimination in public bathrooms — anyone who doesn't "look" like they belong in the bathroom they use has likely faced this discrimination most of their lives.
In early February, comedian Rhea Butcher, who identifies as genderqueer and uses she/her pronouns, took to Twitter to share her experience in public bathrooms.
Her words paint a pretty clear picture of the fear and humiliation gender non-conforming people already face in public bathrooms — fear that leads 54% of trans people to either be dehydrated from not drinking anything while they're out or to get kidney and urinary tract infections from trying to hold it for too long, according to research from the UCLA School of Law.
Bathroom laws wouldn't create problems for gender non-conforming people in public restrooms, but they'd certainly add to them. If these bills pass, it won't just be uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) for trans people to use public bathrooms — it will be illegal.
Why are we so concerned about bathrooms?
Most arguments for laws regulating bathroom usage claim that allowing "biologically-born men" to use the women's bathroom would pose a threat to cisgender girls and women. The argument is ridiculous when you consider the sheer number of actions the government has taken that threaten women's health and wellness, as pointed out in a video from Seriously.TV.
Like the woman in the video says, there have been no instances of violence from trans women in public bathrooms. But violence against trans women — and especially trans women of color — happens every day, both in the bathroom and out of it. A law forcing transgender women to use the men's bathroom would only add to that violence.