These so-called “bathroom bills” look very similar across the states where they have been introduced and would have similar impacts. It is clear that there is an increasingly organized movement to discriminate against transgender students across the country.
These bills attempt to discriminate by prohibiting transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. A few of the bills allow for transgender students to use gender neutral bathrooms under limited circumstances, but this creates an unnecessary hardship on students. Restricting access for transgender students is illegal under federal law. Under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs, public schools are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of gender identity, including in access to facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms. States supporting “bathroom bills” are opening themselves to costly litigation.
These bills attempt to invade students’ privacy by restricting bathroom and locker room access based on their definitions of biological sex. For example, in Tennessee this definition is reduced to the sex listed on student’s original birth certificate, in Virginia it is based on a student’s anatomy, while different versions of Washington’s bill define being male or female as having certain genitalia or chromosomes. Basing a student’s gender on legal documents, anatomical inspection, or assumptions make these bills impossible to enforce without severe privacy violations. It places responsibility on busy educators to decipher and detect a student’s gender.
These bills would make our schools unsafe by exposing transgender students to potential mental and physical harm. Over 16% of transgender students already report physical assault due to their gender expression in schools.2 Forcing students into a bathroom that does not match their gender identity or expression could expose them to additional unnecessary harm. And while many proponents of these bills claim they would protect people, especially women, using the bathrooms there is no evidence that states or schools that allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice see any increase in crime or violence in these spaces.3 The simple reality is that these laws don’t make anyone safer and actually put transgender youth at greater risk.
In addition to ostracizing transgender students, these bills have very real health consequences, especially for students that avoid using the bathroom all day. Students may also miss class, further putting them at risk for dropping out of school or having lower grade point averages.4 Increasing unnecessary stress by legalizing discrimination is a step in the wrong direction. Students deserve affirming learning environments where they can thrive and grow, and these bills attempt to tear apart the foundation of that vision.