Partly as a result of Donald Trump’s election and Republican victories around the country, there appears to be a renewed enthusiasm among conservative lawmakers for so-called “bathroom bills” — bills which punish trans people for using the bathrooms that match up with their gender identity.
While these bills tend to be introduced and promoted under the guise of public-safety concerns — usually via scary stories about men sexually assaulting women in women’s rooms — they are really designed, at core, to humiliate and make life harder for trans people. There just isn’t a logical reason to think that male predators would be deterred by such a law: “Oh, well if that part of what I’m about to do is illegal …”
Generally speaking, these bills are all pretty similar in that they introduce restrictions forcing people to use the bathroom which matches up with their natal biological sex. But as BuzzFeed’s Dominc Holden pointed out on Twitter, the bill currently up for debate in Virginia has a particularly awful provision in it:
If you can’t read the image embedded in the tweet, the sentence in question reads: “The principal of a public school attended by a child shall notify the child’s parent, guardian, legal custodian, or other person having control or charge of a child within 24 hours of any request by a child to be recognized or treated as the opposite sex, to use a name or pronouns inconsistent with the child’s sex, or to use a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex.”
As I have written about at length, there is a heated debate over how best to help kids and teens who are trans or have gender dysphoria, particularly those on the younger side, live safe and comfortable lives. On some questions pertaining to this subject, compassionate, good-faith people can — and do — disagree vehemently.
This is not one of those questions. For a school to potentially out a trans or gender-questioning child to his family could have absolutely catastrophic consequences for that child. It could literally be deadly. This isn’t an exaggeration: Queer kids of all stripes with unsupportive families often have an extremely difficult time at home, and in the worst cases they face awful physical abuse. That’s part of the reason why surveys of LGBT high-schoolers reveal so many mental-health and other issues. So to force schools schools to notify parents or caretakers that their kids may be trans or gender questioning could put those kids at severe risk — it’s a profound violation of the responsibility schools have to keep their students safe. (For what it’s worth, the North Carolina bill that is the inspiration for this and other bathroom bills doesn’t appear to have any such provisions — the word “notify” doesn’t come up in its text.)
Apparently this bill is controversial enough that even some of Virginia’s Republicans don’t want to be associated with it, according to the Washington Post’s coverage. And either way, it will never get past the veto pen of Terry McAuliffe, the state’s Democratic governor. But the fact that such an idea even being debated — that anyone would think this is okay — is quite disturbing.