Urine in the wrong room: Proposed law criminalizes trans rights to public facilities
A drawing depicts a conflict that many transgender individuals deal with on a daily basis.
February 25, 2015 / Volume XXXVII / Issue 2
Shockwaves rippled through the transgender community this month when Florida representative Frank Artiles (R) filed a bill that would bar transgender individuals from using public restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms that do not correspond to their gender assigned at birth. The law has been dubbed “show your papers to pee” and has been criticized for directly invalidating the newly passed transgender discrimination ordinances throughout the state. Those convicted of violating the law could face misdemeanor, a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.
The Miami Herald reported that the proposed law “requires that use of single-sex facilities be restricted to persons of sex for which facility is designated; prohibits knowingly and willfully entering single-sex public facility designated for or restricted to persons of other biological sex; provides exemptions; provides private cause of action against violators; provides for preemption.”
In April 2014, Andraya Williams, a transgender student at Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, was brought up on charges for using the women’s restroom at the school. Second-year Miranda Day spoke with the Catalyst about her closeness to the case.
“In North Carolina, where I grew up…I knew someone who was a trans woman that went to a school that I was kind of enrolled in for two years and was arrested under that law,” Day said. “I think she got out of a lot of the charges, but I think the initial charge was 30 days in prison, a $1000 fine and sex offender status for life, which is obviously, ridiculous. Even though she wound up not being hit with all that, it was still presumably big legal fees and I think she wound up having to do another semester because she couldn’t do her classes because of it and so that was really difficult. And that was a school I was going to, in a bathroom I used.”
Artiles remarked that the reasoning behind this bill is to ensure public safety.
“It’s not that the transgender or the gender identity community is dangerous by any means, 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,” Artiles told the Miami Herald. “I don’t know about you, but I find that disturbing.”
Gender studies representative Sam Armbruster sat down with the Catalyst and explained how the proposed law “codifies transphobia.”
“You look at the statistic for violence which this politician says is the basis for this bill being proposed and trans people are the people that are most likely to be the survivors of the same kind of violence that they think trans people perpetrate,” Armbruster said. “A really awful thing about this bill is that the bill precludes any antidiscrimination ordinances specific to counties, cities, anything like that and makes it state law that single sex public facilities can only be utilized by people based on the sex they were assigned at birth … It’s also really scary to me because this isn’t the first bill of its kind to be proposed in six months.”
A similar bill that would prevent transgender students from using their bathroom of choice passed through the Senate Education Committee in Kentucky.
“[The Florida bill is] really awful and this disproportionally affects trans women and trans people of color that are already targets of violence,” Armbruster said. “It plays upon the notion that trans women and trans feminine people are ‘men in dresses’ who are trying to trick, injure and just be really devious toward cis people which is not true. “Silence of the Lambs” is not what trans people are like.”
Day remarked that if the bill should be passed, she would not worry too much about her experience using the restrooms at New College because of the level of enforcement.
“I’ve been worried about it even with it not being a law in Florida, like if I see a cop that’s like giving me a weird look when I’m going to the bathroom, I’m not going to use it, I’ll go someplace else,” Day said. “I remember the first time I was out [as trans] publicly I went to a mall and I had mentioned to some friends offhand that I was going to pop into the bathroom really quick. The issues didn’t occur to me and so I was just walking to the bathroom and I realized that a cop was following me. Then the cop just stood in front of the door to the women’s restroom, blocking me from going to the bathroom. It’s certainly something I’ve seen personally.”
At press time, it was uncertain when the Florida Legislature would vote on the bill.
“I’m hoping it dies in committee, but it seems like there is some kind of support for it,” Armbruster said. “If it passes, it would go into effect July 5, which is really soon.”
Information for this article was taken from the Miami Herald and the Huffington Post.