While Florida may have taken one step forward with the recent legalization of gay marriage, a newly proposed bill would take the state two steps back for the LGBT community.
As reported by Al Jazeera America, a proposed bill would penalize anyone going into a “sex-segregated public facility,” from restrooms to locker rooms, who doesn’t match the posted biological sex. While Rep. Frank Artiles claimed the bill is intended to protect people against predatory behaviors, including assault and voyeurism, this legislation will unquestionably discriminate against transgender people.
Though Artiles denied the bill has anything to do with sexual identity and said it is primarily a question about one’s anatomy, as he told Al Jazeera, this bill has everything to do with gender identity, which is the gender one identifies with even if it doesn’t match one’s biological sex.
Making an attempt to improve public safety usually can’t be frowned upon. However, in this case, the safety measure completely ignores the importance of respecting the gender with which a person identifies. In putting biological sex on a pedestal, the bill assumes gender identity doesn’t validate the right to use the bathroom in which one feels most comfortable.
The advocacy group of the nation’s capital, D.C. Trans Coalition, claimed a proposal such as this paints transgender people as “sexual deviants,” as reported by Al Jazeera. According to the Huffington Post, an attorney from Florida’s American Civil Liberties Union even called the measure a “show your papers to pee” bill.
Along with making the ridiculous punishment for violating the bill a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison, as Al Jazeera reported, a recent Slate column pointed out how, if the bill became law, others would be able to discriminate against transgender people, and those who defend transgender people in spite of the law could be punished.
For example, it addressed that a cisgender person, or a non-trans person, could not only sue transgender people found in a bathroom that doesn’t match his or her sex, but owners of a public service who let a transgender person use their restrooms could face a civil suit.
No matter what, the gender one identifies with would be completely undermined, and other people would be forced to reinforce that given the penalties.
After the state finally gave recognition and validation to same-sex couples earlier this year, it’s absurd to go backward and tease out yet another way to discriminate against the LGBT community.
As mentioned by Al Jazeera, the bill could eliminate ordinances in certain counties in the state that currently prohibit gender identity discrimination, legislation that protects over half of Florida’s population, as Equality Florida found. If the bill does pass, it could turn back the clock on these existing measures.
This bill would also inevitably lead to discrimination based on the outcomes of measures in other states. For instance, a UCLA study conducted after Washington, D.C. implemented sex-segregated restrooms found 70 percent of gender non-conforming respondents dealt with verbal harassment or assault, or were denied entrance to the restroom, as Al Jazeera mentioned.
While the bill is still awaiting a final decision, it would, if passed, force a specific group of people to unnecessarily put themselves in a more than uncomfortable position and disregard a crucial aspect of their identity. It’s not so difficult to empathize with the unease of using the opposite gender’s restroom.