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Which way to the restroom?

The silhouettes of either a man or a woman hung on a restroom door are universal symbols of American sexual identity. But what if the choice of restroom is not as simple as a black-and-white sign may suggest?

As marriage equality legislation prevails throughout the nation, Florida’s transgender community is facing a law that, if passed, would allow the state to tell them where to go to the restroom or else face legal repercussions. 

HB 583, proposed by Fla. Rep. Frank Artiles, “requires that use of single-sex facilities be restricted to persons of sex which facility is designated; prohibits knowingly and willfully entering single-sex pubic facility designated for or restricted to persons of other biological sex; provides exemptions; provides private cause of action against violators; provides for preemption.”

The bill was proposed in response to a Miami-Dade County ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gender identity and expression, on the basis that 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.

Many in the transsexual community see this as legal discrimination in a place where they already feel shamed enough as it is.

“Bathrooms are already a really scary thing for trans people. It causes a lot of anxiety in the community,” said Prin Luis, a non-binary gender student and former president of USF’s Trans+ Student Union.

“It’s going to be a safety issue for trans women who will be forced to use the men’s restroom,” Luis said. “That’s really scary and that’s not something that’s ever mentioned. The only thing that’s mentioned is men dressing up as women, going into women’s restrooms and that’s why they would want to make this bill.”

The manner in which the bill will be enforced at single-sex facilities on campus has not yet been determined, as it is pending legislation.

“We don’t speak to what our enforcement actions would be to pending legislation because there’s so many variables involved, (and) we don’t know what the elements of the law would be in it’s final form,” University Police Assistant Chief Chris Daniel said. “To say something now would be premature and could be very different from how the final draft comes out.”

As the bill stands, any individual using a single-sex facility who does not match the sex listed on his or her legal identification (driver’s license or passport) will face first-degree misdemeanor charges, up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

For an individual in Florida to change the gender on his or her legal form of identification, he or she is required to have completed sex reassignment surgery. The individual is required to provide a copy of his or her amended birth certificate or an affidavit from an attending physician confirming that he or she is now the reassigned gender.

According to Transgender at Work, a network of individuals who aim to improve workplace issues for transgender individuals, the average cost for male-to-female sexual reassignment surgery is about $20,000 over a two-year period. This figure includes the cost of therapy, hormones, doctors and lab
visits.

“I think it’s just a big safety issue,” Luis said. “A lot of people, especially students, can’t afford surgery or to see a doctor or to do anything to get their license changed. So that’s not going to be possible for a lot of people. It’s a really privileged thing to be able to get that done, so that’s going to cause a lot of problems.”

Although there is no official manner of enforcement, Daniel said that police enforce all law with a measure of discretion.

“Obviously we’re not going to enforce the most ridiculous laws, but we do have a responsibility to enforce the law,” he said. “General Counsel has a responsibility to determine how we’re going to interpret it and approach it.”

Trans individuals are taking to social media to express their concerns regarding this legislature and posting bathroom selfies captioned #WeJustNeedToPee. 

This campaign, as well as the #OccuPotty and #LetMyPeoplePee campaigns, is gaining presence on social media as “transphobic” legislation is pending in Florida, Minnesota, Texas and Kentucky.