Transition

MN HF 3396 (The Bathroom Bill)

What? Two blog posts from me in less than a week? 😉 Shocking, I know.

This morning, I attended a hearing of the Minnesota House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee on House File 3396, a bill that would require transgender people in the state of Minnesota to use bathrooms matching their genitalia, rather than their gender.

I live in Minneapolis, and the committee meeting was over in Saint Paul, so I spent the the light rail ride between them furiously typing on my phone what I wanted to say if I got to give testimony.

I was so intent on thumb-typing, that I missed the stop for the Capitol building by two stops. I ended up arriving a little late, so I wasn’t able to get on the list to give testimony.

Everything I wanted to say was covered by those who did speak, but I thought I’d post what I wanted to say on my blog anyway:

Madam Chair and Members of the committee,

My name is Amy Lane, I live in Minneapolis, and I’m here today in opposition to House File 3396.

This legislation would put thousands of transgender people in the state of Minnesota in an impossible position: that of choosing between their safety and using the bathroom.

I am a transgender woman. That means that while I was assigned the “male” gender at birth, I am actually female. This is not something that I am “confused” about. The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, two mental health professionals, two medical professionals, the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles, the Minnesota office of vital records, and–more importantly to me–my coworkers, friends, and family, all recognize this as true.

This legislation, put simply, is a solution looking for an problem. Its proponents would say that by requiring everyone to use restrooms and other facilities based on their genitalia, rather than their gender, they are safeguarding the safety of all Minnesotans.

They worry that if I were allowed to use restrooms, changing rooms, and other facilities intended for women, that it would leave open the possibility that a non-transgender man could use it as an excuse to dress as a woman in order to go into a women’s room and sexually harass women and girls.

This is simply not true.

At least twelve states already have laws in place that protect the right of to use public facilities based on gender identity. Since those laws were passed, there has been no evidence that they have led to an increase in sexual harassment or abuse of the other people using those facilities.

Our own state of Minnesota amended its Human Rights Act in 1993 to prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, including bathrooms. More than twenty years after that amendment was passed, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said in an interview that sexual harassment and assault as a result of the amendment had been “not even remotely” a problem and that the notion “sounds a little silly.”

Should we ban gay men from using men’s rooms, for fear that they might molest young boys? What about lesbians? Or bisexual people? Should they be banned from all public restrooms?

What about Republican lawmakers? More of them have been arrested for sexual misconduct in bathrooms than transgender people. Tell me, where is the law to protect us from Republicans in bathrooms?

If that sounds ridiculous to you, know that it sounds that way to me as well. It’s just as ridiculous as requiring trans women to use the men’s room, or trans men to use the women’s room.

The proponents of House File 3396 also say that this legislation is intended to safeguard the privacy of all Minnesotans.

However, if it becomes law, it would be nearly impossible to enforce without a serious invasion of everyone’s privacy.

Security guards, police officers, facility managers and others would be placed in the position of checking identification if there is any question about the gender of someone trying to use a gendered facility.

As an example, last week in Hull, England, a cisgender teenage girl was thrown out of a McDonald’s restaurant because the manager didn’t believe that she was female. Age sixteen, she didn’t have an ID with her, and so police were called.

In closing, Madam chair and members, should House File 3396 come to a vote, I ask that you please consider all of the ramifications that it would have if passed into law.

It would have exactly the opposite effect that its proponents say they intend; that of putting thousands of Minnesotans in an unsafe situation, and leading to the potential invasion of privacy of every Minnesotan.

Instead of legislating thousands of Minnesotans into an unsafe situation, perhaps we should make laws that make sense. It should be illegal for people of any gender to commit voyeurism in a public restroom or other facility. It should be illegal for people of any gender to enter a restroom with intent to harm or injure someone else.

Oh wait, I forgot. It already is.

Madam chair and members of the committee, thank you for your time.

There’s little chance in the bill actually passing. The committee sessions have already closed (this was an “informational” hearing only), so the only way it could end up passing is if it’s added as an amendment to another bill.

The Democratically-controlled Minnesota Senate will likely block any such amendment anyway, and even if they don’t, our Democratic governor would veto it.

Even so, I just wish these lawmakers would stop worrying about what’s in my pants.

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