TAMPA – As a new bill makes its way through the legislative process in Tallahassee, transgender students at the University of South Florida are waiting anxiously to see what happens next.
In February, Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, filed House Bill 583, which would make it against the law for transgender people in Florida to use single-sex bathroom facilities that don’t match their gender at birth, unless they can provide a passport or license to show their transition to their new gender is complete.
Artiles drafted what is commonly being called the “bathroom bill,” because he believes that criminals, specifically males, would use the law to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms to possibly commit crimes against women.
“The reasoning for introducing the bill is self-centered and narrow-minded,” said Gina Duncan, transgender inclusion director for Equality Florida. “It marginalizes the transgender community; that could never be more hurtful. It is the No. 1 most discriminatory bill ever introduced in the country. The bill is subjective, arbitrary and unenforceable and attempts to address an issue of public safety that doesn’t exist. There are 19 states that have fully inclusive human-rights laws in place, and there hasn’t been one incidence of public safety involving a transgender person.”
Em Scarbrough, 19, a psychology major at USF, is a transgender woman who feels the proposed “bathroom bill” will cause public-safety issues, not prevent them.
“This bill is awful,” Scarbrough said. “It is an attempt to give a legal basis for transphobia. If this bill were to be passed, it will not prevent the sort of situation where men are entering these women’s facilities; it will in fact cause this issue. It will force trans men — men who have been on testosterone for years, men who act like the men that they are, who have grown full beards and work out — to walk into women’s restrooms to do their business.”
Former USF accounting major Jessica Creel, 27, is a transgender woman who feels the bill would cause a wide range of issues if passed into law. Creel believes trans women who have visibly lived their lives as women would be put in increased danger.
“The bill shows a lack of regard for my safety,” Creel said. “The bill sends the wrong message and sets a bad precedence. The bill delegitimizes trans identity and makes it seem like it’s a mental illness, hobby, or choice. The most vulnerable of transgender people are going to be put at a much higher risk of violence.”
The implications of the “bathroom bill” extends beyond the adult transgender community. The bill could also have a huge impact on transgender adolescents in Florida.
“School boards aren’t keeping up with transition protocols,” Duncan said. “Adolescents are being outed and marginalized by having to use special facilities. Great deal of work to do in public school system in supporting young transgender students.”
House Bill 583 advanced through Florida’s second House subcommittee on March 17 but has yet to be heard by Florida’s Judiciary Committee. The bill has to make it through three subcommittees before the full House can hear it. TransACTION and Equality Florida are fighting the bill in Tallahassee.
“We are drawing the battle lines in the Senate,” Duncan said. “We are optimistic the bill will not see the light of day in the Senate. The Florida Senate has no appetite for the bill whatsoever. Many senators don’t want their legacy to be tarnished by such a hateful and discriminatory bill.”