Utah Bill Would Force Transgender Students To Use Separate Bathrooms

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A Utah state legislator filed a bill Wednesday that would prevent students from using school bathrooms that were not consistent with their biological “male or female phenotype.” By defining gender as the same as sex, it would reject the existence of gender identity and force transgender kids to either risk their safety and use the wrong bathroom or face isolation by using a separate private bathroom.

Rep. Mark Kennedy’s (R) House Bill 87 would change Utah law to prohibit students from using “a public school’s gender-segregated bathroom if the bathroom does not correspond to the student’s gender.” Kennedy told a local newspaper that the bill was a reaction to California and designed to make sure that no similar protections are given in Utah to transgender students. “We are just trying to make sure people are comfortable,” he argued.

But defining a person’s gender based on their birth certificate or a doctor’s examination of the “physical examination of the individual’s genitalia,” as his bill aims to do, would hardly accomplish that objective.

Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, told ThinkProgress that her group strongly hopes this “unnecessary and dehumanizing” bill does not move forward. Transgender people, she observed, “are average human beings who simply want to go to school or work, do their work, and go home. They simply want reasonable accommodations.” The problem with this bill and others like it that seek to discriminate against LGBT people, she noted, “is seeking to set us apart — to put us on the outside of the regular every day lives.”

Balken added that forcing transgender students to use separate bathroom facilities could have a hugely damaging impact on them emotionally. “We know this, from being kids ourselves. We all want to be included.”

Studies have shown that kids whose gender does not match their “male of female phenotype” (as defined by Kennedy) already suffer from high rates of depression and suicide attempts. The Maine Supreme Court ruled Thursday that denying bathroom access to trans students is discrimination, and judges in Colorado and California have similarly ruled on their behalf.