Seven-year-old Libby Gonzales has identified as a girl since she began attending her current school. Most of her friends have only known her as the dress-wearing, female pronoun-using Libby.
But under the Texas Privacy Act — a so-called “bathroom bill” currently advancing in the Republican-controlled Texas Senate — the attorney general could fine Libby’s school between $1,000 and $10,500 for each day that it allows Libby to use the girls’ restroom.
On Tuesday night, that scenario came one step closer to reality when the senate gave initial approval to the Texas Privacy Act with a vote of 21–10. The senate is expected to give final approval Wednesday.
The legislation, known as Senate Bill 6, would require people in public schools, universities, and government buildings to use the bathroom that corresponds with their “biological sex,” as defined on their birth certificate.
“It was one of the hardest days of my life sitting there in the presence of so much disgusting hate,” Rachel Gonzales told ThinkProgress this week. “What they’re doing is just opening up the door for discrimination and hate.”
If SB6 were enacted into law, Gonzales said she thinks Libby’s school would still continue to allow her to use the girls’ restroom. “Her school is very supportive so they would not make her use the boys’ restroom,” she said. “But with SB6, they would be fined… It’s pretty insane and maddening.”
On Tuesday, one week after more than 400 advocates signed up to testify against the bill, the Senate convened to debate the legislation. State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, who authored the bill, spoke extensively about what she sees as the importance of protecting privacy.
“[The media] made light of this, accusing us of wasting time. I will tell you as a woman this is not a joke,” Kolkhorst said. “I’m proud to be the author of the Texas Privacy Act, even though I’ve been the brunt of a lot of jokes.”
At another point during the five-hour debate, Kolkhorst questioned the existence of transgender people altogether, and also asked why it is necessary to protect a group that is low in population.
“Cisgender, transgender: how many genders are there?” she asked. “Are we created man and woman or do we internalize something different?”
Language like that is what bothers Gonzales. Reflecting on the long day of lobbying, Gonzales said what hurts her most is knowing that her daughter’s situation is far better than many transgender children across the country who do not have the protection of their schools or their families.
“We know kids who have had a horrible time in their schools and my daughter is pretty worried about them,” she said. “Even though she’s not in a bad position here, she is constantly worried about her friends and other trans kids she doesn’t know. She asks me about them and we talk about them.”
Hate crimes against the transgender community have risen dramatically in recent years. Just so far this year, seven trans women of color have been murdered. Police in New Orleans, where two of the deaths occurred, said recently that there was no evidence that either murder showed evidence of hate, highlighting the flaws in hate crime laws.
Nonetheless, Kolkhorst turned the narrative on herself during Tuesday’s hearing, dodging questions about discrimination and violence against the LGBTQ community.
“I don’t mean to be dramatic,” she said. “This has been one of the toughest journeys.”