HB583. Heard of it recently? If not it’s known as Florida's “Bathroom Bill” — a full-fledged assault on the transgender community. According to the law, it would make it a crime if a person is "intentionally and voluntarily entering a single-sex facility for a different designated sex."
The bill was proposed by Rep. Frank Artiles, a man who admitted during an interview that he had never thought about what it must be like to live as a transgender person.
HB583 has already made it through the first round of cuts, and is on its way to becoming a reality. If passed, it would become effective as of July 1, 2015.
The lawmakers behind this bill have stated that it is meant to keep “male predators” out of restrooms, but it’s really nothing more than an attack on trans women, who, by the way, face the highest level of discrimination in the LGBT community.
If you search for male predators who cross-dress to lure in victims, you won’t get any results. I can tell you from experience that using the restroom you were raised from birth to stay away from, but know you belong in, is a frightening but vital step towards claiming your own gender identity.
Many people have laughed off this law. I've been asked jokingly, "What will they do? Make everyone drop their pants?"
Of course not.
In public it would only mean that an overly-curious stranger would have the power to rattle. As I've learned in my adventures, even if you don't “pass” well, people will usually not make much of a fuss, that is, if you're a trans man. For trans women though the threat is a bit more severe.
Still, the idea that there would be enforcement is comical, but the comedy distracts from a very real threat that this law actually does carry.
For trans people all over the state who are just coming out, or have already come out at their current job, this law is the definition of a living nightmare.
There would be no more open-minded discussion regarding whether or not your employer will allow you to use the restroom that matches your gender identity. Transgender employees would be forced to humiliate themselves. Beards in the ladies room are tough to hide, and a trans woman entering a men's room is actually forced to compromise her safety (very much the opposite of what Artiles might claim).
If employees try to fight their employers' intentions, they could be threatened with arrest. Employees who take a chance but are caught by their boss? The cops would be called.
As for those who are already out, but facing a great deal of stress from their employers for their identity? All the boss would have to do after July 1 is wait outside the bathroom during the employee's break, then dial the police.
This is a huge vulnerability to trans people, who should not be forced to live 40 hours a week in the closet just to survive at a job that doesn't fully support their transition.
Then there are students. Whether it's grade school, high school, or college, it would be incredibly easy for a child to fall target. Many schools have cameras outside restrooms, which would make it easy for a biased school administration to prove that child is a queer outlaw.
Is this really the direction we want to go?
A lot of people have also rolled their eyes, because there are such things as "family restrooms.” But even if all buildings were suddenly equipped with this specialized type of restroom facility, keeping us separated is still not a solution.
In 1896, a similar concept was known as racial segregation. In 2015, we call it transphobia.
HB583 passive-aggressively targets trans people by brushing off the necessity of using a restroom, saying it is "voluntary" for gender non-conforming people and therefore should cause them no harm. But whether in public, at work, or in school, any human should know there is nothing voluntary about using the restroom. This bill is a bigoted hate law that would put all transgender Floridians at risk, but keeping us out of bathrooms will not erase our identity.
Trans men are men, trans women are women, and we demand to be seen as nothing less. Separate but equal has no place in 2015.