Fortunately, a “bathroom bill” proposed by Wisconsin Republicans during the last legislative session went nowhere. The bill would have forced transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates rather than the genders with which they identify.
But the issue isn’t dead in Wisconsin. State Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewauskum, says he’ll introduce a bill even stronger than last year’s — one that applies not only to student facilities but to public restrooms everywhere in the state.
These bills are not reactions to anything that actually happened in Wisconsin. They’re cookie-cutter bills that are part of a national attack by the religious right on transgender people. Kremer is just the messenger boy.
The bills’ supporters claim they’re protecting the public from sexual predators who want to infiltrate restrooms for deviant purposes. That myth might excite voters who harbor deep prejudices against LGBT people but it is not based in fact.
The reality is transgender people are the ones who need protection. They suffer from high rates of violence, suicide and homelessness.
In Wisconsin, three transgender high school students — Skylar Marcus Lee, Cameron Langrell and Mindy Fabian — took their lives within the past few years because of the bullying and hate they faced. In effect, bathroom bills provide official sanction to those who would discriminate, resulting in more bullying and more tragedies.
Transgender students are much more likely to be victimized in settings where their gender identity is most emphasized, such as bathrooms. As a result of being forced into the uncomfortable situations mandated by bathroom bills, transgender students are more likely to be tardy or absent from school, to have lower grades and to be physically bullied by their classmates.
Even if you can’t empathize with the plight of transgender children, the state would suffer financially if Kremer’s bill becomes law.
North Carolina recently passed a “bathroom bill,” and the fallout has been swift. National conventions have been canceled, as have some Fortune 500 expansions.
The U.S. Department of Justice declared that North Carolina’s bill violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX. If the state enforces the bill, it could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. With Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest for job growth, our state can’t afford such losses.
Kremer’s bill addresses a non-existent threat but it will have real-life consequences. Is this the Wisconsin we want?
JoCasta Zamarripa represents Wisconsin’s 8th Assembly District. She’s one of the state’s four openly LGBT legislators.
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