AUSTIN, Texas — One of an astounding number of anti-LGBTQ bills being considered by the Texas state legislature has passed through the House of Representatives. Added to an unrelated education bill, SB 2078, the bathroom amendment requires transgender schoolchildren to use the bathroom of their birth-assigned sex, or a single-occupancy restroom.
Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-Harris) condemned the legislation as reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. Transgender people are facing the same exclusion from public space that people of color did, mere decades ago.
“I happened to be a part of this society during a period of time in this state and in this country when we had ‘separate but equal’ and I remember those days. You remember? Bathrooms: white, colored,” said Thompson. “Bathrooms divided us then and it divides us now and America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.”
The issue of bathroom access is always promoted as “safety and privacy” protections, and the Texas school amendment is no different. Amendment author Rep. Chris Paddie (R-District 9) said, “It’s absolutely about child safety.” Lindsey Pollack, a Texas elementary school principal, says that this justification is illogical.
“People get all worked up because they’re thinking from a sexual perspective,” Pollack told ABC News. “But children are innocent. They just want to go to the bathroom.”
Another recent attempt by Texas Republicans to enact bathroom legislation was pronounced “dead on arrival” at the state House. The amendment authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) banned transgender access to government-owned public restrooms matching their gender identity. Kolkhorst’s amendment was attached to House Bill 4180.
Ironically, HB 4180’s author, Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Harris), has refused to move the bill further. It seems that HB 4180 was intended as a decoy. Coleman knew that Republican legislators would add anti-LGBTQ amendments, but as author of the original bill, he retained the power to kill it.
“The joke’s on them,” Coleman told the American-Statesman. “I have nothing in that bill that I need or want. Nothing. Zero. I am not invested in that bill at all.”
However, the “bathroom bill” phenomenon is not an isolated incident. The Texas state legislature has introduced 24 — yes, two dozen — anti-LGBTQ bills this session alone. One even makes it legal to deny medical service to LGBTQ or HIV-positive patients.
“One bill would make it legal to decline adoption services to gay couples,” reported USA Today. “Another bill would allow county clerks to pass off issuing marriage licenses to other county officials if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and another would keep transgender athletes from competing in high school sports.”
As for the SB 2078 school bathroom legislation, mothers of transgender students are petrified of the effect on their kids if the measure were signed into law. Once passed, transgender kids who had been using facilities according to their gender identities would be forced to change, outing them to classmates.
One mother, Joanna Smith, told U.S. News & World Report that she would pull her transgender son from public school if it were passed.
“He would be very embarrassed and ashamed to be outed,” said Smith. “I worry so much that it would just ruin his life.”