A law proposed by a Republican state lawmaker in Florida would make it illegal to enter any sex-segregated public facility — including bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms — that does not accord to one's biological sex at birth.
The Single-Sex Public Facilities bill thus makes it a crime for a transgender individual to use a single-sex restroom that matches his or her gender identity.
The criminal penalty could be as severe as a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The bill specifies that anyone “lawfully” in a single-sex space could sue the business owner of the facility as well as the transgender interloper.
Introduced Wednesday by Miami’s Rep. Frank Artiles, the legislation states that it aims to reduce “the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.”
The D.C. Trans Coalition (DCTC), an advocacy group for transgender people in the nation’s capital, said that laws like the one Artiles has proposed make hateful assumptions about transgender individuals as sexual deviants. Transgender people, according to DCTC, are much more often the victims of violence or verbal harassment in bathrooms, not the perpetrators.
“There are far more cisgender (non-trans) people who are sexual predators … The idea that trans people are more likely to commit such crimes is only a harmful, bigoted stereotype,” the DCTC writes on its website.
In a 2013 UCLA study on the effects of segregated public restrooms on transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in Washington, D.C., 70 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing verbal harassment, assault or being denied access to bathrooms. Fifty-four percent reported some sort of physical ailment, such as kidney stones or a urinary tract infection, that resulted from avoiding public restrooms out of fear for their personal safety.
The Florida bill would also overrule parts of county ordinances that prohibit discrimination against a person based on their gender identity. Laws that extend protections to the transgender community cover more than 55 percent of the population, according to Equality Florida, a group lobbying for a statewide bill prohibiting businesses from discrimination against LGBT Floridians.
Rep. Artiles said that his bill was not aimed at the transgender community, but meant to keep lecherous people — primarily men — from abusing what he called an "overbroad" interpretation of who can use which bathrooms in Miami-Dade County.
Miami’s ordinance, which adds transgender people to a list of groups protected from discrimination, went into effect in December. There’s no evidence yet showing a rise in bathroom-related sex crimes, Artiles said.
Artiles’ objection to the two-month old county ordinance, he said, is that it allows biologically male Floridians to walk into locker rooms and watch “women showering and changing” — with no legal recourse for the women. “This is not about transgender or your sex identity association. This about your anatomy determining where you go to the bathroom,” Artiles said.
The proposed measure met sharp criticism from Florida LGBT activists, who called it discriminatory and a violation of the rights of transgender people. “The proposal is absurd and hurtful,” SAVE, a Miami-based LGBT advocacy group, said in a statement. “It aims to undercut our recent advances towards full equality, and creates massive barriers to using the facilities that we know fit our bodies.”
The ACLU of Florida slammed the proposed law as insulting to everyone, no matter one’s gender identity. “This ‘show your papers to pee’ bill denigrates both transgender and non-transgender people alike," said Daniel Tilley, LGBT rights attorney for the civil liberties group's Florida chapter.
"In addition to dehumanizing transgender people in particular, it invites humiliation and harassment of anyone who is not considered sufficiently feminine or masculine in the eyes of the beholder," Tilley told Al Jazeera. “Will girls in soccer uniforms be stopped at the bathroom door and asked to produce their birth certificates?"