Daily Egyptian

SIU student meets with Rauner to discuss legislation that would affect transgender students

By Evan Jones, @EvanJones_DE

The process of using the bathroom may seem like a task that doesn’t require much thought. But for the transgender community in 10 states, including Illinois, it could become more challenging.

Finn de Lima, who is transitioning his sex from female to male, met with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday to discuss House bills 6073 and 4474. 

De Lima, a freshman from Boca Raton, Fla., studying art therapy, said he is in favor of bill 6073, which would allow an individual to change the sex designation on his or her birth certificate with the permission of a licensed medical or mental health professional. He has scheduled top surgery in June.

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However, bill 4474 would make individuals use school’s designated bathrooms with the corresponding sex identified at birth by the person’s anatomy.

“In [Boca Raton] I established the first unisex bathroom at the school,” de Lima said. “It was almost segregating us, but that school was still very hostile, so if you wanted a safe space and you just didn’t feel safe that was the only place to go.”

Through LGBTQ advocacy group, Equality Illinois and the youth center, Rainbow Cafe, de Lima was able to meet with Rauner to express his thoughts on the bills. Rauner remained quiet throughout most of the meeting, de Lima said, allowing his visitors to speak their minds.

“The more I talked the more frustrated I got,” de Lima said. “It’s 2016, why is this still an issue?”

MORE: Proposed bill could ban transgender students from some school facilitiesIn Illinois Senate race, a battle over who has better gay rights record

Bill 6073 passed in a House committee by a 8-6 vote. House Bill 4474, which also says the school board must designate a single-occupancy restroom for students, did not make it through the House Committee and was sent back to the rules committee.

Tara Bell-Janowick, Rainbow Cafe’s community relations director, said bill 4474 looks good on paper, but would isolate transgender people.

“This bill would force the transgender community to use their own, separate bathrooms,” said Bell-Janowick, who joined de Lima in Springfield on Wednesday. “[When being singled out] it’s basically saying they are broken. Imagine just trying to fit in and you are forced to use different facilities.”

De Lima said he wasn’t nervous about meeting the governor because he was prepared and considered Rauner just another person.

After his first two years at Spanish Community High School in Boca Raton, de Lima’s family moved 135 miles inland to Sebring, Fla., where he graduated after his first year there. He competed on the men’s weightlifting team and was asked to play for the football team in the fall, but his early graduation forced de Lima to fore-go the sport.

“In Florida you don’t have to have surgery to change your birth marker,” de Lima said. “You just need a letter from the therapist and from your physician.”  

However, not all of de Lima’s interactions were positive. De Lima said he dropped a sewing class after a discussion with a teacher.

“I hadn’t had my name changed then — and [the teacher] would refuse to call me by my preferred name when all of my other teachers were,” he said. “I asked her to talk after class one day and she said, ‘I was a beautiful young woman and I would one day find out who I am.’ She said, ‘I hope you never have a surgery because its a sin to cut into your body like that and its disgusting.’ I was like, ‘I’m glad you’re telling me this so I can report you to the principal, bye.'”

If bill 4474 eventually passes, an individual would need to use the bathroom of their corresponding gender assigned at birth in Illinois schools, even if he or she changes genders on his or her birth certificate. This means De Lima, who enjoys weightlifting and works at the Recreation Center, will be forced to either change in the women’s changing room or in a separate single-occupancy room if the bill passes. 

“It’s a touchy subject because they’d still be basically segregating the [transgender] community,” de Lima said. “I think they should allow you to use whichever bathroom you identify with.”

Evan Jones can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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