Daily Egyptian

Proposed bill could ban transgender students from some school facilities

By Cory Ray, @coryray_DE

Simba Woodard said as a transgender man, even seemingly normal activities such as going to the restroom can be daunting.

“I always have trouble deciding where I’m going to go to use the restroom,” said Woodard, a sophomore from Nashville, Tenn., studying journalism. “When I do walk into a women’s bathroom, I get looks and I feel uncomfortable. I would rather go into a men’s restroom, but you’re going to get the same feeling either way.”

On Wednesday, State Rep. Thomas Morrison, R-Palatine, filed a bill that would ban transgender students from kindergarten to 12th grade in public schools from using the restrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity. For example, under the new bill a 11th-grader who identifies as female but was born as a male would not be able to use female-specific facilities.

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HB4474 had its first reading Friday in the House of Representatives, where it was referred to the Rules Committee. The bill has one Democrat and 11 Republican sponsors. 

While transgender students would be prohibited from entering restrooms or locker rooms other than that of their sex assigned at birth, the bill allows schools to provide single-occupancy rooms per a written request.

“The purpose of the bill is to accommodate the privacy needs of all students,” Morrison said. “We’re not saying a transgender student must use the room that corresponds to their anatomy. We’re saying that if a student cannot use the facility that corresponds to their anatomy, then the school can allow that student to change in an area where it would be safe for them to do so.” 

With Morrison and supporters of the bill citing privacy and safety concerns, Woodard said he understands why the bill was proposed.

“From a safety standpoint, there are plenty of people who definitely don’t agree with transgender individuals at all,” he said. “I’ve seen people get bullied for it; I’ve seen people get beat up for it.”

The proposed bill comes after a transgender female student at Palatine Township High School was prohibited from using the female locker room and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. The case made national attention and Morrison said many schools are undergoing similar discussions.

“[Transgender people’s] decision to not identify with the sex that they were born with — with the anatomy that they have — should not trample upon the rights of other students who do identify with the anatomy they have,” Morrison said.

Despite this, Woodard said passing the bill may cause more problems than solutions. He said he believes gender-neutral restrooms would be a better resource for students.

As a teenager, Woodard said he had to sort through confusion that came with being transgender. His coming-out process was subtle — he changed his birth name of Alexis to Simba on school papers to tell teachers he trusted about his identity.

Woodard said he believes enacting a bill that affects person aspects of young people’s lives could lead to the alienation of trans students. 

“If [a transgender male] is told that they can’t be with their male peers, of course they would feel alienated because they’ve already felt like that their whole lives,” he said. “Telling them they still have to change elsewhere, now you’re a part of no group. You’re alone because you don’t want to be in the women’s locker room, but you can’t be in the male’s locker room.” 

Morrison, however, affirms locker rooms and bathrooms have always been separated by anatomy and the tradition should continue. While Morrison said many think the bill is discriminatory, he believes restrooms and locker rooms are discriminatory by nature.

“If we do nothing to establish objective boundaries, then the ultimate conclusion, I believe, will be no separation,” Morrison said. “I think it will just be a locker room.”

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3326

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