I went to the Washington state capitol and attended the hearing for state bill 6443. It was the first time I have ever attended a government meeting to protest a bill. It was very scary for me, but I was so glad I went. State bill 6443 seeks to strike down a state policy which grants transgender people the right to use the public restrooms or changing rooms which align with their gender identity.
Why would I take the day off and go clear down to Olympia to stand in a packed line of people for almost 2 hours to protest this bill? Because my son is transgender and has identified as such since he was 3 years old. For the past 5 years he has lived as a boy despite being born with female anatomy. Our family is originally from Utah where there are no laws protecting the rights of transgender people. The reason our family relocated and left our entire extended family to come to Washington state was because of the protections afforded to our son here. Like any other parent, my wife and I are trying to do the best we can to protect our children from pain and discrimination so they can live full and happy lives.
It was extremely difficult for me to sit in the hearing and listen to the proponents of the bill describe their fears. Some said they were upset with the process used to put the restroom policy in place. Others claimed this new policy would ruin their gym business because their patrons would cancel their membership if they knew “men” were able to go into the women’s locker room. Others even claimed sexual assaults in bathrooms around the state would skyrocket. A 14-year-old girl said she is now frightened to use the locker room at school for fear should have to see a “boy’s penis”. And others claimed their mentally disabled children would be at higher risk for violence and sexual assault as well.
As I listened to the testimony, all I could hear was fear from those testifying in favor of the bill. I thought about their motivations to show up that day with their families and children. I thought about the origins of their fears. A common thread through all the comments was a fear of transgender people, especially transgender women. I believe that fear is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender. This bill perpetuates that misunderstanding by labeling transgender people as sexual deviants, predators, rapists and perverts.
I am not a transgender person myself, so I don’t pretend to understand everything and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have learned a lot about what it means to be a transgender person. It is not about sex; it is about a person’s sense of self, their identity. It is the way a person sees themselves. It is not about sex or sexual attraction. Who a person is attracted to sexually is separate from their gender identity. A transgender woman could be attracted to other women or to men. A gender variant or gender queer individual could be attracted to any other type of person. It is this distinction I think that most people don’t understand. I didn’t understand it until I had a transgender son.
All of this fear of restroom violence is interesting because statistics show that transgender people (especially transgender women) are much more likely to be victims of violence. I personally know several transgender people who have been attacked in restrooms without provocation simply because of the way they look. This is what it all comes down to for me as father. I want my child to be safe. I want everyone to be safe and have access to the restroom and changing rooms of their choice without fear of violence, intimidation, and harassment.
Many states, cities, towns, and school boards are considering policies, rules, and laws limiting the rights of people to use the restroom and changing rooms they choose. If you live in one of these cities, states, or school districts, now is the time to take a stand to protect some of the most vulnerable among us. It is time to value the lives of all people, whether they are gay, straight, cis-gender, or transgender. Please reach out to your elected officials and tell them you do not support these kinds of bills. And if you still are not sure if you support them or not, please take a moment and find a place in your heart for my son as well as your own loved ones. Take a minute and try to have some empathy. Take some time to read first-hand about the lives of transgender people. If you don’t know where to go to learn more, I am more than happy to share some books, videos, and articles.