Thoughts on SB 6
By Lou Weaver, Statwide Transgender Programs Coordinator for Equality Texas
As Transgender Texans we are battling to be treated with basic human decency more than ever. We have been living among you mostly ignored and on the margins since people began walking the earth. There are even descriptors of us in your history books, artwork, and bible.
Today, we’re experiencing a tipping point ignited by people such as Laverne Cox who graced the cover of Time magazine as an out trans woman.
Sadly, at the same time we’re reverting back to a time when we treated people unfairly with with segregated restrooms.
“What color are they?”
“What are they doing?”
And most importantly...
“What do their genitals look like?”
None of this should matter because we all need access to a safe place to attend to our bodily functions. In Texas, we have Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, an elected official tasked with working for all us, who has decided to codify discrimination against transgender and non-binary students. All kids should be able to focus on their education, and being just a kid. Transgender kids instead worry about being bullied.
Patrick insists that transgender and non-binary youth might harmful other students. This is harmful on several levels. What are we telling our students when they are singled out from their peers? When they are told they are different and do not deserve the same access facilities their peers use? When they are not allowed to participate in sports the same way their friends do? When they are criminalized simply for being who they are.
Our transgender and non-binary students are hearing that they do not matter, or that they matter a little less than the other kids at school. This singles them out for discrimination. I have heard several stories of students not eating or drinking all day while at school in order to avoid the restroom. Instead of focusing on what the teacher is saying, they are thinking about what they can drink without having to use the facilities. Or watching the clock; waiting to be released from school in order to race home to attend to their needs.“But they can use the nurse’s office restroom.” Separate but equal does not work, history has shown us that. Also, these students are not sick, why are they being forced to access a medical facility? What if the nurses station is located on the other side of campus? The student has to think about whether or not they can make it to the medical facility and to their next class on time.
A dear friend has a trans daughter in kindergarten. When the little girl in not in the classroom (her classroom has an all gender restroom), at lunch or in the library, and needs to use the restroom she is forced to go to the nurse’s office. Right before the winter break one such incident occurred. The kindergarten student needed to use the restroom. An adult staff member took her to the nurse’s office only to find it locked. No one could find the nurse to unlock the door. The 6 year old ended up urinating on herself. It was demoralizing. She was denied access to the closest restroom simply because of her transgender identity. Later on, she was angry and humiliated, and rightfully so.
I want everyone to imagine not having access to the closest restroom while at work, school, at the mall, or while at jury duty. Texas’ Senate Bill 6 makes it difficult if not impossible for transgender and non-binary folks to be a functioning part of society. Having to plan a day around returning home to take care of bodily functions restricts where and how people can participate in society. This is just wrong.
And, what about the mental and emotional pain that one endures when they are told they are not worthy of the same respect as their peers?
This bill takes a toll on the well being of transgender and non-binary Texans in a very real way. Talking about SB6 causes fear and anxiety for so many in my community. Not to mention the bladder infections, kidney infections and depression that folks are forced to deal with.
In my heart and mind I know that we as humans and Texans can do better. We all have the same strong Texas values and want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families. Texans have a duty to take care of all Texans; not just some.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lou Weaver (he/him/his) is the statewide Transgender Programs Coordinator for Equality Texas. Lou is a progenitor and leader of Houston's LGBTQ community. He has also received multiple awards for his devotion and persistence, including the Houston Transgender Unity Committee's Horizon Award, the HTUC People's Choice Award, and the John Paul Barnich Justice Award.