While our friends in the trans community are experiencing greater visibility in mainstream culture, the struggle for equal rights still trudges on. Unfortunately, South Dakota took a backward step in that journey yesterday.
As reported by Buzzfeed, the South Dakota state senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would effectively ban students from using restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity. The bill will now be sent to Gov. Dennis Daugaard in the following few days for approval.
Despite no reported cases of issues concerning transgender children using restrooms or changing rooms, conservative organisations have jumped on this issue and have been lobbying to repeal nondiscrimination laws passed by the Obama administration.
At present, bills like this would constitute illegal discrimination on a federal level, which a human rights lawyer confirmed to BuzzFeed News, "There is no state that bans transgender students from using facilities that correspond with their gender identity." Furthermore, Gov. Daugaard’s office has not confirmed whether he will approve or veto the bill.
The very existence of this bill is still a large cause for concern. There are innumerable problems with this bill, it's hard to know where to begin, but here are two very obvious reasons why this bill sucks.
Firstly, the rhetoric around these bills (even if they aren't passed) can be extremely damaging to the welfare of trans youth. Many will already experience daily prejudice, violence, bullying and general hostility in their day to day lives. By refusing trans students access to the correct changing room or restroom, this will lead to more harassment, missed school days and a greater sense of social exclusion. Suicide attempts are already alarming higher in the trans community (41%) in comparison to the general public (4.6%). This bill will not help matters.
Secondly, the bill "solves" a non-issue. The conservative groups pushing for the bill use scaremongering phrases like "No men in women’s bathroom" to galvanise their cause but there are no reported problems involving transgendered children in changing rooms. Their only "cause" is only to exclude trans people from society further. It's utterly useless and a giant waste of everyone's time and money.
We sincerely hope that Gov. Daugaar vetoes this bill and we can kiss goodbye to other bills like this in America.