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Texas Bill Would Jail Those Whose Chromosomes Don't Match the Restroom They're Using

Texas Bill Would Jail Those Whose Chromosomes Don't Match the Restroom They're Using


The Lone Star state adds its entry to this year's streak of bizarre bills seemingly targeted at the basic bodily functions of trans folks.

Following in the footsteps of Republican Florida lawmaker Frank Artiles, who this month introduced a bill intended to criminalize trans peoples' presence in public, in single-sex restrooms, and in locker rooms, a Texas legislator has gone one step further: she's proposed policing people's genders -- right down to the DNA level.

House Bill 1748, introduced Friday by Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle, suggests anyone over the age of 13 in a public facility of "a gender that is not the same gender as the individual's gender" should be convicted of a class-A misdemeanor, and spend up to one year in jail and be fined $4,000, according to LGBT news site Towleroad. Riddle's proposed law carves out exemptions for custodians, those helping children, or those responding to a medical emergency.

Building managers who "repeatedly allow" trans people to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identity would, however, face up to two years in jail and a maximum $10,000 fine under the proposed law.

Like the law proposed in Florida, Riddle's proposal ignores the fact that trans people are at higher risk of facing harassment or violence in public bathrooms than nontrans (cisgender) individuals. That has drawn outrage from trans advocates, along with the bill's proposed approach to determining someone's "actual" gender, based on DNA information not easily or pragmatically available.

If passed, the law could tighten how Texas defines gender, not only singling out transgender people, but those who have chromosomes that don't fit the strict definition laid out in the bill, like intersex individuals. The bill reads:

For the purpose of this section, the gender of an individual is the gender established at the individual's birth or the gender established by the individual's chromosomes. A male is an individual with at least one X chromosome and at least one Y chromosome, and a female is an individual with at least one X chromosome and no Y chromosomes. If the individual's gender established at the individual's birth is not the same as the individual's gender established by the individual's chromosomes, the individual's gender established by the individual's chromosomes controls under this section.

Akin to a proposed law targeting trans school children introduced by Kentucky legislator C.B. Embry, Jr., last month that could award classmates $2,500 every time they "found" a trans student in a school restroom, some say that Riddle's law would make citizens feel a heightened authority -- and perhaps make some staff members feel an unwanted duty -- to kick trans and gender-nonconforming people out of restrooms.

Referring to this group as "bathroom cops," trans journalist Lexi Cannes stated on her news blog State of Trans, "This is another in a string of ridiculous bathroom bills, each with a particular twist -- in this case, the jailing of individuals who find themselves newly deputized as bathroom cops but unwilling to perform that duty."

The New York City-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund slammed the proposed legislation in Texas and Florida, calling them "outrageous and intolerable" examples of "unjust" "discrimination."

"Bills like these target transgender people for harm by criminalizing the simple act of using a bathroom," said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman in a Tuesday statement. "They are an end run around non-discrimination ordinances in local areas that protect transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations. Lawmakers who sponsor this kind of mean-spirited legislation purport to be looking out for public safety. But in reality, they are creating unsafe conditions by putting transgender people at great risk for harassment and violence."

If passed, HB 1748 would go into effect in September.

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Mitch Kellaway