Tennessee's Lawmakers Are Transphobic AF, And We Need To Call Them Out

by Amber Leventry
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Tennessee is showing how misguided and bigoted folks can be when it comes to transgender people, specifically transgender youth. The state’s Governor, Bill Lee—another white, cisgender man making decisions about people and experiences he fears yet knows nothing about—signed another bill into law that discriminates against transgender youth. SB 1367 prohibits students from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity and allows people to pursue legal consequences if a student is thought to have shared a bathroom, locker room, or sleeping quarter with someone of the same sex “for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered” for being in the same space as a transgender student. This is some fucked up transphobia and has absolutely nothing to do with science, safety of children, or “equality in bathrooms” that Lee claims the bill promotes.

About the equality in bathrooms: the bill claims that schools must try to provide a single-occupancy space for a student or staff member if they want more privacy when forced to use the bathroom of their assigned gender/sex at birth. That’s not equality. That’s discriminatory othering, which endangers a transgender student’s mental and physical health.

Let’s talk about the other anti-transgender bills Lee has, or is about to, pass into law. Let’s not let his use of the word “equality” distract from his bigotry and disregard for the well-being of children. The school bathroom bill is the third piece of legislation dubbed the “Slate of Hate” that Lee has approved. He signed off on SB 228, a bill that bans transgender youth from playing middle and high school sports. He put his name on SB 1229 which requires the school district to notify parents before “providing a sexual orientation curriculum or gender identity curriculum” in any lessons. This anti-LGBTQIA+ curriculum bill means queer students won’t get the education or representation they deserve when it comes to literature, history, or sexual education. It also means parents have the option to pull their kids from class when talking about historical events like Stonewall or Marriage Equality, adding stigma to the queer community.

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And because none of this seems like enough, Lee is ready to sign SB 1224, known as the “business bathroom bill,” that requires businesses to actively prevent transgender people from using the bathroom of their gender identity. Or businesses must clearly warn customers that a transgender person may be in the bathroom. Wait! There’s more! SB 126 would prohibit transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming medical care.

For people (i.e. Republicans) who don’t want government “interfering with their lives”, there are plenty who seem to think this type of interference is justified. And none of them will admit that these bills go against federal law and common sense.

There have not been any accounts of harm done by transgender youth in sports or in bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Transgender youth, however, are at risk of isolation, depression, and suicide if not affirmed and allowed to be with their peers and are more likely to be the ones sexually assaulted when forced to use the bathroom that aligns with their assigned gender at birth, which people equate to “biological sex.”

I have provided plenty of “proof” in this article to explain why transgender youth and adults are valid, safe, and humans who deserve respect. I could keep going. I could give you hundreds of links to read with statistics, stories, and detailed information that is based in science, facts, and lived experiences. But we’ve done this and I’m fucking tired of it. My, our, existence is enough. Our words, feelings, truth are enough. No transgender person should have to beg to be given respect or trust just because we aren’t cisgender. And if you say we are lying or trying to trick people in order to be predatory, then that’s a cisgender issue, not a transgender issue. At the bare minimum, we just want to get through our days safely and without humiliation.

In their book “Beyond The Gender Binary,” Alok Vaid-Menon, writes, “They used to define sex based as what was reflected on an individual’s birth certificate. Once that was changeable, they made the definition our genitalia, once we could change those the definition switched to chromosomes, now that there is increasing evidence that chromosomes do not always necessarily line up with sex, they’re suggesting genetic testing. This is not about science; this is about targeted prejudice.”

This applies to what is happening in Tennessee and many other states across the country. Lawmakers don’t care about science because when it comes to looking outside of their heteronormative perches of bigotry they only care about their religion, biases, and unfounded fears.

If you want to do better, Tennessee, call and email your disgraceful governor and tell him you oppose all of his anti-transgender laws. And then donate to organizations that are fighting for the rights of transgender youth.