Arizona state Rep. Kavanagh proposing ‘papers please’ potty lawTrans Progressive Thursday, March 28th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
State Rep. John Kavanagh (R-8th District) recently submitted an amendment for state Senate bill SB 1432. He’s stated that the amendment is a response to Phoenix passing an ordinance granting housing, employment and public accommodation antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity for transgender citizens.
His proposal is to limit public restrooms and locker rooms usage to the gender identified on one’s birth certificate that transgender advocates have labeled a proposed transgender “paper’s please” potty law. This is because it would essentially require that every trans person in the state, as well as everyone who’s gender presentation may not conform to societal sex and gender laws (think in terms of many butch lesbians), to carry a copy of their birth certificates with them to prove they’re using the legally mandated restroom.
If this proposed amendment were to become Arizona law, violation of it would be a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a $2,500 fine and incarceration for up to six months.
The presumption is that trans women, or men posing as trans women, would at worst be predators in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, and at best make cisgender women “uncomfortable” – this is the “bathroom bill” meme of social conservatives who argue against antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity.
Out gay Phoenix City Councilmember Tom Simplot, who argued for the Phoenix ordinance that banned housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination based on gender identity in his city, stated that if the transgender “papers please” potty amendment that Rep. Kavanagh has proposed becomes law, it would criminalize the “very nature” of being transgender.
There are many states and localities across the nation with antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity in place across the country, and none of these have resulted in a documented increase in bathroom predation by trans women, or even men pretending to be trans woman.
There is another argument, too, against Rep. Kavanagh’s amendment and that is trans men. As Masen Davis, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, pointed out in an MSNBC interview, should this amendment become law he’d be required to use women’s restrooms. That’s because that even though he’s balding and has a full beard, his birth certificate states he was as female at birth.
Bathrooms and locker rooms have been a component of every civil rights movement. Before the successes of the American Civil Rights movement, segregated bathrooms in Southern states were the norm. In arguing against the Equal Rights Amendment, opponents argued that if the constitutional amendment became law it would mandate unisex bathrooms.
In arguing against the American Disabilities Act, opponents argued that accommodating disabled people in bathrooms would mandate changes to restrooms that would be too costly for small businesses. And prior to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), opponents argued that out lesbian and gay servicemembers would engage in predatory leering and sexual advances in communal showers and locker rooms.
The transgender civil rights movement has a bathroom component as well, which should be a surprise to no one.
In the case of proposed legislation like the Kavanagh amendment, we should continue to argue for antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity even when no such antidiscrimination legislation is currently on the table.
The transgender “papers please” potty amendment enshrines discrimination of transgender and gender nonconforming people into law, and it’s just wrongheaded and stupid.
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