Years ago, I had the privilege of hearing author and activist, Leslie Feinberg, speak about transgender issues and politics. What really made an impact on me was when Feinberg talked about the fact that transgender persons have to make a decision every time they need to use a public restroom: attend to an urgent, normal, bodily function or put one’s life in potential danger. As someone who is cisgender (meaning that my “self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to my biological sex”) I am never faced with that decision. No one should be. But that is just what the coalition, “Just Want Privacy” wants to make the law in Washington.
Initiative 1515 would declare “null and void” the 2006 Human Rights Commission’s rule that guarantees bathroom access for transgender people. But the initiative goes even further by banning the commission from ever “adopting rules related to gender identity in sex-segregated facilities.” It prohibits transgender students from using “sex segregated” bathroom in schools, allowing them to use only “single stall or unisex bathrooms “or controlled use of faculty bathrooms, locker rooms, or shower rooms.” The initiative also allows students to sue schools for $2500 each time they encounter a person of the opposite sex when accessing sex segregated restrooms, locker and shower rooms.
Based on the fear and distortion of truth tactics used by the Just Want Privacy coalition, I have no doubt that they will gather the required number of signatures by July so that the initiative will come before Washington voters. Having lost the battle in the courts to discriminate against gays and lesbians, groups like Just Want Privacy and conservative legislators are now turning their discriminatory sights on transgender persons. Last Thursday, the group Washington Won’t Discriminate, kicked off its campaign to challenge and defeat Initiative 1515. The byline for this campaign is, “Discrimination is not a Washington value.”
This initiative needs to be named for what it is: discrimination. And it needs to be defeated. All of us need to educate ourselves and others on the facts of the initiative and the Human Rights Commission rule of 2006. We also need to educate ourselves and others about the facts and truths of transgender lives. One book that I have found very helpful recently is Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities. And we are lucky to have an annual conference held each August in Seattle: Gender Odyssey which is for professionals and laity, as well as families, transgender folks, and allies. But we don’t have to become experts to understand that discrimination is not a UU value. I ask you to join me and others to defeat Initiative 1515 and any other future proposed transgender discriminatory legislation.
Peace, Shalom, Salaam,