The targeted discrimination against transgender girls and women in public restrooms is a "top priority" for Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. An incoming piece of legislation, Senate Bill 6, will be proposed January 10; according to statements made by Patrick to the Houston Chronicle, the not-yet-filed SB6 would bar trans women and girls from using women's restrooms.
The law is similar to HB2, North Carolina's infamous piece of legislation, which forced trans people to use the restroom that correlates to the gender marker on their birth certificate (and is expected to be repealed very soon because of its immense cost, both financial and reputational, to the state). But there is one key difference between SB6 and other anti-trans laws: SB6 would bar trans women from using public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity, but not trans men. Patrick has explained this discrepancy by stating, "Men can defend themselves."
Discriminatory laws targeting transgender Americans have grown in number in recent years, and more are expected to crop up in state legislatures across the country in 2017. As HB2 demonstrated in North Carolina, discrimination can be expensive: The law cost the state more than $395 million and likely cost Governor Pat McCrory his run for re-election.
Major corporations, like Paypal and the NBA, pulled out of North Carolina because of HB2. Experts in Texas predict that even worse financial devastation will occur if SB6—deceptively named the Women's Privacy and Business Protection Act—is passed into law. The Texas Association of Business (TAB) conducted two studies looking into the financial cost of this sort of discriminatory legislation, finding that such laws could cost the state upwards of $8.5 billion.
At a press conference, according to Dallas News, TAB president Chris Wallace said, "We now face overwhelming data about the risk of damage to the economy and reputation of our great state resulting from legislation that would allow for discrimination." He was joined Texas-based businesses like SXSW, and Democratic state legislators Celia Israel and Donna Howard.
Patrick has ignored these concerns. His office released a statement calling the research by TAB "misinformation and fear-mongering regarding a bill they haven't even seen." He appears devoted to this legislation, and his perspective on the issue, according to local reports, is clear: "I think the handwriting is on the bathroom wall: Stay out of the ladies' room if you're a man," he said in April.
Like other anti-trans laws, SB6 appears to be based on the false idea that transgender women are men and their presence in women's restrooms puts cisgender women and girls at risk of being sexually assaulted.
"I would encourage people to do their own research," says Lou Weaver, transgender programs coordinator at Equality Texas, an LGBT advocacy organization. He adds that part of the problem with these laws is the fact that the public is often unfamiliar with the people affected by such bigoted legislation. He advises people to "meet a transgender person, to get involved, and to find out what this bill is really about: It's about targeting folks and being a bully, and that's not who we as Texans are, and it's not who we are as a country or who should be."
Patrick's office claims that SB6 will prevent "sexual predators, like those who exploit the internet," from being able to legally use women's restrooms or other gender-specific public spaces for women. There are no reported cases of trans people threatening others in public restroom facilities, but a recent study found that 12 percent of trans people have been verbally or physically attacked or sexually assaulted in a public bathroom.
"Unfortunately, at this point in time—and with Dan Patrick making this his personal agenda—I am scared that this could be the law of the land in Texas soon," Weaver explains, sharing some of his personal fears. "I do know that there are coalitions being built and we will do everything we can in our power to make sure that it doesn't happen; but I am scared for myself and my community."