On Monday, the New Yorker published a lengthy piece about the Lone Star State, looking at the past and future of Texan law and policy as it relates to the rest of the US. Transgender rights have been a divisive topic in the state, especially since the introduction of the so-called Texas Privacy Act, a.k.a. Senate Bill 6 (SB6), at the start of 2017.
Speaking with the New Yorker, the Texan Republican House Speaker Joe Straus described an encounter with two senators. He claims they were sent to his office by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick in order to discuss the anti-transgender bathroom bill, which would force trans people to use public restrooms that correspond with gender they were assigned at birth, rather than the gender with which they identify. (Patrick's office has denied this account and did not respond to Broadly's request for comment.) During his interview with the New Yorker, Straus relayed his response to the senators: "I'm disgusted by all this. Tell the lieutenant governor I don't want the suicide of a single Texan on my hands."
The harms of anti-transgender bathroom legislation are well documented, but this hasn't stopped such noxious bills from proliferating; North Carolina lost over $3 billion in business after rushing the bathroom bill HB2 into law last spring. By one measurement, Texas faces to lose up to $8.5 billion if they pass discriminatory legislation, which major companies such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google have publicly opposed. Even the NFL has threatened to keep the Super Bowl football games from Texas if it should pass an anti-trans bathroom law.
"The comments from Speaker Straus are exactly right: The discourse around expelling trans people from public life in Texas will cost lives, and the politicians who are playing with those lives should be ashamed of themselves," Chase Strangio, a staff attorney for the ACLU, told Broadly. As Broadly has previously reported, such laws and policies seriously and negatively disrupt the lives of trans people and their families. Trans youth are especially vulnerable.
"The lieutenant governor may want to deny the impact of his actions, but the reality is that his repeated targeting of trans people for the past few years has, and will continue to have, dire consequences," Strangio said, adding that the governor and lieutenant governor should focus on improving Texan society instead of contributing to the social issues that make life difficult for trans Americans: In the US, a staggering 40 percent of trans people attempt to commit suicide in their lifetime.
"If anti-trans legislation passes during the special session, Speaker Straus is absolutely right that lawmakers responsible for barreling that legislation through will have blood on their hands," Strangio said. "Those of us who steadfastly work on behalf of justice will continue to fight to defend the rights of all people targeted by the Texas legislature."