April 3, 2017
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
Re: Texas SB 6 and the Rights of Transgender Students
I write on behalf of Human Rights Watch to share our concerns about SB 6, a bill that would deny transgender students access to bathrooms and changing facilities in public schools consistent with their gender identity.
SB 6 would define a student’s “biological sex” as either male or female as reflected on the student’s birth certificate. It would mandate that multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities accessible to students must be designated for, and only used by, individuals of the same “biological sex.” Schools would not be required to accommodate transgender students, and would be barred from providing access to facilities consistent with a student’s gender identity even in schools where such an arrangement is already in place and has proven workable.
Human Rights Watch has interviewed hundreds of students, teachers, administrators, and parents about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in US schools, including in Texas. We have documented the impact of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender students in two recent reports: Shut Out: Restrictions on Bathroom and Locker Room Access for Transgender Youth in US Schools and “Like Walking Through a Hailstorm”: Discrimination Against LGBT Youth in US Schools. We believe SB 6 is unnecessary and would have negative consequences for students, school districts, and the State of Texas – especially the transgender youth you represent.
First, SB 6 discriminates against transgender students on the basis of their gender identity. It treats transgender girls differently from other girls and treats transgender boys differently from other boys. It does so to deny transgender students – but not other students – access to shared facilities that they can use comfortably and safely during the hours they are in school. Such treatment sends a false and stigmatizing message that transgender youth are sexually predatory or threatening to their peers and cannot be trusted to share facilities with other students.
Second, SB 6’s requirement that students use facilities according to their biological sex poses serious health and safety risks for transgender students. In interviews in Texas and elsewhere, Human Rights Watch has found that transgender girls who use a boys’ restroom and transgender boys who use a girls’ restroom are highly vulnerable to bullying, harassment, and assault by other students. Furthermore, transgender students who are unable to use a bathroom where they feel safe and comfortable frequently forgo restroom use altogether, a dangerous practice that places students at risk of dehydration, bladder infections, urinary tract infections, and kidney problems.
Third, SB 6 raises serious privacy concerns. Many transgender students change their appearance, undergo medical intervention, or change schools as a part of their transition, and in many cases, other students are not aware of their transgender status. Requiring those students to use facilities according to their biological sex, or a different facility from other students, outs those students as transgender to their peers.
The problems raised by SB 6 are avoidable. Schools across the US have demonstrated they are capable of making arrangements so that all students are able to use restrooms and locker rooms safely and comfortably. Some schools find that providing gender-neutral options is feasible and satisfactory for transgender students, while other schools opt to install private bathroom stalls, shower stalls, or curtains that offer greater privacy to all students in existing facilities. Schools are best equipped to accommodate a transgender student’s needs and determine whether various options would be feasible in terms of comfort, safety, privacy, accessibility, and architecture. SB 6 would tie the hands of schools and school districts by imposing a blanket rule that is insensitive to the needs of transgender students and the viable solutions that schools are currently able to provide.
SB 6 is an unnecessary bill that would have serious, harmful repercussions for Texas’s children, and we urge you to oppose the legislation. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide further information.
Director, LGBT Rights Program
Human Rights Watch