Marks: New Texas Privacy Act fights an old war

Texas, under Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, is following the legislative path that North Carolina took last year. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The legislation that discriminates against transgender people was introduced Jan. 5. “It’s the right thing to do,” stated Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick at a press conference regarding the Texas Privacy Act.  Patrick, a conservative Christian, considers it a priority and an investment in the privacy and safety of Texans.

The Texas Privacy Act states that people must use public restrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their assigned sex at birth. This would be applied in schools and at businesses. Furthermore, the legislation prevents cities from passing their own ordinances against the Texas Privacy Act, meaning that they have no independence regarding the bill. This is a poorly masked attack against the LGBTQIA+ community, despite some insistence that the legislation is an effort to prevent predatory attacks. It is psychologically and possibly physically harmful for transgender people to not be able to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable in, and this bill is clearly targeting those who don’t feel comfortable with the gender identity society has imposed upon them.

The use of a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote in Patrick’s press conference is astounding to me. Patrick began his speech at the conference by stating “Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’” MLK, Jr. was part of the civil rights movement, and queer rights are a part of today’s civil rights. He likely would not have supported bathroom bills that target transgender people. Patrick continues to comment on how we can’t allow “men” in women’s restrooms simply because of how they feel. This is a personal and targeted attack on transgender women. Transgender women are real women, not men dressed up in feminine clothing and makeup.

The chief executive of LGBTQIA+ rights group Equality Texas, Chuck Smith, was interviewed about the new legislation. He was clear in stating “Transgender people are not the predators. Transgender people are more likely to be the victims.” This is an indication that transgender people are often the victims of attacks in bathrooms by cisgender people who are uncomfortable. Furthermore, he remarked that the act closely resembled HB2, a similar bill passed in North Carolina that is now facing challenges in court and has caused the state to have a huge fall in its economymillions of dollars lost and hundreds in jobs due to boycotts.

This is not unlike what the Texas Association of Business has predicted in a study. They’ve reported that the new bill could result in billions of dollars in losses for the state of Texas. Clearly, this makes Patrick’s decision a bad idea.

Bathroom bills have become such an arbitrary thing to me. Think about single-stall, gender neutral bathrooms. Does the genitalia of the person using the bathroom before or after you really matter? It’s just a bathroom. Transgender people certainly don’t want to be hassled for a necessary act, and shouldn’t have to feel afraid to enter or use public restrooms because of how others might react. Furthermore, they shouldn’t have to experience psychological harm, physical harm or trauma because they are attacked.

The fact that Texas could pass this bill so soon after HB2’s massive failure in North Carolina is a testament to the conservative Christians living in the South. America watched as the bill in North Carolina passed, caused social and economic destruction, and has now been brought to court for being discriminatory against the LGBTQIA+ community. Why would Texas follow so soon after such a disastrous result? It’s like talking to a brick wall.

Ideally, the things that happened with HB2 will also happen with the Texas Privacy Act. One can only hope that people will be protective enough of the LGBTQIA+ community and our civil rights as Americans to protest against the legislation and boycott those who choose to follow it. Additionally, businesses should also refuse to enforce the bill. By taking action, change can be made.

Please consider donating to the Emerald. We are an independent non-profit dedicated to supporting and educating this generation's best journalists. Your donation helps pay equipment costs, travel, payroll, and more!