Hearing considers bill restricting transgender bathroom use

Hearing considers bill restricting transgender bathroom use

Transgender students, parents and advocates packed a state Capitol hearing to offer emotional testimony on a bill outlining which bathrooms students would be allowed to use in public schools.

Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, have proposed the bill that would prohibit transgender public school students in Wisconsin from using the bathroom or locker room for the gender with which they identify. They would be required to use the facilities for their biological gender, or request to use a single-stall unisex bathroom.

“This policy would be helpful for students who experience discomfort when changing in public, who are bullied, who do not identify with their biological gender,” Kremer said.

Kremer said the bill does not violate federal law as some critics say, but instead it protects the privacy and safety of all students.

Dozens of students packed the hearing room in opposition to the bill, including a group of transgender students from East High School.

“Using a binary bathroom creates a tremendous amount of anxiety, stress and dysphoria for trans students,” said Leland Hilliard, who identifies as masculine. “I know this is supposed to protect trans kids but it will do the exact opposite.”

The students said they have a unisex bathroom with multiple stalls that they prefer to use regularly. The bill would disallow gender-neutral facilities that are more than single-occupancy.

Some expressed concern that if students were forced to use a bathroom of their biological gender, it could cause further unsafe conditions and bullying.

“This bill revolves around the idea that trans peoples’ biological gender is the gender they should conform with,” Aden Haley-Lock said. “A trans woman is a real woman and a trans man is a real man.”

Anti-abortion group Wisconsin Family Action is the only entity registered to lobby in support of the measure.

“It’s not appropriate for school districts to treat the use of minors for bathroom and changing room facilities as a cause,” their director Julaine Appling said. “It is a social experiment that borders on child exploitation.”

The hearing lasted more than eight hours Thursday. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in committee.