If you need a little refresher on this specific bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, this legislation allows students and parents to sue if a trans person is permitted to share changing rooms, bathrooms, and related facilities in public schools with them. The law, misleadingly entitled the Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act, mandates that instead of the trans person in question using the bathroom that actually correlates with their gender identity, they must use a single-occupancy facility, or employee bathroom or changing space provided by the school instead.
The bill, like most of these anti-trans measures, defines “sex” as a “person’s immutable biological sex as determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” But as we know, defining people by what they are assigned at birth and not what their gender actually is is transphobic, exclusionary, and discriminatory.
Going back to what is assigned at birth is also dangerous in terms of potentially “outing” people, as someone may go by a name, pronouns, or gender presentation that obviously conflicts with the bathroom or changing room they would be forced to use based on the sex assigned to them at birth. Trans folks report high rates of violence, discrimination, and harassment as it is—essentially forcing people to “out” themselves just to use the restroom is an extra level of danger.
“When I started the seventh grade,” Alex told the HRC according to the lawsuit. “I just wanted to blend in. Having to use a ‘special’ bathroom made me stand out … so I just stopped having anything to drink during the day.” He added that the thought of dealing with this issue again stresses him out.
Ariel attended a private kindergarten, where she was allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. She is set to begin the first grade this fall, however, and will attend public school. According to the suit, Ariel’s parents have been informed she will only be allowed to use the girls’ restroom for the first month of the school year before the law goes into effect.
“Courts have time-and-again ruled against these dangerous and discriminatory laws and we are going to fight in court to strike down this one and protect the civil rights of transgender and non-binary young people,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the law is “morally reprehensible.”
The complaint from the HRC argues that the law violates Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination.
Alex and Ariel aren’t the only trans kids who have spoken up on behalf of their own protection. For example, 10-year-old Kai Shappley went viral when she spoke before Republican lawmakers in Texas, and 16-year-old Stella Keating spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Equality Act. At the end of the day, trans kids deserve time, freedom, and protection to enjoy their adolescence. Trans youth are brave every day, not just when they speak before lawmakers or rally with legal teams. But they shouldn’t have to be, and it’s a failure on the part of adults in this nation that literal children need to plead for basic dignity.