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Arkansas GOP Is Making Headway Toward Criminalizing Trans People Just Trying To Use a Bathroom

A sign for a bathroom outside a building, showing male and female outlines

Arkansas GOP state senators, I have a question for you: who hurt you to make you this hateful? Republican-led states all across the U.S. have been joining together in a concerted effort to make life harder for transgender people. These bills have attacked trans people’s access to things like medical care, sports teams, and simply going to work and school. There have been lots of efforts at every level to try to prevent trans people from going to the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. But Arkansas’ latest anti-trans bill, which passed its first round of voting in the state senate this week, goes so far as to actually criminalize going to the bathroom for trans people.

The evil twist of this so-called bathroom bill is that its sponsors have framed it as an amendment to existing laws regarding “the criminal offense of sexual indecency with a child.” So what the bill would do is make a trans person guilty of sexual indecency with a child if the trans person simply goes in their chosen public bathroom or locker room, and a person under 18 is in there too. The trans person doesn’t need to actually do anything indecent to be charged. They just need to exist in a bathroom with a minor and bam! They’re guilty of sexual indecency with a child. WTF.

“It’s not going to stop transgender people from going to the bathroom,” GOP State Senator John Payton argued before the vote, adding he was “just asking that they don’t expose my kids and grandkids and your kids and grandkids to it because we’re trying to teach them a different standard.” First of all, I don’t see any evidence it’s not going to stop trans people from going to the bathroom because every time they do, they’ll either be dangerously close to being accused of a crime or possibly dangerously close to being the victim of one if they go in the bathroom opposite their gender identity.

Second, what is the “it” you don’t want your grandkids “exposed” to? The existence of trans people? He also argued that with the new bill, people would only be prosecuted “under the most grievous circumstances where somebody refused common courtesy,” but gave absolutely no evidence of what that means. 

Senator Joshua Bryant, who was the only Republican to vote against the bill, was a voice of reason, pointing out that the bill has no real purpose but to attack trans people for merely existing. ​​You simply have to occupy [the space],” he pointed out. “No activity of sexual nature is required,” in order to be charged. “Why should that, therefore, be considered sexually indecent? If it were actually sexually indecent, the law already covers that.”

The bill passed its initial senate vote with nine for, seven against, six abstaining, one present, and two absent. Next, it will go to the Arkansas House Judiciary Committee.

(featured image: Photo by Sung Jin Cho on Unsplash)

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