Most of us would probably agree that it’s not a good idea for the principal to arm schoolyard bullies. We want authority figures to limit a bully’s capacity for harm, not encourage or abet it. But inciting violence is exactly what our representatives in Austin — particularly Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick — are doing by pushing Senate Bill 6, the so-called Texas Privacy Act.
SB 6 sets out four provisions. First, it bans enforcement of trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies, requiring employees and visitors in government buildings to access gender-segregated spaces according to their birth certificates. Second, it requires the same birth certificate rule at all public schools. Any entity that doesn’t enact such a policy encounters the third provision, a noncompliance fine of up to $10,500 per day. Lastly, the bill enhances penalties for certain crimes committed in gender-segregated spaces.
Patrick and other SB 6 supporters say the bill in no way targets transgender Texans. And that is where their true maliciousness shows. This legislation is no different than pinning pink triangles on certain kids on the playground, then giving the schoolyard bully a baseball bat with a pink triangle on it and saying, “Have fun playing baseball (wink wink, nudge nudge).”
SB 6 identifies a target without naming it and erases policy intended to offer at least some protection for vulnerable populations, building a legal excuse for harming those people and for coercing them not to fight back. Once the law is in place, the “responsible adults” will turn their backs and let others carry out the actual violence.
And finally, SB 6 will negatively impact trans people in how it criminalizes assault. Marginalized groups tend to be disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system, and the trans community is no exception. As one trans survivor of a sexual assault described their experience: “The legal system would blame us for our own rapes and say we had it coming.”
Lifelong problems increase as a result of discrimination and violence in schools, where trans people often underperform or drop out, and in workplaces, which deny us jobs or set up barriers that impede not just success, but often simple continued employment.
As a trans woman and an advocate, I’ve heard countless stories of trans Texans who have endured discrimination and the threat of violence. A trans woman in East Texas fled for her life after an assault only to later find dead animals repeatedly hung on her porch railing. A trans man at a trade school was threatened by another student with a gun after the school outed him; when the school disclosed his address, he quit and moved out of fear for the safety of his child. A friend was stabbed with an ice pick; another was beaten while walking in a park; another was threatened with arrest for “impersonating a woman.”
Fortunately, I’ve not experienced violence related to being trans, but the potential is always with me. The threat will increase if SB 6 passes. However, if that happens, I and many others will violate policy that SB 6 engenders, even if insistence on our right to relative safety in appropriately gendered spaces means arrest. We will not give in to administrative bullies.