The Honorable Chairwoman Joan Huffman
Senate Committee on State Affairs
1200 Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701
Dear Chairwoman Huffman:
The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth (LGBTQ) writes to strongly urge you to vote against SB91. Many organizations are weighing in on the civil rights implications of this bill, but it is also critically important that you consider the devastating public health impact this bill will have on the transgender youth of Texas, who are your constituents.
The Trevor Project (Trevor) serves youth under 25 and works to save young lives through our accredited free and confidential lifeline; our secure instant messaging services which provide live help and intervention; our social networking community for LGBTQ youth; and our in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources, and advocacy. Unfortunately, there is a great need for an organization such as Trevor. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are almost four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.[i]While this alone is shocking, it pales in comparison to the statistics regarding transgender youth. In a recent national survey, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.[ii]
There are many factors that contribute to the high suicide rate for transgender youth: lack of understanding and awareness from others, the rejection of family and friends, bullying, mental health challenges, and discrimination and stigmatization on the individual and societal levels. If SB91 becomes law, this ostracizing policy will become one more brick on the backs of transgender youth who are already on the verge of collapsing from too much weight. The message this bill sends to transgender youth is simple yet cruel: they do not deserve basic human dignity and respect.
Not being allowed to use the restroom or locker room consistent with one’s gender identity can cause significant psychological and social distress. Research has shown a high correlation between denying transgender young people the right to use the appropriate bathroom and suicidality.[iii] When youth are forced to use the incorrect restroom, they place themselves in danger of harassment from peers. Youth may take steps such as attempting to refrain from using the bathroom all day, leaving school to use an appropriate restroom, or skipping school entirely to avoid these harmful encounters, severely impacting their education and health.
In addition, requesting a so-called “reasonable” accommodation, such as using a single stall teacher’s restroom, requires youth to disclose their identity to administrators and their peers, putting them at further risk of bullying and violence, including homicide. Every year in the United States, transgender individuals are killed simply because of who they are. This year alone, fifteen transgender individuals have been murdered in the United States simply for being transgender.[iv]
Many cities and states have laws explicitly allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity.[v] Since the passage of those laws there hasn’t been a single case of a person posing as a transgender individual to gain access to a restroom for the purpose of carrying out a sexual assault.[vi] Therefore, the premise that this bill will “protect” children and an individual’s right to privacy is completely false, and in fact may increase the risk of violence for transgender youth. Research has found that transgender individuals are significantly more likely to be victims of verbal and physical assault in public gender-segregated settings, including restrooms, than their cisgender peers.[vii]
Furthermore, this legislation would inflict significant suffering on transgender youth in Texas by subjecting them to these anxieties and threats of violence. In 2017, Trevor has had over 2,000 calls, chats and texts from youth in Texas, including many transgender youth in mental health crises or youth who were struggling with suicidal ideation. In June alone we received 380 contacts, a significant increase in the contact volume, possibly as a result of the increased discussion of this so-called “bathroom bill” legislation in the state. Generally, we see a positive correlation between media coverage of bills that stigmatize or shame LGBT youth and an uptick in crisis contacts at Trevor. It would be shameful to add to the existing systems of oppression and institutional transphobia by passing a public policy that actively discriminates and ostracizes transgender individuals.
In order to ameliorate this public health issue, we strongly urge you to vote against SB91. Should you have any questions or comments please contact Amy Loudermilk, Associate Director of Government Affairs at [email protected] or 202-391-0834.
CEO & Executive Director
[i] Kann, L., O’Malley Olsen, E., McManus, T., Kinchecn, S., Chyen, D., Harris, W. A., Wechsler, H. (2011). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contracts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students Grades 9-12 – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, Selected Sites, United States, 2001-2009, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60(SS07), 1-133.
[ii] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality
[iii] Seelman, Kristie L. (2016). Transgender Adults’ Access to College Bathrooms and Housing and Relationship to Suicidality. Journal of Homosexuality. 63(10), pp. 1378-1399. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/00918369.2016.1157998?scroll=top&needAccess=true
[iv]Violence Against the Transgender Community. Human Rights Campaign. http://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2017
[v] American Civil Liberties Association. Know Your Rights: Transgender People and the Law. Accessed at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/transgender-people-and-law
[vi] Brinker, Luke and Maza, Carlos. (2014, March 20). 15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth. Media Matters. Accessed at: http://mediamatters.org/research/2014/03/20/15-experts-debunk-right-wing-transgender-bathro/198533
[vii] Herman, Jody L. (2013). Gendered Restrooms and Minority Stress: The Public Regulation of Gender and its Impact on Transgender People’s Lives. Journal of Public Management and Social Policy. Accessed at: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Herman-Gendered-Restrooms-and-Minority-Stress-June-2013.pdf