Over the last several years, our country has experienced unprecedented progress for transgender Americans. With such progress, however, has come a targeted backlash from some legislators and activists. More and more state and local legislatures across the country are considering controversial bills that would restrict access of gendered public facilities, such as restrooms and locker rooms, based on sex assigned at birth rather than on gender identity. These bills are primarily meant to prevent transgender people from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity.
This new wave of anti-transgender legislation follows a historical precedent of using legislation to preempt or invalidate laws or ordinances that provide equal rights and protection from discrimination to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Most recently, this was seen when conservative voters used a referendum to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, which would have provided protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations. Though the Houston ordinance provided protections for 15 classes of people across multiple areas of life, opponents branded it as a “bathroom bill” and played on the general population’s lack of knowledge about transgender people to evoke fear and anxiety.This article was originally published in The Fenway Institute.