Center for American Progress

RELEASE: State Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills Threaten Transgender People’s Health, Participation in Public Life
Press Release

RELEASE: State Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills Threaten Transgender People’s Health, Participation in Public Life

Press Contacts

  • Tom Caiazza

Washington, D.C. — A policy brief released today by The Fenway Institute and the Center for American Progress examines controversial state and local legislation that would prevent transgender people from using gendered public facilities, such as restrooms or locker rooms, that align with their gender identity. The brief debunks myths about safety concerns regarding the use of these spaces by people who are transgender and describes the many negative outcomes that these discriminatory bills could cause. Lastly, it calls on states to pass laws that protect the rights of all Americans to access public accommodations regardless of gender identity.

“A Texas bill would make it a felony for transgender people to use public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and would place responsibility for enforcement with those who operate the public restroom,” said Tim Wang, LGBT Health Policy Analyst at The Fenway Institute and lead author of the brief. “Preventing people who are transgender from accessing public restrooms consistent with their gender identity could promote abuse and discrimination.”

In 2015, the state legislatures of Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Minnesota, and Missouri all considered bills restricting access of transgender people to public bathrooms and locker rooms. More recently, Houston repealed an equal rights ordinance that banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity, among other protected categories. This new wave of anti-transgender legislation follows historical precedents of using legislation to pre-empt or invalidate laws or ordinances that provide equal rights and protection from discrimination to gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Proponents of the anti-transgender bathroom bills argue that they are common-sense policy measures to prevent transgender people from sexually harassing other people in public bathrooms. However, there are no data showing that allowing people who are transgender to use public restrooms that align with their gender identity will lead to an increase in sexual harassment or abuse of the other people using the facilities. In fact, research has shown that transgender people are often the ones who experience discrimination and harassment in public accommodations, and this discrimination is associated with a variety of negative physical and mental health outcomes. Discrimination in public restrooms and other public spaces also has a negative impact on transgender people’s access to equal opportunities for employment, education, and socialization.

“Denying transgender people access to facilities that are necessary for all of us to go about our daily lives, such as restrooms, contributes to minority stress and can exacerbate negative health outcomes already affecting transgender people,” said Laura E. Durso, Director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at CAP. “These efforts significantly limit the ability of transgender people to fully and equally participate in civic and public life.”

The policy brief, “State Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills Threaten Transgender People’s Health and Participation in Public Life,” is available here.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at tcaiazza@americanprogress.org or 202.481.7141.

Since 1971, Fenway Health has been working to make life healthier for the people in our neighborhood, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS, and the broader population. The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education, and policy development focusing on national and international health issues. Fenway’s Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center cares for youth and young adults ages 12 to 29 who may not feel comfortable going anywhere else, including those who are LGBT or just figuring things out; homeless; struggling with substance use; or living with HIV/AIDS. In 2013, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts joined the Fenway Health family, allowing both organizations to improve delivery of care and services across the state and beyond.