Report Shows Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills Threaten Health

Author: Fenway Health
Published: Tuesday 12th January 2016
Summary: Discrimination in public restrooms and public spaces has negative impact on transgender access to equal opportunities for employment, education, and socialization.


A policy brief released 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 report. "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 More recently, Houston repealed an equal rights ordinance which banned discrimination on the basis of gender identity, among other protected categories.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 preempt 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, like 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 the Center for American Progress. "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.

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.

The Center for American Progress is an independent nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans, through bold, progressive ideas, as well as strong leadership and concerted action. Our aim is not just to change the conversation, but to change the country. We do this by developing new policy ideas, challenging the media to cover issues that truly matter, and shaping the national debate. With policy teams in major issue areas, CAP can think creatively at the cross-section of traditional boundaries to develop ideas for policymakers that lead to real change.


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