The Utah Legislature's bathroom bill makes criminals out of trans children | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Utah Legislature's bathroom bill makes criminals out of trans children 

Small Lake City

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I am the father of two trans kids, and Utah is becoming less and less safe for them every day. With the Utah Legislature back in session, lawmakers are making it apparent that they don't care for "family values" or, at least, value my family.

The latest anti-trans legislation advanced quickly through the House and Senate. And it didn't surprise me to see the legislation signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, especially since he's been taking more and more conservative stances by the day.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, ignores the fact that gender is a spectrum and not the backward '50s Americana version of gender as a binary that was never anything more than a social construct anyway. To that end, Birkeland wants to criminalize being transgender in a "gender specific" space in publicly owned buildings.

Put simply—she wants to make criminals of my children.

My adult child is non-binary and doesn't exist in the poles of male and female. They don't participate in gender norms and this legislation criminalizes half of their safety and comfort.

My 8-year-old goes to school every day and uses the boys' bathroom because that's where he feels most comfortable. Especially at school, he's so much happier and fits in so much better by presenting as male. He'll use the women's restrooms out in public if he's going in by himself, because that's where he feels most comfortable. Frankly, I don't care what bathroom he decides to use as long as he feels comfortable.

If Birkeland's bill, HB257, is signed into law, the administrators at my kid's school—who have been nothing but supportive—would be put in a position of overseeing a kid, my kid, who would be a criminal on their campus every day. I'll have to explain to him that being himself means that the Utah Legislature and, by extension, the police think that he's a criminal. And that's not really fair to do to an 8-year-old. Or an adult. Or anyone, really.

When looking at the statistics for assault in bathrooms and "gender specific spaces," it's apparent that trans folks aren't the ones perpetrating crimes. That means bills like this only serve to soothe the fear of bigots, not actually help or protect anyone. It would be a better policy to de-gender bathrooms completely—they can be human bathrooms. And while HB257 includes language calling for unisex facilities, it pales in comparison to the more hostile aspects of the legislation.

The Legislature should spend less time trying to criminalize my happy kid for using the bathroom and more time providing bathrooms for our unsheltered friends. If the Legislature keeps heading down this road, their message will be loud and clear. In order to protect my children, Utah itself is no longer a safe space. And because Utah is no longer safe, it's likely that, in time, another state will be finding a new family to value, in mine.

Small Lake City is home to local writers and their opinions.

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