The Texas Legislature convenes in January of 2017 and already we know there are a variety of anti-LGBTQ bills that have been filed, or will be filed. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has made a restrictive bathroom access bill targeting transgender Texans one of his top priorities in the coming session. That bill, Senate Bill 6, is falsely entitled, "Privacy Protection Act".
Make no mistake, this is not about privacy, it's about targeting transgender Texans with discriminatory legislation. Here is what you can do to begin to fight it.
1.) Who Represents You?
First thing's, first. Do you know who represents you in the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate?
There is an easy way to find out.
Use this link - http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx
2.) How Do You Want to Reach out?
Decide which way to contact your elected officials is the best for you. Your options are by phone, by email, by regular postal letter or in person. If you decide you want to reach out by phone, email or regular mail, here's a suggestion - do all three. Writing an email will only take you a couple of minutes (we have some talking points below), and then putting that email to paper another minute and then using that email to paraphase a phone call just another minute. In 10-minutes time you will have touched base with your legislators in 3 different ways. Some legislators prefer calls, others prefer email and others prefer physical mail they can hold in their hand. With a simple investment of a few minutes, you can be sure to cover all your bases.
3.) Talking Points and Personal Stories.
Do you have a personal story about discrimination toward you or someone you care about? Think about how access to public accommodations, like restrooms, has impacted you or someone you love. The best and most moving stories are always the ones that evoke an emotional reaction. Your personal story can have a big impact on someone's opinion on a topic. You may not be able to change someone's mind completely, but you might be able to convince someone to be more or less vocal about legislation.
When presenting information to a legislator, it is good to incorporate facts and statistics that may be helpful to them in making a case for or against certain pieces of legislation. Below are some general statistics pulled from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (available in the Resources section of our website). If you are relaying a personal story to a legislator, peppering your story with facts related to what you are discussing can be helpful.
General statistics about challenges facing the Transgender community
- 40% attempted suicide in their lifetime, more than 9x’s the national average (4.6%)
- 7% attempted suicide within the last year, 12x’s the national average (.6%)
- 1 in 5 (20%) did not use one type of public accommodation because of fear.
- 12% verbally harassed, 1% physically assaulted, 1% sexually assaulted accessing a restroom.
Transgender in School
- More than three-quarters (77%) of those who were out or perceived as transgender at some point between Kindergarten and Grade 12 (K–12) experienced some form of mistreatment, such as being verbally harassed, prohibited from dressing according to their gender identity, disciplined more harshly, or physically or sexually assaulted because people thought they were transgender.
- Fifty-four percent (54%) of those who were out or perceived as transgender in K–12 were verbally harassed, nearly one-quarter (24%) were physically attacked, and 13% were sexually assaulted in K–12 because of being transgender.
- Seventeen percent (17%) faced such severe mistreatment as a transgender person that they left a K–12 school.
- Nearly one-quarter (24%) of people who were out or perceived as transgender in college or vocational school were verbally, physically, or sexually harassed.
Restroom Access for Transgender people
- Nearly one in ten (9%) respondents reported that someone denied them access to a restroom in the past year.
- In the past year, respondents reported being verbally harassed (12%), physically attacked (1%), or sexually assaulted (1%) when accessing a restroom.
- More than half (59%) of respondents avoided using a public restroom in the past year because they were afraid of confrontations or other problems they might experience.
- Nearly one-third (32%) of respondents limited the amount that they ate and drank to avoid using the restroom in the past year.
- Eight percent (8%) reported having a urinary tract infection, kidney infection, or another kidney-related problem in the past year as a result of avoiding restrooms.
4.) Sample Letter or Email to Legislator
The main piece of legislation we are talking about in this post is Senate Bill 6, the so-called "Privacy Protection Act". When calling legislators, do not refer to it by it's misleading name, refer to as SB6, 'Dan Patrick's Bathroom Bill'.
Sample text. You can copy and past this information, but we recommend writing an original introductory paragraph of your own creation and then using this as a sample for the body of your letter or email. Remember to include a personal story if you have one and statistics that may be relevant to your story:
Dear <Your Representative or Senator's Name>,
My name is <Your Name Here> and I am a constituent of <House District or Senate District>.
I am writing to encourage you to oppose Senate Bill 6, Dan Patrick's Bathroom Bill, and any companion legislation that may appear before the Legislature.
SB6 is discrimination, plain and simple. The bill targets transgender Texans and uses rhetoric that has been proven false again and again. In reality, all people, including people who are transgender, are concerned about privacy and safety in public restrooms but this legislation does nothing to ease those concerns. Unfortunately, multiple studies show that transgender people often report experiencing denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, and physical assault when attempting to use public restrooms.
The fact is that in a majority of states, including Texas, transgender people can be fired from their jobs or denied a place to live simply because of who they are - a fact that is often overlooked or unreported when coverage becomes fixated on false claims about bathrooms.
Protections for transgender people, like those in many Texas cities and school districts, do not change long-standing laws that make it illegal for anyone to enter a public restroom for the purpose of harassing or harming another person or invading their privacy.
There are 18 states and over 200 municipalities, with explicit transgender protections, none of which have shown an increase in public safety incidents. This legislation is not solving a problem that exists, it is simply singling out a group of Texans for discrimination.
In addition, passing discriminatory legislation like this will jeopardize our state's ability to be economically competitive on the national and international stage. The damage to the economy in places like North Carolina, Indiana and Georgia when they considered passing similar legislation made headlines and their states' reputations have yet to recover.
I strongly urge you and your colleagues to vocally oppose this damaging legislation and any companion legislation that may appear before you. I offer myself a resource to your office on this issue and stand ready to provide you with additional information should you need it to help build a strong argument against SB6.
Thank you for your time,