Nathan Alvarez, 15, stands outside Kaleidoscope Youth Center on June 23. He is worried about a bill that would require K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. (Photo by Megan Henry, Ohio Capital Journal)
Nathan Alvarez is used to people laughing or snickering at him when he uses the men’s bathroom.
Despite that, the 15-year-old says his high school is one place he doesn’t have to worry about that happening because they have a couple of gender neutral bathrooms and anyone can use the men and women’s restroom.
But a bill banning transgender students from being able to use the bathroom and locker room that aligns with their gender identity would change all that.
State Reps. Beth Lear, R-Galena, and Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, recently introduced House Bill 183 which would require K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. HB 183 is still in House committee, awaiting sponsor testimony.
“It would be hell (if the bill were to pass),” Alvarez said, who uses he/him pronouns. “Hearing about it disgusted me. Like it violently disgusted me.”
HB 183 is one of a handful of anti-trans bills that have been introduced so far in the Ohio General Assembly.
Doctors wouldn’t be able to give puberty blockers and hormone therapy to trans youth, trans athletes wouldn’t be able to participate in women’s sports, educators would be forced to out students to their parents and require public schools to give parental notification before teaching “sexuality content” if these various anti-trans bills pass through the Republican-controlled Ohio Statehouse.
OCJ talked to three transgender youths who are concerned about these bills and their potential implications.
“It’s an attack on all trans people,” said Ko Rupert, who uses she/it pronouns. “They are all uniquely bad, but their uniqueness is important.”
And it’s not just happening in Ohio.
There have been more than 220 bills introduced nationwide specifically targeting transgender and non-binary people, according to the Human Rights Campaign year-to-date snapshot from May 23.
Fifteen laws have been enacted banning gender affirming care for transgender youth and four additional laws have been passed that censor school curriculum like books, according to HRC.
“It’s very hard to see what’s been already happening in other states and how the bills that they are trying to pass here in Ohio are not even that different,” Jaylah Hollins, 19 said. “I feel like it’s not really in the interest of Ohioans, but only in the interest of anti-trans lobbyists from out of state.”
House Bill 8
Hollins is going to start attending Columbus State Community College this fall for social work and hopes to one day work for an organization that helps transgender people.
“Hopefully if these bills don’t pass, we can try and make Ohio a place where it can be a refuge for trans kids and trans adults,” Hollins, said, who uses she/her pronouns. “Ensuring that trans kids have access to medical care and that adults have access to the facilities that align with their gender identity shouldn’t be politicized in the first place.”
While she said all the anti-trans bills are harmful, House Bill 8 stands out to her as the most damning.
State Reps. D.J. Swearingen, R-Huron, and Sara Carruthers, R-Hamilton, introduced HB 8 which would require public schools to give parents a heads up before teaching “sexuality content” and school staff would have to out students to their parents. HB 8 recently passed the Ohio House.
“I feel like they don’t see it as putting children in harm’s way when it most likely is because you can’t expect a parent to be able to deal with knowing that their child is within an LGBT umbrella and not have to try and resort to what they may not see at the time as harmful approaches to their child’s identity,” Hollins said.
She said these bills would prevent children from learning more about themselves and make them feel as though they deserved to be punished because of how they identify.
“It won’t allow children to be able to understand others who are maybe different from them,” Hollins said. “It will encourage isolation and I think the most devastating would be suicidal ideation, especially with trans and non-binaries who already know that they are coming from families who are unaccepting of those identities.”
She’s said she’s still debating if she’ll stay in Ohio after college.
“It’s still hard for me to think about, but for me, I think I would want to stay in Ohio and fight for trans youth,” Hollins said.
Rupert, a 20-year-old Ohio State University graduate student, is also worried about HB 8 and the stripping away of youth rights.
“Young people can make decisions, can know their bodies and understand and have a deep relationship with their gender and sexuality and romantic orientations,” Rupert said.
Alvarez tries to speak out against the anti-trans bills when he gets the chance and even recently appeared on Good Morning America. But he’s not old enough to vote.
“It’s upsetting to know that there are adults making choices for people to make choices about me. And I don’t have a choice,” Alvarez, of Reynoldsburg, said. “It’s scary.”
He hopes to move out of Ohio one day and relocate to Washington.
Anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills
House Bill 68, also known as the Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act (SAFE Act), would prevent doctors from giving puberty blockers and hormone therapy to trans youth. It would also ban physicians from performing gender reassignment surgery on a minor.
Many opponents, however, have testified that no Ohio children’s hospital currently performs gender-affirming surgery on those under 18.
Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.
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