Those who testified in support of an Ohio bill that would ban transgender students from using the bathroom and locker room that aligns with their gender identity were meet with sharp questioning from members of the House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 183 would require Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to mandate that students could only use the bathroom or locker room that matches their sex assigned at birth. Slightly more than 30 people provided proponent testimony after more than a hundred people submitted opponent testimony last week.
“Allowing males access to female bathrooms and privacy facilities makes young women and girls less safe,” Ohio State Board of Education Member Brendan Shea said Wednesday in front of the House Higher Education Committee. “If we teach children that the world should conform to their subjective identity or preference, they’ll become bitter and miserable and never live up to their God-given potential.”
State Rep. Joe Miller, D-Lorain, asked Shea if he was concerned about trans youth and their safety, saying, “I’m not getting that vibe from you.”
“I’m not primarily concerned about those who identify as transgender individuals,” Shea said. “I’m primarily concerned about boys walking into the opposite sex, a women’s bathroom or locker room, with nefarious intent.”
Forty-two percent of transgender and nonbinary students were prevented from using the bathroom that aligned with their gender and 36% couldn’t use the locker room that aligned with their gender, according to Ohio’s 2021 state snapshot by GLSEN, which examines the school experiences of LGBTQ middle and high school students.
Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people attempted suicide in the past year, according to the Trevor Project’s 2023 survey of mental health of LGBTQ youth.
The American Medical Association officially opposes policies preventing transgender individuals from accessing basic human services and public facilities consistent with gender identity.
State Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, asked Shea how this bill would be enforced.
“I think the interest in having a law like this on the books, like many things, you are likely to see less of it,” Shea said. “The goal would not be to have someone at every door, but the goal would be to prevent problems like this.”
Kara Ayers, the parent of 12 and a 14-year-old daughters, said this bill is about the safety of students.
“There is nothing comfortable or safe for prepubescent or post pubescent children being subjected to exposure and shared spaces with the opposite sex,” she testified. “There is nothing that feels “safe” about that.”
Robyn Houze, a parent in the Olentangy Local School District, said post-puberty girls want privacy in the bathroom.
“Many girls want privacy as to when they are on their period from other girls who too are dealing with the same challenges,” she said. “Try to imagine what it’s like to have a teenage boy walk in the restroom beside you and occupy the stall next to you. A boy who will never have to change his feminine pad at school.”
Miller, who asked most of the questions Wednesday, pointed out during the committee hearing that all the proponents who came to testify were adults. Some students came to testify in opposition last week.
“That, to me, is a big red flag because I think there is a chasm between us old people and the youth that are really the ones who are going to the bathrooms,” he said.
Incidents involving Rachel Glines, a transgender Xenia woman, were brought up many times by proponents during Wednesday’s meeting.
Glines received permission to use the women’s locker room at the Greater Dayton YMCA locations, but Xenia police received many complaints of a naked man in the women’s locker room at the Xenia YMCA branch.
Three witnesses who testified in court said they did not see Glines’ genital area because it was either hidden by other body parts or the women left the locker room, and the court ultimately found Glines not guilty of public indecency charges earlier this year.
Janell Holloway told the House Higher Education Committee how she encountered Glines in the locker room after a swim last September.
“Standing, facing my locker and with my fumbling fingers trying to open my combination lock, I felt internal panic as I was trying to protect myself and get away,” Holloway recalled during her testimony.
Angelina Drollinger shared the experience she and her two teenager daughters had in the locker room with Glines in November.
“Terrified, I took a few steps back and called out for my girls to not leave their shower stalls. … I was absolutely shaking inside and for lack of a better word, freaking out,” she testified.
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