Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Transphobic “Bathroom Bill” Introduced in TN Legislature

Nashville, Tennessee – A bill making the use of a bathroom by transgender persons a punishable offense is making its way through the Tennessee Legislation, according to Daily Kos.  Transgender people are put in an insidious double-bind by the proposed bill: if passed, it will fine a person for the use of a restroom if the sex on that person’s birth certificate does not match the assigned sex of the toilet, while Tennessee does not allow for the sex assignment on a person’s birth certificate to be changed.  The “Bathroom Bill” imposes a monetary fine on offenders – $50 – but the fine is the least of the legislation’s harm to transgender people.  As Daily Kos and the Huffington Post point out, this bill would embed structural discrimination against a class of people into state law, much as sodomy laws did before the Lawrence v. Texas ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court struck them down across the nation in 2003.

The Volunteer State has entertained some of the most regressive, homophobic laws in the nation, typified by the reprehensible “Don’t Say Gay” and “License to Bully” bills, and as long as the radical, extremist right wing is in power in the state, the cavalcade of bias-driven laws is unlikely to stop.  The “Don’t Say Gay” bill bans use of the words “gay” or “homosexual” in a Tennessee public school classroom (while, as Signorile says, “pervert” or “sodomite” are fine!) to prevent teaching or discussion about same-sex issues.  The “License to Bully” bill, if passed, would offer protections to students who attack the legitimacy of homosexuality as a normal human variation–in effect offering cover to people who wish to bully LGBTQ students.

In a major national survey issued in October 2011, the first of its kind, transgender people in the United States were shown to be the object of discrimination in every sector of life.  The Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Study, “Injustice at Every Turn,” noted that “It is a part of social and legal convention in the United States to discriminate against, ridicule, and abuse transgender and gender non-conforming people within foundational institutions such as the family, schools, the workplace and healthcare settings, every day.”  This amounts to a colossal moral failure in American life, and the Tennessee bill is of a piece with this systematic and structural bias-attack on transgender people.

The ACLU decries anti-transgender “bathroom bills,” seeing such laws as fundamentally violating non-discrimination laws.  Social advocacy groups within the state, such as the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), are opposing the bill, which was introduced by State Senator Bo Watson (R) to make Tennessee, in the words of Think Progress, “a particularly unfriendly place for transgender people.” The text of the “Bathroom Bill” may be accessed here.

As transgender advocate Ryan Sallans, writes in his popular blogsite, “I’m thinking of all you folks down in Tennessee. When is this sh*t going to stop? I just wish politicians didn’t exist, the world would be a better place. Communities should just sit down and talk, get to know each other, respect their differences and understand we all are just trying to live and make it mean something in a challenging world.”  When will the sh*t stop, indeed! (Thanks for links to Dr. Jason Lamoreaux).

January 12, 2012 Posted by | Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lawrence v. Texas, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Transphobic “Bathroom Bill” Introduced in TN Legislature

Gay Tennessee Teens Face Potential “License to Bully” Law

TN students protesting anti-gay legislation (Tennessean image)

Nashville, Tennessee – A “License to Bully” gay students bill will be on the Tennessee Legislature docket this winter–and is already facing criticism from progressives. The bill would protect anti-gay students when they frame their homophobic feelings in religious language. WSMV4  reports that conservative lawmakers are presenting the bill, SB 760/HB 1153,  making outspoken anti-gay statements in Tennessee schools legal “if that is what religious beliefs call for.”  Like opponents of human rights around the nation, Volunteer State conservatives such as FACT (Family Action Council of Tennessee) are framing the bill as a matter of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Fox News 17 quotes progressive high school student Emmanuelle Loyer in opposition to the “License to Bully” bill.  Loyer said anti-gay students will take advantage of the protections the bill offers: “They can say cruel things they want to say under that protection.”  Loyer went on to say that supporters of the bill are dangerously misinformed about realities in today’s public schools. “I don’t think they realize how cruel high school students can be,” she said.

The Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) opposes the bill and its intent. Jonathan Cole of the TEP said, “It’s time for Tennesseans to stop using children as pawns for social, religious and political agendas. We need to be focusing on ways to ensure that Tennessee students receive an education free from bullying, harassment and intimidation.”  In a statement to the press, the TEP said, “The religious liberty and free speech rights of students are already protected by the U.S. Constitution. This legislation would give special protections to students of a particular religious point of view. If made into law, FACT  would give students a ‘license to bully’ that allows them to hide their irrational biases behind an extreme religious belief.” 

Already under assault from the “Don’t Say Gay” (HB0229/SB0049) bill last year, LGBTQ students and their allies in public schools are organizing to fight for vulnerable youth and teachers who are targeted for harassment, slurs, and harm. The Tennessean warned that harassment of gay youth already has already proved lethal, as in the case of Jacob Rogers, Cheatham County Central High senior who took his own life in response to years of relentless bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation.

Against the claims of FACT and right-wing lawmakers, the Tennessee Equality Project quotes a recent study in the Journal Pediatrics showing “an association between an objective measure of the social environment and suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. The social environment appears to confer risk for suicide attempts over and above individual-level risk factors. These results have important implications for the development of policies and interventions to reduce sexual orientation–related disparities in suicide attempts.”

Conservatives ignore these documented connections and protest against using the stories of gay teen suicides in the debate on the “License to Bully” bill. At a time when Tennessee lawmakers should be offering more protections for LGBTQ students, they are poised to take Tennessee in the direction of shielding homophobic students and their right wing supporters.

January 4, 2012 Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Bullycide, Bullying in schools, gay teens, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ, License to Bully bill, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, Tennessee | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Tennessee Teens Face Potential “License to Bully” Law

   

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