A recently introduced bill from Indiana lawmakers could drastically impact the everyday lives of trans and gender non-binary people in the state by making it a criminal act to use a public restroom that doesn't match a person's "biological gender." Anyone over the age of eight could face punitive measures by the state if they fail to comply.
Senate Bill 35, which is centered around "single sex facilities," defines "biological gender" as the "physical condition of being male or female, as determined by an individual's chromosomes and identified at birth by the individual's anatomy," and would make it "a Class A misdemeanor if: (1) a male knowingly or intentionally enters a single sex public facility that is designed to be used by females; or (2) a female knowingly or intentionally enters a single sex public facility that is designed to be used by males."
"It's our interpretation that people could potentially go to jail for a year," Steph Mineart, editor at the Indiana Transgender Network, told MTV News. They added that the Indiana Transgender Network had been speaking with a lawyer about the language and potential implications of the bill. "Up to a year in jail is what could be a sentence for a Class A misdemeanor."
S.B. 35 ignores the difference between sex and gender; according to the American Psychological Association, "'Sex' refers to a person’s biological status and is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex," whereas gender "refers to the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person's biological sex."
Mineart also commented on the fact that the bill's attempt to define "biological gender" using chromosomes excludes intersex individuals. "That [language] doesn't cover intersex conditions, the way they've written it. So there will be intersex people who have no recourse to use a restroom, depending on how that's written," they said.
"How are you going to test DNA at the doorway of the restroom? How are you going to test that? Are you going to run a DNA test at the doorway of a restroom to determine whether somebody's allowed to be in the restroom? None of this makes any sense," Mineart added.
The introduction of S.B. 35 is the latest in disturbing trend of barring transgender individuals' access to basic accommodations like public restrooms. MTV News reported in the lead up to Houston's city elections in November, "A group called the 'Campaign For Houston' released a video rooted in harmful stereotypes, namely the idea that trans people just want to 'dress up' as men or women and that they’re dangerous sexual predators." The video was specifically attacking the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which would have protected many -- including trans people -- from discrimination. However, in November, citizens voted to repeal HERO.
At the same time, transgender students across the country have been at the forefront of the resistance against their schools' anti-trans policies. In 2015 alone, several transgender public school students fought -- or even sued -- their schools in order to use the restroom, with varying degrees of success.
If passed, S.B. 35 would go into effect on July 1, 2016.
"It's very upsetting, because this will affect me, it will affect everybody," Mineart, who identifies as gender nonconforming, said. "I already feel nervous and upset going to restrooms. It would change how I approach going out in public, and it's meant to make me feel that way -- I know that that's the case."
MTV News has reached out to James Tomes (R-IN), who authored the bill, in addition to David C. Long, President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate, for comment.