Many states are in the process of proposing "bathroom bills" aimed at preventing trans people from using the bathroom that matches their gender.
Virginia is one of those states. This week, Republican lawmakers filed a bill that would require schools to be certain that kids are using the bathroom that corresponds with their "correct anatomical sex" -- which civil rights advocates point out could require inspection of children's genitals in order to actually be enforced. And while proponents say the bills are meant to protect children, in reality they could be putting kids and teens at risk.
"You cant know a person's genitals by looking at them," Chase Strangio, an attorney with the LGBT Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, told MTV News. "And we shouldn't be interrogating people about their genitals or private medical information, whether that’s in schools or out in public. That’s just an incredibly intrusive thing, and it’s really difficult to predict the extent of intrusions into children and young adults privacy that these bills will authorize."
Virginia House Bill 663, which is sponsored by Republican Delegate Mark Cole, defines "anatomical sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person's anatomy," and stipulates that "local school boards shall develop and implement policies that require every school restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation."
The bill also states that any student who breaks the law would be fined $50 by the state (and that adults who use the "wrong" restroom in public could face the same punishment). What it doesn't explain is how teachers and administrators are expected to verify each student's "anatomy" -- which potentially opens the door to all kinds of intrusions into the most private parts of vulnerable young people's lives.
"What is clear," Strangio explained, "is that the bill proposed in Virginia, like many others, would subject children and young adults whose genitals' characteristics are not publicly known -- which, you know, is hopefully most children -- and who are perceived to be gender non-nonconforming, or who otherwise trigger some suspicion on the part of school administrators, to intrusive and potentially harassing inquiries into the nature of their bodies."
He added, "Growing up is hard enough without having to deal with adults questioning who you are and what you look like when you're naked."
Strangio also offered several ways to fight back to anti-trans bathroom bills.
"If these kinds of measures are targeting you or a loved one, this is a great opportunity for you to share your voices and stories through social media, or through the political process at your local school board or state legislature," he said, adding that the ACLU is always happy to hear from young people who are interested in organizing around these kinds of issues in their own communities.
"As much as it's been heartbreaking to see this influx in anti-trans measures across the country," Strangio said, "it's also been inspiring to see how the trans community has come together to mobilize against them, and I think we’ll see many allies continue to come out of the woodwork to support the trans community."