Bathroom use by transgender students issue for Tenn. lawmakers

(Graphic: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The bathroom use of transgender students is dividing Tennessee lawmakers.

A conservative group wants to define which bathroom those students should use, but the transgender community is fighting back.

“This is an attempt to try to protect the privacy of students in very intimate settings,” said David Fowler who is president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT).

“One of the things we are trying to emphasize is that this is a dangerous bill,” counters Marisa Richmond of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. “You can forget that sometimes people who are not confused about their sexual orientation, their gender, or their biology are often traumatized by finding themselves exposed by someone in that intimate setting.”

Fowler’s group FACT wants a law requiring public school and higher education students to use restrooms or locker rooms for the sex as indicated on their birth certificate.

“We are seeing about a dozen of these bills around the country and Tennessee is playing games with the lives of transgender people,” Richmond tells News 2. “Already there are studies show there are no incidents created by transpeople, but in fact transpeople of victims of harassment.”

While Richmond and her group believe the bill would lead to more issues of harassment or worse, the Family Action Council says the bill gives clarity to what could be legal issues for schools.

“Rather than have a multiplicity of lawsuits against local school systems who do not know what to do, we should pass a law, say this is what we do here,” says Fowler who is a former Republican senator from Hamilton County. “And if people don’t like it they can sue the state and protect our local school systems from lawsuits they cannot handle.”

One thing both sides agree on is the so-called bathroom debate is needed in Tennessee.

The measure is scheduled to be heard in House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee.

Supporters tell News 2 they are also asking for the Tennessee Attorney General’s opinion about the state’s liability issues.

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