NASHVILLE, TN–A bill that would require transgender students to use bathrooms meant for their biological sex failed in Tennessee on Tuesday. This bill was shut down in a House committee meeting filled with eager transgender youth, many of whom testified before the committee.
“It feels great to know that my voice is counting,” Henry Seaton, an 18-year-old student who attends Beech High School in Hendersonville, said after the vote. Seaton, a member of the transgender committee, felt as though he was emotionally and physically a man despite being born a woman. He testified last week in a subcommittee and then spoke to committee chairman Mark White, R-Memphis, before Tuesday’s meeting.
Upon hearing more about personal experiences from transgender youth, Rick Womack, R-Rockvale voiced his opposition of the bill.
Womack listened to comments from Dr. John and Valerie Guenst and their daughter Jennifer, 17, who was born a male but identifies as a female. Jennifer currently uses the female restroom at Franklin High School, and feels as though this bill would inflict great damage on the confidence and security of transgender youth, who already have an absurdly high rate of committing suicide. The family also raised valid questions about whether Jennifer, who looks very much like a female, should be using a urinal in the boy’s room.
Many religious conservatives have strongly supported the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mt. Juliet, and Mike Bell, R-Riceville. There was also a strong concern about whether this bill would disrupt the policies on transgender students’ bathroom use already present at local schools. “Maybe we’re making things a little worse than they already are,” Mark White, committee chair, after hearing testimonies from several transgender individuals. He also said the bill would not be feasible because of the predicted costs. A revised fiscal note on the bill said the federal government, which provided $1 billion in education funding for Tennessee last year, could withhold future money if the legislation passed. The potential loss of federal funding was one of the main reasons behind Gov. Bill Haslam’s opposition to the proposal.