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Trans People in FL May Soon Be Charged With Misdemeanor For Using the Bathroom

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to sign the bill into law.

A transgender person holds a sign reading "Trans Folks Have Always Been Here" as LGBTQ+ activists march during the Los Angeles LGBT Center's "Drag March LA: The March on Santa Monica Boulevard," in West Hollywood, California, on April 9, 2023.

The Florida legislature passed a transgender bathroom ban on Wednesday that would criminalize trans people for using the restroom or changing room of their choice.

This ban applies to all government-owned buildings, which may include airports, convention centers, parks, beaches, and stadiums, in addition to state and local government buildings, schools, colleges, and detention centers. Trans people who use a bathroom or changing facility that doesn’t align with the sex they were assigned at birth and who refuse to leave the facility when asked may be fined $10,000 and be imprisoned for up to 60 days.

“This bill criminalizes transgender people for using the restroom that aligns with how they live their lives every day,” said Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida Public Policy Director, in a statement. “This bill opens the door to abuse, mistreatment, and dehumanization. Our state government should be focused on solving pressing issues, not terrorizing people who are simply trying to use the restroom and exist in public.”

The bill includes exemptions for people who enter a bathroom that does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth if they are chaperoning a child or accompanying an elderly or disabled person, as well as for police and medical personnel who are responding to an emergency.

“Denying transgender people the ability to access the bathroom consistent with their gender identity is part of a pernicious, degrading, and systematic attempt to dehumanize one of our most marginalized communities,” Sarah Warbelow, the Human Rights Campaign Legal Director, said in a statement.

In 2016, North Carolina passed a trans bathroom ban that led to nationwide backlash and a staggering economic toll, with The Associated Press calculating that it would cost the state more than 3.7 billion in lost revenue over 12 years. The consequences of the bathroom ban led the state to partially repeal the legislation. Trans advocates are currently calling on corporations, athletes and musicians to similarly boycott Florida if the ban is signed into law.

The bathroom ban is just the latest anti-LGBTQ bill passed by the Florida legislature. The state’s legislative attacks on LGBTQ people this session have prompted civil rights organizations to issue travel advisories to the state. Just in the past few months, the legislature passed a gender-affirming health care ban after Florida’s medical board enacted rules that banned access to health care for trans kids, DeSantis’s notorious “Don’t Say Gay” law was expanded to high school classes, and lawmakers passed a drag ban, leading to the preemptive cancelation of pride parades.

Some transgender people have responded to Florida’s bathroom ban by canceling trips to the state to visit family or vacation.

“I suspect that [the intent of the bathroom ban is] to make me feel like I cannot travel to or through the state,” said trans journalist Erin Reed. “That was certainly the case whenever Christina Pushaw, who works under Governor Ron DeSantis, posted the ‘wave’ emoji in response to a news article about many LGBTQ+ families leaving Florida. They know that these laws shrink the spaces in which LGBTQ+ people are allowed to exist freely, and they revel in it.”

Legislative attacks on LGBTQ people in the state have forced many transgender people who call Florida home to flee.

“It makes me so sad to think of a state where all the trans people have left, like, there’s a mass migration because people don’t feel safe here anymore,” Jennifer Evans, a clinical psychologist at the University of Florida’s Youth Gender Program, told WUSF Public Media.

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