Transgender Ohioans and advocates concerned by House passage of ‘bathroom bill’

By Eduardo Miranda Strobel for Kent State NewsLab

Concerns of transgender Ohioans and advocates have heightened since the passage of the “Bathroom Bill” last month.

TransOhio condemned HB 183, which passed as an amendment to an unrelated bill on June 26.

“Hate mongers in Columbus want to see trans and gender nonconforming Ohioans stripped of their right to exist in public spaces,” said Dara Adkison, executive director of TransOhio, in a press release issued after the vote. “They can make our lives harder, but they can’t make us not a part of this state.”

If the bill becomes law, it would have tangible consequences for Ohio’s trans students.

“I started testosterone just about two months ago now, so I plan on using the men’s restroom and stuff at school, and HB 183 would make it quite literally illegal for that to happen, which is not fun,” said Robin Baradarvar, a sophomore at Centennial High School in Columbus.

Sponsored by Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) and Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena), HB 183 would require trans students in Ohio K-12 schools and colleges to utilize bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their assigned genders at birth.

The bill, also called the Protect All Students Act, passed out of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee with a 10-5 vote on April 10. It was awaiting further consideration until HB 183 was added as an amendment to SB 104, a revision to the College Credit Plus Program, which allows students in grades 7 through 12 to earn college credits. The amended College Credit Plus bill passed by a 60-31 vote, mostly along party lines.

The Ohio Channel recorded the debate on the House floor.

“Our schools are places to provide academic instruction and protection for all kids,” Lear said during the debate. “No young girl who’s uncomfortable with her body and thinks that she might be a boy is safe going into a boys’ locker room or bathroom. She’s just not. And it’s up to us to make the choices to do what’s best for all kids because this will protect all of them.”

Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) urged others to vote yes on the amendment.

“I hope that my little boy one day is going to grow up in a world where he does not have to think, wow, is a girl, or is a boy going to come in my bathroom? And they have a safe space in the state of Ohio,” Powell said during the debate.

Bird’s proposal was met with opposition from Democrats.

“It is when students know that they belong in their communities that they are best able to learn and reach their full potential,” Rep. Beryl Piccolantonio (D-Gahanna) said during the debate. “This bill actually makes life more difficult, even for school district staff who are already under immense pressure and stress. The language that is in this bill is overbroad and is unclear, and there’s no funding provided for any building modifications that would be required.”

Rep. Joseph Miller (D-Amherst) said he was disappointed Ohioans are putting efforts into shaming trans children and young adults for wanting to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

“I would say that 183 is problematic because of that, it doesn’t protect all students and their rights to use a facility that recognizes their gender,” Miller said in an interview before the vote.

HB 183 would also restrict students from using overnight accommodations with those of a different gender. 

It would not restrict cases of assistance of young children and people with disabilities or emergencies in bathrooms and locker rooms.

“Trans kids just want to go to the bathroom and pee,” Adkison said in an interview. “It would be great if our legislators were more focused on their education and less what their genitals are.” 

Both sponsors of HB 183, Reps. Bird and Lear, were contacted but did not make themselves available for an interview.

Eight percent of the trans population 13 and older live in states that ban them from using bathrooms and facilities that align with their gender identity in every government-owned space, including K-12 schools, colleges, and more. This includes trans people living in Florida and Utah.

Ten other states have implemented restroom bans of some kind.  

For androgynous people, there can be conflict in the bathrooms between girls thinking they are too masculine or boys thinking they are too feminine, Baradarvar said.

“It’s a very scary thing being a trans person,” Baradarvar said. “Especially if they don’t have a single-sex bathroom, which isn’t very common in schools right now, or at least high schools. So, it’s kind of traumatizing.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the amended bill after returning from summer break. If it passes there, the bill will then be sent to Gov. Mike DeWine.

Eduardo Miranda Strobel wrote this article for Kent State NewsLab. This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.

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