A slate of anti-transgender bills is progressing quickly through the state legislature.
One bill that prohibits transgender athletes from participating in sports passed the state House of Representatives Monday night and is heading to Gov. Bill Lee’s office for signature. Two more measures that would impact transgender youth in Tennessee are continuing to advance without much opposition.
LGBT activists say these measures could have a devastating effect on the health of transgender youth.
One measure, HB 1233/SB 1367, would open up schools to lawsuits if transgender students do not use the restroom that aligns with their sex at birth. If they request accommodation, schools would have to provide a single-occupancy restroom for their use.
Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, says he sponsored this bill to provide clarity to school administrators.
“This bill addresses every child. It just doesn’t address a specific child or singles anyone out. It literally addresses the protection and wellbeing of every child,” he said.
But these accommodations will directly affect the wellbeing of transgender students, says Henry Seaton. When he started transitioning to male at 17, his high school in Hendersonville permitted to use only a single-occupancy restroom.
Seaton says this restriction was not sustainable as a student — and ultimately took a toll on his health.
“To be told that my body is too shameful to enter into a public space and that I would have been the problem — not like the bullying that they were worried about — that’s not something I would have wished on my worst enemy,” he said.
Seaton says much of the legislation targeting transgender children is ill-informed. That includes another bill that would make gender-affirming care harder to access.
The measure, HB 578/SB 657, requires teens to get permission from two doctors and one child psychiatrist for transitioning treatment. It also bans children from receiving gender-affirming care before puberty.
But Seaton says postponing this care could be damaging to the mental health of transgender children.
“If I were to have waited any longer to start testosterone, I have no idea how I would have felt,” said Seaton. “It was already so dark for me to have waited that long.”’
One House Republican did spoke out against a third measure for the impact it could have on mental health. Rep. Eddie Mannis, R-Knoxville, urged his colleagues last month to vote against House Bill 3/Senate Bill 228, which would effective ban transgender student athletes from participating in sports. The measure passed on a 71-16 vote.
The Senate has already approved the measure, and Gov. Bill Lee has said he supports it.