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Bill could lead to criminal charges for transgendered

A recent piece of proposed legislation introduced before the Florida legislature has sparked debate across the nation. The bill addresses what some see as a gap within existing law in regard to the use of public bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities. While those behind the bill assert that the matter is one of public safety, many within the LGBT community feel that it is an attack on transgendered individuals, who could risk criminal charges if the bill is passed.

The bill would make it a criminal act for an individual to use a public facility that is not designated for his or her gender. Specifically, the selection of whether to use the male or female bathroom would depend solely on the gender assignment made at the time of the individual's birth. In this way, Florida residents who have chosen to identify as a different gender than that of their birth would be prohibited from using public facilities designated for their chosen gender.

Those behind the law state that the measure is proposed in an effort to reduce sexual assault against women. The argument is made that facilities that are designated as single-sex are places in which the users' vulnerability is heightened. It is also argued that these locations offer the potential for acts such as rape, assault, molestation and battery. By limiting these locations to single-sex users, it is asserted that the risk of such acts is limited.

This argument, however, strikes many as irrational. Criminal acts of rape, assault, molestation and battery take place regardless of lines of gender identity. Women are known to assault other women, and men are known to assault other men. Maintaining gender separation within public facilities would not serve to limit these crimes. In fact, it could be argued that a transgendered woman who is forced to use a male restroom under the proposed law could be at a far greater risk of harm than if she used a female restroom.

As this proposed legislation continues to move through the legislative process, many in Florid and elsewhere will watch to see how the matter is resolved. The desire to reduce violent crime is admirable. However, many feel that this bill would serve only to limit the ability of transgendered individuals to live their lives in the manner of their choosing, and lead to frivolous criminal charges based on one's choice of restroom.

Source: theguardian.com, "Florida law would ban transgender people from choosing their restroom", Jessica Glenza, Feb. 6, 2015

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