GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ students, today spoke out against Tennessee House Bill 1151 which would grossly expand the state’s existing indecent exposure law to specifically target and criminalize transgender people, and could affect transgender students in locker rooms, bathrooms, or other school facilities. By attempting to twist and distort a public indecency law put in place to protect people from sexual harassment into a tool to criminalize transgender people, Tennessee legislators risk undermining public safety while opening the state up to rebuke and backlash.
“Tennessee state resources would be better spent in creating schools that are safe for all students instead of asking taxpayers to shoulder the cost of discrimination,” said Justin Sweatman-Weaver, Chair of GLSEN Tennessee. “With House Bill 1151 – and eleven additional anti-LGBTQ bills introduced this legislative session – Tennessee risks being branded a “state of hate” and opening every resident up to the economic and reputational risks that come along with such an undesirable title.”
Transgender and gender nonconforming students are experiencing extremely hostile and unsupportive environments in Tennessee schools. According to GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey Tennessee state-level data, 71% of LGBTQ students in Tennessee experienced verbal harassment at school based on gender expression, and 35% experienced physical harassment based on gender expression. Moreover, nearly 3 in 4 transgender students in Tennessee were unable to use the school restroom aligned with their gender.
“Transgender and gender nonconforming students should not have to live in fear of being targeted or criminalized by the state, simply for using a locker room or bathroom just like any other student,” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN. “All students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students who already face high levels of discrimination and harassment, deserve to feel safe and welcome at school so that they can learn and thrive.”
Senate Bill 1151 is part of a disturbingly anti-LGBTQ roster of legislation introduced in Tennessee known as the “Slate of Hate,” which also includes Senate Bill 1499/House Bill 1274 which would require the Attorney General to defend local education agencies – or their employees – when they implement anti-transgender bathroom and locker room policies.
In 2017, Tennessee legislators introduced a discriminatory bathroom access bill that failed to even make it out of committee. Senate Bill 1151, as well as Senate Bill 1499/House Bill 1274, are nothing more than attempts at an end-run around a policy that was already deemed a bad idea for the state.
On March 5, GLSEN Tennessee, Tennessee Equality Project, and advocates from across the state will be holding a press conference to oppose House Bill 1151, and the entire anti-LGBTQ “Slate of Hate.” Find out more: https://www.facebook.com/