Utah’s extreme bathroom bill threatens to jail trans people

Through an especially draconian bathroom bill, Utah has made transphobia its 2024 priority, becoming the first state to advance anti-trans legislation this year. In addition to ending the legal recognition of trans people, the bill proposes to jail anyone using a bathroom that does not align with the gender on their birth certificate. After passing the state House on Friday, the bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate for a vote.

Under HB 257, trans people could be charged with voyeurism and criminal trespassing for using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This comes with a fine of up to $1,000 and 6 months in jail. Local governments who refuse to enforce the bill could be fined up to $10,000.

Trans people accused of using the ‘wrong’ bathroom would have to present an amended birth certificate and proof of having undergone gender reassignment surgery. The bill, which positions itself as standing up for “privacy” and “opportunities” for women, admits by its own language that cisgender people will likely face harassment and prosecution when mistaken as trans. The bill’s solution: keep that birth certificate handy.

At the same time, the bill would effectively end the legal recognition of trans people, creating barriers for trans people to amend their birth certificate. If passed, female would be legally defined in Utah as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is of the general type that functions in a way that could produce ova,” and male would be defined as “an individual whose biological reproductive system is of the general type that functions to fertilize the ova of a female.”

“For transgender individuals who are publicly known, the options are limited; using the restroom of your assigned sex at birth could lead to questioning and investigation due to your appearance,” journalist and activist Erin Reed sums up. “Conversely, using the restroom matching your gender identity could result in being reported and possibly arrested if someone recognizes that you are transgender.”

“I’m scared for every transgender person who has to choose between holding their bladder or potentially being seen as a criminal,” said Democrat Sahara Hayes, who is the Utah legislature’s only openly queer representative, and whose partner is trans. “And I’m scared for my family. We have had multiple discussions about what our lives would look like if this should pass.”

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