Last month, the Phoenix City Council approved a local LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in a 5-3 vote. An estimated 500 people attended a public hearing on the bill that lasted five hours, during which dozens spoke. While opponents of the ordinance attempted to undermine its value by targeting transgender people with lies and misinformation, the new provision had the support of many local advocates and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, who affirmed upon its passing that, "This is the right thing to do for our city."
State Representative John Kavanagh disagrees.
Kavanagh gutted a Senate Bill about a Massage Therapy Board to use as a shell for his new amendment, which prohibits a person from entering a “public restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room, or locker room” if the sex designation of that facility does not match the individual’s birth certificate. He defended his “show your papers to pee” bill in an interview with 12 News Phoenix:
KAVANAGH: The city of Phoenix has crafted a bill that allows people to define their sex by what they think in their head. If you’re a male, you don’t go into a female shower or locker room, or vice versa. It also raises the specter of people who want to go into those opposite sex facilities not because they’re transgender, but because they’re weird.
There are many, many problems with Kavanagh's bill and his justification for it, but the biggest one is that transgender people do not exist. Erica Keppler, a local transgender advocate who worked toward passage of the Phoenix nondiscrimination ordinance, spoke out against Kavanagh's bill, saying:
"It's a mean-spirited bill targeting an absolutely harmless population...Now anybody aware that I'm a transgender person could have me arrested for simply having gone into the restroom."
There are millions upon millions of Americans currently living under protections similar to those recently passed in Phoenix. Never - not once - has any one of these laws ever been used in this way, to borrow Kavanagh's phrasing, by someone "weird."
"What this lawmaker is proposing is nothing short of a witch-hunt with unimaginably dangerous consequences," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "Transgender Americans continue to face staggering rates of violence and this ridiculous notion that they are somehow a threat will only exacerbate the problem. Legislators have a responsibility to protect their constituents, not put them in harm's way."
Statements like Kavanagh's are 100% fabricated - and rooted solely on similar statements alleged by other anti-trans activists. And when the media uncritically reports this nonsense, they are allowing it to happen.
The media here has the opportunity to educate, and the responsibility to point out that Kavanagh's bill and the sentiments behind it are designed to scare constituents, and rooted in their own groundless animus towards transgender people.