Hey, Initiative 1515 supporters: Why do you care where a 15-year-old pees?
For Myles Peña, a freshman at Everett's Mariner High School, that's what a new ballot initiative attempting to repeal protections for transgender people in bathrooms means. Last month, an anti-LGBTQ group called Just Want Privacy filed the proposed legislation, which would force boys like Peña, who is transgender, to use the girls' bathroom—or, more realistically, the nurse's bathroom all the way across the school.
"When I complain about wanting to go to the bathroom, but not wanting to walk all the way over to the nurse's bathroom, [my classmates] think it's pretty stupid and I should use whatever bathroom I want to," Peña told me. "And the fact that people want to pass a bill that says I can't pee—they think that's pretty dumb."
Today, Peña and his dad were just two of the people who filled a packed house at the First United Methodist Church in Renton to unveil the campaign to fight Just Want Privacy's I-1515. The crowd also included more parents of transgender kids, religious leaders, current and former elected officials, and supporters of sexual assault survivors.
They're calling themselves Washington Won't Discriminate.
One of Just Want Privacy's main arguments in support of discrimination against transgender people deals with the issue of sexual assault. The group has repeatedly made wild claims about the danger of transgender people using bathrooms with "little girls," as if trans people, or cis men pretending to be trans women, were an actual threat. (It is not. The overwhelming threat to little girls, cis or trans, is cis men anywhere.)
At the church, Andrea Piper-Wentland, executive director of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, was unequivocal about Just Want Privacy's attempt to use sexual assault to discriminate against people because of their gender: "Discriminating against transgender people does nothing to reduce the risk of sexual assault," she said.
Parents of transgender kids know that trans people face some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the country. They fear that I-1515 could put their kids at even greater risk.
"We're talking about a subgroup of students that has dealt with oppression for so long, and ridicule and bullying, and all of these things," Michael Peña, Myles's dad and a science teacher at Mariner High, said. "To have this layered upon them again and then to be told, you know, you're not allowed to use the restroom of your gender is just another shot at these kids who need so much."
Plus, who wants to be the next North Carolina?
"The impacts financially to the state..." Peña continued. "It's not worth it!" Myles said, finishing the sentence.
Peña went on. "Being afraid of transgender people is just wrong."
"I'm not scary," Myles said.
"The idea that they're pedophiles or sexual deviants..."
"Oh yeah," Myles said. "I'm terrifying."
"It really just shows they don't know transgender people."
An exasperated Myles put a point on it: "I'm more scared of you guys than you are of us, okay?"
Hear that, Just Want Privacy? Good luck getting 246,372 people to sign your dumb ballot initiative before July 8.
Check out Washington Won't Discriminate here.