After failing to gather enough signatures to create a ballot initiative policing trans people's genitals in bathrooms last year, Washington State anti-trans bigots are back at it again—this time much earlier, and with a more confusing proposal.
On Friday, a Thurston County court settled on ballot title language for I-1552, Just Want Privacy's latest attempt to repeal state anti-discrimination protections for trans Washingtonians, specifically targeting trans grade school students. The same day, Just Want Privacy informed its supporters that petitions to gather signatures may be available as early as the end of this week.
The new proposed ballot measure tries the same tactic as last year's failed initiative: It mandates that public schools segregate bathrooms and that trans students stay out of bathrooms that correspond with their gender. Like last year's proposal, this year's initiative allows students and their families to sue public schools if trans students are allowed to use the bathrooms where they feel safe. This time, however, the maximum fine per incident has been increased to $5,000. The proposed legislation also repeals state protections for trans people by allowing businesses and public agencies to keep trans people out of gender-segregated bathrooms.
According to the proposed ballot language, Just Want Privacy's legislation is predicated on the baseless idea that trans students "will create significant risks of embarrassment, shame, emotional harm, or psychological injury" when sharing bathrooms with their non-trans classmates. The proposed legislation makes no mention of the fact that trans youth face some of the highest risks of violence in the country, and that being segregated from the general student population would likely ostracize them or make them targets of abuse.
Adding to the proposed legislation's misleading language is the confusing language of the initiative itself. After a back-and-forth with the state Attorney General's Office, the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (which is fighting I-1552), and Just Want Privacy, the Thurston County Superior Court issued language that defines the initiative's discrimination as "based on sex at birth." The proposed legislation, however, actually defines "gender" as "one's sex or gender as determined biologically or genetically at birth"—as if gender (or sex, even without a genetic test) can be determined at birth.
Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League, said she fears the confusion around these concepts could allow a vague and sweeping way of enforcing the bathroom bans.
"It's a pretty misleading way of describing what the ballot measure would do," she said.
The stakes for trans students are higher this year, too, now that a Trump White House threatens to undo federal Department of Education protections for trans kids and rape survivors under Title IX.
"If these protections are repealed, [trans youth] will have no protections anymore," Askini said. "We'll become like any other state where trans students will be sent into separate bathrooms or not allowed to use the bathroom at all. And we'll have no mechanism—state or federal—to hold anyone accountable."
In an off-election year, less people tend to vote—and the voting population skews towards an older, more conservative base. Just Want Privacy has until July to gather the 260,000 signatures needed to put I-1552 on the November ballot.