South Dakota was the home of one of the liberal stalwarts of the U.S. Senate, George McGovern. But were McGovern alive today, he probably wouldn’t recognize the hard right turn his state has taken in recent years. A stunning example of that turn to the right comes as the state prepares to become the first in the nation to pass a law allowing for discrimination against transgender students.
On February 16, the Republican controlled state legislature approved and sent to Republican governor Dennis Daugaard a bill that would prohibit transgender students from using school bathrooms and locker rooms other than those designated for their birth gender. This will make South Dakota the first state in the nation to codify this discrimination against transgender citizens.
The right has been freaking out for months over the notion that by permitting transgender women to use women’s public restrooms, pedophiles are going to dress up like women in order to go into those restrooms and molest young girls. That argument is ridiculous enough, given that a) there’s nothing to stop a man from attempting that even without a law to protect transgender rights, and b) there are absolutely zero recorded cases of that happening anywhere.
But this law has nothing to do with protecting kids from pedophiles, and everything to do with making middle and high school students, at a time of their lives when they are trying desperately to understand who they are, and where they fit in, uncomfortable with themselves. The law would require schools to provide accommodations in the form of a single-occupancy restroom, or what they call “controlled use” of a facility intended for school staff use. Because to Republicans, there’s nothing like embarrassing students by singling them out, especially if the other students are unaware that a classmate is transgender. They may not have known before, but they will now, just as soon as that student goes to the bathroom, or changes for gym class.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Dr. Fred Deutsch, is a Watertown, South Dakota, chiropractor and a member of the state House of Representatives. He describes his bill this way:
The primary purpose of the bill is to protect the physical privacy of students from having to expose themselves, or be exposed to others, when in a state of undress or nakedness while at school or school functions. Under this bill, biological boys and girls would be required to shower separately, use separate locker rooms and separate restrooms in South Dakota public schools or public school events.
It’s possible that being in “a state of undress or nakedness” might happen in a locker room, although many students no longer take showers after gym, and schools often provide private areas for them to do so. Deutsch doesn’t explain how being undressed would happen in a bathroom, where even in schools it is typical for bathrooms to have individual toilet stalls.
No, this bill that could possibly be law by the time you read this is all about helping bigots feel more comfortable, not students.
Here’s a report from KSFY:
Featured image via KSFY screen capture