A new Tennessee law requiring businesses to post a warning sign on trans-inclusive bathrooms is a new pinnacle of transphobic absurdity. The Tennessee state legislature wants you to beware — not of poverty or lack of economic opportunity — but instead, of trans people.
Multiple anti-trans bills have passed through the state house there this session, more than any other state in the country. It’s safe to say, Tennessee Republicans are completely trans-obsessed. And their latest bill is the most absurd yet.
Earlier this week, legislators in the state passed a bill requiring businesses with trans inclusive bathrooms to display a warning sign on all bathroom doors.
The signs, which are highlighted in bright red and are topped with NOTICE, read as follows: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
The signage law — along with a state-imposed ban on trans kids using school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity — seemingly revives the zombie corpse of the failed Republican war over trans bathroom access. It’s the most forceful legal salvo in the bathroom wars since North Carolina’s infamous HB2 bathroom law.
It’s been said many times before, but bathroom access is the key to public existence for anyone, even trans people. If you can’t use a public bathroom, you have to form your entire lifestyle around your home facility. This means outside trips no longer than four hours, including your employment, and regulating your food and beverage intake in order to use the restroom less often.
Trans people suffer from real-world health effects as a result of transphobic bathroom discrimination. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender survey, 8% of all trans people have had a kidney or urinary tract infection in the last year and bladder infections run rampant throughout the community.
It’s easy to see why. Having a hostile encounter in a bathroom when trans people simply need to pee is deeply traumatic and humiliating. The signs themselves make trans people into something akin to life-threatening dangers — like high voltage power lines or the cancer risks of cigarette smoking — simply for needing to pee in peace.
But the signs don’t really have anything to do with trans people. The purpose of these signs is to encourage conservatives and transphobic feminists to complain to individual businesses about trans inclusive bathroom policies.
The signage law is a tremendous burden to business owners who simply want to make a profit and workers who want to provide for their families. What this law effectively does is weaponize the economy against trans people by serving constant reminders to society’s most bigoted and transphobic members, in the hopes of systematically driving trans people out of public life and, in many cases, back into the closet.