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A group of Oklahoma students walked out of class last week in protest of SB 615, a “bathroom bill” targeted at transgender youth.
Widely condemned as unconstitutional, SB 615 marginalizes trans youth by restricting their bathroom use. The bill, signed by Governor Kevin Stitt, mandates that trans youth to use the bathroom of their biological sex.
SB 615 is yet another bill that marginalizes transgender youth, who already face discrimination in other areas of their lives. According to the Human Rights Campaign, a record number of transgender and non-gender conforming people faced violent incidents in 2022 – many fatal.
The majority of those deaths involve Black and Brown transgender people. Horrifyingly, one in three Black transgender youth attempts suicide or self-harm.
According to Myeshia Price-Feeney, PhD a Research Scientist for The Trevor Project, “Black LGBTQ youth experience heightened rates of suicidality,” compared to their peers. Meanwhile, only 39% of Black LGBTQ+ youth have access to mental health care.
Norman High School students did not sit back silently while their peers are forced to use the wrong bathroom – or denied bathroom use completely. The student body organized a walk out in protest of such measures.
According to Nicole McAfee, Executive Director of Freedom Oklahoma, “we applaud the students rallying in support of transgender, Two Spirit, and gender nonconforming students at Norman High Schools, and the brave folks leading that charge. SB 615 is unconstitutional and its impact on students’ health, well-being, and safety must be addressed.”
SB 615 requires every public and charter school in Oklahoma to designate multiple-occupancy bathrooms as either “male” or “female.” The bill does not address students who are intersex, who make up 1.7% of the world’s population.
The bill further defines sex by the designation on a student’s birth certificate. The bill’s proponents argue that excluding transgender students from using the appropriate bathroom is a safety issue.
According to Oklahoma Senator David Bullard (R – Durant), “I’m proud of the Legislature and governor for joining me in approving this common-sense legislation requiring all individuals to use the restrooms and changing rooms that line up with their biological sex.” Bullard is a vocal opponent of transgender rights.
“Bathroom bill” to
But those who support transgender youth are not deterred. SB 615 is expected to be fought in court.
Continued McAfee, “To the trans, Two Spirit, and gender diverse kids who find themselves ostracized, outed, and harassed by schools choosing compliance with unconstitutional state policy over your rights and your well-being: you deserve better than this. This fight is not over and we won’t stop until all 2SLGBTQ+ kids are safe.”