South Dakota could soon become the first state in the US to pass an anti-transgender bill that bans trans students from using the bathroom or locker room that corresponds to their gender identity.
The bill says “every restroom, locker room, and shower room located in a public elementary or secondary school that is designated for student use and is accessible by multiple students at the same time shall be designated for and used only by students of the same biological sex.
“It defines biological sex as “the physical condition of being male or female as determined by a person’s chromosomes and identified at birth by a person’s anatomy.”
It also asks schools to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for trans students, like building a one-person, unisex bathroom, but only if it doesn’t burden the school district — a standard with enough caveats that schools may be able to avoid it.
The bill does not mention trans students specifically. But it is clearly targeted at trans students, who identify with a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth.
The state’s legislature passed the bill on Tuesday. But the governor still must sign the bill for it to become law, and it’s unclear whether Gov. Dennis Daugaard will do so.
One factor Daugaard may consider: The bill could draw federal opposition. The Justice Department and Department of Education interpret Title IX, which bans sex discrimination in publicly funded schools, to ban anti-trans discrimination. In the most advanced lawsuit over bathroom access, the Justice Department has weighed in to support a student’s access to the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.
But more broadly, the bill plays into a dangerous myth about trans people.