Why are Oklahoma legislators so obsessed with where students use the restroom?
Last week, State bill 615 passed. This bill requires sex education materials to be inspected by parents and for them to consent to the material being taught to their students. Taking it a step further, the bill has included an amendment that forces students to only use the restrooms that correspond to their gender at birth. This creates a dangerous climate for LGBTQ students.
I''ll let you in on a secret: Trans people have been using the restroom since time immemorial. Many of them use the restroom that matches their gender identity, maybe even while you were in the restroom. You've lived another day, unharmed and unbothered because it's not a big deal for those who are cisgendered. However, it is a big deal for trans students. Not only are they being told where they can use the restroom, but if they have an unsupportive family, they won't have access to information that could improve their health.
The state isn't just depriving LGBTQ students of the opportunity to learn about good sexual health practices; it deprives cisgendered students and heterosexual students of an opportunity to expand their knowledge of sexual health and continues to other LGBTQ students. Inclusive sex education is proven to reduce high-risk sexual behaviors in teens.
Bills like SB 615 ensure that all students have unequal access to sexual education. It can also put LGBTQ students in danger by outing them to a family who may be abusive or unsupportive. School counselors can't educate or provide information without running it by the parents first. While I want to believe that all parents have their kids' best interests at heart, I know that isn't always the case. It calls on parents and educators to police students in their most private moments, and turns vulnerable moments into potentially dangerous situations.
This bill tells LGBTQ parents and students that acknowledging the identity of their child is optional for other parents, and by extension, their peers. It continues to other LGBTQ students and exposes them to potential harm. State legislators talk about wanting to follow science, and they insist that's what is guiding this bill, but it's a farce, and they are being willfully obtuse in the face of an incredible amount of information that shows the exact opposite of this bill, which won't provide positive outcomes.
If parents don't want their children exposed to LGBTQ people, they can homeschool them, but at the end of the day, this world is full of LGBTQ people and they're not going anywhere. Allowing parents to stick their heads in the sand, and by extension, forcing their children and forcing educators to do the same, is a waste of everyone's time.
Kasey Rhone is the public programs and engagement manager at Ahha Tulsa.