The ACLU of Texas and Richard Linklater’s PSA against SB6. More info at StopSB6.org
Testifying against the Texas anti-trans bathroom bill
Editor’s note: SB6 is the so-called “bathroom bill” pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and co-sponsored by state senator Charles Schwertner, whose district includes Williamson County. SB6 discriminates against transgender people not only by prohibiting them from using public restrooms that match their gender, but also by barring cities from passing ordinances to protect LGBTQ rights.
Nicole Crean, a Wilco Indivisible member, spent 19 hours at the Texas Capitol on March 7-8 in order to testify to a state senate committee about SB6. Here, she shares her diary of the day with us.
You can pee next to me! Or, everything you wanted to know about the SB6 hearings but were afraid to ask.
At 6:30 am, the Capitol is almost zen like in its tranquility. Agonizingly slowly, the sun rises over the horizon and the rhythmic slap of joggers’ sneakers on the pavement is replaced by the more purposeful stride of heels and dress shoes.
At 7am, our large crowd is allowed to enter through single metal detectors at each entrance. There are well over 400 of us (many clad in purple) and we are additionally joined on this day by pastors and NASA scientists in the capitol for their own advocacy days.
At 7:50 am, I breathe a sigh of relief because I was able to get through the queue and sign in prior to the 8am deadline to provide up to 2 minutes of public testimony. We are separated into groups of 15, reminded not to lose our group numbers, and told the hearing will start at 8:30
At 8am, another volunteer bearing a box of Krispy Cremes becomes my new best friend.
At 8:15am, I meet Ciara. I hear her story, one she tells openly of being abused throughout childhood and of being rejected by her family. She mentions that she is finally glad as a woman that she still can’t put on weight. With donut in hand I joke with her about being jealous of her gorgeous figure,(her figure is gorgeous, but I’m not really THAT jealous) but really I am moved by her truth. You see, I don’t know a lot of transgender people, and I don’t really understand “this whole thing”, but I know that its not OK to try to systematically erase the civil rights of anyone, so when asked to come, I did. I came with an openness to learn, and the next 17 hours will provide me with a master class.
At 10am, it becomes apparent that there are a LOT of invited witnesses and this is not going to be a remotely expedient process. We aren’t allowed in the hearing room, but rather packed into multiple overflow rooms, complete with big screens and a staffer to ensure order.
At 11:45am, a press conference is held in the inverse rotunda, which is a welcome break from the testimony in which bible verses and rape statistics (having nothing to do with bathrooms) are blithely shared like sticks of gum.
At 2pm-ish– its all starting to blend together now, I get the opportunity to hear expert scientific testimony from doctors and therapists and learn so much about the basic neurobiological, hormonal, and other factors involved in being non-binary or transgender. They are patient and clear, answering all of the senators many questions, even those that are clearly unkind.
At 4pm– we finally start public testimony. I am in group 14. The evening passes in a haze of pizza (much thanks to whomever provided it), some kind of sandwich, a lot of water, and hour after hour of men and women sharing their truth, their pain, their strength. They are joined by businessmen and women from all over the state also opposing the bill based on very real revenue loss projections.
At 12am– I give my testimony. 2 minutes race by as I rush not to stumble over my words, intimidated by the situation. I rehearsed in front of the mirror multiple times during the day, but somehow the gravitas of this room is palpable. We are seated at a long table 4 at a time, with mics in front of each seat we are reminded to speak into. Some of the senators are taking breaks, some are talking amongst themselves or looking at their phones, but some look at me as I share my heart with them.
Three wonderful transgender women share the table with me and immediately after our testimony ensure that no one is walking alone, so that we can all stay together to get to our cars safely. They have learned to be careful, because over 46% of them have been physically assaulted, and a lady has to be ever careful and on her guard.
At 5am when testimony was concluded, the committee voted it through to the senate floor 7-1 without so much as an amendment. At at one level that breaks my heart. But I am reminded that all of those senators listened to 271 people share their truth. Transgender people are no longer a faceless unknown to them. And the common misconception of a “man in a dress” was at least at an intellectual level dispelled with truth and scientific evidence. The truth may not have changed the vote, but it changed me.
So, what did I learn? Was it worth it? Am I glad I went? Would I do it again? Did it make any difference at all? Tough questions, honestly.
I learned how much I don’t know. I learned the stories of 271 amazing, wonderful, unique, strong, truthful people. I learned new science and terms. I learned that there are a lot of people who vehemently hate those they don’t understand. I learned that legislators can act interested in compromise, but be revealed to have had their vote influenced outside of the hearing room.
What’s happening with SB6 now?
Editor’s note: SB passed the full Texas Senate on March 15 and was sent to the House. Republican House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio has called SB6 “a tremendous mistake” that would harm businesses across the state. According to the Texas Tribune, there’s speculation that the House may not vote on SB6 at all. Still, the Tribune reports that anti-trans lawmakers in the House may try to push through parts of SB6 by tacking them onto other bills as amendments.