Lawmaker’s proposal brings transgender bathroom debate to Ohio

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For most people, the question of which bathroom to use is as basic as the biological call we're answering.   

That's not the case for the transgender community.

State laws recently passed in North Carolina and Mississippi have sparked a national conversation, and controversy, over the issue of which bathrooms transgender people can use. And now that debate is coming to Ohio.

At just 4-years-old, Cory Chan-Frederick knew he was different. Family photos show a pretty little girl, named Michelle.

What they couldn't convey, was the struggle going on inside.

"It was very difficult, just feeling like you don't belong in the skin that you're in. We didn't have words to really describe this at the time. No one knew what transgender was," Cory said.

Today, Michelle is Cory, a happy, healthy transgender man. Though his transition is complete, his fight is not.

The North Carolina law requires people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

For Cory, that means he would be required to use the women’s room.

“That would be absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “It would make everyone involved incredibly uncomfortable, as it should. I don't belong in the ladies room."

Ohio law has been silent on the issue of transgender bathroom use, until now.

Two weeks ago, Target reiterated its policy of allowing transgender customers and employees to use the restroom or fitting room that corresponds with their gender identity.

Ohio State Representative John Becker calls the policy an “open invitation to sexual predators.”

"There hasn't been a problem until Target created one," Rep. Becker said.

The Clermont County Republican John Becker worries about men who would pose as transgender to get access to women and girls.

"I intend to propose legislation to outlaw essentially men from being in women's bathrooms or locker rooms. It kind of starts with that premise, and it's going to have some obvious exceptions,” he said. "I'm trying to keep sexual predators away from women and children."

Becker admits Ohio law already prohibits harassment or assault in a public restroom. So what’s the need for a new law?

“Well for the same reason that people lock their doors. We have laws against burglary, we have laws against theft, but you take prudent action to keep the burglars out," Rep. Becker said.

Chan-Frederick sees something else.

"This is transphobia at work. There haven't been any documented cases, reports, of truly identified trans people acting in violent ways against women, against men, against children in public restrooms," he said.

Becker insists that's not his intent.

"That's why I'm doing everything I can to accommodate transgender people so they are not impacted by this,” Rep. Becker said. “The transgender people, they're not the bad guys. It's the sexual predators are the people I'm concerned about."

Becker says he met last week with members of the transgender community, and is eager for input on how to keep the bill from negatively impacting them.

He is still working on the language of his proposal. The current outline of his proposal can be found here.

Equality Ohio Communications Director Grant Stancliff issued the following statement about Rep. Becker’s proposal”

"A law like Rep. Becker is proposing is government overreach. How will people actually prove their gender? I can't imagine we'd be expected to carry around our birth certificates. Would it be gender inspections or pat downs? Video cameras? Government has no place in our bathrooms. This law is unnecessary. We already have laws in place that say it's illegal to enter a restroom with the intention to harm or harass somebody. And then there's a burden on small businesses. Could this intrusive law force them to monitor the gender of everyone who uses their restroom to avoid government fines? It could lead a lot of small businesses to close their restrooms entirely."