Oxford, Alabama Takes Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills to a New, Dire Level

Oxford, AL Backs Up its Transmisogyny with Jail Time

+ While bathroom bills are, unfortunately, being passed around the US, Oxford, Alabama has become the first US city to create criminal penalties for trans people who use the bathroom that corresponds to their true gender (although the bill doesn’t use the term “transgender”). The law was passed on Tuesday, and violating it carries penalties of a $500 fine or six months in jail. Chase Strangio has said the ACLU is considering taking legal action to block the law’s enforcement.

The reasoning for this? More of what you’ve already been hearing — “protecting women and children” from trans women who are imagined to be sexual predators without any evidence.

“The Council further asserts that single sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals utilizing those facilities which may include, but not limited to, voyeurism, exhibitionism, molestation and assault and battery,”

So how is this supposed to work, exactly? How is this “crime” supposed to be observed and reported? Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge told CNN affiliate WBRC that a cis person suspecting that a trans person is using the “wrong” bathroom should call the police; when police arrive they would have to “witness the crime” and the caller would have to sign a warrant.

He doesn’t appear to have gone into detail about what’s supposed to happen after that — do police force the accused person to reveal their genitalia? Is it about the gender marked on their legal ID? Is a police officer’s visual evaluation of a clothed person considered the state’s official record of that person’s “real” gender? None of those are good options! It’s yet another example of legislation that hurts an already extremely vulnerable population without making anyone safer (relatedly, see the story below about Dennis Hastert’s sentencing; his victims certainly wouldn’t have been helped by bathroom bills!), and creates the opportunity to target trans people for incarceration when they’re already disproportionately victims of it.


+ The family of Ramarley Graham, who was shot and killed by police when he was unarmed at age 18, has formed a coalition to carry out actions demanding accountability from law enforcement. They’re using the hashtag #23Days4Ramarley.

“Mayor de Blasio, you promised police reform when you ran, but you’ve done nothing to hold the NYPD accountable,” Graham’s mother, Constance Malcolm, said during a Sunday (April 24) vigil in front of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s home. “It’s time for you to fire all the officers who busted into our home and killed Ramarley. Fire all the officers who wouldn’t let my mother see her attorney while they held her at the precinct. Fire all the officers who made false statements about my son and what the NYPD did to him.”

Ramarley Graham

Ramarley Graham

+ A group of activists in San Francisco are still on a hunger strike until SF police chief Greg Suhr is fired or resigns, in light of multiple shooting deaths by police — including Alejandro Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Mario Woods and Luis Gongora — and the leak of racist internal police text messages.

“We don’t want to die,” striker Maria Cristina Gutierrez told SFGate.com. “But we’re prepared to go all the way.”

+ Some of the experiences of M, told via her immigration lawyer, about the abuse she’s experienced seeking asylum in the US as a trans woman.

Before accompanying her to the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where M would present herself and request asylum, Ramos explained all of this to M, as she explains it to all of her clients. What Ramos couldn’t prepare M for, she said, was the verbal abuse from CBP officers and their refusal to provide M with food for more than 30 hours. Upon being presented with a letter from Ramos that detailed M’s disabilities and special needs, a CBP officer at the port told M she “wasted her money on an attorney” and that “the letter doesn’t mean shit,” Ramos explained to Rewire.
“I highlighted [in her letter] that [M] has mental health issues, cognitive disabilities; that she has a seizure disorder. She is entitled to special protections because of her mental health issues. I made all of this known, according to [CBP’s] policies, but none of that mattered,” said Ramos: M was still met with disdain and verbal abuse by CBP officers.

+ Robert Bates, the 74-year-old “volunteer reserve sheriff deputy” who killed Eric Harris in Tulsa, OK when he was already restrained by other officers because, as he claims, he confused his taser with his handgun, has been found guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

+ Yesterday, on the one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s funeral, a 13-year-old boy was shot by plainclothes police in Baltimore because he ran from them while holding a toy gun that officers claim they believe was real. Several witnesses agree that the boy shouted that it was a toy gun and not real several times before he was shot. The victim was expected to survive; his mother says he was shot in the shoulder and the leg. His mother was also handcuffed and put in a police car after her son was taken to the hospital, where she says she was questioned and told she was being “belligerent.”

Law & Order

+ Something I did not know is that due to the way the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is written, law enforcement has been legally allowed to read your emails if they’re older than six months! The House just voted unanimously to close that loophole.

+ Former GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, who has been pretty conclusively revealed to have sexually abused young boys under his care, was sentenced yesterday. It’s a confusing case, because technically Hastert isn’t being prosecuted for the sexual abuse; he’s being charged with “evading bank reporting requirements and making false statements to federal authorities,” which seem to be related to him paying off former victims not to speak out about the abuse. I’m unclear on whether there aren’t sexual abuse charges because of statute of limitations issues, or because victims don’t want to testify, or neither or both or a third option. It seems like initially Hastert wasn’t given any jail time, just two years supervised release, but the judge added on 15 months of jail time as well as a recommendation for sex offender treatment. A lot of high-profile Republicans wrote letters of support arguing that Hastert shouldn’t be punished, which I will not quote because they made me feel ill.

Dennis Hastert

Dennis Hastert

+ A judge has upheld North Carolina’s super-restrictive voter ID law.

+ Previously Paul Nungesser, the rapist of artist and activist Emma had filed a suit claiming he was protected against her sexual assault claims by Title IX, a suit which a judge said “would lead to the conclusion that those who commit, or are accused of committing, sexual assault are a protected class under Title IX.” That suit was rejected, but now Nungesser is trying a different tack: arguing that “rapist” is a gendered slur against men, that “false rape accusations are gendered harassment,” and that men don’t have the same free speech rights as women. Welp!

+ Tennessee’s back at it again: the governor has signed a bill allowing counselors to turn away clients based on the counselor’s beliefs, a piece of legislation that does not specifically name LGBT people but seems obviously applicable to straight people wanting to refuse service to them. It’s especially reprehensible because of the very high rates of mental health issues, including suicidality, that the LGBT community faces. Accessing mental health care is already an arduous task for many LGBT people; it’s chilling to think of someone doing all the work needed to get an appointment with a counselor only to be turned away once they show up. The American Counseling Association has issued a response to the bill, which includes the statement:

Not only will the vague language of this legislation open a Pandora’s box of discrimination toward Tennesseans, but it also has the potential to
jeopardize the state’s federal healthcare funding and severely damage Tennessee’s bottom line as businesses and consumers react to the state’s entrance into the contentious national debate surrounding LGBTQ rights and religious freedom legislation.

+ Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has restored voting rights to 206,000 formerly incarcerated people.

+ California Senator Ricardo Lara is proposing a bill that would allow undocumented people to access healthcare through the ACA.

+ One lawsuit against the state of Arizona for problems during its primary voting has been tossed out by a judge, but another one filed by the Democratic National Committee, the Arizona Democratic Party, the president of the Navajo Nation, and the campaign of Ann Kirkpatrick is still ongoing, pressing the state to answer for why there was only one voting place per 21,000 voters on Arizona’s primary.

+ I just don’t even know what to say about this story! I don’t know where to start! An intoxicated 16-year-old girl was given a ride home by a 17-year-old boy; she was unconscious when she arrived at her destination, was taken to a hospital, where they found semen around her mouth and that her BAC was “above .34”. The boy claims that she consented to oral sex, and a judge dismissed her rape case and an appeals court backed him up because they claim that the legal language around “forcible oral sodomy” doesn’t specifically mention someone not being able to consent because they’re too drunk clearly enough. It seems the take generally on this is that outdated and unclear laws around sexual assault don’t match up to current realities about how it occurs, but also, just, this is fucking bonkers!

Michelle Anderson, the dean of the CUNY School of Law who has written extensively about rape law, called the ruling “appropriate” but the law “archaic”. “This is a call for the legislature to change the statute, which is entirely out of step with what other states have done in this area and what Oklahoma should do,” she said. “It creates a huge loophole for sexual abuse that makes no sense.” Jennifer Gentile Long, who leads a group, AEquitas, that guides prosecutors in sexual and domestic violence cases, agreed. She said the Oklahoma law was an example of a gulf that still exists in some places between the law and evolving notions around consent and sexual agency.


+ Ted Cruz has announced Carly Fiorina as his runningmate, ostensibly in a bid to make his ticket look more appealing as he lags behind Trump in the polls, and possibly to bid for women Republican voters who may be put off by Trump’s misogyny. So far, there doesn’t seem to have been a major payoff.


+ Bernie Sanders has reportedly laid off much of his staff across the nation and is focusing on the California primary after a series of major primary wins has left Hillary Clinton with a decisive lead in delegates.

+ Here’s the NYT’s take on this week’s primaries: basically, Trump and Clinton “both collected enough delegates to make an increasingly compelling case that their party’s nomination is finally in reach.”

+ Hillary Clinton has promised that if she’s elected president, half her cabinet will be women.

+ In the wake of the dangerous and nonsensical bathroom bills popping up around the country, many have asked “What’s the plan here? Are trans women just only supposed to ever pee inside their homes? Should they never leave the house?” The question there is a rhetorical and sarcastic one, because that’s absurd. But Ted Cruz says yes, actually, trans women should just only pee at home.

Research & Data

+ Research finds that younger gay and bisexual men are at significantly greater mental health risk than older ones, with “gay and bisexual men under the age of 26… six times more likely to attempt suicide or self-harm compared to men in that group aged over 45.” Race and class were also important factors; “Black gay and bisexual men were twice as likely to be depressed and five times more likely to have attempted suicide than the white majority,” and men with lower wages were more likely to be depressed, anxious and self-harming. Although more research is required to determine definite causes for this phenomenon, researchers hypothesize that “older men are able to cope better with homophobia and that homophobia is more prevalent in the lives of younger men. The study also indicates that gay and bisexual men may experience discrimination or marginalisation unrelated to their sexuality.”

+ A new report explores how incarceration affects kids and families. Not very well! In addition to factors like financial destabilization and housing issues, there’s also emotional trauma:

Parental incarceration is detrimental to children’s health and development. “The trauma of being separated from a parent, along with a lack of sympathy or support from others, can increase children’s mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and hamper educational achievement.” They are also at higher risk of dropping out of school and having poor mental and physical health as adults.

+ Research shows that Americans are increasingly identifying climate change as a political priority for themselves… except conservative Republicans.

Grab Bag

+ A Michigan substitute art teacher was fired for using the word “vagina” when teaching a class about Georgia O’Keeffe paintings — Jezebel correctly points out that her work is “a topic which, if discussed thoroughly, requires one to refer to female genitalia often and with enthusiasm.”

+ Former senator Harris Wofford, at one time JFK’s “presidential assistant on civil rights,” is marrying his boyfriend Matthew Charlton after being with him for 15 years. Wofford describes Charlton as his second “great love” after his wife, who passed away in 1996.

Charlton, left, and Wofford, right

Charlton, left, and Wofford, right

+ Brazilian indigenous organization FUNAI has succeeded in stopping the construction of a mega-dam on the land of Munduruku people; 700 square miles are now legally recognized as the territory of the Munduruku and they have the right to “free, prior, and informed consent before the government can use their land.”

+ The Universal College Application and Common App have both made changes to their forms meant to be more inclusive of trans students.

Universal College Application announced on Monday that it would change its question about a prospective student’s sex and include a gender identity question — so instead of “sex,” students will see “legal sex” and the options “male” and “female.” The application also lets students opt to answer a question about gender identity, with the options, “woman,” “man,” and “self-identify.” Later that day, Common Application also announced changes to its application. In the profile screen, the sex question will be modified to “sex assigned at birth.” Colleges that use the application will also be able to ask more questions to receive clearer data on students’ gender, and “new instructional information” will be available so that students can understand all of the options for identifying their sex and gender.

+ In really deplorable news, a fake news site has run a false story claiming a black trans woman took photos of underage girls in a Target restroom. It’s debunked, but will likely be shared by some as fact anyway.

+ Bisexual activist Chastity Matthews has passed away unexpectedly at only 28. Her mother is chronically ill and living in poverty, and asks for donations to help her cremate her daughter.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


    • (I say that as a person who lived in the spin-off series, Leave It To Georgia, for three decades.)

      • oh was that the one where they changed the lead actress partway through s2? it was never the same without her

  1. Oh man Rachel, there was just so much here. I just got back from a job interview that went kind of terribly, so I wasn’t in the mood to read most of this, but I just wanted to say thank you for bringing us all this news, and I will get through it one day when I’m in a better headspace.

    • I feel you! I’m sorry about the job interview! I’m trying to just focus on Harris Wofford’s impending nuptials for the time being.

  2. Tbh I think people forget how unenforceable most laws like the one in Oxford, AL, are. Because they’re really, truly unenforceable. I mean, sure, it could lead to police violence (but against people of color, cis and trans, not white people. White people always “forget” that.).
    The rural county I was kind of raised in (I mean, I was kind of raised everywhere) passed legislation in 2003 making being gay illegal within county lines, punishable with jail time as a “crime against nature.” This was passed unanimously. UNANIMOUSLY. You know what came of it? Nothing. Literally nothing. Except that there was a protest where 400 gays descended upon the town and one of them got shot by one of the counter-protesters (who happened to be my cousin. Ha.) and the cops didn’t show up for a hot minute because they’re notoriously connected to skinhead groups and therefore aren’t really keen on helping out a gay (for the record, the gay that was shot ended up being fine). But no one was ever jailed, no one was ever arrested or charged, nothing happened. Sure, homophobia continues to be a huge issue in the county, but the law had zero impact either way on that.
    Idk. Sometimes it’s a little bit like oppositional defiant disorder. Negative attention is still attention. Negative publicity is still publicity. So I struggle with these things, because obvs they’re wrong/bad, but their true impact on people’s daily lives, by themselves, is negotiable. TWOC and gender nonconforming POCs were scared to use the bathroom prior to this.

  3. This has been a pretty depressing read.
    I have actually shopped at the Target in Oxford, AL a few times, even vomited in their bathrooms with the stomach flu once. Lovely Target, horrible ordinance.
    The ACLU of Alabama is looking for plantiff(s) to fight this ordinance, so if someone reading this would be affected by this law please get in contact with them! (You don’t have to live in Oxford to be affected, maybe you live nearby in Anniston or Heflin or whatever and would use the Target to shop and/or use the restroom). I’m sure their website has a way to contact them, they also have a phone number on their facebook page (“ACLU of Alabama”).
    Just, as someone who lived in Alabama for half a decade and still loves it with so much of my heart, I wish it wasn’t so awful and didn’t seem to hate me and mine so much of the time.

  4. Ok, also, I guess I don’t understand the TN bill situation. Like…isn’t it better to be turned away from a counselor right off the bat than to be given mental healthcare by a homophobe? Why would you force a MENTAL HEALTH CARE PROVIDER (in terms of counseling) to counsel a gay person? Isn’t that dangerous??

    • I was thinking the same thing, and the first thing that popped into my mind was Leelah Alcorn. Then again I dunno if a law like that would have helped?

    • on the one hand, yes, but on the other hand, it’s hard not to imagine situations with people in small towns and limited access to therapists to begin with then being left with no outlet at all.

      • Is a harmful counselor better than none though? Counseling isn’t like providing an objectively measurable service where the person is either “doing their job” properly or not, and it’s also private, which would increase the risk. Even without malicious intent, a homophobic counselor will treat “queerness” as an issue to fix, a source of the other mental health problems – and will have statistics to support that idea.

        • As a mental health professional, I can say that you are absolutely correct. No therapist is definitely safer than a harmful therapist. I have gotten clients after they saw a therapist who made everything worse, and had to undo that damage before we could even do anything else.

          In fact, as a professional, if I am not able to provide the best service for that client, it is my ethical duty to refer them to someone who can. I specialize in a few areas. If you came to me, outside of those areas, and I didn’t feel I could provide you the best service, I could lose my license to practice if I saw you anyways. This is essentially the same thing. A therapist who is anti-LGBTQ would provide very poor, harmful treatment. They SHOULD be turning people away. WITH A REFERAL TO SOMEONE WHO WON’T. And after assuring that client is not a danger to themselves or others.

          Now, should someone be allowed to continue to be a therapist if they are that anti-LGBTQ? Probably not.

  5. I give up on Republicans. They are worried we will go to the woman’s bathroom and harass their daughters; but, the guy who sexually molested boys, and then paid them hush money needs our help. I wouldn’t be surprised if they let their own boys share a bathroom with Hastert.

  6. It is beyond me that people care so much about which bathroom you use but have no concern for the *actual* bathroom issue that is the lack of universal floor to ceiling stalls. #poopinprivacyplease

  7. Oof this is a tough week in politics.

    On a more positive note, #‎SJR39‬, the proposed constitutional amendment to shield clergy and business owners in Missouri from punishment for refusing to participate in same-sex weddings, has failed! Hopefully we get more new like this in the following weeks…

  8. Why not just separate bathrooms/private spaces according to sex instead of gender? It would make things easier for everyone including male bodied transgendereds. They would have legal access to spaces that aligns with their sex and women don’t have to worry if there is penis in the next stall. Assigning bathrooms and intimate spaces based on something as artificial and malleable as gender is a ridiculous idea will only continue to breed unnecessary drama no matter which way the law goes.

    • I’m not at all worried about penis OR vagina in the next stall, and I don’t see why anyone should be. It’s nobody’s business what anatomy the woman in the next stall over has. I don’t need or want to know what anyone in the bathroom has in their pants. As long as they flush and clean up their mess, I don’t give a damn. They’re called private parts for a reason!

      And how exactly would this policy be enforced? Would everyone have to pull down their pants and show their junk before using the bathroom? Whose privacy would this protect?

      • Would you be comfortable with a gun pointed at you in the next stall? Because a penis is every bit as dangerous as a loaded gun. The overwhelming majority of women who have been raped can attest to that.

        • No. Penises aren’t inherently bad or dangerous. Senses of entitlement to other people’s bodies are and bringing that sense of entitlement and enacting violence on other people is already illegal. Trans women have a right to pee in peace and without harassment. Stop being an asshole.

          • You said: Senses of entitlement to other people’s bodies are and bringing that sense of entitlement and enacting violence

            I could not agree more. From birth males are socialized to feel entitled to women’s bodies and to be violent.

            Now let me ask you a question. What gender where trans women socialized as? See what I mean?

        • This is a trans supportive community. We take care of our trans sisters here. They are our equals and as such are entitled to the same respect as any other woman in this community. Your disrespectful, hurtful attitude is not acceptable here at Autostraddle. You’re free to express yourself, but I think most of us would prefer you do that elsewhere.

          I’m gonna step back now and let the trans Straddlers speak for themselves, if they choose to. Please know that the vast majority of cis Straddlers have your back. We love you ladies <3

        • Ma’am as someone that has been digitally raped fuck you and the bullshit Janice Raymond logic you rode in on.

          Any one can rape people.

          I know you said “majority” but honestly GTFO out of our neighborhood.
          We stand with our sisters, not just our cisters.

  9. P.S. Toni from Portlandia, is that you? (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist ?)

Comments are closed.