By Sara Youngblood Gregory
On March 30, Senate Bill 1674 passed a key senate committee in the Florida legislature. The bill — called the Safety in Private Spaces Act — mandates that all adults must use public bathrooms corresponding to their sex assigned at birth. Per the Florida Senate, SB 1674 prohibits “willfully entering a restroom or changing facility designated for the opposite sex and refusing to immediately depart when asked to do so.” Those who refuse to leave the bathroom can be criminally charged, fined up to $500, or receive 30 days of jail time.
The bill has been met with backlash from the LGBTQ+ community, Democratic lawmakers, and The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for encouraging vigilante-style harassment — and potential violence — towards trans people using basic, public amenities.
The language around SB 1674 — with barely-veiled transphobic dog whistles like “safety” and “privacy” — adds fuel to already burning-hot cultural assumptions that trans people are predatory, or seek to “take over” previously safe spaces, particularly those occupied by children. The recent surge in moral panic over drag queens (and the McCarthyian urge to ban them from reading books to children), further conflates free gender expression with harm, predation, and sexualization.
But perhaps most alarming is the incredible reach of SB 1674, which could be enforced in education institutions like public schools and colleges, hurricane shelters, health care facilities, substance abuse centers, as well as private businesses like hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and recreational places. This means that trans people must engage in a high-stakes gamble over what bathroom is safest, most accurate to their gender, or follows the law. But with SB 1674 in play, any decision trans people make will be dangerous.
Skylar (he/him), a 23-year-old from Trinity, Florida, says, “As a trans male who is ‘passing,’ most people I interact with would never know I was a trans male. If this bill passes, and I now have to use the women’s restroom, the women in the bathroom are going to be confused as to why a man is in there. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s scary to think about the fact that as a trans man in 2023, my two options could potentially be the women’s bathroom where I’d out myself to everyone, or face fines and possible jail time.”
Skylar’s anxiety over the logistics of applying a law like SB 1674 calls attention to the mutability of gender, the wild leaps in judgment it would require strangers to make about one another’s sex, and the inaccuracies of “clocking” people as trans. The bill begs a stream of invasive, crude questioning around the practicality of enforcement: How can you tell someone’s assigned sex by looking at them? If the police are called, will genital inspections be needed to solve the “debate” to avoid or confer charges?
The point of these laws, says Nathan (he/him), a 25-year-old trans masculine Floridian, is to “avoid the reality that trans people exist. [This bill] gives people permission to be hateful [and] to judge others based off characteristics that they deem not aligning with a binary.”
SB 1674 is slated for a hearing in the Fiscal Policy Committee. If approved, a chamber vote will follow. , Regardless of what happens in Florida, it is not alone. Already, lawmakers in North Carolina, Idaho, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama, and Oklahoma are reviewing or have passed anti-trans bathroom bills of their own.
Sara Youngblood Gregory (she/they) is a non-binary lesbian journalist and writer. She is the author of THE POLYAMORY WORKBOOK and a former staff writer for POPSUGAR. She covers sex, queerness, disability, culture, and wellness. Her work has been featured in Vice, Teen Vogue, HuffPost, Bustle, DAME, Cosmo, Jezebel, and many others.
Sara serves on the board of the lesbian literary and arts journal Sinister Wisdom. As a poet, Sara has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Voices. She’s also attended the Kenyon Review Workshop in 2019 and 2022, as well as a Winter Tangerine poetry workshop. Her chapbook RUN. is out now.