To whom it may concern:
Hello. My name is [sciatrix], and I'm a biologist right here at UT Austin. I am writing to you to express my strong opposition to SB 6. I believe this bill is unscientific, that it is ineffective at the stated goal of making bathrooms safe for women, and that it is unenforceable without severely violating the privacy of Texans. More importantly, I believe this bill is just plain evil and immoral because it encourages harassment of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong beyond, I suppose, having the temerity to exist in public. Texas is better than this.
I said I was a biologist, and in fact I have made a special study of the development of sex and differences between sexes, not only in humans but in a number of different species. As it turns out, it is not a simple thing to declare a line in the sand of "biologically female" vs "biologically male." We biologists have finally had to resort to defining femaleness or maleness in animals by the size of gametes--egg or sperm cells--that each class of animal produces, because every other measure we could come up with was violated by some species' natural way of dividing sexes. Even within a species, distinctions between male and female are never as clear-cut as the law often assumes.
For example, did you know that every single human embryo develops with the exact same genital structures to start with? It's true. Over developmental time, the basic building blocks of anatomy become organized towards a pattern we associate with male or a pattern we associate with female, but sometimes things get a bit confused along the way and infants are born with anatomy that isn't so clear cut. Sometimes when the sex of a baby is being determined, the delivering obstetrician has to go "well, uh, if this genital is longer than an inch I guess it's a penis, so this kid's a boy.... and if it's shorter than an inch guess it must be a clitoris and this is a girl." Sometimes that guess doesn't match so well with how the kid acts and feels later on, but from genitals there isn't always a clear answer for determining if a child will grow up to be a girl or a boy. And in the interim--well, where should the child pee? What happens if you guess wrong?
(There was a famous case, honored legislators, where a baby's penis was accidentally removed through a botched circumcision shortly after birth, and the boy was raised as a girl. He decided, when he hit puberty, that he was really a young man and went on to live a rather happier life as a man. Was that the wrong decision for him to make? Where should he have gone to use the toilet? If he had chosen to go along with the sex that doctors decided he should be raised with when he was born, where should he have used the toilet?)
When I tell these stories, I often hear from exasparated folks that we should use the genotypical sex then--XY for all men, and XX for all women. My initial response to this is usually that we don't actually know the karyotypes--that is, the pattern of sex chromosomes--for any given person just by looking. In fact, I have been karyotyped, and I know for a fact I'm XX; and I know for another fact that when the topic comes up in conversation, I am always the only person in the room who knows my chromosomal status for a fact.
See, it's not uncommon for people to exist who have sex chromosome statuses like X (only one copy!) or XXX or XYY or XXY. Where should they go to pee? And, honorable legislators, lest you think that well, those cases are just unusual edge cases... well, first, those unusual edge cases are people too, and they have to pee sometimes same as anyone else. And secondly, sometimes a baby is born looking perfectly female with an XY karyotype. There's a condition called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, you see, and it means that even if the gene that says "become male" is present on that Y chromosome, the tissues of the developing baby don't notice it talking to them and develop along the default path instead. (The default path, of course, is female in mammals.) Those little girls usually grow up without noticing anything is different about them and don't even find out that they're XY and not XX until they go to the gynecologist because they aren't getting their periods. Like any little girls, though, they have to pee sometimes. Where should they go?
Now, I am not only a biologist; I'm also a woman. I have short hair for a woman, but I'm otherwise fairly run of the mill. I mean, I naturally produce high levels of testosterone, as high as some young men's last I was checked, when you pull my blood for titers. But that's true for my mother and my aunts too. Turns out that you can't really divide women by hormones either, especially when the condition that puts high androgen levels into my system is thought to affect something like 20% of all women. Mostly it just makes my bleeding cycles a bit irregular, but it doesn't really hurt my self-concept as a woman.
(Oh, and that karyotype I mentioned having had done? Came back XX. I'm not trans. But I am a common and natural point on the spectrum of all women, and it turns out that when you start talking to us, these clear cut sex differences start to get... complicated. About the only thing I do find to be true of all the women I meet is that sometimes we have to pee when we're out and about.)
I said I thought this law was unenforceable, and I say it because finding out what my status is and finding out whether you define me as female enough, honorable legislators, requires me to disclose quite a few details about what's in my pants and my personal (and private!) medical history. I find the concept of having to tell some gatekeeper all of this every time I go to pee to be frankly horrifying--to say nothing of the cost of the salaries of hypothetical bathroom police intended to be used to enforce this law. It seems like a bit of a waste of taxpayer money, to tell you the truth.
What I do think this law will do is embolden people who want to harass their neighbors. I mentioned I had short hair, as far as women go, and I've been harassed for that before. Because folks weren't sure on first glance what my gender was and that upset them, they felt entitled to scream slurs at me while I was out walking my dog wearing a heavy sweater when I was just seventeen. My wife has been harassed in bathrooms before because another lady there felt she wasn't entitled to pee, even though she was using the bathroom your law would entitle her to use. Many of my friends, both transgender and cisgender, have encountered some form of public harassment based on their gender presentation not being what some random person on the street would like.
Honorable legislators, I'm afraid of this bill. I'm afraid someone will hit me in a bathroom because they don't like the way I cut my hair. I'm afraid my wife will get hurt by some jerk while she walks our dog because someone thinks she's not dressed like a woman should dress. I'm scared my friends will get beaten or worse, and I am terrified for my students here at UT Austin who are just beginning to figure out how they want to present themselves in public and trying to find out a safe environment. I'm especially afraid that anyone who doesn't like the way I look will try to publicly make me disclose all these details of my private life and my genital configuration as a way of making me uncomfortable and unwelcome, and I think this law will give them a perfect tool with which to do it.
That's why I think this bill is evil, honorable legislators. And that's really why I think you should vote it down. It's not as simple as the folks who put it together made it seem to be, and the costs to many of us Texans are too damn high. Please vote it down.