Trans people in Arkansas could soon lead an essentially illegal life.
State lawmakers are currently discussing three bills: House Bill 1986, House Bill 1894, and Senate Bill 774.
If all three pass, it could force trans people out of a majority of public life because their existence would effectively be illegal.
SB774 is Arkansa’s version of North Carolina’s controversial HB2 ‘bathroom bill’.
Called the Arkansas Physical Privacy and Safety Act, it would require trans people to use public bathrooms matching the gender marker on their birth certificate.
It would apply to all government and other state-owned buildings.
And it’s only the tip of an iceberg of transphobic laws.
HB 1986 would expand existing Arkansas law and allow a person to press charges against trans people under indecent exposure laws.
Indecent exposure, it argues, is any situation where someone ‘knowingly exposes his or her sex organs to a person of the opposite biological sex: (A) In a public place or in public view; or (B) Under circumstances in which the person could reasonably believe the conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm.’
The law could, for example, ban trans men who had top surgery from going shirtless anywhere in public.
‘If a transgender man has top surgery, his chest could be viewed as a sexual organ, according to the the language used on the bill,’ Zachary Miller of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition, told Salon.
‘Anywhere his chest is in public view — like at a public pool or going to a spa — he could be in violation of the law and be arrested.’
The law could see trans people fined $2,500 and also holds a maximum prison sentence of one year. And that’s only the beginning.
Trans people found guilty four or five times over a 10-year-span would face six years in prison on a Class D felony charge.
Any further charges would result in a 10-year sentence.
The third bill is HB 1894, which was voted down by a committee in early March, but was reintroduced by Representative Mickey Gates.
It would ban trans people from changing the gender marker on their birth certificate.
And it shows the Republican government doesn’t understand what it means to be transgender.
‘What happens if you have a guy and he’s 24 years old and he decides he wants to be a 14-year-old guy so that he can have sex with a 14-year-old girl,’ Gates said.
‘Will that not be rape?
‘Just because you have the right to identify doesn’t mean the state is obligated to recognize the way you feel.’
Currently, trans people in Arkansas need a court order, as well as written confirmation from their doctor that they have completed gender-confirmation surgery to change their birth certificate.
Governor Asa Hutchinson in the past said Arkansas did not need laws like North Carolina.
The House and Senate have until 31 March to reach a decision, before the bills fail. If they do, they will be tabled for the year.