Protect our Privacy initiative challenges Alaskan transgender community

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A local initiative called Protect our Privacy could limit public restroom use in Anchorage to the gender on birth certificates.

The proposed petition is to “protect the privacy” of citizens by requiring intimate facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms to be designated for and used only by people of the same sex.

The Protect our Privacy initiative committee sponsor, Kim Minnery, was not available for comment.

If passed, facilities owned by the municipality must follow the city-wide guidelines. The initiative also provides private employers and public accommodations the right to designate bathroom usage to those with the same sex.

A person’s sex refers to biological sex, as defined by the Anchorage Municipal Code.

The idea of the petition is to protect people’s physical privacy, which “includes the right not to be seen in various states of undress by members of the opposite sex,” as stated in the Protect our Privacy initiative.

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The intention of the petition is to counter-act the Anchorage law that gave transgender people the right to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. In October of 2015, the Anchorage Assembly passed a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect the transgender community. The proposed initiative would repeal part of this ordinance.

congratulations from UPD to UAA graduates

The Protect our Privacy initiative is a new and improved version of a petition that was introduced in January but was rejected for violating provision of local and state laws.

Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar sees the bathroom initiative as a step in the wrong direction.

“The nondiscrimination ordinance has been in effect for more than a year, and we’ve had exactly zero complaints or incidents. Transgender people are our friends and family — they’ve been dealing with these issues for much of their lives. Most of them discretely use stalls or just otherwise go about their lives. Let them be,” Dunbar said. “I don’t think any Alaskan wants to carry around their birth certificate and present it to business owners on demand.”

Dunbar stated that the passing of a repeal has the potential to be very harmful to the city of Anchorage.

Sarah Hyland, a former UAA student and transgender woman, believes that if the initiative passes, violence against transpeople in the Anchorage area will increase, and may even cause severe economic penalties.

“This issue has never been about bathrooms or privacy. It’s about legislating transpeople out of existence. Bathrooms have been a battleground for protection and privacy before…during segregation. These days the issue is always biased towards transwomen and not transmen because if you include them, many questions start to come up,” Hyland said. “If this passes the Alaskan community will have been duped into supporting hateful legislation over love and compassion by passing laws that are solutions to nonexistent problems.”

Hyland will continue to use restroom facilities for women.

Sarah Seifert, a resident of Anchorage and Fairbanks, thinks that limiting restroom usage will have a detrimental impact on all Alaskans.

“Alaska has always both embodied and treasured certain ideals — freedom, respect, beauty, nature, bravery, daring — the reality of what a law like this will entail and wreak on not only the most vulnerable and maligned members of our communities but also on the very people proponents of this initiative claim to seek to ‘protect’ flies in the face of every single thing we hold dear. But more than that, it puts a target on the back of the skull of every single one of us,” Seifert said. “This is not merely an issue of transgender rights, which is an important enough matter in its own right, this is about who we want to be — as Alaskans, as Americans, as neighbors, as friends, as family and, above all, as human beings.”

The Protect our Privacy initiative was filed in March, and if it garners enough signatures, it may appear on the Anchorage ballot in April 2018.

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