• 'It's dangerous': Local transgender students argue new state bathroom law could impact their safety

    By: Winnie Wright

    Updated:

    TENNESSEE - A number of laws that passed in the Tennessee legislature during the spring went in to effect on Monday. One of them, according to the transgender community, specifically targets and impacts them in a negative way.

    States across the country with similar legislation have been referred to as "Bathroom Bills".

    In Tennessee, legislators titled it the "Indecent Exposure" bill. 

    Governor Bill Lee signed that bill into law, banning any sort of indecent exposure in public restrooms and locker rooms. 

    While it seems innocent enough, the transgender community argues it's just another attack.

    "As a community, we bring ourselves 10 steps forward, but then the government brings us 20 steps back,” said Keloni Grand Monday.

    She is a 17-year-old student at Shelby County Schools. As a transgender woman, she and her friend Marie Jones said they are no stranger to cruelty.

    "They jumped me. One of them put my head like straight through a brick house,” Marie told FOX13. 

    That incident happened just two weeks ago.

    They're worried Tennessee's "Indecent Exposure Law" will negatively affect their safety and security even more.

    "They could follow me in there and beat me or rape me. It's dangerous. It could be sexual assault, murder even,” Grand explained about what could happen if she went into the men’s room looking like a woman.

    The law expands already existing law about indecent exposure to include restrooms, locker and dressing rooms, or showers if the offender is a member of the opposite sex.

    Language that was deleted before the bill was signed in to law said transgender people couldn't use their sexuality as a defense.

    Republican State Representative Mark White, of Memphis, voted in favor of the bill. 

    He told FOX13 over the phone Monday - targeting the transgender community was never the goal.

    "You're in there for one reason, and one reason only. Nothing else should be tolerated. It protects all people,” he explained.

    Grand worries the heart of the bill is the same.

    "I feel like, honestly, the government is just trying to put us in a cage. Like, try to separate us from everyone else. Like we are so different when honestly and truthfully, we are just trying to fit in,” she said.

    FOX13 couldn't find any information whatsoever attached to the law detailing what the penalty will be for this crime.

    Grand and Jones said they will continue using the women's restroom and are willing to accept any consequences.

    Shelby County Schools told us the girls have no reason to worry when classes are back in session.

    They sent us their policy, which said, “the Shelby County School Board of Education prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the educational programs or activities which it operates.”

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