After Meeting Transgender Students, Some Lawmakers Change Course On Controversial Bathroom Bill

Mar 22, 2016

 Updated Wed., March 23, 8:45 a.m.

A conservative lawmaker says he now thinks transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Rep. Rick Womick's comments Tuesday led to the sudden failure of a bill that would have required students to use the restroom of their birth sex instead.

Womick, R-Rockvale, said he changed his mind after talking to his doctor, John Guenst, whose child was born with male organs but has identified as a girl for most of her life. John's wife, Valerie, says with medical help, their daughter went through puberty as a girl.

"It's clear that boys at Franklin High would be upset if she showed up in the bathroom peeing beside them and putting on lipstick," Valerie Guenst told lawmakers.

The school lets her daughter use the girls' restroom, even though school records list her as a boy. Womick said he didn't see a reason to change that.

"This is, to me, a bill that's government trying to get involved in something they don't need to," he said during the House education committee hearing. "Why are we going to fix something that's not broke?"

That combination of small government ideology and a personal connection also swayed Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis. He pointed to a transgender boy in the audience and said the bill would unnecessarily complicate his life.

Lawmakers voted to study the issue more this summer.

UPDATE: Members of the House Education Administration & Planning Committee indicated Wednesday they may move to reconsider their action when they meet next week.

A majority of members would have to vote in favor of resurrecting the measure for it to receive another hearing.