People from all over Texas gathered at the state's Capitol Building in Austin on Tuesday to give over 18 hours of testimony about State Senate Bill 6, a proposed law that would restrict transgender people from using the public bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Among them was Melanie Espinosa Pang, a social worker and co-chair of Houston's LBGTQ Advisory Board.
As with many of these "bathroom bills," SB6 claims to be acting in defense of women's and girls' right to privacy. Pang's testimony as a queer Asian American woman—among those the bill claims to protect—elegantly and effectively shreds that argument.
Here are Pang's comments in full:
So, since the dialogue around [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance] and the introduction of SB6 I have felt less safe. I’m a woman who happens to have a stylishly short haircut. I use the women’s restroom and get harassed on a regular basis. I do not identify as trans, and conflating my safety with the ugly implication that transgender people are dangerous is irresponsible and dishonest.
The beauty of the LGBTQ family is that we’re family. We even call each other family. Because so many of us have had to find places of belonging outside of school, outside of work, and outside of home, because of the very misunderstandings and misinformation that gets spread here. That’s been spread here at this hearing.
One out of five trans Americans report experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. And to speak to the point of some of the misinformation that’s been spread I want to address the Houston Equal Right Ordinance. So much information had been spread and lies and just ugliness in the city. And to folks who think that they can pass something like SB6 and still think that they are respectful to the transgender community: There’s a pointed moment in the movie Hidden Figures and I really hope you can understand when I say this—”I’m sure you believe that.”
When I give talks in schools, kids come up to me to tell me about the rejection they face at school and at home and hearing about these bills is pushing them to the brink of self harm and suicide. And I’ve watched this committee try to discredit studies in a very biased way.
And for me, I’d really like to know: What is the number you need to hear that would satisfy you? Why is this cis-gender person’s comfort worth more than a trans person’s life? And how much business will you have to lose before a trans person’s life matters to you?
When I chatted with her today over Facebook Messenger, Pang—who was also involved in advocating for and defending the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, also known as HERO—told me she felt sick every time she heard the discriminatory defenses of the bathroom bill.
"Any time these men would mention a threat to women and girls as if I'm not sitting right there I cringed," she wrote.
While the committee ended up passing the bill—meaning it will be brought to the full chamber of the Texas Senate sometime next week—Pang hasn't lost faith.
"These were our messages of love for the transgender kids who are unsure of their futures; for the families who thought they were the only ones; to educate folks who want to learn; to let people everywhere know that we won't let ELECTED officials do harm to our community," she told me.
The marathon session featured moving testimonies from trans Texans and allies across the state, including Dr. Colt Keo Meier, a trans doctor who testified that "quite literally, this bill is killing my patients," the Houston Chronicle reported.
Here's an image of Pang's written testimony.