Ohio House Bill 183 would ban transgender individuals from using group restroom facilities and locker rooms in Ohio public schools and colleges
Person testifying

14-year-old transgender student Bradie Anderson gives public testimony opposing Ohio House Bill 183. (Photo Credit: The Ohio Channel)

Reprinted from  The Buckeye Flame

Members of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee met Wednesday to hear public testimony opposing House Bill 183 — which would ban transgender students in Kindergarten through college from using any restroom, changing room, locker room or shower room that is “accessible by multiple students at the same time.”

The bill does not acknowledge the existence of intersex people, and would require students, school administrators, educators, staff and visitors to use the restroom that aligns with the gender assigned to them on the birth certificate “issued at or near the time of [their] birth.”

Maria Bruno — public policy director for Ohio-based LGBTQ+ legal advocacy group Equality Ohio — said the bill’s language mirrors similar anti-transgender legislation:

HB 183 contains language nearly identical to the “Student Physical Privacy Act,”a piece of model legislation drafted by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a designated anti-LGBTQ+ hate group responsible for hundreds of pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country.

Committee members will also hear public testimony in support of the bill before taking a vote.

If enacted, experts and advocates testified the bill will further endanger LGBTQ+ students, who already face much higher rates of discrimination, harassment and physical and sexual assault than their cisgender peers.

Transgender students, parents speak out

Transgender girls, who are directly targeted by the bill, testified that the danger and discomfort they already experience at school would only worsen as a result of the legislation.

14-year-old Bradie Anderson is a transgender student in the ninth grade at a public school in Ohio. An enthusiastic member of the soccer team, Bradie returns home each afternoon before practice rather than changing into athletic clothes in the girls’ locker room.

In the past, Bradie has been targeted by politically conservative adults, and is sometimes harassed by classmates and community members because she is transgender.

Bradie’s mother, Anne Anderson, told lawmakers that Bradie and other transgender children live in constant fear at school and in other public spaces.

“My daughter is afraid someone will say something to her and cause an issue,” Anderson told committee members. “My daughter is the one who has to be worried, not the cisgender girls in the locker room. Transgender children just want to be left alone.”

Having already been asked to leave a private Catholic school for being transgender, the 14-year-old said she feels like she is running out of options: “Do I look like a boy?” Bradie asked committee members. “Where do you want me to go?”

Transgender students at higher risk of violence

According to a report by the Williams Institute, a non-partisian public policy institute, transgender youth are more than four times as likely to experience a violent crime as their cisgender peers — including rape, sexual assault and aggravated or simple assault.

The National Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s 2021 National School Climate Survey polled more than 22,000 LGBTQ+ young people across the United States.

More than half of all respondents between ages 13 and 21 reported having been sexually assaulted at school.

In 2019, a study published by T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health indicated that anti-transgender bathroom bans may actually increase the chances that a transgender student will experience a sexual assault.

Minna Zelch, mother to transgender softball player and former Ohio public schools student Ember Zelch, explained the heightened risk of sexual assault among transgender people to members of the Higher Education Committee. 

“This really isn’t about bathrooms, and we all know it,” Zelch said.

“House Bill 183 does nothing more than harass and punish trans, non-binary and intersex individuals for the crimes of mostly cisgender males,” she added — referencing a report by the U.S. Department of Justice that found roughly 99% of reported sexual assaults are perpetrated by cisgender men.

Committee members declined to ask any further questions.

‘All this legislation does is exploit fear’

Dion Manley — a transgender man, Gahanna-Jefferson School Board local school board member and father to an Ohio public schools student — gave testimony in opposition to the bill, alongside school board president Beryl Brown Piccolantonio.

“I have faced discrimination for most of my life.” said Manley, who first came out as an LGBTQ+ person in the 1970s. “It doesn’t have to be that way for our young people today.”

“All this legislation does is exploit fear,” said Cam Ogden, an Ohio-based transgender activist. “It does absolutely nothing to actually prevent sexual assault from occuring.”

Several parents of transgender students too young to testify also spoke on behalf of their children, explaining that most young transgender people already face fear, shame and uncertainty around using public restrooms, even without a discriminatory ban in place.

One mother described her “sassy,” 8-year-old transgender child, currently attending third grade at an Ohio public school. 

Then, she described her child’s fear: “They know what’s going on around them, and it’s heartbreaking.” 

Breaking the ‘Bathroom Predator Myth’

In public testimony on October 4, Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) appeared to falsely cite “multiple examples” of assault perpetrated by transgender girls against cisgender girls in public restrooms.

The Buckeye Flame did not find any substantiated reports to support Bird’s claim.

Bird — who co-sponsored the bill with conservative Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena) — has consistently refused or struggled to use accurate language when referencing transgender Ohioans, often referring to transgender women and other non-binary and gender non-conforming people as “biological males.”

In her own sponsor testimony, Rep. Lear included quoted verse from the Bible, medically inaccurate information concerning sex chromosomes and language consistent with Christian nationalism — explicitly championing white, Western culture in support of the bill.

Lear and Bird’s testimonies were consistent with the ADF’s model legislation, which legal experts said is rooted in the false claim that transgender people are sexual predators.

Utilizing the “bathroom predator narrative” to villainize transgender Americans, ADF has become the most prolific and effective anti-transgender legal advocacy group in the country. 


The Buckeye Flame is an online platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles their triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences. https://thebuckeyeflame.com/
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