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Arizona bill would restrict students to using group shower matching their sex assigned at birth

The Arizona House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would ban public schools from allowing students to use a group shower that doesn’t align with their sex assigned at birth.

Under the measure, transgender and other gender-diverse students could request access to a private or employee shower room, but critics argue this solution is unworkable.

Rep. Nancy Gutierrez (D-Tucson) teaches physical education at Tucson High School. She said schools just don’t have those kinds of facilities.

“We do not have private showers in the school I teach at,” said Gutierrez. “Nor have I ever seen private showers in a public school.”

Rep. Patty Contreras (D-Phoenix) questioned whether students should regularly shower together at all.

“If this bill simply said that if a person requests a private shower space that must be provided, I would support it,” said Contreras. “I would think that every student would request a private shower.”

Rep. Rachel Jones (R-Tucson) argued that someone could enter the girls’ shower under false pretenses. 

Rep. Lorena Austin (D-Mesa), who is nonbinary, pushed back.

Person in suit talking
Arizona state Rep. Lorena Austin on Feb. 18, 2023.

“I don't agree with the comparison of sexual predation amongst this community and being labeled as such,” said Austin. “I think that's dangerous, it's harmful.”

Gutierrez said the legislation appears to be more about politics than an actual problem. She said students don't shower after gym because there simply isn't the time before they need to be in their next class.

Rep. Laura Terech (D-Phoenix) said the decision is even more basic than that.

“Students are not forced to shower in Arizona schools,'' she said. "And most students choose not to shower if the only option is a multi-occupancy facility because it's uncomfortable to be naked in front of your classmates, regardless of their gender.''

What's really behind the bill, said Terech, is "this misinformed narrative that transgender students are a threat to their classmates.”

The bill still needs a final roll call vote before it can move forward.

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Kirsten Dorman is a field correspondent at KJZZ. Born and raised in New Jersey, Dorman fell in love with audio storytelling as a freshman at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2019.