At a Senate committee hearing Wednesday in Columbia, South Carolina, two 13-year-old middle school students ruled the day.
Grayson Keck, a transgender boy, spoke along with his friend Dex Sexton to a panel that was mulling over proposed legislation that would mandate that transgender residents use the bathroom of the opposite gender (their gender at birth).
"All I want is to be able to use the men's restroom with the rest of my nontransgender peers, but this doesn't happen and it won't happen if this bill is passed," Grayson told the Senate committee. "The people introducing this bill are victimizing the innocent. When I enter a men's bathroom, I just want to use the facilities, wash my hands and leave."
"I do not deserve to have my gender identity washed away like a fingerprint on a windowpane," Grayson continued. "I do not deserve to have the person I am replaced by someone I don't want to be. I do not deserve to be forced to use a restroom where I do not feel safe."
His mother, Danielle, read her own testimony to the committee, insinuating that the proposed legislation would unfairly place blame on trans kids rather than on a system which fails to educate people about trans issues.
"If your concern is that other students will react negatively and will not be comfortable sharing a bathroom with a transgender child," said Danielle, "I say that the school system is not doing enough to educate and create and environment of acceptance and understanding."
According to Charleston's Post and Courier, so many people signed up to testify in opposition of the bill that the two-hour hearing was extended into a Thursday session. The line of people waiting to speak—mostly against the proposed bill—wound through the hallways of the building, as Grayson, Dex, and Danielle testified. About 10 transgender South Carolina residents spoke at Wednesday's hearing.
Outside the statehouse, a rally drew protestors to chant "Are we gonna let them push us back into the closet? No!"When it was Dex's turn to testify, his voice shook and he stopped to say, "I'm sorry, my heart is, like, going crazy." One of the Senate panelists told him to take a deep breath and drink some water. "It takes a lot of strength and courage to come up here, Dex," he told the boy.
The emotional testimony continued with Dex addressing the fear that transgender people pose a threat to cisgender (non-trans) people in bathrooms.
"Sexual offenders who have [assaulted] little boys...aren't forced to use the women's bathroom for the rest of their lives, so I don't see why how that would apply [here]," said Dex, pointing to the fact that laws already exist to punish criminals who harm others.
Dex also told the committee that forcing transgender students to use the wrong bathrooms—as neighboring North Carolina did amid national protests—would force them out of the closet in scenarios where other students may not realize they are trans.
In the same hearing, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles addressed the fear of cisgender people being attacked or harmed in some way by transgender people in restrooms. When asked about statistics of such incidents in the state of South Carolina, Nettles' answer was succinct.
"There have been none," Nettles said.
Watch video of Grayson's and Dex's testimony at WISTV.com.