North Dakota Limits Bathroom Access Use for Transgender People

Transgender adults and kids in North Dakota won’t be able to access locker rooms, showers, or bathrooms that match the gender with which they identify in places, including jails and college dorms, under a new law recently signed by GOP Governor Doug Burgum.

The American Civil Liberties Union says that so far this year, over 450 bills have attacked the rights of transgender people and been introduced in state legislatures.

Wednesday, Burgum’s office announced the governor had signed the bill the previous day. The measure passed both the state Senate and House with veto-proof majorities.

Living facilities and dorms under the control of the state board of higher education are affected, along with correctional facilities for adults and youths. Shower rooms and restrooms will be designated for use exclusively by females or solely by males. Gender-nonconforming or transgender people will have to get approval from a staff member to use their preferred shower room or restroom.

The governor’s office declined to comment on the bill on Wednesday.

Representative Eric Murphy is one of the three Republicans who voted against the bill, defying their party against it when it was in the House.

“I don’t try to be polarizing. I don’t think there was a need for the legislation,” said the Grand Forks lawmaker in an interview before the announcement of the new law.

Murphy is a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of North Dakota and says he doesn’t believe there needs to be a law to tell school officials how to handle the issue.

GOP Representative Jeff Hoverson supported the bill saying, “Why would you not want a men’s bathroom to be for men, and women’s bathroom for women?” he questioned.

Scientific experts maintain gender is a spectrum, not a binary structure

Experts say gender is not a binary structure, consisting of only females and males, but is a spectrum that can change over time and vary by society. Sex refers to the biological characteristics of humans, including hormones, reproductive anatomy, and chromosomes, which can change and vary in understanding over time or be legally or medically altered.

Last week, Governor Burgum signed a bill restricting state transgender health care, immediately making it a crime to administer gender-affirming care to people younger than 18.

The measure received veto-proof support from Republican lawmakers — although some GOP members voted against it alongside the Dems.

Earlier in the month, Burgum signed a statewide transgender athlete ban into law after it passed the Senate and House with veto-proof majorities. In 2021 Burgum vetoed a bill set to impose a transgender athlete ban; however, the Senate and House legislators didn’t have enough votes to override his veto.

GOP lawmakers across the country are also banning gender-affirming care for minors. Eight states have implemented restrictions this year — including South Dakota and Utah — with at least nine more states set to do so by next year.