GLSEN Denounces the Passage of Anti-Transgender Tennessee Public Indecency

TN Anti-Trans Public Indecency Bill

GLSEN Denounces the Passage of Anti-Transgender Tennessee Public Indecency Bill

This new legislation expands the state’s indecent exposure law to specifically target and criminalize transgender people, including trans students

NEW YORK, NY (May 1, 2019) – GLSEN, the leading education organization working to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ students, today denounced the passage of a Tennessee public indecency bill which expands the state’s existing indecent exposure law to specifically target and criminalize transgender people, and affects transgender students in locker rooms, bathrooms, or other school facilities.

“All students -  including transgender students who already face high levels of discrimination and harassment -  deserve to feel safe and at school, and we call on Governor Lee to refuse to sign this harmful and unnecessary legislation,” said Justin Sweatman-Weaver, Chair of GLSEN Tennessee. “Concerned Tennesseans must work at the district level to advocate for the creation and implementation of policies that protect and support transgender students in our schools, not intentionally put them in harm’s way.”  

According to GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey Tennessee state-level data, only 3% of LGBTQ students in Tennessee attend a school with a policy or official guidelines to support transgender or gender nonconforming students. Moreover, transgender and gender nonconforming students are experiencing extremely hostile and unsupportive environments in Tennessee schools. The survey found that 71% of LGBTQ students in Tennessee experienced verbal harassment at school based on gender expression, and 35% experienced physical harassment based on gender expression. Additionally, nearly 3 in 4 transgender students in Tennessee were unable to use the school restroom aligned with their gender.

“Tennessee legislators have grotesquely distorted a public indecency law put in place to protect people from sexual harassment in order to criminalize transgender people. In doing so, they risk undermining public safety and subjecting the state to rebuke and backlash,” said Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN. “Lawmakers with little to no expertise and experience with education have no business meddling with our nation's schools and student safety in order to push their anti-LGBTQ agendas.”  

The Public Indecency bills are part of a disturbingly anti-LGBTQ roster of legislation introduced in Tennessee known as the “Slate of Hate,” which also includes Senate Bill 1499/House Bill 1274 which would require the Attorney General to defend local education agencies - or their employees - when they implement anti-transgender bathroom and locker room policies.

In 2017, Tennessee legislators introduced a discriminatory bathroom access bill that failed to even make it out of committee. The Public Indecency bills, as well as Senate Bill 1499/House Bill 1274, are nothing more than attempts at an end-run around a policy that was already deemed a bad idea for the state. With the entire extremist “Slate of Hate,” Tennessee risks being branded a “State of Hate” and opening themselves up to the economic and reputational risks that come along with that title.

GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) created a Model School District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students which outlines best practices for schools to ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming students are safe and respected in school. This model has been constructed so that advocates can easily copy model language in order to draft their own district policy.

Media Contacts:

Justin Sweatman-Weaver, Chair, GLSEN Tennessee | 931-704-8814

Sue Yacka-Bible, Senior Media Relations Manager, GLSEN National| | | 646-388-6575



GLSEN works to create safe and inclusive schools for all. We envision a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression. Each year, GLSEN programs and resources reach millions of students and educators in K-12 schools, via action at the national, state, and local level. Over nearly three decades of work, GLSEN has improved conditions for LGBTQ students across the United States and launched an international movement to address LGBTQ issues in education and promote respect for all in schools. Find more information on GLSEN’s policy advocacy, student leadership initiatives, school-based programs, research, and professional development for educators at