This One Photo Flawlessly Explains Why "Bathroom Bills" Are Ridiculous

by Alexandra Spychalsky
Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for activist Ashley Smith, she proved just how true that is with a simple, smiling picture of her and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Smith was able to make a strong point about transgender rights, without Abbott even knowing she was making a stand.

Smith attended an Abbott campaign event in San Antonio, and waited around after his speech to a get a picture with the Republican governor. In the photo, the two are all smiles, with Smith leaning toward the governor, her long brown hair hanging down over the shoulders of her fitted blazer. Smith later posted the picture on social media with the hashtag #bathroombuddy, and the caption, "How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't?"

Smith is a trans woman, and posted the photo as a way to protest the so-called "bathroom bill" that the Texas legislature wants to pass in the state, a bill supported by the governor. The bill would require people to use the bathroom that correlates to their assigned gender at birth. These bills are seen by many as an attack on the rights of trans people.

Smith thought this photo would be a more effective form of protest than "shouting," she told the Houston Chronicle.

Once I had the photo, I was eager to get on social media just because I wanted to make a point. We're about 1-in-300 people, we're all over the place, we're your friends and your neighbors. Some of us are not immediately obvious as trans. And the idea that you are going to be able to enforce a bathroom bill, I mean the enforceability is just not there.

Smith raises an important point about these laws, and that's the enforceability of them — there really is no way to do so. The bathroom bill that was passed in North Carolina in 2016 had no enforcement mechanism, and when Mother Jones called North Carolina police precincts to ask what their plan was to enforce the law, most replied that they had no idea how it would be done. One said that they would respond if there was a complaint, but that they couldn't force people to fork over their birth certificates upon entering a public bathroom.

Without a way to realistically enforce these laws, it's quite clear that these bills are not supported because they are thought to enact actual change. They are really just a way to stigmatize and cast a negative focus on trans people, and make their lives more difficult.

"I hope the photo I took with the governor illustrates the ridiculousness of passing a bathroom bill and lets more people see that transgender folks are just ordinary people who live and work among everyone else in our community," Smith told Refinery29.