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Mom blames transphobic law after library blocks her disabled son’s restroom use

transgender, bathroom bill, Kansas, Wichita, restroom, toilet, disabled son, mother, Karen Wild, Ellis Dunville
A women's restroom Photo: Shutterstock

A cisgender mother helping her cis disabled son use the restroom was prevented from entering a Kansas library’s women’s restroom with him, even though they’ve done that for years. The mother thinks that the state’s recently passed anti-transgender bathroom bill is to blame, but the library has called the incident “a mishandled customer service moment.”

On May 20, Karen Wild entered a women’s bathroom in the Wichita Public Library’s central branch with her son, Ellis Dunville. She was assisting her son, who is on the autism spectrum, has a seizure disorder, and is nonverbal, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

A male security guard told her that her son couldn’t enter the restroom. Wild said they had used the women’s restroom together for years without any issues. However, she also noted that another person in the women’s restroom objected to her son’s presence.

Shortly after, a female library employee entered, said the library had policies regulating restroom use, and asked Wild if she and her son could use the building’s gender-neutral family restroom, which Wild never knew existed.

Wild told the aforementioned publication that she suspected the incident might have occurred because the legislature recently passed S.B. 180, a law that bans trans people from using bathrooms and other facilities matching their gender identity.

“There isn’t anything I can think of that has changed except that they heard about that law and decided they needed to be emboldened by it somehow,” she said. “I can’t explain it any other way.”

She also worries that the law will also prevent her son’s other caretaker, her trans niece, from assisting him in public bathrooms as well.

“My niece identifies as a woman and then you’d have, in some people’s eyes, two men in the woman’s bathroom,” Wild said.

However, library spokesperson Sean Jones said the library’s restroom policies haven’t recently changed. Rather, Jones said there has been “a slight uptick in unsafe activities” in the library, which has made the staff “more aware of situations that appear out of the ordinary.”

“With this particular situation, it was simply a mishandled customer service moment,” Jones said. “Our staff was curious about the situation, and ultimately offered a solution for future uses in the form of telling them of the three family restrooms available at the main library.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed the bathroom bill, worried that it would hurt the state’s economy.

“Companies have made it clear that they are not interested in doing business with states that discriminate against workers and their families,” she said in a statement. “By stripping away rights from Kansans and opening the state up to expensive and unnecessary lawsuits, these bills would hurt our ability to continue breaking economic records and landing new business deals.”

However, Republican legislators overrode her veto. Equality Kansas pointed out that the bill could threaten federal funding for libraries, shelters, and other facilities because it puts the state out of compliance with federal nondiscrimination policies.

Transphobes have occasionally harassed cis bathroom users that they suspect of being trans. Last November, a woman at a Las Vegas casino harassed a straight cis woman with short hair for using the women’s restroom. Last December, a cis female cancer survivor who had her breasts removed told the media that public restroom users regularly challenge her gender, worsening her social anxiety.

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