With the new anti-transgender bathroom bill signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, parents of transgender high schoolers and college-age kids in Florida have been hit hard, and now face excruciating and potentially costly choices.
If they send their transgender child to an in-state university, that student, over the age of 18, could face the possibility of arrest every time they use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender.
Republican politicians don’t seem to have taken the time to get to know these families. When they talk about trans issues, they never talk about real families with real children. They don’t truly acknowledge that transgender people exist. Instead, they seem to think that they are protecting women from full-grown men wearing dresses trying to get into women’s bathrooms, and that this is happening at such an alarming rate, we suddenly need laws against it.
I have a trans daughter. She’s a straight-A student who’s looking at colleges. She’s not visibly trans. She’s petite with long blonde hair, a cheerleader. Her passport is female. Her birth certificate, which went through a legal process in the deeply Southern state where she was born, is female, as is her Social Security card. Her driver’s license, which she’s looking forward to, will be female. She won’t go through a male puberty. No one at her current school, except for administrators, knows that she’s trans. She’s smart and funny, and her main concern right now is her math final—as it should be.
She would be very out of place in a men’s room. It would be bizarre if she walked into a men’s locker room. People would say, “Oh, honey, you’re in the wrong place,” and escort her out—or, of course, our worst fear, that things escalate and, because of hatred and bigotry fed by anti-trans rhetoric, they become violent.
And yet, if she attended a state university in Florida, she would have to do just that—walk into men’s rooms over and over or else risk arrest. If someone who knows she’s trans suddenly demands that she leave and she doesn’t or, at that moment, she can’t, she could face legal charges.
She could always go to the bathroom at a McDonald’s near campus, according to Governor DeSantis’ law, but that would become pretty difficult, what with parking.
What parent would send their child to college at a place where they face criminal charges every time they use the bathroom? Of course, many have no choice, financially.
In-state tuition rates are one of the best things about Florida. Annual in-state tuition at Florida State University, for example, is $5,656. The transgender Florida resident who is now forced to look at out-of-state universities might take note of Massachusetts, where there are strong laws that protect trans people. However, the lowest tuition for an undergraduate degree within the University of Massachusetts institutions is $30,992 per year.
The out-of-state option at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth will cost a total of $120,612 while the in-state FSU option comes to $22,624.
Because of Governor DeSantis’ anti-trans bathroom bill, this family would be looking to pay an extra $97,988 for a college degree than without this law on the books. This law acts much like a penalty of almost $100,000 because your child is being discriminated against in the state of Florida for being transgender.
For those who left the public school system in Florida during K12 because of anti-trans laws that have landed there, the cost of college is on top of private education or homeschool costs.
Again, these are prices many aren’t able to pay. Being discriminated against becomes part of the cost of their college degree.
Our family left the Deep South, where our daughter was born, because we needed to find a place to live where we knew she was safe. We should take for granted that her toughest challenge right now is her upcoming math final, but we don’t.
We realize that families like ours live in fear in many states throughout the country, where they are having their healthcare stripped away, where the wrong pronouns are being enforced by the state, where their parents are threatened with loss of custody, where they are losing their rights to bathrooms, locker rooms, and an equitable college education.
I am speaking here to a dollar amount, an actual cost, but never forget that the real cost of what Governor DeSantis and politicians like him are doing is brutal and often invisible, as trans kids and their families take blow after blow to the heart.
Carolyn Hays is the author of Letter to My Transgender Daughter: A Girlhood.