Transgender Woman Takes Selfie With Texas Governor To Get An Important Point Across

"Transgender people have faced harassment just for being who they are."

You don't often see transgender activists cozying up to conservative governors, but when Ashley Smith, a transgender woman, posed for a photo with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on July 14 at a rally to announce his re-election bid, she had an important point to make.

Abbott has long been an opponent of transgender rights, and is currently championing a controversial "bathroom bill" — also known as Texas's Senate Bill 6 — that would require trans people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth rather than the gender they identify as. The argument in favor of such legislation, which is cropping up all over the country, is that it's somehow unsafe to permit transgender people in gendered spaces.

According to Smith's cheeky caption of the photo of the duo, below, Abbott had no idea he was striking a pose beside a person whose rights he's looking to curtail. "How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't?" Smith mockingly wrote before adding a myriad of hashtags. 

The fact that Abbott was seemingly unaware Smith is transgender speaks to her point that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of their choosing poses no threat to the safety of others. "We're about 1-in-300 people, we're all over the place, we're your friends and your neighbors," Smith tells the San Antonio Express-News. "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."

What's more? Though there's no evidence to bolster the claim that permitting trans people to use the bathroom they wish poses a threat to others, there is data to confirm that it is harmful to deny a person's gender identity. In her decision ruling in favor of a Wisconsin trans student's right to use his preferred bathroom, Judge Ann Claire Williams argued that any danger from allowing transgender people to use their preferred was totally speculative, while the student's medical condition and experience with depression was well-documented.

And according to NPR, research shows people who are transgender are themselves more at risk of violence and harassment. As Smith explained to CNN, "Transgender people have faced harassment just for being who they are." 

Since Smith posted the photo four days ago, it has been like over 7,800 times and shared by upwards of 2,700 users and counting. "I had no idea it would be so popular," Smith tells Refinery29. "I had some friends who were openly protesting but I felt that getting a picture would make a bigger impression and hopefully change some opinions on this subject."

Ashley Smith celebrating Pride in 2017.

Though Smith's post is currently going viral, she's hardly the only outspoken opponent of Senate Bill 6 garnering attention. Earlier this month, we shared the story of a Texas father named Ken Ballard with a transgender son who made an impassioned argument during Texas' 85th Legislative Session this past winter condemning the proposed legislation. "I'd like to believe we're at a point that in civilized society, none of this no longer matters — the color of skin, how a person identifies, what's on their birth certificate — but these are not those times," Ballard said. "These are times when they want to tell my kid what bathroom he can go to."

For her part, Smith just hopes her photo sends a meaningful message about transgender rights. "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," she concludes to Refinery29. "The state legislature should focus their attention on issues that matter to Texans, such as lowering our property taxes and fixing school finance."

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