“Life in Transition”

San Antonio Express-News  
May 19, 2017


Last year, the Texas Legislature, dominated by cultural conservatives and urged on by the governor, seemed hell bent on passing a “bathroom bill” that would have, in practice, dictated that transgender people use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

Proponents claimed it would protect women and children from sexual predators barging into bathrooms. In truth, law enforcement officials and others said this was a nonexistent problem. The real impact would be on young people struggling with their identities whose lives would be severely, needlessly, and perhaps irreparably disrupted by the legislation.

The issue was divisive, emotional and above all, political. Against this backdrop, the San Antonio Express-News presented to its readers “Life in Transition,” a multipart multimedia series of stories, photos, videos and interactive graphics derived from more than a year of reporting by writer Lauren Caruba and photographer Carolyn Van Houten as they followed a group of San Antonians to document their triumphs and hurdles as they made their transitions.

The first part of the series focused on the battle in Austin, where hundreds of people, many of them transgender, testified against the bill as Texas became the epicenter of the trans rights debate. One was Lauryn Farris, a trans woman and longtime activist from San Antonio who had very personal reasons for spending long days and nights in Austin.

The series also delved into the legal obstacles and physical aspects of transitioning through the deeply reported narratives of six young people as they navigated the complexities of the process. Not predators or political strawmen, they were hardly seeking publicity, but instead were determined to – even desperate to – quietly pursue their lives, their way. They came from all walks of life, but all wanted the same thing: to be accepted, respected and understood.

Their stories helped educate readers and decision-makers about this largely misunderstood group and build a community consensus opposing the bill that led to its ultimate defeat. Part of the reason was economic – the fear that Texas businesses would be boycotted – but a significant factor was a recognition of what was really at stake for transgender people and their families.

By the end of a special session where restroom legislation was on the call, the bill was killed by the Republican speaker of the House, Joe Straus of San Antonio, who had read the series, said: “I see no good reason to promote a divisive bathroom bill when it does nothing but harm to the economy, and some very vulnerable people could be harmed.”

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Submitted by Jamie Stockwell.

Headliners Foundation