'Bathroom bills' are harmful and absurd. This Texas woman's pic shows why.

A transgender Texas woman snapped a photo at a rally for Gov. Greg Abbott. The internet is loving it.

As many constituents do, Texan Ashley Smith recently snapped a picture with Gov. Greg Abbott at a re-election rally for the Republican leader in San Antonio on July 14.

At face value, the photo may not appear all that unique. But the message behind it (and hashtagged across it) truly is worth a thousand words.

How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't? #bathroombuddy #satx #indivisible #stopsb6 #noh8 #transgender #translivesmatter #sunsetandsinedie #classroomsnotbathrooms


Posted by Ashley Smith on Saturday, July 15, 2017

Smith is transgender. And the photo comes at a critical time for trans rights in Texas.

Gov. Abbott supports Texas' Senate Bill 6 — legislation that would force transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth, regardless of their actual gender identity, in public facilities.

The bill, Abbott has argued in vague terms, protects "privacy in bathrooms."

Without the support of house speaker and moderate Republican Joe Straus, the controversial bill stalled in the spring. But in June, the governor called a 30-day special session — which began this week — in part to further press lawmakers to resurrect the measure.

Texas' bathroom bill isn't just harmful, it's impossible to enforce, which is the point Smith wanted to make with her photo.

"How will the Potty Police know I'm transgender if the Governor doesn't?" Smith mocked in the caption of the viral photo, which has amassed 5,000 Likes and thousands of shares.

While everyone should have access to a bathroom that aligns with their gender — regardless if a person visually "passes" as that gender or not — Smith's photo highlights the absurd notion that that regulation could possibly be applied in a consistent way.

Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images.

"We're about 1-in-300 people, we're all over the place, we're your friends and your neighbors," she explained to 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."

Even more important than the law's enforceability, research shows bills like the one in Texas are dangerously misguided.

Motivations behind these so-called "bathroom bills" cropping up in states across the country are born from the myth that sexual predators take advantage to prey on victims. That's simply not true.

Ironically, research shows people who are transgender are the ones living more at risk of violence and harassment. Laws that allow them to use facilities that correspond with their gender — as opposed to ones that restrict access to safe restrooms — help in reducing that risk.

In Texas, Smith believes, politicians should pay attention to reality.

"I think [Senate Bill 6] would be a disaster," Smith explained to CNN. "Transgender people have faced harassment just for being who they are."

Learn more about Texas' Senate Bill 6 and how to fight back at the Human Rights Campaign.

Upworthy reached out to Ashley Smith for comment. This article may be updated.

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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