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Trump and Biden host drag queen story hour and other hoax reports about Utah’s trans bathroom ban

Utah Auditor John Dougall says his office has received thousands of hoax complaints about the state’s new transgender bathroom ban — and not a single, legitimate complaint found so far.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Messages in support of transgender rights cover a toilet bowl during a demostration by Utah Students Unite in opposition of HB257 on the steps of the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 1, 2024.

“I saw three trans people at the airport,” the caller to Utah State Auditor John Dougall’s office about the state’s transgender bathroom bill said. “I don’t know what they were doing, plotting some sort of trans thing, I guess. Probably some sort of trans coup or something. Go to the airport; you’ll find them.”

That’s just one of thousands of trolling reports that have flooded Dougall’s office since he opened an online form to report violations of Utah’s new law that requires transgender people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth.

On Tuesday morning, Dougall released a sample of the bogus reports that have flooded his office since last week. Among them is a complaint that Joe Biden and Donald Trump were “hosting and participating together in drag queen story hour” at a rest stop outside of Provo or that people were “flaunting their transness all over the bathroom.”

Others filled in the online form with lyrics to “Boys and Girls” by Blur and “Mood Swings” by Pop Smoke.

In one letter, a person who said they are a retired military veteran who transitioned from male to female in 2017 told Dougall they planned on vacationing in Utah this summer and were curious about what they needed to do to comply with state law.

“Should I turn myself in at the end of our vacation or at the time of violation? I saw that you want photographic proof of me using the restroom. Frankly, I find this rather odd and would have never thought about taking pictures of anyone inside of a restroom. If I leave your state after using the bathroom, will there be extradition proceedings to return me for trial,” the submission read.

“I have a friend who has transitioned from female to male and now has a very bushy beard, as well as a fairly muscular build and deep voice. My understanding is that he should use the female restroom while in Utah State facilities, as well, correct?” the letter concluded.

Dougall says he has been dealing with this headache since he became Utah’s “bathroom monitor” (his term), a role lawmakers thrust upon him when they rushed to pass HB257 at the start of this year’s legislative session.

Morgan Republican Rep. Kera Birkeland’s “Sex-based Designations for Privacy, Anti-bullying and Women’s Opportunities,” or HB257, changes the legal definitions of “female” and “male” to categorize Utahns by the reproductive organs of their birth, and restricts which bathrooms and locker rooms trans people can use in government-owned buildings.

“Should we conduct this interview in the bathroom?” Dougall joked at the start of a telephone conversation with The Salt Lake Tribune.

Dougall says nearly 12,000 submissions have come into his office since last week. By his estimate, reviewing those has eaten up hundreds of hours of work and taken employees away from their regular duties.

“My office deals with governmental entities, not complaints about individuals using the wrong facility,” he said. “There are legislators on the left and right who misunderstand that. I’m not sure there was any thought given to this part of the legislation at all.”

Dougall says a few hundred complaints have been set aside to see if they merit further scrutiny, but they can only investigate whether a bathroom or locker room complies with state code.

“If we find a complaint that fits within our assignment, we’ll have to figure out how to deal with that. If it’s a planning issue, we’ll have them come up with a compliance plan. If it’s an issue with how the facility is constructed, then we’ll have to figure out how they need to change it,” Dougall says.