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Houston Voters Reject Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

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In another one of the few races of national interest yesterday, voters in Houston rejected a city ordinance meant to provide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity, and it appears that the fact that the law covered transgender people along with gays and lesbians was its downfall:

HOUSTON — A yearlong battle over gay and transgender rights that turned into a costly, ugly war of words between this city’s lesbian mayor and social conservatives ended Tuesday as voters repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance that had attracted attention from the White House, sports figures and Hollywood celebrities.

The City Council passed the measure in May, but it was in limbo after opponents succeeded, following a lengthy court fight, in putting the matter to a referendum.

Supporters said the ordinance was similar to those approved in 200 other cities and prohibited bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents said the measure would allow men claiming to be women to enter women’s bathrooms and inflict harm, and that simple message — “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” — was plastered on signs and emphasized in television and radio ads, turning the debate from one about equal rights to one about protecting women and girls from sexual predators.

“It was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, told cheering opponents who gathered at an election night party at a Houston hotel. “I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political-correctness attack on what we know in our heart and our gut as Americans is not right.”

(…)

In Houston, the ordinance’s proponents — including Mayor Annise D. Parker, local and national gay rights and civil rights groups and the actress Sally Field — accused opponents of using fearmongering against gay people, and far-fetched talk of bathroom attacks, to generate support for a repeal. The ordinance, they noted, says nothing specifically about whether men can use women’s restrooms.

The proponents’ defeat at the polls was a kind of personal blow to Ms. Parker, a Democrat. Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor when she won office in December 2009. Now in her third and final term, Ms. Parker had pushed hard for the ordinance and helped it gain endorsements from President Obama and corporate giants like Apple.

Opponents of the measure — including Mr. Patrick, pastors of conservative megachurches and the former Houston Astros baseball star Lance Berkman — said the ordinance had nothing to do with discrimination and was about the mayor’s gay agenda being forced on the city. They denied that they had any bias against gay people, and said the ordinance was so vague that it would make anyone who tried to keep any man from entering a women’s bathroom the subject of a city investigation and fine.

“The mayor has never been able to produce a shred of evidence that’s credible of any need for this ordinance, other than everybody else is doing it,” said Dave Welch, the executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council.

The immediate effect of the vote is unclear. Ms. Parker and her supporters said Houston would lose tourism and convention business if the city had to repeal the ordinance and became known for intolerance, just as a backlash in Indiana over a religious-objections law led to convention cancellations and boycotts before that law was changed. Supporters worried that a repeal of the Houston ordinance could also jeopardize its selection as host city for the Super Bowl in 2017.

Ric Campo, a real estate developer who is the chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, said the committee has had conversations with National Football League officials about the ordinance. “I don’t think it’s the straw that creates the imbalance where you don’t get a Super Bowl or lose a Super Bowl, but it’s definitely part of the equation when people make decisions,” Mr. Campo said.

Opponents of the measure played down any economic impact, describing the supporters’ claims as a fear tactic. Mr. Patrick minced no words about the threat of losing the Super Bowl. If Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, “would even suggest that the Super Bowl not be played here because we don’t want men in ladies’ bathrooms, then we need a new commissioner,” Mr. Patrick said.

Both sides claimed to speak for the city. The main coalition of supporters was called Houston Unites, while the main one for opponents was Campaign for Houston. Houston Unites raised nearly $3 million, and Campaign for Houston more than $1 million. Supporters called the measure HERO, for Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, while opponents referred to it as the Bathroom Ordinance.

The ordinance that was at issue yesterday wasn’t just limited to protections for gays, lesbians, and the transgender community. It was, in fact, the first citywide anti-discrimination ordinance that city government had ever passed in Houston and would have prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and other areas on the basis of  race, skin color, ethnic origin or identity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, marital or military status, in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity. It was, however, the last two categories, and especially the application to gender identity that drove the opposition to the bill and the petitioning process that resulted in the measure to repeal the ordinance being on the ballot yesterday. The fight to get the repeal on the ballot itself became a news item last year when the city of Houston attempted to challenge the validity of the signature campaign to get the measure on the ballot and, in the process of the lawsuit filed in that regard, attempted to subpoena what was clearly an overly broad amount of information from the Pastors and Churches behind the signature drive. The city ultimately withdrew that discovery request, but it seems to have set the atmosphere for the political debate to come. Opponents of the bill, led largely by the city’s religious community, argued that the bill would have required private business and government buildings such as schools to allow people who claimed to identify with a gender other than the one they were born with to use the bathroom that corresponded with the gender they identified with.

Jannell Ross describes the campaign against the ordinance this way:

In the months that followed, those who opposed the law — including a group of pastors who brought the legal action and prompted the referendum, as well as one All-Star Houston Astros baseball player, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) and others — insisted in commercials, on television and in newspaper stories that allowing transgender women (individuals born male who identify as women)  would leave women and girls suddenly vulnerable to attacks by crafty and now legally enabled sexual predators.

They told Houston voters that male sexual predators disguised as women (or as one ad put it, “troubled men”) would find it easy to waltz right into a women’s restroom to target victims. They said Houston voters who supported “freedom” and “safety” simply had to vote against HERO.

And, there were more menacing, live-action versions of these ads too. The words “ANY MAN ANYTIME” appear on an image of a women’s restroom.

Similar claims were made in the fight to defeat a measure in Fayetteville, Ark., with similar results. In Arkansas, Michelle Duggar, reality TV star and mother of self-described sexual abuser Josh Duggar, recorded robocalls centered on the bathroom threat. We will not say more about the irony involved there. And, of course, irony is the nice word for what happened.

Back in Houston, the HERO law was actually in effect for three months before the legal challenges began. No evidence of said onslaught of sexual predators and gender identity tricksters ever surfaced — not in Houston or other cities. That’s why a Houston Chronicle columnist called these phantom predators the bogeymen of the HERO fight and a straight-up scare tactic.

Here’s one example of the ads that were running in Houston in advance of yesterday’s vote:

It’s a somewhat silly and stupid ad, of course, but in a lot of ways it plays into unease that still seems to exist among many members of the public regarding transgender issues. Just this week, for example, the Department of Education took the position that a Chicago-area school district violated Federal laws when it denied a transgender student access to the girls bathroom and showers on the ground that they were still biologically and physically male and that doing so would make other students feel uncomfortable and unsafe. In reality, the state of the law in this area is nearly as clear-cut as the Obama Administration contends it is as Courts have ruled in the past that, among other things, current Federal laws such as Title IX may not apply to transgender students at all, meaning that changes would need to be made to those laws to provide them with the coverage that the Department of Education is claiming here. This Chicago case is just one example of similar cases that have popped up across the nation that have stirred up passions on both sides, and along with the forces that helped defeat the Houston initiative it’s unlikely to be the last.

It has been suggested that the law in Houston may have fared better if it didn’t include the provisions regarding gender identity, and it strikes me that this is probably accurate. Leaving aside the legitimate debate about how far the government’s ability to regulate private business actions that may be considered discriminatory, it strikes me that this assessment is probably correct. The campaign against the ordinance focused almost exclusively on the transgender issue to the exclusion of the other parts of the law, and that suggests that there may not even been a repeal attempt at all if the ordinance had left “gender identity” off of the list of protected classes completely.  At the very least, doing so, would have given HERO proponents a fairly substantial victory on other issues in the form of a broad anti-discrimination law in the most populous city in otherwide deeply Republican Texas.

While advocates likely will object to the idea of leaving one category off for the sake of political convenience largely because of public misunderstanding and prejudices based on missing or incomplete information, it strikes me that this would have been the proper way for those who favored the law to proceed.  For better or worse,  the entire issue of gender identity, gender dysphoria, or whatever one might call it, is one that remains very new for most Americans, including Americans of good faith. As I noted when Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn Jenner this summer, this is a subject that is hard for many people to understand unless it has impacted someone they care close to, and since the percentage of people that fall in this category seems to be much, much smaller than the percentage of the population that is gay or lesbian, it’s not surprising that people might react the way they do when issues about something like bathroom and shower use in a public school comes up. In that respect, dismissing it as a silly concern or something that is only confined to bigots misses the point. To a large degree, it’s a matter of not clearly understanding what is going on, which is a position I must admit that I often find myself when thinking about these issues dealing with gender identity. In that respect, it’s worth remembering that lack of information an unfamiliarity with people who fall int a certain category was a lot of what was at play in the past when it came to public perceptions of issues involving homosexuals. Therefore, the outcome of yesterday’s vote in Houston should be seen by those who advocate laws that are meant to protect the transgender community that they need to engage in education and outreach and that simply assuming the people opposed to your ideas are bigots isn’t going to accomplish anything but cause them to harden their position.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Modulo Myself says:

    I don’t understand that cartoon ad at all. The gay community who works out at Steve’s Gym is guarding bathrooms for the straights?

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  2. Modulo Myself says:

    Let’s not mention that the only legitimate fears occur for trans people, especially trans women who want to use women’s bathrooms and showers for their own physical safety. Physical safety for trans people is a joke though compared to the suffering of religious groups who issued a lawsuit and then were subpoenaed, which is unconstitutional. Or for some really straight Christian guy who can’t stop imagining in different angles and decors a trans woman showering. And let’s not even talk about the trials of Rod Dreher, who has built a wall made out of thrice-blessed oak around his community. Or he would have if it was not for the CFS which has him napping five hours a day.

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  3. grumpy realist says:

    Doug–typo in your posting:

    since the percentage of people that fall in this category seems to be much, much people than the percentage of the population that is gay or lesbian

    Yah it’s the inclusion of the transgender in there that caused problems. I guess I’m enough of an old fart that I, too, would prefer not to have someone with the outward characteristics of a male to show up in a woman’s bathroom. Mainly because it’s far more likely that it’s someone who is there for other much more unsavory reasons, such as looking for a vulnerable female to rape.

    I don’t know enough about transgenderism, but I always heard that being a transvestite/drag queen is usually totally unconnected to transgenderism. Which bathroom do transvestites use?

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  4. Slugger says:

    This is a cultural group identifier issue which often become extremely important to group solidarity no matter how things look to outsiders. I doubt that there have actually been many grandmoms in Houston that were endangered by M-to-F people. The danger is to the clade of like thinking people. The world is full of discrimination that even descends into violence between groups that you and I have trouble differentiating. Serb/Croat, Orange/Irish, Hutu/Tutsi, and many others. We need to find ways of expressing our similarities rather than our differences.
    In the interest of openness, I do admit that the bathrooms in my house are unisex.

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  5. Ron Beasley says:

    Houston is has become a blue city – they have had an openly gay major for 8 years. But I guess even in blue cities there is a limit.

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  6. Ron Beasley says:

    Houston is has become a blue city – they have had an openly gay major for 8 years. But I guess even in blue cities there is a limit.

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  7. Ron Beasley says:

    Houston is has become a blue city – they have had an openly gay major for 8 years. But I guess even in blue cities there is a limit.

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  8. Modulo Myself says:

    @grumpy realist:

    In my experience, there’s a lot of frumpy old farts who are trans out there. Caitlyn Jenner’s kind of an anomaly. They certainly aren’t like that guy in drag in the cartoon. I suspect if the ordinance happened with nobody noticing nobody would ever notice or care.

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  9. Davebo says:

    @grumpy realist:

    It’s not against the law for a transgender to go into a woman’s restroom in Houston now.

    It is against the law to assault someone.

    The entire restroom critique was a red herring to gin up opposition and frankly it was pretty smart as shown by the election results.

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  10. C. Clavin says:

    “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms”

    But I thought everyone in Texas was strapped? Wouldn’t more guns prevent this???

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  11. James Pearce says:

    If we’re not going to let them use the ladies’ room because they might be gross and assaulty, why would we consider letting them use the mens’ too?

    Here’s a bucket. There’s a bush. Do what you gotta do. If we’re going to do the humiliation thing, let’s go all the way.

    On a more serious note, it actually makes me sad that this issue was decided on something so petty. Apparently we’re going to need more unisex bathrooms…

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  12. David in KC says:

    I have a friend down in Houston that was livid at the ad campaign. His idea now is to organize transgendered men (women who identify as men) who have transitioned, or at least gone through hormone treatments, and pretty much look like men, to go enmass to very public and crowded venues and use the women’s rest room, as they are apparently supposed to do based on this vote. The citizens of Houston just said that they want them to do this, so they should. Let’s see how comfortable they are with the result of their ignorance and bigotry.

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  13. grumpy realist says:

    @David in KC: I@Davebo:

    Anyone who looks like a man showing up in a woman’s bathroom is going to be considered a potential problem. Given that this is Texas and there are a lot of guns there, you really, really don’t want to scare people–especially people who may be carrying, it seems to me.

    Most of the people posting here are male, and don’t seem to understand the fear of rape that we women have had drummed into us from an early age. Especially since we’re constantly told that it’s up to us to protect ourselves, not to walk in dark places, not to wear sexy clothing–and by the way, if we do anything that isn’t “prudent” at any point, whatever happens to us is our own fault.

    I remember walking into a woman’s bathroom at MIT, finding a guy asleep on the couch in the lounge. The jolt of fear was amazing. I immediately ran out and found someone from the Campus Police.

    Sorry, but it’s going to take a long time before male-looking people showing up in the women’s bathroom will be taken for granted. And the more that women are called “bigoted” for not accepting such people, the less support the transgenders are going to get.

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  14. Gustopher says:

    It wasn’t that long ago that gay people were as reviled as transgender people are, so there’s hope. But, I’m not sure what will make people more accepting — how much of our humor has traditionally been about a guy in a dress, or otherwise subverting gender roles?

    And it’s all kind of squicky when you think about the details. Knives near genitals scare me. All of the issues they face seem weird and alien to me, and difficult to empathize with.

    I’m pretty transphobic, but I support equal rights and I know this is my problem not theirs. I would have voted to support this law, and I think we should have something similar at a national level.

    Maybe that’s the approach the supporters of these laws should take — drive a wedge between the simple transphobia and the bigotry of acting on one’s transphobia.

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  15. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    And the more that women are called “bigoted” for not accepting such people, the less support the transgenders are going to get.

    Well, it is kind of bigoted to assume that “male-looking” people using the facilities are rapists. Most of the time, they’re just trying to relieve themselves.

    As I said before, I don’t want rapists in the mens either. If it’s about keeping our restrooms free of sexual predators, then that would be one thing. But it’s not about that. Not really.

    It’s about one group of people demanding sensitivities while denying those same sensitivities to another group of people.

    Everyone poops. And everyone wants to poop in a safe, private environment. Even the transgendered.

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  16. Franklin says:

    A few disconnected thoughts:

    1) I’ll admit it … I’m very slow coming around on this idea. Still not there. And I even have a friend that is transgender .

    2) This whole transgender discrimination probably isn’t going to change until more public figures (i.e. not just Caitlyn Jenner) appear, and/or more people realize that they know transgender people. Given the demographics, the latter seems unlikely to happen. Gay people have won rights because most people realized they know at least one, but the number of gay people dwarfs the number of transgender people – Googling suggests that somewhere between 3% and 20% (!!!) are gay, but only 0.3% are transgender.

    3) Transgender people who appear to be their identified gender can probably get away with using their preferred bathroom (assuming closed stalls), even where it’s not currently legal. I’m painfully aware that this is not ideal. I don’t have a solution that makes both transgender people and women comfortable at all times.

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  17. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Most of the people posting here are male, and don’t seem to understand the fear of rape that we women have had drummed into us from an early age.

    This.

    We still have a hideous violence-against-women problem to deal with. The violence against the transgendered is more focused, but the sheer number of women affected by rape and attempted rape overwhelms that.

    I feel for the plight of transgendered women, but I don’t see how we can start treating them (publicly) in all ways like women until women are reasonably safe from men.

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  18. Tony W says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Sorry, but it’s going to take a long time before male-looking people showing up in the women’s bathroom will be taken for granted.

    I think separation of the sexes into different bathrooms is the core problem here. If a public restroom could, at any time, have anybody walk in – that’s likely a safer environment than a women-only restroom.

    I read something yesterday from a transgendered individual who said that she has become so accustomed to people of all sexes in the restrooms in her community that she couldn’t believe this was still an issue in Houston. Apparently we’re on a journey and we’ll all become more comfortable with the idea if we can allow the process to take its course.

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  19. grumpy realist says:

    @Tony W: If we had unisex bathrooms and it was just stalls (no urinals), we’d probably get to the point of not caring pretty easily.

    No one seems to worry about the fact that toilets on airplanes aren’t segregated, because they’re all individual.

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  20. Tyrell says:

    @grumpy realist: I would add that most parents would be very concerned about locker – dressing rooms – showers in the middle and high schools. When I was in school, these were open, with little or no privacy. There is no way a school system can afford to construct privacy showers, changing stalls, etc.
    Restrooms are a little different. I have seen women come in the men’s room with a small child. That did not present a problem or big deal to the men, even though men’s restrooms are not very private.
    To require schools to build and remodel would be out of the question, unreasonable, and would take money that is needed for books, basic supplies, and upkeep. I have seen many a school that looks run down. One school here had no ac until three weeks after school started – 90 + degree days. The schools are strapped for money.

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  21. David in KC says:

    @grumpy realist: that’s my point, transgendered men should use the men’s bathroom, but Houston just said they can’t. It’s a shock value type thing to hopefully get people to the question their preconceptions on gender roles dentity. Hadn’t thought about the gun thing, so you are correct that there would be a safety concern.

    I just get pissed when a group uses ignorance and fear to put “those people” in their place and don’t understand the consequences. The number of down votes seems to indicate that the concept of people presenting as men being forced to use the women’s restroom somehow makes them uncomfortable but that’s what Houston said they need to do. Is it somewhat confrontational? Absolutely. But is it what they voted for? Yep. Never mind the fact that they threw all the protections out based on ignorance and fear of transgendered people.

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  22. Scott says:

    @Tony W: Having used unisex toilets in Japan (mostly out in the rural countryside) and open public urinals in France, to provide two examples, I just can’t get worked up about bathroom privacy issues. Here in the US, you would think that using the toilet is a sexual act.

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  23. Guarneri says:

    You have to admit. The GLBT community, and the government, would never overreach. Thats just silly.

    The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has ordered a taxpayer-funded school district in the suburbs of Chicago to allow a male transgender student who dresses like a girl and otherwise identifies as female to use the girls locker room and shower on school premises.

    The feds delivered the edict against Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Ill. on Monday, the Chicago Tribune reports.

    The Department of Education has given the school district one month to let the student use the girls locker room. If the district does not capitulate, it risks losing federal funding.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2015/11/03/feds-order-high-school-to-allow-boys-who-dress-as-girls-to-use-girls-shower-locker-room/#ixzz3qY9IBf2z

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  24. Modulo Myself says:

    @DrDaveT:

    You’re not wrong. Men are dangerous. But women are primarily unsafe around men who they know. This basic fact is pretty much fought tooth and nail by the same people who are busy defending the safety of women from trans women in public bathrooms. There’s a link between the inchoate fears of crazy predators and the same denial of actual male privilege.

    They also want to deny that a trans woman wants to be alone with women rather than men because she fears men as well. The sickness of the people who are busy defending the boundaries of women’s bathrooms is evident in the fact they care nothing for fears of violence trans people have. It doesn’t even occur to them. I hate the word ‘other’ but this is what happens when you ‘other’ everything.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    Out on the fringes of the Left a fight is brewing between various factions. Feminists not at all on-board with trans rights, white feminists arguing with black activists, liberal free speech types vs. PC types.

    There are many ways to screw up a battle. One is by failing to exploit an opening in the enemy’s line, and the other is by overextending as you exploit said opening. This was overreach. It was premature. The ground had not been prepared. The result in this case was a major loss by the LGBTQ population – not just a failure to advance and seize new ground, but a loss of territory already taken in earlier fights.

    Stupid generalship. I’m absolutely on the side of the LGBTQ folks but damn, people, learn some basic realities of politics. I am deeply sick of people who have their hearts in the right place and their heads up their asses.

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  26. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    There is no way a school system can afford to construct privacy showers, changing stalls, etc.

    I can tell you as a professional in the building industry that this is the way locker rooms get built today…LGBT or no.
    I haven”t built a girls shower in 15 years that wasn’t divided.
    They are essentially the same as toilet stalls…not prohibitively expensive at all.
    Next statement of fact not backed up by facts….

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  27. James Pearce says:

    @DrDaveT:

    We still have a hideous violence-against-women problem to deal with.

    What does that have to do with transgendered people using gendered facilities?

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  28. Ron Beasley says:

    When I moved to Munich,Germany in the late 60s I sill remember the shock of seeing female attendants in the men’s restroom. And you were supposed to give then a tip as well.

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  29. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    Half the time I’m nervous about the dudes in a public restroom with me. I’m 6’2′, 220.

    I think dismissing women’s concerns is a mistake, and one the pro forces should have expected and prepared themselves to deal with. I’ll bet you a dollar that a whole lot of women who are very much pro-gay nevertheless voted against this ordinance. A blind person should have been able to see how the anti people would attack this.

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  30. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    This was overreach. It was premature. The ground had not been prepared.

    What part of this was overreach?

    This was the ordinance that was repealed because there might be a boy in the girl’s bathroom.

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  31. JNick says:

    So, I’ve been a fairly long time reader of this blog and have decided that it’s time to come out of this closet too. The first read through of Dougs post made me want to post a rage and invective filled comment about what an ass he sounds like. After a little calm reflection I figured it would be better to try and bring enlightenment instead of invective. So, If anyone wants to ask, I’m here, I’m Trans, and I refuse to be stuck in the closet.

    A bit of background about me: I’m 37 years old and am genetically male. I’ve know since I was a kid that I was different. These differences made me suicidal as a teenager and chronically afraid as an adult. I’ve worked very hard at understanding who and what I am. And I’m pretty happy with myself. I’m pretty crappy at being male, and I’m getting better at being female. I can tell you though, when I go out as female, I spend a inordinate amount of time worrying I’m going to get harassed or get beaten or worse. The bathroom issue for me is incredibly personal. I use the bathroom of the gender I’m current presenting as. It might be tough for you to imagine, but this is frequently an ordeal. I despise being painted as a pervert or a rapist simply because I’m different.

    I was born this way. To me, the anti-Trans people are frequently bigots. Not because they don’t know, but because they refuse to accept that this is a normal part of who I am and because they would deny my existence out of spite or intolerance.

    So, here I am. I’ll do my best to enlighten, but I refuse to be forced into the closet so that other people can remain comfortably ignorant.

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  32. Moderate Mom says:

    Houston’s mayor had a chance to avoid all of this by withdrawing the public accommodations clause from the ordinance, only as it applied to transgendered people with respect to public restrooms and locker rooms. No dice, she refused to back down an inch. In Julia Robert’s words in Pretty Woman, “big mistake, big, huge”. Now, because of her stubbornness, all of the other protections included in the ordinance no longer apply.

    Sometimes, small bites are better than trying to gorge yourself all at once. Perhaps the next Mayor of Houston can get an something passed that won’t upset over 60% of voters. And as a side note, once again the polling was very, very wrong. As it was in the Kentucky Governor’s race. Why is polling so inaccurate these days?

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  33. JNick says:

    Now, because of her stubbornness, all of the other protections included in the ordinance no longer apply.

    So, your argument is, because we are such a small part of the population, we should remain unprotected because it is politically expedient. We should sit back, take our punishment like a model minority until maybe someone deigns to stop the beatings/harassment/evictions/firings/murders. No thanks. What the mayor did wasn’t politically expedient and it had a downside, but it was the right thing to do.

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  34. grumpy realist says:

    @JNick: Well, because of the push too far, nobody ended up with any protection. Is this really any better? Whereas if they had put in the stuff about bathrooms, at least you as a transsexual would be protected against getting fired from your job for being trans.

    You’ve made the perfect the enemy of the good, as the saying goes.

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  35. jd says:

    Transgender people gave the gay rights movement a huge boost when they kicked off the Stonewall riots… and they’ve been left behind ever since. PFLAG, the national LGBTQ support organization has sworn never again the support legislation that leaves gender identity and expression out. That’s just the right thing to do.

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  36. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Well, because of the push too far, nobody ended up with any protection.

    The “push too far?”

    The ordinance, as the article states was “similar to those approved in 200 other cities and prohibited bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

    Also from the article:

    Opponents said the measure would allow men claiming to be women to enter women’s bathrooms and inflict harm

    It’s somewhat sad to see you and Michael not only buy into that argument while also referring to the repealed ordinance as “over reach” or a “push too far.”

    What have you guys been reading this morning?

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  37. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    @JNick:

    When the good guys get their asses kicked – as we did here – it’s fine to rage against the bigots, but that doesn’t move the ball. Principled defeat is still defeat.

    My son identifies as genderqueer, he’s an activist on the whole range of LGBTQ issues, and in fact as a high school kid (freshman year IIRC) pushed through changes in language in the county school system as relates to trans folk. I say the same thing to him I say here: there’s emotion, there’s what’s right, and then there’s actually getting what you want.

    The fact that the anti arguments were scare-mongering, based on pure bigotry in many cases, misinformation in others, is relevant to how we may feel, but none of that excuses self-inflicted wounds. Battles are not won by whining or by denial. Clearly the ground was not prepared. Clearly effective media was not prepared. Clearly the good guys did not anticipate the direction and force of the counter-attack.

    Now in Houston it’s back to square one. One battle is not the war, unless you let it be.

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  38. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Clearly the ground was not prepared. Clearly effective media was not prepared. Clearly the good guys did not anticipate the direction and force of the counter-attack.

    Maybe.

    The ground could have been prepared. The good guys could have anticipated the counter-attacks.

    And it wouldn’t have mattered if allies started going, “Yeah, that bathroom stuff….that’s a good point.”

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  39. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    I don’t think it’s a question of saying, “Yeah, you all have a point about bathrooms,” I think the point might rather have been that less-differentiated bathrooms are common in Europe, and in several US cities, and don’t seem to have led to large numbers of bathroom rapes by men in drag.

    More generally, one Amazon show about a trans character and the Jenner sideshow are not enough to shift public opinion overnight. It took a lot of work to move the SSM debate from ‘no way’ to ‘sure, why not?’ The average American (let alone Texan, for God’s sake) doesn’t even know what a trans person is. People know now that gays aren’t just guys parading in assless chaps in the inevitable local TV coverage, but are more likely to be Cam and Mitchell from Modern Family, or Ellen DeGeneres.

    This is probably a four year fight in Houston, if the pro forces start doing the work. They should start by collecting data from US cities which have similar ordinances in place. It can’t be about ‘we deserve,’ or ‘isn’t it time?’ alone, it’s very useful to have data, appeals to reason as well as fairness.

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  40. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: Which is why the progressive side should have gone to the other side and said:” ok, now what can we put in here to make women feel safe and also be reasonable.”

    I realize that most on the conservative side would be much happier if people such as gays and transsexuals stop existing all together, but they can’t really say that, can they?

    So you take the supposed thing they’re bitching about, fix it, and then you’ve taken the football away from them.

    Which might have meant some sort of silly-goose regulation such as “people who look like members of the opposite sex can’t use opposite-sex bathrooms.” Which would have been probably thrown out in the law courts because of indefiniteness, anyway.

    You’ve got to think in terms of stories. The problem is, the story told by the other side was of a 6’4″ leering Peeping Tom with armpit hair sufficient to choke wolverines barging into the women’s room, yelling” I claim I’m a woman and you can’t keep me out!” while your 90-year old granny is in there.

    Just whining “but keeping transsexual women out of the ladies’ room isn’t FAIR!” isn’t going to be good enough. You’re going to have to find some way to allow actual transsexuals in while keeping the Peeping Tom out.

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  41. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: In fact, Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner may have set the whole transsexual thing BACK by several years.

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  42. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It took a lot of work to move the SSM debate from ‘no way’ to ‘sure, why not?’ The average American (let alone Texan, for God’s sake) doesn’t even know what a trans person is.

    The transgender stuff is a dodge.

    Did you read the language of the HERO? You don’t have to read the whole thing to get the sense that it’s bigger than transgendered people and bathrooms.

    Opponents latched onto that angle for the “ew” factor. It’s visceral and cheap. And total BS.

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  43. bill says:

    this is really nonsense, you either have “man” parts or you don’t- that’s why we have separate bathrooms and such. i don’t really care if some chick wants to pop a squat in the men’s john, good on her for subjecting herself to that rather than hold it…. but do women want some hairy assed dude in their johns? i doubt it, really do.
    so now we need some laws to “protect” people who’d rather “act” like the opposite sex…..gimme a break. oh, don’t bother with the “identifies as…” bs- trannes are trannies and bruce jenner is a guy in dress,

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  44. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: And it worked.

    That’s what Mike and I are patiently trying to explain. You have to fight this like a war, complete with strategy and Plan Bs and make never ever to be too far out in front of your troops–or in this case, the American populace.

    Transsexuals aren’t going to be considered “the harmless person next door” when the first thing people think when they hear transsexual is “Caitlyn Jenner.” They’re going to think “total fruitcake.”

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  45. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist: @michael reynolds: Meet Bill, guys.

    I’m sure his mind will change if you tell him a story or try to reason with him…

    Me, I’ve given up on that crap. I’d rather just prevail.

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  46. t says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’d rather just prevail.

    they’ll die off soon enough.

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  47. James Pearce says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Transsexuals aren’t going to be considered “the harmless person next door” when the first thing people think when they hear transsexual is “Caitlyn Jenner.”

    Once again, the transgendered angle is a dodge. It’s a ruse. It’s a honeypot designed to snare suckers.

    Before you patiently try to explain to me anything else, please just look at the ordinance that was repealed.

    This whole thing was repealed, and not because liberals didn’t do their homework, not because they over-reached, not because we need to do a better job of convincing the Bills of the world they need to be more reasonable.

    No it was repealed because the terms of the debate revolved around transgendered bathroom usage and, apparently, our fellow Americans just aren’t “ready” for that yet.

    Pwned.

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  48. Grewgills says:

    @grumpy realist:
    Think about the fear you felt on seeing that man in the restroom. That is the fear felt by many transgenger people whenever they see anyone they don’t know. Will this person freak and assault me verbally or physically because of what I look like/who I am? The ads in Houston exploit this and make that problem worse.

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  49. Slugger says:

    I went to a Melissa Ethridge concert a few years ago. The inbalance in the audience led to several women of the flannel shirt wearing variety to come into the men’s facility while several cisgendered XY chromosone humans including me were standing at the urinals. They grabbed the sit down option cubicles. No one got hurt. No one got sneered at. Bladders got emptied. I am pretty sure that the number of grandmoms assaulted or even offended by M to F humans in Houston is equal to the number who died of Ebola. None of this is about any objective risks. This is about the shrinking power of middle class, white Americans whose incomes are stagnant and are no longer the central focus of our politics. This is how they fight back.

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  50. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Just a quick comment:

    Transgender is an adjective not a noun. A person is not “a transgender.”

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  51. JNick says:

    Battles are not won by whining or by denial. Clearly the ground was not prepared. Clearly effective media was not prepared. Clearly the good guys did not anticipate the direction and force of the counter-attack.

    I would say that this battle was won by the Anti’s by whining and denial. With a good mix of lies and bigotry. It has nothing to do with feelings or whining to say that one group should go unprotected so that other people can be protected. It’s not right and it does a disservice to all of us. Why should our rights depend on people like Bill who will not be reasoned with, who will continue to deny our existence and will threaten and harass us based on lies.

    So you take the supposed thing they’re bitching about, fix it, and then you’ve taken the football away from them.

    The problem with this is, it’s all lies. This doesn’t happen. Period. No straight men are putting on dresses to go hang out in women’s bathrooms. It’s such a crushing lie. You can tell it’s a lie because idiots like Huckabee go on about how they would have done it, haw haw haw. But they never have.

    Transsexuals aren’t going to be considered “the harmless person next door” when the first thing people think when they hear transsexual is “Caitlyn Jenner.” They’re going to think “total fruitcake.”

    For what it’s worth, I’m proud of Caitlyn. I know there’s a lot of baggage and poor choices associated with her that shouldn’t be hand waved away. Regardless, it takes a lot of courage to finally kick that closet door out. Her coming out was partly responsible for me coming out to some heavy duty Republican friends of mine. It went quite well actually.

    People need to know we exist. People need to be forced to reconcile that gender is not as binary as they’d like it to be. We need to have prominent people like Caitlyn Jenner, RuPaul Charles, Leverne Cox and even Chelsea Manning, putting themselves out there. Even if some of them aren’t the heroes and icons we’d want to be associated with. We need to make sure people like Gwen Araujo and Brandon Teena aren’t forgotten. If we put ourselves out there, if we make ourselves known, our existence and our right to be can’t be denied.

    To a large degree, it’s a matter of not clearly understanding what is going on, which is a position I must admit that I often find myself when thinking about these issues dealing with gender identity.

    This is the battle that needs to be won. Houston was a set back, but that’s all it is.

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  52. Monala says:

    @James Pearce: I’ve been a woman spotting a man in the women’s room twice in my life. The first time, I thought it was funny. The second time, I was concerned.

    #1: Prom night. My date and I and another couple are at a restaurant, and I excuse myself to use the ladies’ room. A man is in already in there, zipping up. He and I spot each other, we both scream, and we both run out of there.

    I return to my table laughing, and tell my friends that a man stepped into the wrong restroom. As I tell my story, we hear the same story being told by the man, who is sitting at the adjacent table with a date. All of us at both tables look at one another and fall out laughing. Got to hand it to the guy that he was willing to share the story with his date, and he could laugh at himself (since the lack of urinals didn’t tip him off).

    #2. A few years ago, I was attending a birthday party at a skating rink for my young niece. An older man is in the women’s room, changing a doll’s diaper near the sinks. We’re in a place with dozens and dozens of young kids around, and this guy has a friggin’ doll in the ladies’ room. It looked to me like a pedophile trying to attract a kid, so I go immediately to alert security.

    They come and check him out, and let me know this, “He’s here with his granddaughter, and she had to use the restroom. She was scared to go by herself. When she went in, she told him her dolly needed to go to, so asked him to change the diaper.”

    My opinion: Best solution? Single stall restrooms. Best solution where you need more bathroom capacity? A men’s room, a women’s room, and one private, single stall restroom for whomever doesn’t feel comfortable in either of the first two (including those who are transgender, and parents or guardians accompanying a young child of the opposite gender).

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  53. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    My son identifies as genderqueer,

    I honestly am only a little sure I know what that means, as it’s a new word that we just didn’t have when I learned about gender. But, what it does tell me is this — right now we identify 0.3% of the population as transgender, but that statistic is almost certainly missing a large number of gender-role-non-conforming individuals, and when we start acknowledging them, we will hit the spot that the gay rights movement hit a few years ago — most people know someone who is affected.

    The transgendered people are the tip of the iceberg. They are the people who cannot hide it, and who cannot just fit in as “the sensitive guy” or “the tomboy” or some other socially acceptable spot in the gender spectrum. Once more people identify as genderqueer, and the countless other categories, I think things will change faster than people expect, and rights for transgender people will happen, even in Texas.

    Anyway, your kid is doing great things just by being out. (and the commenter above too).

    I don’t understand the transgender, and anyone having that degree of a need to associate with one gender that they have to change their bodies honestly scares me a little. But I do try to be out as bisexual (go on, try to make it obvious in a society that assumes everyone is straight or gay based on who they are involved with at the moment) and having mental illness (anxiety problems, not scary, just kind of annoying) to reduce the stigma of each. I don’t understand the underlying condition, but I absolutely understand the struggle.

    Your son, and JNick above, are doing important things. They’re awesome.

    (That said, I feel like pointing out that as I was writing this, I was enjoying the view of the very gender-conforming bottom of a bartender… There’s a very strong desire to say “I like my women to be women and my men to be about half my age!” Perhaps the next generation will be better)

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  54. KM says:

    @JNick :

    The problem with this is, it’s all lies. This doesn’t happen. Period. No straight men are putting on dresses to go hang out in women’s bathrooms. It’s such a crushing lie. You can tell it’s a lie because idiots like Huckabee go on about how they would have done it, haw haw haw. But they never have.

    True facts. One of the things that distinguishes masculinity in our culture is what they wear/ accessorize with. See all the teasing a guy gets for holding a women’s purse, if he uses hand lotion or if they decide silk is more comfortable for their boys then itchy cotton boxers. These things have been declared feminine and a male that engages in their use gets looked down on as “acting like a chick.” Cis-males tend to subscribe to this cultural identity (whether or not they actually exemplify it) to the point where putting on heels is a bar bet and Rush Week at frats makes pledges were pretty frilly things in public to add to the humiliation.

    Think about the average cis guy you know. Is he really going to affect or imitate femininity to go into a bathroom on the slim chance he’ll see some leg for a cheap thrill? Because that’s all he’s really going to get – we don’t walk around naked in there, men! In an age of Twitter, Snapchat and the vagrancies of the Internet, is a horny teen going to risk wandering in to see some boob in a locker room and have his pic splattered all over the world for his buddies to mock when he can just look up porn?

    And if the guy really was a rapist, the fact that a women’s bathroom is rarely empty for long means the chance of discovery is way way too high. There’s a reason why it’s not a preferred stalking ground now, even late at night. Predators hunt where there’s a chance for success, remember.

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  55. Rory Lee says:

    @James Pearce: Right, but see, testosterone makes men much stronger than women, and if you were exposed to it in puberty, you have a permanent strength advantage.

    I think what Grumpy Realist is trying to get at–and I echo–is not that trans people are all rapists. What she’s trying to get at is that it wouldn’t be that hard for rapists to impersonate trans people, because there’s no way to look at someone and see if they feel like women or men inside their head. If men who have transitioned to women have a right to use the restroom, that right will also be available to men who haven’t transitioned, but are just dressing as women for nefarious purposes. There is no legal way that authorities can single out folks and say they’re not “really trans” when they head into the locker room or the women’s room, because they would lose the liability suit when the first actual trans person who still looked fairly male sued.

    And since if you’re a woman, you’ve spent all your adult life knowing that the testosterone advantage makes you almost helpless if an average or even below average male wants to subdue you in a deserted place, the idea of going into a place which is designed to be out of the public eye with strange men is kind of scary. Not *trans women*; strange men who can say they’re trans if anyone challenges them.

    This may be why most–not all, but most–of the folks I’ve seen writing columns or comments saying “get over yourself” or “the only people facing real threats are trans women” seem to be guys. Maybe the fear is overblown, maybe there are reasons to think that this isn’t a danger, but it’s not crazy for women to be afraid of being alone with folks who have been exposed to large amounts of testosterone.

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  56. KM says:

    @Rory Lee :

    it’s not crazy for women to be afraid of being alone with folks who have been exposed to large amounts of testosterone.

    It’s not crazy but it’s also somewhat self-defeatist and alarmist. It’s a concern, something to be wary of but it’s not the OMG ahhhh!!!! fear that’s being touted as much as the Get Over It! attitude is. Everyone should be concerned for their safety but this whole thing was designed to trigger a fear response that’s really beyond the pale.

    Testosterone isn’t a magic thing that automatically means a women will lose in a confrontation. I and other woman in this country regularly take classes were our opponents are men – bigger, stronger, more muscular and with a weight advantage – and kick their asses. Even a relatively weak woman can prevail in a confrontation so long as she (1) knows what to do, (2) takes advantage of opportunities and (3) doesn’t panic. Self-defense classes are geared with this in mind – escape rather then aggress, weak points rather then a punch to the face.

    It’s easier to appeal to fear then it is to caution. Women should be cautious in daily life – so should children, the elderly, males, trans, etc. We should teaching everyone how to defend themselves so they have the confidence to know they can at least put up a fight, if not outright win. Fear is the mind killer and the notion that your body is a weapon, not something to be violated is incredibly empowering.

    that it wouldn’t be that hard for rapists to impersonate trans people

    Does this happen now? I’m serious – can someone please cite me some cases where this occurs? I’ve been using women’s rooms all my life and this has never happened to my knowledge. I’ve encountered and helped arrested pedophiles lingering outside looking for children but they didn’t try to pretend they were trans as an excuse to be there. Male peepers don’t claim they’re going to sue now when busted so why in the world do we think they will start?

    This feels like “people marrying dogs” fallacy. Unless you can prove it’s a probability and not a what-if, it’s scaremongering.

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  57. James Pearce says:

    @Rory Lee: I’m not here to say that women have nothing to fear from evil men lurking in the ladies room. I’m here to say that using the fear of evil men lurking in the ladies room to strike down an equal rights ordinance that applies to jobs, housing, etc. is rather stupid.

    Consider: the effect of the law would not be more sexual assaults in bathrooms, but rather less discrimination.

    As KM says, scare tactics.

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  58. Grewgills says:

    If the goal of the people sponsoring the repeal and making these rather odious commercials was to protect women, then the initiative could have been much more narrow. They could have put forward an ordinance to specifically address the bathroom (non)issue without stripping protections from all of the other classes of people protected by the law. They didn’t attempt to craft a narrow law because that wasn’t their goal. They are just opportunistic bigots that seized on ignorant people being skeeved out by transsexuals. These are the same people that don’t want homosexual teachers because they’ll ‘convert’ the children.

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  59. DrDaveT says:

    @KM:

    Does this happen now? I’m serious – can someone please cite me some cases where this occurs? I’ve been using women’s rooms all my life and this has never happened to my knowledge.

    Why would it happen now? There would be no advantage to the rapist until society recognizes a legitimate reason for people with male equipment to be in women’s restrooms.

    Suppose you made a law that said handicapped parking places are available for use either by the handicapped (with legally-issued license plate or mirror tag) or military veterans. How long do you think it would take for every handicapped spot to be taken by some random able-bodied non-veteran who realizes that you can’t tell a veteran from anyone else by sight? It’s the same principle.

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  60. KM says:

    @DrDaveT :

    advantage to the rapist

    Uh Dave? If we run with your handicapped parking analogy, people park in those spots all the damn time regardless of their personal status and will lie or be belligerent when confronted. This is a known phenom – where the known phenom of rapists claiming to be trans? Legality be damned, you’ve probably passed at least 2 handicapped violators on the way to work this morning. You don’t think a potential rapist, about to get slapped with a jail sentence, won’t scream out “Trans!” and involve the ACLU right now because it’s not “legal”? I don’t get why you think they won’t try to get out of a criminal sentence using any effort now, including becoming a media darling for their “persecution”. People try all kinds of nutty excuses (successful or not) when confronted in their wrongdoing so why isn’t this a prevalent defense now? Honest to God, if a male is really interested in forcing a woman against her will, do you think a little styled sign on the door is magically keeping them out? This isn’t happening now and you have no proof it will happen later other then base fearmongering.

    If we run with the idea that someone able to legally use something is crowding out or inconveniencing another group legally allowed to use the same facility, then that’s an infrastructure problem. Build more spots or restructure how they are designated… or in the OP case, more bathrooms or go to single stall version. This is kinda incongruous though because the number of trans people is far less then the female population in total so it would be more like veterans of a specific military operation with a specific medal can park there if their car is yellow. The possibility of running across a trans person in the bathroom is vanishingly small consider their percentage of the population, begin in the same building as you, need to pee at the same time as you, being noticeably not-female to an average observer, etc

    Again, as a female (and thus one who would have to deal with this) you guys are coming up with hypotheticals that frankly are ridiculous. I’m far more likely to encounter a rapist on the street, in Walmart, hell even at work then I am in a random bathroom. I have to worry about dark alleys, parking lots and places where I am alone. Now you want me to fear bathrooms? If you’re really that damn concerned, legally require panic buttons to be installed in every bathroom stall in America so that it can assuage everyone’s fears and we can get back to pooping in peace. All I care about is if they’re pre-op that our trans sisters please put the damn lid down when your done, thanks. I have encountered only one lady I suspected of being trans in my entire bathroom-using life and at the time all that registered was her lipstick was a nice shade and I wanted to know who made it. Normal bathroom chatter ensued and I left with the name and no negative effects whatsoever.

    Women need to be concerned about legitimate potential threats to their persons. This is not one of them.

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