Bathroom Battles: Scaremongering Abounds About Transgender Public Restroom Usage

Categories: Cover Story

cs-HEROprotest.jpg
Photo by Aaron Reiss
Religious and conservative opposition to HERO led to large organized protests. Earlier, similar ordinances in Houston education and law enforcement went almost completely unchallenged.

The gentle, scholarly air that had accompanied the debate in HISD was not to be found at the HERO meetings. The opponents were great in number, and most meetings focused entirely on the specter of the danger presented by expanding the rights of the transgender community. Religious leaders condemned the mayor in apocalyptic language, warning of Sodom-and-Gomorrah-like atrocities should the law go forward. Eastman and Stipeche found the language and attitude appalling in contrast to their own meetings in HISD.

"It's sad to see what people are doing to repeal something that should be so elemental," says Stipeche. "We have laws against sexual predators and criminals. We enforce those codes and laws. HERO is talking about discrimination. Protections against discrimination based on a whole laundry list of things that could be used against people. Religious belief, military service, etc. Yeah, gender identity and expression is in there, too, but the overarching aim is discrimination. It's a much broader discussion."

Eastman added, "I have to say when I was sitting there, and you hear people angry and shouting and chanting, it was alarming. I don't understand the outrage. Essentially, to me it's not doing anything to anyone else to say we're not going to accept discrimination. I'm embarrassed and sad by that."

Both board members are worried that the angry rhetoric surrounding the passage of HERO may spill back on HISD after their testimony regarding the positive effect an expanded nondiscrimination policy has had in the district. Since 2011, Eastman has had exactly one parent in the entire district even question the policy to her. Just one, and that parent accepted Eastman's assertion that HISD's policy was aimed at protecting the maximum number of students.

"I would meet with politicians, and they would tell me, 'Look, I'm not against this, but my constituents don't understand,'" Eastman says. "We have to use the tools we have. Perspective and times change. All these things they're so afraid of aren't actually going to happen."

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A deeper look at the cases of transgender sexual predation reported by the Alliance Defending Freedom reveals the level of fearmongering and distortion that surrounds the issue of where transgender people can and cannot go without fear of harassment and discrimination. For instance, the group's report mentions "a high school girls' swim team that was subjected to a man who identifies as a woman sprawling naked in their locker room, exposing his genitals to them," and dutifully links to a legitimate news story that was reported by Todd Starnes of FOX News Radio regarding the incident, which occurred in 2012 at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

The story was seen as a perfect example of how a ban on discrimination against gender identity would lead to harm, as Washington state added language to that effect to the Washington State Law Against Discrimination in 2006. Yet had anyone bothered to speak to Todd Sprague, the Executive Director of College Relations at Evergreen, as Cristan Williams of The TransAdvocate had done, more facts might have come to light.

The offender, a 45-year-old student of the college, Colleen Francis, had not, as reported, infiltrated the locker room of a young girls' swim team to brazenly brandish her male genitalia at them. Instead, she and a biologically female friend were using the sauna together, an area that was completely closed off and not open to the 17-year-old students who would have had to deliberately go there and peek in to see the two women. Both Francis and her friend were covered with towels as they both entered and left the sauna, and according to Sprague, it was a single occurrence in 2012, not an ongoing display of nudity in the presence of minors.

The lists that ADF presents in its analysis and the testimony in opposition to HERO focus almost exclusively on the fear that men -- or at least penises -- are seeking new avenues to enable rape or assault. In almost no case does anyone seem to bring up the actions of transmen or overly worry about where such folks go to the bathroom.

Lou Weaver, a 45-year-old transman and activist in Houston, has a theory on that.

"I think it's more of an issue in society that women are taught to be fearful," says Weaver. "In the 1960s we said things like 'We can't have black men around white women because they can't be trusted.' In the '80s it was homosexuals because they are baby molesters. Now we're doing the same thing to a new group we don't understand. We play the fear game, and we control people through hate and fear."

When Weaver began transitioning from female to male many years ago, he noticed that his main problem was using women's restrooms while he was still more physically female than male. Almost stereotypically butch and proud of it, Weaver received many sidelong glances, both disgusted and fearful, whenever he would enter the restroom consistent with his birth gender.

But all that disappeared when he began entering the men's room. "I'm a fairly out and visible transperson," says Weaver. "I'm a pretty privileged person. I'm a Caucasian man. No one really gives a shit where I go to the bathroom. No one in the men's room is thinking I'm going to rape them."


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16 comments
HatersWillLose
HatersWillLose

More hate from Houston's Kool Aid drinking Christian Taliban Preachers Association. All the mega church morons and Second Baptist Busy Bodies joined up with the hateful Hispanic holy rollers and the really shortsighted (we got our civil rights, *F you gays!) African American religious goon squad with all their fancy mail order titles like Bishop/ Apostle/ Preacher/Reverend/Dr, etc. to make up more lies and hate about the special people that their/our  GOD created.  - Gays, Lesbians, Transgender ed, etc. 


These crowd is embarrassing to our diverse community. They are hateful, homophobic, unchristian, and evil. They contribute to GLBT youth homelessness and suicide with their constant hatred.  They are the reason American kids are running from the Church (read the Pew Report, idiots) 


I think that God has a very special plan and place for them all. 

sexikelli.rlc
sexikelli.rlc

Most children who suffer from gender identity disorder do not grow up to be transgender but become homosexual and bisexual adolescents and adults instead", according to Olson.


I would like to see the actual data on this.  Gender Identity and Sexual Attraction are two entirely different subjects which she seems to tie together in one sentence.  Makes me question the validity of any conclusion she is making.


There are transgender women who are still attracted to women only.  Personally I do not know any transgender men attracted to men, but I am sure there are some.  Many become heterosexual in their new gender. To generalize that most children who do not go through with gender transition but have the Gender Identity disorder become homosexual or bisexual is incorrect and sets stereotypes that are hard to overcome.  Many still stay attracted to the opposite sex of their birth gender.  Where is this coming from?

emilydt
emilydt

So wait, was it the drummer or bass player she was with??

Schitt.C.Rumpney
Schitt.C.Rumpney

Here's what makes me laugh at these prejudiced "opposers":   they 'aint' scared to pull out the DAIRY UNITS right in the middle of a mall or shopping center or even a 'Targets',  imposing on OUR RIGHTS to not want to see their over-the-shoulder-boulders stretching while we are trying to enjoy a lunchbreak!



The laugh comes in when "they" claim 'their' rghts are imposed' just because theres a unisex bathroom!  These restrooms already exists!  If you dont like to use it,  then hold it long enuff to go to a different place!   This is a diverse world - get used to it!

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

I genuinely don't understand why anyone cares about this; it's not a big deal. Just mind your own business especially in the bathroom.

eric
eric

@HatersWillLose  And you call them hateful?  Wow, your post was one of the most hateful I can recall.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@HatersWillLose They think that by slapping on some skinny jeans, the kids will come back. Look at that young bigot featured in these pages recently, it was funny/pathetic how he tried to gussy up the old-school bigotry with a "cool" facade.

JefWithOneF
JefWithOneF topcommenter

@emilydt She was with her drummer. She is the vocalist and bass player

_____
_____

@bdamages After reading the article, "hateful or abusive content" sounds about right.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@bdamages That Gavin guy is as skeezy as you can get. Started at vice and now does the rounds of red eye, the depressing late night show on fox news.

madmabel
madmabel

@gossamersixteen They use fear and ignorance because these are the only weapons they have.


What the citizens of Houston need to know is that laws similar to HERO have been in effect for many years in many places.  Minneapolis was the first, outlawing discrimination in 1975.  In all that time there have been NO instances of a man cross-dressing to invade the lady's room.


NONE.  If such were to ever occur existing laws making the things they predict have been sufficient for many years.


The effort to overturn HERO is just a way of trying to make prejudice law.

h_e_x
h_e_x

@JefWithOneF @bdamages No one is paid to provide the solipsistic, navel gazing content at though catalog. Seriously, they put out some of the worst crap on the internet, and I'm including 4chan on that list.

bdamages
bdamages

@h_e_x @bdamages Apparently he was an owner of Vice and was bought out for enough money that he doesn't give a damn,  More interesting to me is that we seem to have arrived at a place where any public discussion suggesting there's something seriously wrong about being "trans" makes one a pariah. 

h_e_x
h_e_x

@bdamages @h_e_x I think it's about time it happened. Vilifying transgender people is nothing new, and the fact that they are becoming more accepted is a wonderful sign of progress, because it means that more people are being treated with the dignity that every person deserves.

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