Voters in Houston soundly defeated the proposed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which would have broadly expanded LGBT (and other) anti-discrimination protections, with 39 percent voting “yes” and 61 percent saying “no.”
The measure would have prohibited bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. But, as the Texas Tribune reports, opponents successfully framed the measure as a “bathroom ordinance,” since it presumably would have allowed transgender individuals who have not undergone gender reassignment surgery to use the public restrooms that they felt were appropriate to their gender identity, which transgender people often point to as a challenge. That opened the door for this:
Outside of polling places, signs read “NO Men in Women’s Bathrooms.” And television ads bankrolled by opponents depicted a young girl being followed into a bathroom stall by a mysterious older man.
The challenges faced by transgender people are great, and restroom accommodation is among them. Since people don’t typically walk around public restrooms naked (and they do have stalls, after all), the opposition seems on the hysterical side, but it was obviously effective.
On the other hand, there are cases involving locker rooms where people do get naked, which raise more difficult issues. This week, for instance, the U.S. Department of Education found that a Chicago suburban high school district discriminated against a transgender student who has not undergone gender reassignment surgery, and gave the school a month to provide her with full access to girls’ locker rooms or lose federal funding.
The school district had “provided the student with a separate changing facility outside the locker room and installed privacy curtains on stalls in one locker room out of the three that she uses for physical education, swimming and athletics programs, according to the federal government’s findings.” No matter; the ACLU and transgender activists considered that accommodation separate and unequal (because the race analogy applies to everything) and sued.
This is not an isolated case; other transgender suits have involved swimming pool locker rooms and saunas. But the focus here on mixed-anatomy nudity among public school minors seems particularly incendiary.
When gender identity and physical anatomy conflict, pushing the fight to nudity in locker rooms—including in high schools—is the kind of tactic that provokes a broader backlash under which reasonable demands get lumped and fought.
Might it be, in fact, a reasonable compromise for those who are transgender but have not made a full transition to use gender-neutral single facilities for changing and showering?
More. The Washington Post on Why Houston’s gay rights ordinance failed:
But as much as HERO’s proponents decried the vote, the proposition was rejected by a decisive majority of the citizens of the nation’s fourth-largest city. Turnout was strong among white conservatives and African Americans — demographics likely to oppose the measure….
Many in the protected classes under the ordinance, including race and age, are already covered by federal anti-discrimination laws. LGB&Ts are not.
This helped opponents characterize the bill as if it were just about transgender bathroom use. And that, I believe, was itself an encapsulation of pent-up reaction to a range of LGBT advances, from the legal recognition of same-sex marriage to the perceived persecution of conservative Christian small business owners who don’t want to provide services to same-sex weddings.
Furethermore. I usually agree with columnist Steve Chapman, but he comes down on the other side of the locker room controversy, writing:
What does that leave? Either treating Student A as a girl for all purposes, as the government insists, or for all purposes but one, as the school district has chosen….
If the district is serious about privacy, it can offer more spaces that cater to the needs of modesty. It might also post signs stating a locker room rule that most kids already know: Keep your eyes to yourself.
Maybe that works in some places (Chapman cites, approvingly, a local newspaper’s survey of students at two suburban Chicago high schools), but there are times when penises in the girls’ locker room (or womens’ locker rooms, regarding public pools and saunas) is going to be a legitimate issue, and not just among “bigots.”
And certainly a political issue. Via the conservative Weekly Standard:
There is a lesson in this, especially for Republicans. The left is in the process of overreaching on an issue that the average voter cares about, deeply. People might be able to rationalize supporting same-sex marriage by telling themselves that, even if it’s not their thing, it makes no difference to them what gay couples do. But if you’re a woman using the locker room at the gym, it might matter quite a lot if a man who says he’s a woman on the inside is using the shower next to you. …
We have reached a bizarre moment in our politics, where the “progressive” left resists having conservative speakers on a college campus because they make students feel “unsafe,” but insists that boys who identify as girls be allowed to shower with girls in the public schools, and misgivings must be educated away, or litigated into submission.
And from The Federalist:
When liberal Houston — a city with a three-term lesbian mayor — overwhelming rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance for the transgendered (among others), a hysterical New York Times editorial accused voters of being transphobic hate mongers with blood on their hands.