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Hilarious #HoustonProp1 polling moment = not so funny the morning after election

Here's me in a ladies room. Welcome, deviants!
Voting early in Houston’s bond election last week, my husband and I ran the gauntlet of electioneers outside our polling place, including two guys who held up cap-shouting yard signs: “NO MEN IN THE WOMEN’S BATHROOM! VOTE NO ON PROP 1!”

Skewing Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) as the “Bathroom Ordinance” was the latest ultra-conservative pitch for preserving their sacred right to hate on LGBT folks. The ordinance in no way authorizes men to use the ladies room. None of this is about the ladies room. Or the men’s room. It’s about the straw man’s room.

One of the guys said to me, “We appreciate your vote, ma’am. We’re working to keep you safe!”

“Who’ll keep us safe from the bigots?” I said. He gave me a grin and a big thumbs up, not understanding.

I waited in line, cast my ballot to support HERO and headed out to meet Gary in the parking lot. As I came down the sidewalk, the same guy said, “Thanks for voting, ma’am. We’re standing up for your rights!”

I’m not usually one to mix it up like this, but... condensed version:

Me: You’re standing up for my rights to use the men’s room?

Him: (looking confused) Well, no. Because you’re a woman.

Standing my full five-eleven to his five-six or so, I spoke in the lowest alto I could muster.

Me: That’s right. I’m a woman. And the fact that I was born with a penis doesn’t mean I wasn’t born a woman.

Him: You… nah-uh. You do not have a penis.

Me: Not anymore. But that’s really none of your business.

The second guy laughed nervously and said, “C’mon. She’s jerking you’re chain.” But that first guy—fish in a barrel. He instantly went to code orange.

Him: You’re not a woman. You’re a pervert!

Me: A minute ago I was “ma’am” and you were ready to defend me.

Him: If you were a woman, you’d have bigger breasts. Look at you! You’re almost as flat as I am.

Me: So now I'm required to have large breasts to use the women’s room? What's the minimum cup size? What if I’m a woman who’s had a mastectomy? Or what if I’m just a hippie chick who doesn’t wear a bra? How do you plan to enforce this policy if you can’t tell the difference?

Him: God can tell the difference!

Me: So God is supposed to monitor the ladies room? Like he doesn’t have enough to do?

Him: If you’ve got a penis—

Me: That would definitely come as a surprise to the guy standing over there. (I indicated Gary, off-sides laughing his head off.) Especially since he watched me give birth to his babies.

Him: You did not have a baby if you—if you had a penis… if you were born... that’s… yeah, you’re real hilarious, lady. You’re sick! You want men in your bathroom with you!

Me: Right. I want men in the women’s bathroom. That’s really what this is about. And yes, I am fairly flat-chested. But I could get bigger breasts installed if I wanted to, and you’ll always be a dumbass.

I flipped him off as we roared out of the parking lot with the top down, and I laughed so hard, Gary had to rush me to the nearest ladies room. I thought it was hilarious. But this morning I saw two things that made it a lot less amusing:

Thing One was the election result. Houston, the first major city in the USA to elect a lesbian mayor, resoundingly defeated an ordinance whose sole purpose was to recognize the right of all our citizens to live in our city free from discrimination and hate.

Thing Two was this story about a young woman who, in the opinion of a very stupid restaurant security guard, didn’t look womanly enough to use the women’s bathroom. The moral certitude and self-congratulation of the people who humiliated and physically hurt her is chilling. That’s a real issue. Unlike the trumped up (and Trumped up) issues ultra-conservative factions are “protecting” us from. Meanwhile, who’s protecting us from them?

The “Bathroom Ordinance” mentality is not about anything you’re doing wrong. It’s not even about who you are. It’s about who some stranger *thinks* you are. And some people think anyone who doesn’t fit the standard gender template is to be hated and feared.

I wish I had a dime for every time I was called “sir” when I was in chemo. Perfectly understandable. I have the height of a supermodel, but I’m not stacked like one. I was bald as a grapefruit. My skin was too sensitive for any kind of makeup, and because I was in misery, I dressed for comfort, frequently wearing Gary’s oversized shirts with baggy cargo pants. I was aware of some stink-eye glances, but I was never genuinely afraid to use the ladies room. I wouldn't feel that way today.

I am not for a moment co-opting the disenfranchisement experienced by people who actually are trans or cisgender. I'm saying the promotion of ignorance and hate forces all of us to live in a city that is less generous, welcoming and intelligent than it should be.

I’m profoundly disappointed in you, Houston. But I still love you. And I know you can do better.

Thanks to the fabulous Annise Parker for spearheading the HERO effort and for all the great good she’s done for Houston during her time as our mayor. She will be sorely missed.


Jerusha said…
Just for clarification for people who don't know what the actual HERO ordinance was about: The prop protected 13 classes of minorities--some protected federally, some not--from various types of public discrimination--like being fired for being gay or pregnant or harassed/denied service/threatened for being one of those 13 groups.
The part that got the whole 'No men in women's restrooms' thing going is the protection of transgender individuals. It's a sticky situation for sure because as we become more open and understanding about the sliding scale that gender exists on, there's definitely going to be some growing pains while everyone learns to be respectful and learns how to give each other the dignity we deserve. I mean, it's hard to look at some of the pictures the Right floated around of fully bearded, domineering men with the aforementioned caption and disagree with that. But that's not what the ordinance did by any means. It protected people like my friend Alison (previously Alex), so that when she goes out, she can use the restroom that corresponds to the gender that she identifies as and lives as. Even so, it's not the actual using of the restroom the ordinance protected (that's not even in it at all). The ordinance protects against discrimination (shopkeeper can't be like "ew! you can't use my bathrooms, you tranny fag!"). I think a lot of people didn't understand that distinction.
It's also a lot about who could get out the vote. The far right (who either didn't understand the ordinance or just wanted to be able to keep discriminating against LGBTQ amongst others) was able to pour money into campaigns that deliberately gave false impressions and false information about the ordinance under the guise of "protecting women and children".
No state or city with these types of laws in place have ever had a problem with them (as multiple reputable news sources and the cities/states themselves have reported). For me, it's hard to justify not protecting human rights (like dignity--which ultimately is what all of these ordinances/laws are protecting), but a friend of mine made the point that from a law enforcement perspective it creates a tricky loophole. Personally, I think that's borrowing trouble, but I think that it's a stronger argument than most anti-hero people had. I can understand how law enforcement and other authority figures could be apprehensive about how to implement it if they don't understand any of the minorities, like transgender individuals, but it's not like it's uncharted territory. We have plenty of other cities and states to look to for advice and ideas. Besides, this ordinance WAS in effect for three months last year before being sucked into endless lawsuits by rightwing legal groups. I lived overseas then, so I can't say first-hand what it was like, but no one has regaled me with any stories of the horrors of the HERO Reich. I doubt most Houstonians could even have told you when that was before the past 24 hours--or even still could for that matter. That makes it sound unnecessary, but for the people who were and are harassed, discriminated against, threatened, fired (or not hired in the first place), rejected from housing and physically harmed for being a part of one or more of those 13 groups, HERO makes all the difference because it gives them a course of action to stand up against that type of behavior. Ordinances like HERO are how we facilitate moving forward until we look back and can hardly believe there was a time we needed them in the first place.
Joni Rodgers said…
Thanks for that, Jerusha. Very important to understand. See you at the run off election!

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