Campaign for Houston Threatens HERO

Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

Marriage equality is now the law of the land in the U.S. In plenty of places, however, it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people.

Many forward-thinking cities across the country have enacted anti-discrimination ordinances of their own, rather than wait around for their nearly immobile state governments to get off their asses and do something.

That’s why Houston, for example, has the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of characteristics in city employment, city services, city contracting practices, housing, public accommodations and private employment.” There are more than a dozen characteristics protected by the ordinance, including using the public restroom that matches one’s gender identity; gender identity and sexual orientation are the ones that have the haters, well, hating. Moreover, in November there will be a measure to repeal the ordinance on the ballot.

Haters call it “the bathroom ordinance” and behind the push for repeal is the Campaign for Houston. Don't be fooled by the innocuous name. They’re pulling out all the transphobic stops in their campaign against the ordinance, trying to scare people with images of “perverted” men lurking in women's restrooms. They've released radio ads, one with a woman's voice that claims, “This ordinance will allow men to freely go into women's bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. That is filthy, that is disgusting, and that is unsafe. Join me and other women in Houston as we vote ‘no’ on Mayor Parker's bathroom ordinance. And again, let me make this very clear, on behalf of all moms, sisters and daughters: no men in women's bathrooms.”

Let's break this down. First of all, what do the women of Houston have against men? Presumably, there are plenty of Houston women who are married to men and/or have sex with them and even share bathrooms with them at home. What's up with all the men-hating women in Houston? It doesn't make sense. Unless, of course, the Campaign for Houston doesn't even mean men at all; they mean trans women. That's who is really being called “filthy” and “disgusting”.

What's actually disgusting is that the Campaign targets an already marginalized group of people who face layer upon layer of discrimination—in other words, the very people who need the protections this ordinance provides—as a scare tactic to “moms, sisters and daughters.” (By the way, some of those moms, sisters and daughters are trans.)

The Campaign's website reads, “Campaign for Houston is made up of parents and family members who do not want their daughters, sisters or mothers forced to share restrooms in public facilities with gender-confused men, who—under this ordinance—can call themselves ‘women’ on a whim and use women's restrooms whenever they wish.”

The people who are confused here are the ones who think that there are men who, on a whim, say, “I'm a woman!” to have the privilege to use women's restrooms. Have they never seen the long lines for women's public restrooms? Not to mention the fact that that's just not how trans identity works.

Their website also claims, “The ordinance also limits free speech and religious expression in unprecedented ways so as not to ‘offend’ these two new ‘protected’ groups, both of which are defined by their behaviors—not by characteristics given to them at birth.”

If your idea of free speech and religious expression is the right to openly discriminate against LGBT people then, yes, this ordinance does suck for you. Then again, being transphobic is not a characteristic given at birth. And unlike being trans, it's harmful to everyone around you. Here's hoping you can find it in your heart to pray the hate away.

—D'Anne Witkowski

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