HEROS, Bathrooms and Bigots

I’ve never admitted this ugly truth publicly, but I’ve sometimes used the women’s restroom in a place of business. Understand please, that I’ve never done it because of some compulsion to pee in a stall instead of standing up or to satisfy my urges in a place that is almost assuredly cleaner and more pleasingly aromatic than are men’s rooms. No, no, no, nothing of the sort. Instead, I’ve done it because of a medical condition which often plagues men of my advanced age. This “problem” sometimes makes it seem as if our sphincter will explode and let loose the Niagara Falls of all urinations if we don’t pee as soon as possible, which means we NEED to go in the first place available. Sometimes, that is a women’s room. It is important to note that I do require that it be unoccupied and have a lock on the door.

This week, voters in Houston overwhelmingly rejected an ordinance referred to as HERO, which is an acronym for the Houston Equal Rights Amendment. The Houston City Council adopted HERO last year to ban discrimination in public places on the basis of race, age, religion, military status, and 11 other categories, including sexual orientation and gender identification. The major reason for such initiatives is to give people who fall within those categories a quickly available local administrative remedy, as opposed to a lengthy law suit, if they feel discriminated against in such things as employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Similar initiatives are in effect in other localities. However, they have been defeated in still others not because of disagreement with the basic goal of the ordinance, but because of opposition over the use of public restrooms. It seems to be generally agreed that in localities where HERO initiatives have lost, opponents have been able to successfully label the law as a “bathroom ordinance” and play up fears that passage will invite male sexual predators to dress up as women and enter women’s restrooms.

Four thoughts on this. First, unfortunately, sexual predators can already do such things: criminals commit criminal acts and predators prey. Second, there are also laws on the book against such activities. For example, sexual assault is a felony. Third, in playing on people’s fears and prejudices, opponents to such laws prove the discrimination that exists against our transgendered brothers and sisters. Fourth, like me, the transgendered probably just want to use the bathroom in peace and then quietly exit.

Here is a link to a story from the public radio program “Fresh Air” that is about a family coping with their transgendered child. Here is a link to “On Point,” an NPR program that presents both sides of the argument. Here is a link to an article in the Texas Tribune discussing the aftermath of the vote.

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