Thanks to the Texas Supreme Court, Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which creates LGBT nondiscrimination protections for the city, will be subject to a ballot referendum this November. Opponents of HERO launched their “Campaign for Houston” this week with an incendiary radio ad attacking transgender women.
The new campaign, like the resistance to HERO when the city council first considered it two years ago, relies entirely on the myth that transgender protections will make bathrooms unsafe places. The ad is not subtle: “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.”
The ad links to CampaignForHouston.com, a bare-bones website that reiterates that women will be “forced to share restrooms in public facilities with gender-confused men, who — under this ordinance — can all themselves ‘women’ on a whim and use women’s restrooms whenever they wish. This ‘bathroom ordinance’ therefore is an attempt to re-structure society to fit a societal vision we simply do not share or can support.” The site also claims that all LGBT identities “are defined by their behaviors — not by characteristics given to them at birth.”
On Campaign For Houston’s Facebook page, which is rife with graphics that read “No Men In Women’s Bathrooms,” one user has already flipped the argument on its head. He posted a picture of Michael Hughes, a transgender man who launched the #WeJustNeedToPee hashtag.
Hughes, a burly, bearded man who lives in Minnesota, posted a variety of (staged) selfies of himself in women’s restrooms with women present earlier this year, pointing out that as a trans man, that’s where he would be forced to use the restroom without transgender nondiscrimination protections. His #WeJustNeedToPee hashtag continues to be used used by trans people across the country to raise awareness about how unsafe and inappropriate it is for them to be forced use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned as birth, rather than the one that matches the gender identity of their day-to-day lives.
Gender identity, as protected by HERO, is not something that can be flipflopped every day, and moreover, predatory behavior is still illegal. If HERO fails to pass, it will actually force many men into women’s restrooms, the very outcome they claim to oppose.