All eyes were on Houston last week as residents of the state’s largest city voted on the highly embattled Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
The political showdown was preceded by months of contentious back-forth inside of Houston City Hall and Harris County Courtrooms, before being placed on November’s ballot and left in the hands of voters.
Under HERO, discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information along with family, marital or military status would be banned. Despite the potentially wide range of these protections, opponents of the ordinance deduced the ordinance to one point: bathrooms.
Advertisements depicting a predatory man following a little girl into a bathroom instilled fear into Houstonians — who rejected HERO with a 61 to 39 percent margin. Shameless fear mongering perverted an ordinance designed to protect 15 classes of people into “the bathroom ordinance.” The misguided notion of protecting women and girls became the focus of Republicans and influential pastors who adopted “Keep men out of women’s restrooms!” as their rallying cry.
There is no statistical evidence to support the suggestion that increasing bathroom access to gender non-conforming people increases violence or incidents in bathrooms, and these protections exist in 19 states and the District of Colombia. It is a myth propagated by champions of the religious right such as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who stated that he wished he “could’ve found his feminine side” in high school in order to shower with girls.
Despite the success of anti-HERO’s fear-mongering campaign, it is not cis people who should fear trans people. Transgender people should fear cis people.
This year in the United States, they have been murdered at historic rates. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 21 trans-people were murdered in the U.S. as of mid-October, and 13 were killed last year, simply because they defied society’s expectations of them.
Most of the victims were people of color who were gruesomely murdered and their cases go unsolved. Two of the killings happened in Texas (in Tyler and Dallas). These hate crimes are a national crisis. Houston the only major city in Texas without this type of ordinance must reevaluate who truly needs protection.
Houstonians should be ashamed for allowing their fear and their warped perception of religion to deny people they see as “other” of basic human rights: bathroom access. Instead of discriminating, perhaps opponents of HERO should visit the New Testament:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”
– 1 John 4:18