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Weekend HERO reading

Just a few links of interest on matters pertaining to HERO. Read ’em as you see fit.

From Think Progress, a reminder that the past is never dead:

Four decades ago, the Equal Rights Amendment — which would have required courts to treat laws that engage in sex discrimination with the same high level of skepticism applied to race discrimination — seemed all but certain to become part of the Constitution. Thirty-four of the thirty-eight states needed to ratify the amendment had agreed to do so. Then conservative activists organized hard against this amendment. Many of them also gave it a new name, the “Common Toilet” law.

Like the anti-LGBT activists who united against HERO, the ERA’s anti-feminist opponents offered similarly outlandish claims about what would happen if the ERA became law. Many conservative activists rallied behind a claim that a ban on official sex discrimination would necessarily forbid segregating bathrooms by gender. As the feminist scholar Jane Mansbridge wrote in her postmortem of the amendment fight, Why We Lost the ERA, “the unisex toilet issue fed the fervor of the anti-ERA forces by giving them something absolutely outrageous to focus on.” Among other things, “it could conjure up visions of rape by predatory males,” while igniting smoldering passions in a South that had recently experienced “the historical trauma of racial integration.”

I’m old enough to remember the ERA, and the fuss over bathrooms that it catalyzed. Back then it was fear of “unisex” bathrooms, because “transgender” wasn’t a word yet and gays were all deep in the closet, so the only available perverts to warn about were the good old fashioned straight male kind. I can’t believe I had forgotten about this.

Governing is also about the bathrooms:

“There’s this fear that this person who is different is different in a way that’s predatory,” said Robin McHaelen, executive director of True Colors, a social service nonprofit that works with LGBT youth in Connecticut. “As far as I know, there’s never been an incident with a transgender person assaulting someone in a bathroom. People just want to pee in peace.”

That same assertion has been made by groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union. Officials in states with public accommodation provisions, such as Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa and Oregon, have stated they have seen no evidence of sexual assault or other such problems as a result.

By contrast, there have been documented examples of transgender people being harassed or assaulted for going in the “wrong” bathroom, including a videotaped attack in 2012 in Maryland that went viral on social media.

“You just want to use the bathroom and get back to what you’re doing,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “The safest way, the most appropriate way, the way to bother the people least is for people to use the restroom that’s appropriate for their gender identity.”

Best Facebook meme I’ve seen since Tuesday is this reminder that more US Senators have been arrested for indecency in public bathrooms than trans women.

Once more on bathrooms, from Lisa Gray:

On her phone, she has an app called “Refuge Restrooms” that lists locations of trans-friendly single-toilet bathrooms; often they’re labeled as handicapped restrooms or family restrooms. But so far, the app doesn’t list many in Houston. Mostly, Kaylee adds the listings herself. Cinemark Theaters are great, she says, and most HEBs. And recently, at the church where she sings in the chorus, she found a one-toilet handicapped restroom: A great thing.

But still, the bathroom question makes it hard for her to move freely. Kaylee does IT, and since coming out, she’s worked for what might be the most trans-friendly employer possible: Houston Unites, the group that campaigned for HERO.

One day, for that job, she needed to go to a high school in Alief, to train kids in the gay-straight student alliance to run a phone bank. She didn’t know what the bathroom situation would be. So, she says, “I stopped drinking water about six hours beforehand. I absolutely didn’t want to have to pee.”

I’m willing to bet Steve Hotze has never done that.

The Advocate presents a trans person’s macro view of where the fight needs to go from here.

For context, my lens on all of this is informed both my identity as a trans man and by a decade-plus of political experience. Before (finally) coming out as trans, I spent the first decade of my life working (with some success) in the world of elections from city council to presidential campaigns, to independent expenditures, to running multimillion-dollar political programming for labor, and on working at a senior level the C3 side of education campaigns. It is from this vantage point of identity and experience that I offer a few observations that I hope others will consider as we figure out how to move forward together.

First, the fight for same-sex marriage and the subsequent lessons learned are neither perfectly analogous nor completely irrelevant to these fights. But to win on trans issues in the public sphere, we need to make the commitment and investment to define a new set of rules.

It is without question that our most substantive trans victories have so far been through litigation and policy changes outside of the public sphere. The fundamental landscape of trans politics has changed and that change is defined by a broader, quicker and dramatically more public fight. There is no going back. The only question is how we will meet this fight.

The good news is there are many steps we can begin taking now to move forward.

It’s not too soon to start. I’m going to do what I can to be an ally.

And finally, one more election postmortem from The Observer:

If the LGBT movement wants comprehensive non-discrimination protections to be its next advocacy arena, HERO’s failure at the polls offers an important lesson. As Houston activists told the Observer, ultimately, the movement’s leaders must shift toward a broader social justice strategy, and take cues from movements that are led by diverse voices in positions of power, and work in coalitions with organizations fighting for racial, economic and environmental justice, for immigrants’ rights, the rights of transgender people, women’s rights, and the rights of people living with disabilities. That kind of coalition, in the most diverse city in the country, could be a force unto itself. That kind of coalition could win anything.

It would be nice, wouldn’t it?

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  1. PDiddie says:

    This makes me think about the NASA astronaut tangled in a love triangle who wore an adult diaper in order to drive from Houston to Florida without stopping to confront the other two points (of the triangle). My question is — and maybe I should start Googling — is: what are the psychological hurdles one must overcome to wear Depends on a regular basis? Because most people who do so don’t have much left in the way of embarrassment to feel (in my experience, which is not all that limited)?

    I don’t think transgenders should be forced to wear them because restrooms are outlawed to them. I’m, ah, just asking a tangential question for a friend here…

  2. Paul kubosh says:

    Restrooms are outlawed to transgender folks??????? What ?????????

    Steven and the rest of you did you read that?????

    I could have sworn alot of you had been saying there is no law preventing men from going into womens restrooms now.

    Steven, where are you???? Help me please….clarity my misunderstanding.

  3. mollusk says:

    The lesson from the ERA, HERO, the Voting Rights Act, etc., etc., is that appeals to logic and/or social justice don’t work in the face of damnable lies.

    Perhaps the way to deal with right wing appeals to the lizard brain is to come up with progressive appeals to the lizard brain – robber barons, anyone?

  4. Steve Houston says:

    PK, he’s making a point that they should not become outlawed, not that they are currently outlawed. At least that’s how I read his comment, but thanks for thinking of me. My guess is that he is referring to some of the comments coming from Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott regarding passing a statewide law regarding bathrooms, communal showers, etc., based on the fact that Houston’s long standing city ordinance has a disturbance component attached.

    As a seasoned and talented defense attorney, were you representing a male who used a female designated bathroom, I’m sure you would deploy the lack of a disturbance aspect to get it dismissed. Other than having separate (“but equal”) or unisex bathrooms, there is little room to compromise with the extremes of the matter. Should a state law be passed, I openly wonder how it will deal with gender identity issues for those that are “in between” getting the required court order and the realization of wanting to switch.

  5. Paul Kubosh says:


    After all of these years I am still looking for my first “transporting for immoral purposes”.

    As to PDiddie, I was having fun with his post. I guess I sound just as silly to the liberal “white” progressives as they sound to me.

    I still like this blog though. I would have never known about that Postal banking if I didn’t come here.

  6. Steve Houston says:

    PK, I know what you mean because I get hit from both political sides. lol

    As far as the postal banking, my Mom used to mention it every time the bank would add some goofy fee; if she were still around she’d probably keep her money in her purse given the expansion of fees.

  7. Paul does all the talking.
    Michael is just a desk lamp.
    As was the election.
    No policy, no ideas

    Chronicle interview:
    Me: Kubosh, have you compared pensions state wide?
    Kubosh: no *crickets*

    Now we see a video of him next to bettencourt.