HERO, or the Houston "Bathroom Bill" has been making headlines recently. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, allows transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to use the bathroom that they feel the most comfortable in. Opponents of the bill have tried to fear monger and spike transphobic attitudes.
Mike Huckabee, appearing on Fox News, was certain that the passage of HERO would lead only to perversion: "If the child…a boy…walks in and says ‘you know what, I really am feeling my girl’s side, he gets to go shower with the girls when he’s 14. I mean, I’m just thinking of all the 14-year-old boys I went to school with, and how many of them would have awakened with that revelation.” Wow, okay asshole. According to experts, ~this doesn't even happen~. But whatever, right? Because children apparently have no understanding of gender. Or something.
But it doesn't stop there, because apparently this fear of transgender individuals runs even deeper. The full text of the section of HERO that provides protections for bathroom usage contains this awesome and not at all problematic language: "It shall be a defense to prosecution for discrimination on the basis of gender identity under this article, however, if the defendant had a good faith belief that the gender or gender identity of the person discriminated against was not consistent with the gender designation of the facility." Okay, so you can say "that person doesn't look like a man so he shouldn't be here" and it will hold up in court.
People went haywire over this bill. Creepy commercials were made that portrayed transgender people as predators and criminals. Lance Berkman, ex-baseball player, starred in this horrifying TV spot: “I played professional baseball for 15 years but my family’s more important. My wife and I have four daughters and Proposition One will allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women’s bathrooms, showers and locker rooms". Yikes.
Voters were asked, on November 3rd, if they would support keeping the bill active (it originally passed last year). And keep in mind, HERO is a wide sweeping bill, not just about bathroom protections: asked: “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy".
So what happened?
HERO was voted down by a wide margin, as the aggressive transphobic commercials and radio ads blared all over town. Houston voters decided to deny protections to their LGBT citizens, as well as many other marginalized groups.
Angry? You should be. Support organizations that are actively working to protect transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, such as the I'll Go With You Project. Vote in local and federal elections, because your vote matters. Let's turn this around.