Civil rights in Houston went down the toilet –– excuse me, that was vulgar; I meant to write the commode –– on Election Day when voters resoundingly overturned an ordinance that prohibited discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, and public accommodation. The ordinance had been passed by Houston’s City Council and was therefore law. But Houston’s bigot community –– a coalition of haters led by Christian fascists, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and other right-wing loons –– hated the concept of equality so much that they successfully shot it down by referendum. Houston’s landlords, employers, and school principals are once again free –– free to fire us, deny us housing, and generally treat us like shit.
Shit and piss were in fact the central topics of the referendum. Instead of coming right out and admitting their hatred of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and trans people, the bigots turned Houston’s equal rights ordinance into a referendum on nefarious bathroom use. Because the law would have enabled trans folks to use the lavatory of their gender rather than their sex at birth, the haters came up with what even I must acknowledge was a brilliant scheme: They produced ads in which menacing looking men entered ladies rooms, intent, one was asked to infer, on exposing their penises to or even raping the women inside. This strategy was cunning, deceitful, and ultimately successful: Exploiting people’s fears about bathrooms –– fears that are endemic in this country –– enabled voters to disavow their thoroughgoing hatred of LGBT folks and displace their disgust for us onto the inherently disgusting territory of toilets.
On Election Day, Esquire.com’s Mark Warren posted a brilliant piece on the issue: the out lesbian “Annise Parker would go on to become mayor of Houston, and it is her equal rights ordinance that is on the ballot today, the same ordinance that is actually a government conspiracy to empower bathroom deviants, because bathroom deviants are everywhere, and everybody knows that this is the secret agenda of these people and their so-called ‘rights,’ because they might say that they just want freedom not to get fired or beaten up, which sounds deceptively reasonable, which is just like them, when what they really want is the right to engage in behavior so despicable that only the morally upright have taken great pains and considerable time to imagine it in every lurid, sweaty, vivid detail.”
As the New York Times’ enlightened editorial on the subject pointed out, “Houston’s ordinance would allow transgender people to use public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. This is a fundamental right that does nothing to endanger others. There is absolutely no evidence, empirical or anecdotal, to suggest that transgender people have a proclivity to harass or sexually assault people in restrooms and locker rooms. Meanwhile, there is substantial evidence that transgender women face disproportionate discrimination and violence in all walks of life.”
Warren and the Times editorial board failed to appreciate what is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Mike Moffitt of sfgate.com explains: two psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Kruger, concluded after a large-scale, decade-long study that, as Dunning describes it, “Very smart ideas are going to be hard for people to adopt, because most people don’t have the sophistication to recognize how good an idea is.” Moffitt picks it up from there: “Let’s say a politician comes up with an ingenious plan that would ensure universal health care while decreasing health care costs. According to Dunning-Kruger, no matter how much information is provided, the unsophisticated would 1) be incapable of recognizing the wisdom of such a plan; 2) assume they know better; and 3) have no idea of the extent of their inadequacy. In other words, stupid people are too stupid to know how stupid they are.”
For instance, Jared Woodfill, co-chair of the so-called Campaign for Houston, described the equal rights law this way (with thanks to Alexa Ura, a reporter for the Texas Tribune): “This allows biological males, including registered sex offenders, to go into female restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms all under the protection of law. We think that’s dangerous public policy, and our position from day one has been we’re not willing to sacrifice the safety of our wives, our daughters, and our mothers at the altar of political correctness.”
How Woodfill got from equal rights to registered sex offenders is anyone’s guess, except for stupid people, who see the connection immediately. It’s worth noting that Woodfill was chairman of the Republican Party of Harris County, Texas, from 2002 to 2014.
Or this, from Dr. Ed Young, the senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Houston (quoted approvingly by Heather Sells of cbn.com): “This is a moral issue, and if the Body of Christ does not vote and speak out, we are gone in the 21st century.”
That one requires no response, except to wonder what party affiliation the Body of Christ has chosen.