With the recent dismissal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance or HERO, a question has arisen in the general public’s dialogue of the usage of public restroom facilities by transgender and gender non-conforming peoples. The issue stemmed from the gender identity protection clause of the ordinance. The clause stating that the protection of transgender people’s use of public restroom facilities would be protected in the city. Doesn’t seem so extreme, right? However the people of Houston believe that it is.

Being the flagship issue of the ordinance, many Houstonians saw it as a means to open a legal loophole for rapist and child molesters. However, the clause does not protect illegal actions such as those crimes, only that trans and gender non-conforming people would be protected. There were already laws in place to protect those in restrooms from such vile crimes.

So why then was it portrayed as if anyone can just simply walk into a restroom and commit a crime? This barbaric thinking stems from the perception of predominantly trans woman, that we are just men in dresses looking for a sexual rush. However, I, a woman of transgender history, have never gone into the ladies restroom for a sexual rush or for anything other than what a bathroom is used for. The idea that a pedophile/rapist can hide behind our struggle and the government not stepping in is an illogical and delusional assumption.

We deserve to be protected just like everyone else and not banished to a third restroom to hide because we make some ill-informed people uncomfortable, as Dr. Ben Carson, Republican Presidential Candidate hopeful, has stated. Dr. Carson offered to create a separate restroom for trans people, however that only causes more of a problem, such as, are there going to be 3 restrooms or 4? What about agender people and bigender people. Are we going to create a restroom for every single gender identity because it makes a few people uncomfortable?

Of course not, that is why we have to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people’s use of public facilities. The usage of a third restroom would also be a hazard to an already discriminated against community of people. By telling the world that you must use a third restroom, it puts a bulls-eye on us. We become targets of hate and violence. We, as a community, experience harassment from every angle from upwards of 33% of trans folks having stated they were harassed by law enforcement officers, to 31% of transgender teens experiencing harassment from teachers in schools.

When we are singled out and “othered” it says to the masses that we are different, and different means dangerous. It’s the same logic and rhetoric that was used in the 50s and 60s against the black community, in the 80s, 90s, and 00s against the LGB community. Yet it seems like we must continue to walk this shameful path and prove to the masses that we are people and we deserve to be treated like people.

My third and final issue with HERO is HERO itself. Although I did support and continue to support the inclusion of the LGBT community in equal protection and non-discriminatory legislation, I had a issue with it being a public referendum. We experienced what happens with public referendums such as California’s Proposition 22 (2000) and Proposition 8 (2008) each being public referendums to ban same-sex marriages, with a majority vote to pass.

When a large majority is ill-informed and afraid of the “others” they tend to default to using the belief that we are freaks or perverts to justify their discrimination. It wasn’t until a federal court demanded the rest of the country to protect us was there ever anything to use as a legal defense. Issues of rights should never be placed in the hands of the public but should be made by those with final authority and that authority must be bound by their devotion to continual inclusion of all peoples for their authority to be justified.
-Roslynn Carroll