Voters in Houston, Texas struck down a city law on Nov. 3 that protected LGBT people and others from discrimination. The repeal effort was headed by conservatives who alleged that transgender women were not real women and were, in fact, straight men that were using the law in order to go into bathrooms and peek at girls. Apparently, voters agreed with them: The law was repealed by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent, according to the Harris County Clerk's Office.
Critics of the law pushed the message that the law needed to be repealed in order to keep men out of women's bathrooms. Buzzfeed News polled roughly two-dozen voters in the Houston area and found that only a quarter knew anything about the fact that law had anything do with discrimination, with roughly half believing that the law granted men and transgender women access to public bathrooms.
For years, the “transgender bathroom myth” which states that transgender anti-discrimination laws would expose others to sexual assault in public bathrooms, has been peddled out every time the issue has come up. In fact, the reverse is often true: According to Matthew Shupp, co-chair of the GLBT Concerns Committee at Shippensburg University, more transgender people fall victim to violence than are perpetrators of violence themselves.
In an article by Media Matters’ Carlos Maza, experts from 12 states came together to debunk the myth, with police officials from states such as Vermont, Minnesota, Nevada and Rhode Island explaining that they have no cases of increased sexual assault or rape as a result of a transgender anti-discrimination laws.
“We have not seen that. I doubt that's gonna encourage the behavior. If the behavior's there, [sexual predators are] gonna behave as they're gonna behave no matter what the laws are,” said John Halifax, police spokesman for the Des Moines, Iowa police department, in a phone interview with Media Matters.
Despite the evidence to the contrary, opponents of transgender anti-discrimination laws still manage to use the “transgender bathroom myth,” as a reason for why such anti-discrimination laws should not be approved.
“I really think the issue is fear and ignorance. When it all comes down to it, I think people fear that which may appear to be different or outside of whatever society has deemed as being normal,” Shupp said. Because of this fear and ignorance, what happened in Houston may happen again in Dallas.
Following the resounding rejection of Houston’s anti-discrimination law, many of the same groups that campaigned in Houston are taking the fight to Dallas, attempting to overturn the city's 13-year-old nondiscrimination ordinance, which the Dallas City Council unanimously voted to amend in order to make the ordinance's language more clear. Several public figures, including Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Sen. Don Huffines (R-Texas) have weighed in against the ordinance, with Patrick calling the vote “mind-boggling and appalling,” according to The New Civil Rights Movement.
Contrary to Patrick and Huffines, many cities and states do not find transgender anti-discrimination laws mindboggling or appalling. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s website, 30 states have a city or cities that have an anti-discrimination ordinance on the books, including Pennsylvania, Washington, New York and Massachusetts.
Several universities also offer accommodations for transgender students, including the University of Kansas, Michigan State University and even Shippensburg University itself. Not only does Shippensburg University offer gender-neutral bathrooms in several spots on campus (including Presidents Hall, McLean Hall II and the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center), but there is also a Students Advocating For Equality (SAFE) meeting every Thursday at 8 p.m. in Room 238 of the Ceddia Union Building, according the GLBT Concerns Committee page on the SU website.