A bestiary of bathroom bigotry

bathroom signs
Here’s a little something wot i wrote last year on the subject of bigots and bathrooms. Originally for GayStarNews, but a combination of events and deadlines meant it never quite got out there.

But since i spent some time putting it together AND it contains a lot of material that is very relevant now, perhaps worth a little dusting off.

That said, this was written about a year ago, and i have probably missed out some recent stuff. So if anyone knows of more cases i should add, please drop me a line.

TW for transphobia, bigotry and threatened violence.

Just how safe are women in american bathrooms? And who should they be more worried about: trans persons; or Republicans?

The Republican Party is now officially the party of bathroom bills.

According to a resolution, passed this year (actually 2016), and exposed by Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller : “The Republican National Committee encourages state legislatures to enact laws that protect student privacy and limit the use of restrooms, locker rooms and similar facilities to members of the sex to whom the facility is designated.”

Supposedly, this was all about protecting women.

But evidence is mounting that it is not trans folk that women need to worry about, so much as these same selfless legislators and public officials.

Here is a list of creepy guys who want to take the law back to the dark ages. I didn’t make it up.

The pervy ones

Mick Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor

First in the list of Republicans with a more than passing interest in getting into women’s, er, bathrooms is former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee.

Speaking to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, in February 2015, Huckabee told delegates he wishes he could’ve been transgender, back when it was time to hit the high school showers.

Because, if he “could have felt like a woman”, then he could have seen his female classmates without their clothes on.

He went on: “Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE.

“I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’ You’re laughing because it sounds so ridiculous doesn’t it?”

Projection? Much! I’d really not want to take a shower – or pee – with Huckabee anywhere on the premises.

Oh. And if you can bear it, here’s a video of him saying much the same thing.

John La Tour, Fayetteville councillor

Meanwhile, Fayetteville alderman John La Tour confronted a woman he thought might be a man and threatened to wave his penis at her in a packed restaurant.

According to a friend of the woman singled out in this way: [He] “assaulted a dear friend in public demanding they choose a gender in a packed restaurant. He demanded she pick a gender declaiming loudly that he couldn’t tell if she was a man or a woman. She is not transgendered and does not in any way present any ambiguity about gender in any way. She’s a woman. He then explained that he was a man and could prove it by dropping his pants and showing his penis,”

After he was asked to leave by the manager of the restaurant, La Tour retaliated with a post on his own Facebook page urging followers to boycott the restaurant. He wrote: “Everyone who lives in Fayetteville, AR should never eat or treat themselves at any of Cary Arsaga’s establishments.
“I will never go to any of these again.”

The violent ones

Sherriff Chuck Wright

Speaking about a bathroom bill proposed for his state, Sheriff Chuck Wright of Spartanburg County, South Carolina said, earlier this month (April 2016):

“If you are a guy and you go into bathroom with my wife, I’m gonna make the news — I know there’s three cameras rolling — I’m gonna whip your tail if you go in there with my wife while she’s trying to use the bathroom, or my granddaughter. That is bologna.”

Perhaps sheriff Wright doth protest TOO much! For he is not altogether inexperienced when it comes to cross dressing. He added: “Wearing a dress is supposed to be a chick. Supposed to anyway. Unless you’re raising money for something.

“Listen, I’ve dressed up like a girl to raise money for under-privileged kids. But I was the only one who didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t shave. I tried to look like a man dressed up like a chick.”

Ri-ight….

(ETA: at around the same time another republican candidate, this one in Texas, was threatening violence against trans people. Tracy Murphfree, since elected sheriff of Denton County, made it very clear he would hospitalise any trans woman who used the same restroom as his daughter).


Richard Floyd, Tennessee state representative

Chuckie’s sentiment echoes a tone, first set by Republican member of the Tennessee House of Representatives back in 2012 who said, when proposing one of the very first bathroom bills:

“I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

“Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk.

Because obviously trans women are the dangerous ones. Though personally, i’d rather not pee in the same county as this ugly bigot.

(ETA: Floyd appears to have retired in 2014. When he left the Tennessee House commemorated his career, with majority leader Gerald McCormick cracking jokes about his “stomping a mudhole” remarks, to a raucous reception from fellow republicans. Let’s put that into perspective, please: his fellow-republicans knew exactly what that remark referred to – but apparently in Tennessee, elected republicans think violence against trans people is a matter for hilarity).


UNC Republican Society

While republicans deny that such rhetoric increases the chance of violence against trans people – and trans women in particular – that was not the experience of one trans woman who reached out to College Republicans at the University of North Carolina asking for their support.
In an exchange subsequently posted on Reddit, the individual claimed that she received a number of abusive responses. Perhaps most worrying was:

“First of (sic), you are a mentally-ill man, no amount of surgery or hormones will change that. Second, if a tranny like you goes into the women’s restroom, then what about the rights of them? If you value your life, you shouldn’t have made this sick choice and settled with the gender God gave you.”

UNC College Republicans later released a statement on their Facebook page denouncing the messages and claiming that they were fabricated.

Of course they were, folks: of course they were….

The “under a restraining order” one

Jeremy Durham, Tennessee state representative

Sterling efforts by Republican State Representative, Jeremy Durham to promote the safety of women through yet another bathroom bill (House Bill 2414, for which he is a co-sponsor, have suffered a serious reverse this month after he was forced to relocate to a new office building because of the risk he posed to women.

This action was taken by House Speaker Beth Harwell after an official report from the office of Tennessee’s attorney found Durham engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially posed a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”

In a letter to House officials, Attorney General Herbert Slatery wrote: “Based upon the information gathered thus far, Representative Durham’s alleged behavior may pose a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature”.

Ooops!

ETA: Thought i would check out what happened to this gorgeous republican lawmaker. Turns out he was kicked out of the Tennessee House of Representatives in September 2016 for a whole range of alleged misdeeds, including hundreds of financial violations and three serious reports of inappropriate behaviour towards women. Just this week (22 February 2017) a special investigator has been appointed to handle any charges brought against Jeremy.

The confused ones

The Washington protester

In February 2016, a lone man entered the women’s locker room at a pool in Seattle, Washington and undressed, claiming that changes to the law to support trans individuals meant he now had a right to be there.

Washington’s Human Rights Commission responded promptly, pointing out he was wrong in his assumption – and breaking the law. In an official release shortly after, they wrote:

“His intent was obviously to make the women and girls in the restroom upset and uncomfortable.”

They went on: “His behavior was inexcusable and reprehensible. And it is absolutely not protected under the law.”

It is not clear whether this individual was a Republican – or merely confused.

The man – and the journalist – who should have known better

In further evidence of the dangers of allowing trans women into women’s bathrooms, Bob Price, writing for politically conservative news network Breitbart informed readers on 1 April this year (2016) that Jason Pomare, of Palmdale, California, was arrested “over the weekend” in a Lancaster Macy’s store after he was seen in a women’s bathroom, dressed in women’s clothes and allegedly videotaping women.

It was not clear, Price added, if Lancaster has a “bathroom ordinance” like the one defeated in Houston last year.

Perhaps if he had looked more closely at the original article he cited, he would have been able to answer his own question. For, as spoof-busting website snopes.com quickly pointed out: “the incident occurred in 2013, not 2016; the man did not identify himself as transgender; the man did not engage in activity protected under non-discrimination ordinances; and the man’s alleged actions were not deemed acceptable by people who support non-discrimination ordinances.”

Apart from that, Mr Price’s report was correct.

The score

According to published sources, the current score (as of April 2016), when it comes to arrests for improper conduct in the bathroom area, (albeit in the MEN’s bathroom) is Republicans 3 Transgender persons 0.

(ETA: Figures have been somewhat muddied in the last twelve months with the arrest or removal of several people from restrooms who, it later transpired, were mostly guilty of the crime of being cis women who failed to live up to male standards of beauty and passability).

Mississippi congressman, Jon Hinson was first arrested in 1976 for exposing himself to an undercover agent. Five years later, in 1981 he was arrested for having oral sex in the House of Representatives’ bathroom with a government staffer. Hinson later came out as gay shortly after and worked openly as an LGBT campaigner for the remainder of his life.

Florida state Representative Bob Allen was arrested for allegedly agreeing to pay $20 to perform fellatio on an undercover police officer in the bathroom of a public park

In the same year, Idaho Republican senator, Larry Craig was arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s room at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport .

Meanwhile, evidence of an absence of any trans trouble in the bathroom – other than that imported by Republican users – continues to mount. In 2014, an investigation carried out in 12 states where discrimination in bathrooms had been outlawed revealed no problems caused by trans individuals

A more detailed investigation in Florida earlier this year (2016) reported exactly the same: no problem. At least, not one caused by trans folks

Course, there was the small matter of Chrissy Lee Polis, beaten almost to death in a restroom in a Baltimore McDonalds, back in 2011, for the crime of being trans.

No doubt there will be a republican along in a moment to explain how badly she hurt the fists of her assailants, and how the latter have been thoroughly traumatised by both the media attention and the prison time that the older of the two subsequently served.

For now, that’s all, folks! But if you have a more recent incident you reckon i ought to be adding to this catalogue, please let me know and i’ll be happy to do so, either within this piece, or as follow-up.

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About janefae

On my way from here to there
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