Tag: Houston

Dear Jared Woodfill: Kiss My Queer Grits

Ahem:

Jared Woodfill, the former Harris County Republican Party leader who successfully championed the fight against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by proclaiming “no men in women’s restrooms,” is representing a man in court who has admitted to taking photos of women changing clothes without their knowledge—in a bathroom.

Ten years ago, at a pool party at a private home, seven women went into the master bathroom to change into their bathing suits. Following them were three drunk men, including local tech-company owner BJ Farmer, who sat in the shower, took out their cell phones, and began snapping pictures while the women changed. Earlier this year, one of those women, Andrea Villarreal, sued Farmer after his ex-wife found the pictures on his laptop, shortly before their divorce proceedings, and brought them to Villarreal’s attention.

Villarreal is suing Farmer for invasion of privacy, negligence for having never deleted those photos, and defamation, alleging Farmer made false, misogynistic comments about her with fake user names on a Houston Press article about the case last year (tech experts traced online comments calling her a “gold digger” and a “disgusting worm who flashes her breasts to get attention from every guy” back to Farmer’s computer). Three months later, in February 2015, Farmer admitted in a deposition to taking the photos of Villarreal without her knowledge. He said it was just a “stupid, you know, idea at the time while we were drinking.” In that deposition, Farmer also admitted to doing this on more than one occasion, and to having pictures of himself fondling an unconscious nude woman at another party.

Woodfill, who is defending Farmer in the lawsuit, is the same man who managed to convince 61 percent of Houston voters, more than 160,000 people, to vote against HERO with one simple message: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”

Defending his client, Woodfill has called the lawsuit against Farmer—which he says in legal filings is “frivolous,” “harassing” and “brought in bad faith”—nothing more than an attempt by Farmer’s ex-wife to obtain full custody of their children by slandering her ex-husband’s reputation.

Woodfill wrote in one filing that Villarreal had “full knowledge” of the photographs Farmer took of her, even though Farmer already said on record that he “did not know” if Villarreal was aware of the photos and that he never told her he had them. At another point, Woodfill jumps into the apparent slut-shaming portion of Farmer’s defense: the woman was asking for it.

“Surely if it bothered her, she would not have been in front of multiple other people, including men,” Woodfill writes in one filing. “If she was so concerned about her privacy, she would not have been an active participant.”

When the Houston Press phrases it like that, it almost seems like the anti-HERO campaigners were not really interested in protecting women at all!

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Jesus, Save Me From Your Followers!

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The Houston Press’s Jef Rouner, speaking as a parent, tells it like it is:

This is the scenario people opposed to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance want me to believe is going to happen: my little girl, all pink eyeglasses, blond curls, and a sass level over 9,000, will need to use a public restroom at the park or a restaurant. Once in there she will be at the mercy of a transwoman, maybe even one with a penis, who will use the rights protected by HERO to… what? Pee within a certain amount of feet from her? Expose herself? Molest her? What diabolical she-penis monstrosity has the City unleashed on our powerless womenfolk?

I’ve got to tell you I know a fair amount of trans folks, and the idea of any of them in the bathroom with my daughter scares me way less than the thought of someone who honestly holds these beliefs being in there with her does.

I’ve got to tell you I know a fair amount of trans folks, and the idea of any of them in the bathroom with my daughter scares me way less than the thought of someone who honestly holds these beliefs being in there with her does.

First of all, let’s get something out of the way that shouldn’t need saying: exposing yourself to people in public, physically molesting or assaulting them, and raping them, will still be illegal with HERO. Whether the perpetrator is another child, a 60-year-old grandmother, or a trans person is irrelevant.

Second, I researched HERO extensively last year in a cover story for the Houston Press, and among the many things I found out in my investigation was that lists of trans people caught abusing similar ordinances to expose themselves in public were generally bullshit. Most lists are compiled by the Family Research Council and then spread through the media by regular Fox correspondent Todd Starnes without any apparent fact-checking. Equal rights ordinances that include protection for gender identity do not lead to any verifiable uptick of sex crimes involving women and bathrooms. They just don’t.

Rouner notes that anti-HERO gender-policing might make it harder for parents to help their children in public restrooms, and further notes that gender-policing is often used to harass cis-gender people as well:

Second, and this is the one that bothers me the most, what’s to stop those same absolutists from endangering my wife and daughter? I mean, if someone is dead set on keeping penises out of the female restroom and there’s no inherent legal protection in place for gender identity (note: cis is also a gender identity) what’s to stop that person from demanding my wife, or even my daughter, prove she doesn’t have a penis? Yes, my wife and daughter are both very girly-girls that fit nicely into the presumed feminine ideal of the American mindset, but so do lots of transwomen. Since the whole idea behind the fear is that dicks are infiltrating “undercover”, presumably all it would take is some yokel’s reasonable doubt to end up with the women I love searched for their secret perverted attack dongs. Don’t think for a second this doesn’t already happen.

Given the choice between an imaginary wave of trans predators or an empowered lot of bigots using the law to police gender and gender identity at their whim, I know which one I feel safer sending my kid into. She’ll need HERO in her future far more than she’ll need outdated fear-mongering. One day she may be pregnant, or a veteran, or disabled, or hopefully old, and HERO looks out for all those people. Who do opponents of HERO look out for? The sort of folk that feel they have a right to judge where you can go by your genitals. As far as I’m concerned that makes them as trustworthy as witch-hunters stripping women to search for the devil’s mark, and I prefer those people as far from me and mine as possible.

As Rouner’s citations make clear – when equal-rights protections are put into place, this doesn’t cause men to “dress up” so that they can “infiltrate” bathrooms. Austin, which has a trans-inclusive public accommodations law, has never had a problem with it. Nationally, there are exactly zero cases of this.

But, when you empower bigots, things can get ugly. In addition to the Detroit case that Rouner cites, there was of course the infamous Astrodome incident, this case in Mississippi, and this personal story.

Because cisgender and non-transgender-non-gender-conforming women are so often targeted by errant transphobia, it is obvious that any self-described feminist or LGBT ally who would oppose HERO is a special kind of stupid.

The thing is, none of this humiliating gender-policing would be legal even if Proposition 1 fails to pass. It’s the flip-side of the argument ( Rouner made earlier) that it will still be illegal to harass people in bathrooms even if you let transgender people pee.

But I think Jef Rouner does make a good point, although it’s as much subtext-as-text. To wit: the HERO debate is largely about power. Specifically, the power of transphobes and the religious right to dictate the terms of social behavior.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the mentality of anti-HERO big-wigs like Steve Hotze, who projects his totalitarian fantasies onto his opponents:

“Just like there was a communist manifesto, there’s a homosexual manifesto,” Hotze said. “The hackles will stand up on the back of your neck when you see what they have planned.”

Copies of the manifesto were sitting on every seat in the audience, although the copies Hotze distributed omitted the first line of the original, which establishes the text as a “cruel fantasy.” The “manifesto” is a satirical essay, originally written in 1987, a strange and hilarious imagining of a world in which gay men reign as oppressors over lowly straights.

“Your sons shall become our minions and do our bidding,” reads one line. “All churches who condemn us will be closed. Our only gods are handsome young men. We adhere to a cult of beauty,” the manifesto continues, concluding after many paragraphs: “Tremble, hetero swine, when we appear before you without our masks.” A legally required disclosure immediately beneath Hotze’s version reads “Reprinted and Paid for by Campaign For Texas Families PAC.”

He’s not the only one. Witness the freak-out last year when sermons (speeches which are intended to be preached to the whole world and are not exactly “private”) were subpoenaed:

  • From Andy Woods — “The recent actions of the Houston city government surrounding its passage and protection of HERO (‘Houston Equal Rights Ordinance’) borders on what one would expect of a third world banana republic dictatorship rather than what we would expect to find in the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
  • Mollie Hemingway — “totalitarianism of extremist wings of the gay rights movement.”
  • Kathy Howard — “So let’s just call this thing what it is. Christian persecution. Right here in the good ‘ole USA. Right here in the Lone Star State.”

And look how, in this current campaign, the antis are claiming that HERO constitutes “religious persecution” when in fact the ordinance would protect religion:

  • Charles Blain — “There is no doubt the mayor will use any political capital left during her term’s remaining six months to campaign hard to ensure that voters uphold HERO and her practice of religious persecution.”
  • Dave Wilson — “It was not rooted in eternal law and natural law. They circumvented the will of the people, refused to let people vote, violated the First Amendment, threatened our religious freedom, refused to follow man’s law and they violated God’s law.”
  • Ed Young — “Those of us who believe men should use men’s facilities and women should use women’s facilities—we will be discriminated against.”

Look at their own words! The opponents of Proposition One are terribly, terribly afraid of losing power — of being “persecuted” or “oppressed” or “discriminated against” — even though the law they are opposing expressly prohibits religious bias! One must conclude that either they have, collectively, lost their minds, or that what they are really saying is that they feel entitled to hold a monopoly on power, and cannot fathom having to share it with others.

Do you really want people like that, people so entitled and yet so insecure, to win this election? And do you think, if they win, that they won’t feel empowered – nay, obligated! – to leverage their newly-vindicated grip on power?

To be sure, I do not think that these folks will “go gently into the night” if HERO passes. I think they will obstruct and whine and pout. They will probably try to get the Supreme Court of Texas to throw it out, again (they do have a pretty good track record in court; it helps when the judges are politically-beholden to you).

Nevertheless, having a majority of Houston voters, on record, opposing them, ought to take a little bit of the wind out of their sails. And that, really, would be in everyone’s best interests.

On a related note, Bob McNair has walked back his donation to Campaign For Houston (the anti-HERO group). So we can go back to resenting him only for the incompetence of the Texans. Thanks a lot, Bob!

Bob McNair is Not a Bad NFL Owner for Refusing To Hire Ray Rice

The Houston Press complains that Bob McNair isn’t a micromanaging jackass like Jerry Jones:

No owner in the history of Houston sports has accomplished less with his franchise than Bob McNair. Yet no owner in the history of Houston sports is less criticized than McNair. Who cares if his teams don’t win? It’s not McNair’s fault. He saved football in Houston. He puts smart people in charge of the team. He leaves them alone.

But in 14 seasons, McNair’s Texans have won just 89 games against 124 losses. There are only two playoff seasons, only four winning seasons in those 14 seasons. Can you imagine the treatment Bud Adams would have received from the Houston media if the Oilers had accomplished so little? The Oilers wouldn’t be praised as the ideal model. The Oilers would be mocked as a train wreck run by an owner concerned only with making money. There’d be no praise for passing on players with troubled backgrounds; instead, there’d be loud criticism for Adams being willing to stick with unproven players like Alfred Blue instead of taking a chance on a proven veteran like Ray Rice.

There are several reasons why Bob McNair shouldn’t be blamed for this. First, hiring a known wife-beater is offensive on principle (at least when it comes to professional sports). Second, Ray Rice is getting old (for a running back). Third, letting Rick Smith manage things is the smart thing to do. There is probably a solid case to fire Rick Smith, but if you’re not going to pull that trigger, then don’t point.

So no, Bob McNair is not a bad NFL owner for failing to hire Ray Rice.

Bob McNair is a bad NFL owner for backing the anti-HERO campaign.

This is not just a rumor; it was confirmed to the Houston Chronicle by Jared Woodfill.

Bob McNair and Lance Berkman can kiss my ass.

Karma Report 10/3: Bring Back The Rainbow Jersey Edition

Lance Berkman says the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (H.E.R.O.) will allow “troubled men” to enter women’s bathrooms to do… scary things:

In the ad campaign, Berkman urges opposition to Proposition 1, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as gender, race, national origin, religion, pregnancy, and a list of other traits included in federal anti-discrimination law.

He explains that he’s against the ordinance because of one equal-access application, saying as a father of four daughters he does not want “troubled men to enter women’s bathrooms, showers and locker rooms.”

On Friday from Busch Stadium, he elaborated on his stance to the Post-Dispatch, saying he would never want to discriminate against anyone.

He said he was not applying the term “troubled men” to transgender people. “That language refers to that scenario or a voyeur — somebody who goes into a women’s bathroom and just likes to look at people. That to me is troubled.”

For members of the transgender community here, it sounded like backpedaling.

“It sounded pretty ignorant,” said Stephanie James, 65, of Maryland Heights, who had her gender reassignment surgery in 2009.

James, speaking on Saturday, said the problem is even when Berkman tried to smooth things over it was “all under the misbelief, the misapprehension that a lot of people have that this will allow weirdos and creeps into the restroom and so forth, when they’ve always been able to get in anyway.”

KTRK looked into the claim, and found that the anti-H.E.R.O., anti-“alternative lifestyle” campaigners are, shall we say, living in an alternative reality:

The ordinance does prohibit discrimination against transgendered Houstonians, but Eyewitness News looked deeper at the claims that this could open women’s bathroom doors. It has been against the law in Houston to use the opposite sex’s bathroom to cause a disturbance for decades.

A City of Houston ordinance passed in June of 1972 says:

It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex without the permission of the owner, tenant, manager, lessee or other person in charge of the premises, in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance.

(Code 1968, 28-42.6; Ord. No. 72-904, 2, 6-2-72)

A former Houston City Attorney told Eyewitness News anything other than using the toilet could be characterized as “causing a disturbance.”

The law remains in effect. It was most publicly challenged in 1990 when a woman at a George Strait concert used the men’s room at the Astrodome. She was charged with violating that section, and according to news accounts at the time, it took a Houston jury just 23 minutes to acquit her. One juror told the New York Times, “She just did what she had to do.”

A few days later, and Carlos Correa just smashed Lance Berkman’s record for most homers in a rookie season:

Lance Berkman’s 2000 season with 21 home runs set the current mark before Friday. Berkman hit 21 home runs in 114 games, and Correa has reached 22 in 97 games — most of it before he turned 21 years old.

Now that’s what I call a hero!

Houston voters: consider this your daily reminder to vote early on October 19th YES on Proposition 1.

For near-daily updates on H.E.R.O., see the indispensable TransGriot. Hat tip to Cristan Williams for the note about KTRK’s reporting.