Monday, April 13, 2009

Locals officials scared of transgendered people

Sometimes you see a headline and just know that the story that it goes with is going to be chock-full of stupid. Today we have a fine instance of that in Bill to protect transgendered people draws mixed response.

The story itself centers around a bill (I assume it's HB1722, though the story neglects to identify it) that would have two parts, as explained quite succinctly by the Human Rights Campaign.
This bill would (a) expand existing hate crimes laws to cover crimes based on gender identity or expression and (b) expand existing anti-discrimination laws to prohibit discrimination in employment, places of public accommodation, real estate, and education based on gender identity or expression.
I'm not a fan of hate crimes legislation, but this doesn't seem too crazy. The hate crimes laws exist whether or not I like them, and as long as they exist they might as well cover all applicable groups.

But even if I were opposed to it due to the hate crimes stuff, it's easy to get behind the anti-discrimination stuff.

Well, easy for me anyway.

It's not so easy for Groton state representative Robert Hargraves:
Opponents point specifically to one aspect of the bill that would allow men who self-identify as women to use women's bathrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa.

"It gives license to perverts to go into ladies' rooms," state Rep. Robert Hargraves, R-Groton, said. "I have a problem with that. I have two daughters and six granddaughters, and this is bull-[shit]."
Do you use that potty-mouth around your granddaughters, Robert? For shame!

But let's assume he's right, and that transgendered people (or "perverts," if you're as dumb as Hargraves) could use the bathrooms of whatever sex they identify as. I suspect--and hope--that this is in fact the case. But so what?

I've used a lot of co-ed bathrooms in my short life. Yet, despite being in a bathroom with members of the opposite sex, I somehow refrained from showing them my junk. Remarkably, the women in these bathrooms also managed to avoid flashing their vaginas at me. I guess maybe I could have stuck my head under a stall door or something, but bathroom floors are yucky.

Does Hargraves think that women's restrooms are full of naked women lounging about? Probably. He seems to get most of his ideas about transgendered people from old Bugs Bunny cartoons, after all:
"What this does is, it gives men the chance to put a couple grapefruits in their chest, shave their legs, put on a little lipstick and a skirt, and go into the ladies' room," he said. "To me, any man that wants to do that is a pervert."
I suspect Hargraves has never seen a human breast. They only resemble grapefruit in poorly-written internet erotica, Robert. Additionally, they do not feel like bags of sand.

Look, this is pretty simple. If someone self-identifies as a woman and therefore wants to use the womens' restroom, there's no reason they can't. Womens' restrooms are fully capable of handling even the most manly man's leavings.

But what if the person self-identifying as a woman is just doing so in order to get into the womens' room to molest women, like Hargraves imagines happens all the time? Well, then they're molesting people and should be arrested and prosecuted. Of course, if they're going into the womens' restroom in order to molest women, then they're probably not going to bother with the comically inept crossdressing.

And, as Jen Benson (the only local politician in this article with any brains) points out, there is nothing keeping people from going into whatever restroom they want as it is. So prohibiting discrimination against transgendered people really won't have much effect on bathrooms. The bathroom stuff is even debunked elsewhere in the S&E article, where it mentions that 13 other states already do this and haven't had problems.

It's notable that while Hargraves seems to be very concerned about women being harassed by "perverts," he doesn't seem at all concerned about the harassment a transgendered person may experience for using their chromosomally-dictated bathroom. I wonder how he'd respond if a man dressed as a woman pulled up at the stall next to him.

Ah, I'm sure it wouldn't bother him. He's clearly an enlightened guy.

But not everyone is so enlightened, and finding a safe bathroom to use is a big enough issue for transgendered people that the Transgender Law Center even publishes the wonderfully-named Peeing in Peace Resource Guide, which is partly devoted to giving advice on how to deal with harassment and assault.

It doesn't take all that much imagination to recognize that a man dressed as a woman takes a not-insignificant risk any time they step into a mens' room. Especially if they can convincingly pass as a woman. It works the same in the other direction, except women are probably less likely to fly into a homophobic rage and physically assault a woman dressed as a man.

Hargraves isn't the only local dumbass, of course. Dennis Rosa wants to get in on the act, too.
But state Rep. Dennis Rosa, D-Leominster, said Friday he opposes the bill.

It may not openly promote criminal activity, Rosa said, but it encourages it.

"If someone is close to the edge, by encouraging it, you're adding to the problem and pushing them over," Rosa said. "That could be a real concern, because you're talking about people who are possibly having psychological problems because they're struggling with who they are."
I've read this a few times now, and for the life of me I can't figure out what Rosa is talking about. Is he freaked out about bathroom stuff for no reason too? Does he think being transgendered itself is criminal? Or does he think that transgendered people are somehow on the "edge" of becoming serial killers?

And how does he think their possible "psychological problems" will be helped by denying transgendered people equal rights? Perhaps if we learned a bit more about his feelings towards transgendered people we might gain some insight...
Rosa said the bill would "legitimize incorrect behavior."

"I'm for equal rights, but this is taking it way too far," he said.
Yep, that cleared it up.

Rosa is most assuredly not for equal rights. At least not for those damn transgendered people and their "incorrect behavior." I guess being a bigoted sack of shit is "correct behavior."

Clearly, his opposition doesn't really have anything to do with the fear of bathroom shenanigans. No, that's not really what worries Rosa (or Hargraves, I'd argue). They just think transgendered people are icky. I'd wager they don't want them in either bathroom.

Unfortunately for non-existent transgendered bathroom goblins (and also for perfectly nice transgendered people who just don't want to be discriminated against), Rosa and Hargraves will fight this bill:
Hargraves said he will vocalize his opposition to the bill.

"I may not use the word pervert on the house floor, but I'll let people know how I feel," he said.

But Hargraves may be one of the few willing to state his opinion openly, according to Rosa.

"If you didn't ask me the question, I probably wouldn't talk about this bill until it was time to vote on it, and then I'd just vote against it," the first-term representative said. "I think most legislators are hush-hush about it."

Rosa said at least one colleague told him in private he opposed the bill, but would not state his opposition publicly.

"My gut feeling is that there's a silent majority against it, but no one seems to really want to talk about it," he said.
Gee, why could it be that people don't want to talk about it?

Maybe it's because even assholes like Hargraves and Rosa realize on some level that being a bigot isn't really considered all that cool these days. Best to keep that stuff to yourselves, guys!

See, if you're willing to endorse discrimination against a whole group of people just because you're scared of having to pee next to a "pervert," that's actually really terrible. If I were that stupid, I'd try to keep it a secret too.

So, I actually have to applaud the Sentinel for running this story and letting the world know just what kind of morons Hargraves and Rosa are.

Also, this will be fun to refer back to when Hargraves shows up in a ladies' room with pomegranates under his shirt in a few months.