Because Houston Deserves Better

by K .S. Sterling

Houston, you are an amazing place. You are the home of a thriving arts scene, a mecca of art museums and opera. You are one of the most famous cities in the wonderful, enormous state known as Texas. Not to mention, you are the home of NASA and the Johnson Space Center, where mankind’s triumphs in space travel can continue to inspire and educate the world.

But right now, Houston, we have a problem.

Quite recently, Houston voters rejected the Equal Rights Ordinance—a bill that would have protected the rights of 15 different categories of people. Seems like an easy win, right?

The bill’s initial purpose was to prevent discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas of everyday life in which we sincerely, honest to God, truly pray that nobody would discriminate. But it was twisted by its opponents to “prevent perverts” in women’s bathrooms, and even gained the nickname “the bathroom bill.”

The whole ordeal became a warped fight against transgender women being able to have equal rights to privacy and to use the bathrooms that match their gender.

In researching what exactly happened, I came across articles with titles such as “The Perverts Lose!” and “Houston Voters CRUSH law allowing cross dressers to use women’s restrooms!”

So here’s the problem—I don’t think Houston voters quite understand the struggles or the needs of the transgender community.

(For starters, calling trans people “cross dressers” makes that clear.)

At the heart of it, I think it is fear that’s keeping people from accepting laws that protect the transgender community. They fear a group of people they don’t understand.

They seem to be afraid of this monster they’ve envisioned, or maybe they’ve been told by their church or friends or teachers that transgender women are terrible predators who will bum rush our women’s restrooms and terrorize innocent populations.

In articles I’ve read that opposed the bill, the writer always seems to enjoy villainizing the transgender community.

I don’t know how to fix this social disease of fear. I wish I did.

I wish so deeply that the people in Houston could accept that transgender people are not something to be protected from. In fact, transgender people deserve to be protected, especially after transgender women were made to be villains during this election.

Allowing people to express themselves and use the restroom of their choice, truly, won’t hurt anybody.

Houston—you are now the largest city in the country without any such bill protecting LGBT people.

I am a proud Texas native. I love my home state. I love how it, humorously, acts like its own country. I love the friendliness, the wide open space, the amazing home prices (seriously, have you seen the cost of a house down there?), and the incredible food. I love the Ft. Worth rodeo, and the fact that most high schools have agricultural barns for students to raise cattle. I love that.

But often times, I am ashamed by how Texas appears in the news.

I want to tell my New York friends that Texas isn’t all like this, that there are allies for the LGBT community there. But it gets harder and harder. Because when the home of the Johnson Space Center votes against something as good and as pure as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, it becomes no better than the racist small town some outsiders envision when they think of Texas.

We can fix this one day. I know we will. We just have to continue the fight.

Come on, Texan allies. Let’s keep voting until everyone is equally protected under the law.

Photo by K.S. Sterling