Roger Goodell and the National Football League recently had the chance to do the right thing—or at least take a breath and listen to people counseling them to do the right thing—yet, at the speed of a young Deion Sanders, they were proactively pathetic. The question before Commissioner Goodell: Should the league consider moving the February 2017 Super Bowl out of the city of Houston.
Why move the big game? Well, Houston put some of their citizens’ civil rights up for a vote and by a wide margin declared that LGBTQ people needed to accept a second-class form of citizenship. The referenda, aptly named the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), would have extended nondiscrimination protections to also cover the LGBTQ community. Yet it wasn’t even that it lost as much as how it lost, which should turn the stomach of anyone with an ounce of compassion. The anti-HERO forces took this fight to the gutter. The “no” campaign zeroed in on the “T” in LGBTQ and was viciously as well as unapologetically transphobic. The dominant slogan on T-shirts and signs was “No men in women’s bathrooms.” As Republican lieutenant governor of Texas Daniel Patrick said, the campaign “was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott even tweeted the phrase “No men in women’s bathrooms,” just in case trans people hadn’t been demonized quite enough. It was ugly as sin and spoke one of the most toxic traditions of the old South: the idea that any atrocity can be justified if done in the name of “protecting our daughters.”
It should be noted that not one example exists of a trans person exposing their genitals in a public bathroom, and that it would be illegal for anyone to do so in any context. And not that you heard Greg Abbott talking about it, but the record of men following women into bathrooms to commit sexual assaults actually exists. But this campaign was ginned up to divide and conquer the people of Houston. After the results were in, former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman—who also publicly campaigned against the ordinance—gave a quote for the ages when he crowed, “Tolerance is a virtue that’s killing this country.”
I contacted Upworthy journalist Parker Molloy, who is a trans woman, for comment. “It’s always frustrating when things like basic human rights are put to a public vote, and that’s what happened Tuesday in Houston,” she said. “It’s even more frustrating when those leading the opposition run a campaign based on lies, which again, was exactly what happened on Tuesday. Seventeen states and more than 200 municipalities have enacted similar protections without incident. But each time this gets brought up for discussion—whether you’re talking about Houston or New York—the same lies get trotted out.… No matter which way last night’s vote went, the fact that there was a single person (let alone thousands) willing to cast a vote to say I’m less human and less legitimate than they are is absolutely heartbreaking. I went to bed [Tuesday] night heartbroken for my friends in Houston.”