SB Nation’s Outsports reports that former Astros first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman has become a spokesman for a group opposed to a ballot initiative in Houston known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. He’s taped commercials attacking the law for providing equal protection for LGBT people.
Which, hey, baseball players skew conservative and conservative people are more likely to oppose LGBT laws than many, so no big deal? Normally yes, but this particular campaign and Berkman’s particular words against the law are pretty damn vile.
The law in question would ensure public accommodations for transgender people to use public bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. As it is now, transgender people frequently face discrimination in this regard and are denied the same access as others to facilities. Many cities have ordinances on the books ensuring such access, but Houston doesn’t. The vote on the ordinance is November 3.
The campaign against the ordinance, however, has chosen to traffic in some of the oldest and most disgusting stereotypes against LGBT people, characterizing them as “troubled men,” equating them with sexual predators and sex offenders and citing the safety of their “mothers, wives and daughters” as a reason for opposing the ordinance. Here is the group’s spokesman:
“Parker’s Bathroom Ordinance would force businesses and public establishments to allow troubled men, or men who want to start trouble, to use women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. This endangers women and girls and places them in harm’s way,” Campaign for Houston spokesman Jared Woodfill said in a press release.
“There are 8345 registered and convicted sexual predators in Harris County. This just scratches the surface of this dangerous problem. These men could use this ordinance as a legal shield to threaten our mothers, wives and daughters,” Woodfill added.
Berkman’s ad follows this script exactly, talking about his two daughters and citing the “troubled men” slander.
Such characterizations have been used for decades, hell centuries, to demonize the LGBT community, casting them as sick people and criminals. The opposition here is no different. And conveniently forgets that, as things currently stand:
- There are zero reported cases of transgender people attacking people in bathrooms; and
- There is nothing stopping cisgender sexual predators from using the same restrooms as children as it is and that stopping such things has never been on their agenda.
In reality, the use of “troubled men” and fears for the children are a handy way to avoid saying “we’re against this law because we are uncomfortable with transgender people in general and allowing what we perceive to be a political victory for LGBT persons in particular.”
One hopes Berkamn is ignorant of the ugliness animating the campaign for which he speaks, as many celebrity endorsers are.