Reactions To Austin Council's “Gender Free” Restroom Item Prove Road To Equality Paved With Trolls

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When I first broke the story about a plan by Austin City Council to propose gender neutral restroom signage the initial reactions were very positive. But as it turns out there are many who would allow their hate or ignorance to malign the LGBT community.

Right wing bloggers announcing the collapse of America and homophobic internet trolls who claim some conspiratorial gay agenda (as if that means something beyond equality) have become ubiquitous along the road to progress.

That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate questions and concerns regarding any new policy, including this one, but not everyone is interested in the facts…Anecdotally, most people seemed to take no issue with the proposal based on discriminatory feelings towards the transgender community, ¬†many even pointed to using the opposite sex’s single use restrooms as common practice when the line for one is too long.

Some folks did question whether women would be ok with using the same restroom as men who have “bad aim,” but it seemed that as many women found the “lady’s room” would be as unwelcoming to men. These weren’t concerns over safety, but over perceived cultural differences between men and women regarding cleanliness.

Last week the Austin Chronicle wrote that some, “have expressed fears about sharing a bathroom with someone of the opposite sex. Since the rule would only apply to single-stall restrooms, which are designed to be used by one person at a time, those fears may stem from a misunderstanding of the proposal.”

Interestingly both Fox 7 and KEYE reported that they could not find a detractor who would go on camera.

The Daily Texan reported on how other communities may benefit as well,

      “Jennifer McPhail, an ADAPT of Texas member, said she supported the resolution because it also increased access to bathrooms for people with disabilities. According to the website, ADAPT is dedicated to improving the quality of life for disabled citizens.”We just want to do our business in peace,” McPhail said. “If you don’t have access to the bathroom, then you don’t have very much in the community.”

According to McPhail, people with disabilities are not always the same gender as their attendants and going to the bathroom has caused issues in the past.

But in the case of anti-LGBT activist and President of Texas Values Jonathan Saenz some just like to plain old spread fear and hate. Saenz acknowledges the policy only refers to single occupancy restroom, which in most public places are mere feet apart but is still belligerent in his exploitation of ignorance.

    “Legally, politically and financially, this is not a smart move by the city of Austin,” Saenz told KTBC. “There are major privacy issues and safety issues when we deal with these type of transgender bathroom issues and we’ve seen them come up in Houston and San Antonio, where women are concerned about sharing or having to use a restroom where maybe a man’s gonna come in before or after them, you have small children and little girls.”

Many of the positive and neutral comments towards this proposed change have folks documented saying that they already use single occupancy restrooms as gender free in practice so an ordinance would simply make it official.

One City Council candidate said the “new City Council can’t get in there fast enough,” as if a new council would thoroughly change the culture of Austin. He also used a red herring to attack the progressive city council and distract from the issue at hand saying, “If Council spent half as much time worrying about our local tax burden as they do about advancing another item on their liberal checklist, we wouldn’t have the affordability problem we have in Austin.”

Always on message another rightwing blogger used a similar talking point to say, “It’s good to see that the high-tax, road-needy city council has its priorities in order.” They also used the tried and true tactic of the “slippery slope” to insinuate that this policy will lead to gender free locker rooms or multiperson restrooms.

That’s something that the sponsor of the resolution Councilmen Chris Riley says is not in the works telling KEYE, “I haven’t been hearing an argument for that, so no. I would have no idea what the future would bring but I have no reason to believe we would go down that road,”

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to matter which road we go down, if it leads to equality, it will be paved with trolls.

Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.


About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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