The New Hampshire Senate voted this week to legalize same-sex marriage. They also voted to unanimously reject a bill to ban discrimination against transgender people. (The Union-Leader article says "sexual identity issues," but I think they meant "on the basis of gender identity.")
House Bill 415 would have protected those with sexual identity issues in areas of housing and employment, much the way the state's laws protects others from discrimination on the basis of color, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Those who fought the bill said it would open women's bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms to sexual predators who could raise a defense in court that they were sexually confused.
Once again, the debate goes to the bathroom. It's dumb and a distraction (do these people actually think that that little female stick figure protects women from possible sexual aggressors? Are they seriously that stupid?), but it works. Not a single senator voted for the bill, not even its sponsors, saying that the bill "would only worsen the situation for transsexuals because of the way the bill was portrayed."
The Union-Leader article does explain how this is nothing more than a distraction designed to perpetuate discrimination against trans people:
The 24-0 vote to kill it came after Democrats blasted opponents of the bill for dubbing the measure the "bathroom bill," a move they said created misunderstanding and fear among the general population.
They also criticized the press and media for picking up on the nickname, saying they became an unwitting partner in the effort to continue denying a part of the population its civil rights.
"Shame on you," said Sen. Jacalyn Cilley, D-Barrington, as she accused opponents of "political posturing and gamesmanship."
Bill supporters said discrimination of any kind is wrong, and that state law should protect all citizens equally. They said there have been no bathroom incidents in the 13 states that have similar laws on the books.
I'm not a transgender activist, so I don't have much of an idea about what to do about this. The right's going to use the bathroom argument in every single state and municipality from here on out that wants to pass anti-discrimination legislation. They know the lowest common denominator when they see it, and here they have it.
But, as an outsider, it seems to me like the worst way to deal with this argument would be to answer it head on. The point is to distract people from the real issue, so joining in would only further take people away from the discrimination trans people face. As they say in politics: if you're explaining yourself, you're losing.
It would be like gays and lesbians, back when there were those referendums to ban us from being teachers, responding, "Don't worry, we're really not child molesters!" Something tells me that that wouldn't have been an effective strategy.
I suppose the goal should be to educate people to the point that these distractions will seem so ridiculous that people will just reject them on-face. Like that utterly silly NOM "Gathering Storm" ad that portrays the gays as the biggest threat to America - everyone wanted to parody it because Americans have gotten so over it that they just can't help but laugh at it. But 20 years ago? An ad like that would have rallied the fundies against the gays.
Doing what LGB people did over the last several decades won't work - every movement's strategy will be different because they all work in different contexts. Also, considering the smaller population of transsexual/transgender people compared to LGB people, as well as trans people's different relationship to coming out than gays' and lesbians', a grand strategy based on "outness" probably won't work as effectively.
As I've said before, I'm not an expert, I'm just a queer boy with an opinion. Feel free to tear apart my observations in the comments.
But from what I've read it looks like trans people and their supporters in the senate got blind-sided on this one. And it looks like this is the right's grand strategy, so it's worth discussing how to move people beyond this silliness.