Am I surprised the Indiana General Assembly failed to do anything about LGBT rights this week?
No.
But could the legislature have managed a worse outcome?
Yes.
It could have pressed ahead with a bill that included nothing for transgender Hoosiers. I suspect they were left out so the whole thing wasn’t rejected on the bathroom issue that has come up elsewhere.
That happened in November in Houston, where voters shot down a bill protecting LGBT rights in housing and employment, among other things.
Their problem was probably not animosity toward gay folks, considering then-mayor Annise Parker is openly gay and married to a woman. I imagine she would not have been elected to three terms if that were an issue.
Their problem was that it would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom matching what they feel their gender is.
And that could have led to sexual predators invading bathrooms, apparently.
Let’s put aside for a minute questions about what being transgender actually means and whether someone can legitimately feel like their body doesn’t match what they think their gender should be.
(A side note, though: I was pretty judgmental and not understanding the first time I heard about someone being transgender. That’s no longer the case. If someone is still where I was then, they should do more research.)
The point here is that voters were fooled into thinking the bill presented a new threat, as if it wasn’t already easy for anyone to walk into whatever bathroom they want, and as if it would only now occur to a creepy dude to go in a women’s restroom.
Voters denied protections to one segment of the population because they were concerned a different segment would now be able to go into rooms that, in many cases, do not even have locks.
Nothing was keeping predators out before. As anyone who has ever walked into the wrong bathroom can attest, there’s no magical barrier that lets in those whose intentions are pure and whose bladders are full and repels those who aren’t meant to be there.
But if anti-gay rights groups spin it right, suddenly there’s a new potential threat to women and children, and if enough voters are scared, they’ll throw away rights they might have approved otherwise.
So on one level, it’s smart to try a bill that can’t be rejected based on that scare tactic.
On another, it’s sad to have to plan around campaigns of deliberate misinformation.
We should be able to do better than that, and accept or reject measures based on actual, not perceived, benefits and consequences.
Yes, protections for three out of four elements of the LGBT population would be better than protection for zero. And Indiana accomplishing even that would be surprising.
But let’s not reduce it to LGB because of misunderstanding the T.