City Council Votes 5-4 to Approve LGBT Protections on First Reading
His name is Aleczander Dean, and he's a student at Kokomo High School in Kokomo, Indiana.
On Monday night, Dean addressed the City Council (video below) prior to its initial vote on an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.
And with his powerful one-minute speech, Dean may have done more to counter the transgender bathroom myth than the entire $3 million campaign in support of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) last year.
"In regards to people saying that transgender people will be predators … I just want to know why you guys think we're going to be predators, seeing as how the bathroom is our worst nightmare?” Dean told council members. “We go in there feeling as if we’ll be attacked, and we know that people don’t want us there. Why do you guys want us to be hurt more? It’s not right for you to be denying us. I go to sports competitions. I go and change with the guys, because the girls would think that it was weird for a guy to be in there. Why would you want the girls to be freaked out by having a guy in the changing room?"
The council eventually approved the ordinance, 5-4, on first reading, with a final vote set for next week.
Standing room only. LGBT issue at city hall. pic.twitter.com/wdQSq6LR7a— Tim Bath (@TimBathKT) March 7, 2016
More than 30 people addressed the council, with opponents of the ordinance outnumbering supporters two-to-one. And many of them repeated the familiar argument that LGBT protections would somehow lead to sexual predators entering women's bathrooms to prey on victims.
This fear-mongering claim is provably false, as no such incident has been reported in any of the more than 200 cities with similar laws. In recent months, however, it has befuddled LGBT advocates, who've struggled to devise an effective response. This failure was most notable in Houston, where a TV ad depicting a man following a young girl into a bathroom stall led to voters overwhelmingly repealing HERO in November.
"I have a little girl who is 6 years old, and my job as a mother is to guide her moral compass, and I feel if you pass this, you are stripping me as a parent [of the ability] to guide her moral compass, with fear that we will walk into a locker room, and that she may see a body part that she should not see at her age," one woman told Kokomo council members.
"Don’t tell me the sexual predators are not drooling over this opportunity to go into the women’s restroom," one man said.
Majority of speakers still fighting against ordinance, many focused on oft-discussed bathroom issue.— George Myers (@gmyerskt) March 7, 2016
Kokomo City Councilman Steve Whikehart, who authored the ordinance, pre-emptively addressed restroom safety concerns in introducing the measure.
Deploying a powerful but underused weapon against the trans bathroom myth, Whikehart pointed to June 2015 recommendations from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which state that "all employees, including transgender employees should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity."
"As for the use of bathrooms, this doesn't change anything about the safety of children," Whikehart said. "OSHA's goal is to ensure that employers provide a safe and healthful working environment."
One speaker in support of the ordinance also noted similarities between the trans bathroom myth and arguments in favor of racial segregation.
"They didn't want Black people in their bathroom because something bad might happen," she said.
Dean's mother also spoke, noting the extremely high rates of violence against trans people. She said she fears that discrimination based on her son's gender identity will prevent him from pursuing his dream of becoming a gender-specific psychologist.
"I’ve got a very smart son. He’s not afraid to get up and speak his mind, and I thank God for that every day," Dean's mother said. "I want my son to have the same rights that I have."
Watch Dean's remarks in the video below.
Image: Screenshot via YouTube