WATCH: Transgender woman arrested for entering women’s bathroom at Houston library

KTRK reports that a preoperative transgender woman in Houston was arrested last week for using the women’s restroom at the city’s main library.

The woman’s arrest appears to conflict with the city’s nondiscrimination policy, enacted by Mayor Annise Parker earlier this year, which permits people to use restrooms according to their gender identity, regardless of their biological sex.

Tyjnae Moore pleaded guilty to “knowingly entering a restroom of the opposite sex” and spent two nights in jail before being given credit for time served.

Tyjnae Moore

Right-wingers have long used the restroom issue to fight discrimination protections for transgender people. So it’s hardly surprising that the Houston Area Pastors Council is seizing upon this incident, even though there’s no indication that the woman was acting inappropriately. From KRTK:

Earlier this year, Houston Mayor Annise Parker expanded an anti-discrimination executive order that allowed city employees to use restrooms based on their gender identity. But it’s unclear if that order conflicts with existing city statute. It’s one reason why the conservative Houston Area Pastor Council has asked the attorney general for an opinion.

“It’s the sort of legal and moral confusion we fully expected to take place and shows why it’s a bad public policy. It needs to be reversed because there is no legal standard of what gender identity means,” said Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council. …

The mayor’s office issued a statement Monday evening saying, “There appears to be a misunderstanding regarding applicability of my executive order and we need to clarify that. This is a matter of providing practical solutions in a diverse city. It is not about behavior. Where there is inappropriate behavior, there will be enforcement.”

UPDATE: The Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America issued the below statement late Monday. Also, Darrell Steidley, who is lead counsel in the Nikki Araguz case and a partner in Phyllis Frye’s law firm, debates the issue with Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastors Council in the video below.

Houston, TX – November 22, 2010 – A young male-to-female transgender library patron named Tyjnae Moore was arrested and taken to jail on November 17 because she, in accordance with the Houston City Ordinance, used the female bathroom at the Jesse H. Jones Library in downtown Houston.  A Houston Library security guard initiated the incident by informing an HPD officer that, “a man [sic] is in the restroom.” The arresting officer took the patron to jail for the alleged offense of violating a State of Texas law which states, “It is unlawful for any person to use a restroom of the opposite sex unless given permission…”

City of Houston Executive Order 1 – 8 and 1 – 20 ensures that all individuals regardless of race, gender identity, nationality or sexuality can have equal access to City restroom facilities. “The arrest should have never happened.” said Cristan Williams, Executive Director of the Transgender Foundation of America. “The City of Houston has given this victim explicit permission to use a restroom consistent with their gender.  This means that the library patron was acting in a manner consistent with both state and local law. Since she broke no law, this is a case of unlawful arrest and imprisonment.”

The victim, a native of Minnesota, states that she will be leaving Texas as soon as she can. She states that this is the second time she has been harassed by Houston police.

—  John Wright