Leslie McMurrayI used to live and work in Houston. I spent nearly five years there, co-hosting the “Morning Buzz” on the alternative station, 94.5 The Buzz.

The people I met in Houston were warm, welcoming people who seemed like they had good heads on their shoulders. I formed a charity, called “Santa Letters,” to bring Christmas to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have one, and our audience gave generously. The people of Houston are good people.

But when it came to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — HERO — they just got duped.

They bought the lie.

Maybe they were too busy helping their neighbors to actually do the research or read the ordinance. Or maybe they were just too busy to vote; voter turnout on Nov. 3, when HERO was defeated by a huge margin, was only 8 percent. Either way, there will be a high price to pay.

The defeat of HERO, in addition to making the Bayou City a laughingstock to other Americans, could well end up costing the city vast sums of money; equality is good for business while bigotry isn’t. Ask the NCAA about that.

As it was written, The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance would have prohibited discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy in employment, public accommodations and housing.

Perhaps I should offer up an apology to all those other groups for screwing things up for them? Because this proposition became about one thing only: People like me using the restroom.

I’m sorry, military veterans. You won’t get fair treatment in Houston because people are scared of me using the bathroom.

I apologize, pregnant women. You are set up for discrimination in Houston because of me. I wish it weren’t so.

Among those who opposed HERO were Baptist Ministers Association of Houston, Houston Area Pastors Council, Houston Ministers Against Crime, AME Ministers Alliance of Houston/Gulf Coast, Northeast Ministers Alliance, South Texas Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship, South Texas District Council of the Assemblies of God and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

That’s really rich. I wonder what Christ thinks about those who claim to do His work using lies and scare tactics to deny others basic human rights.

They painted transgender people as being a danger to children. That’s quite interesting. I looked for one single instance of a trans woman causing a disturbance in a women’s restroom — just one example, anywhere. Guess what: It just doesn’t happen. It’s a lie. A myth.
HERO opponents’ slogan was “No Men in the Women’s restroom.” But see, the thing is, I agree 100 percent! I don’t want men in the women’s room either!

But it’s people like me the HERO opponents were talking about.

The thing is though, I’m not a man. Neither are other transwomen. We are all women, and we have just as much a right to be in the women’s restroom as any other woman.

Where is there concern over women being raped on college campuses across America? I heard not a word.

Now state Sen. Don Huffines here in North Texas is adding his own willful ignorance to the show. In speaking about the Nov. 10 unanimous vote by the Dallas City Council to clarify the wording of Dallas’ equal rights ordinance to make clear that it offers protections based on gender identity and gender expression, Sen. Huffines tweeted: “Repeal Dallas’ new LGBT ordinance immediately. It was not reviewed or thoughtfully considered by the public.”

Here’s what I want to know Don: Are you just ignorant or are you a liar? Does your pastor know about you playing fast and loose with the truth? Or is “bearing false witness” not a big deal at your church?

Let me help you with the facts:
• Dallas’ ordinance has been in place for 13 years. In that time there have been zero problems with trans women in restrooms.
• Some 224 cities across America have equal rights ordinances, according to the Human Rights Campaign. None have experienced problems with transwomen using the restroom. None.

The revision approved by the Dallas council had been available for public comment for a year.

Don, I understand that it would be hard to whip up hatred by coming out against equal rights to housing, access to healthcare and employment protection. So instead you manufacture a problem where none exists, and use it to try to drive a wedge between the people of Dallas. We see right through you, you fear-mongering liar.

Your website says you bring “all Texans together to achieve unimaginable prosperity through limited government and cherishing our liberty that God alone has bestowed upon us.” Surely, trying to control where a 57-year-old woman uses the restroom fails miserably when it comes to your commitment to “limited government.”

Now, the danger some clergy members pose to children is well documented and also thought to be vastly under-reported. A recent study showed more than 150 instances of clergy from all denominations (except Jewish rabbis) involved in molestation of children.

That’s not to say all clergymembers are dangerous. Most aren’t. But when those in the church business hold up signs that paint transgender people as a danger in bathrooms … . Well, my mom had a saying for that: “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.”

The fact of the matter is, your kids are far more likely to be molested by someone you trust. Consider this: I found a website with 13 pages of female teachers that have engaged in sexual misconduct with their students. A quick search turned up more than four dozen male teachers charged with molesting students — just in 2014 alone!

Most police are there to help, but again, your child is statistically more likely to be abused by a police officer than by a trans woman. Anyone remember the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State? That was in the men’s locker room.

Here’s another interesting statistic pulled from Twitter: More U.S. senators have been arrested for sexual misconduct in bathrooms than have trans women.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has “not heard of a single instance of a transgender person harassing a non-transgender person in a public restroom. Those who claim otherwise have no evidence that this is true and use this notion to prey on the public’s stereotypes and fears about transgender people.”

Not to say that there isn’t danger lurking in bathrooms. It’s just that it is the trans people who are in danger.

In March of last year, police investigated the physical and sexual assault of a transgender teen who said he was attacked in a bathroom at a suburban San Francisco public school where another transgender student had reported being the target of bullying.

In April 2011, trans woman Chrissy Lee Polis was viciously attacked by two teenagers as she entered the women’s bathroom at McDonald’s. Polis was dragged across the floor by her hair and repeatedly kicked and punched to the point where she had a seizure, while employees and others looked on.

I understand that middle America isn’t going to figure this out overnight. It will likely take years. But I’m just not that patient. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone to define my gender for me and tell me which bathroom I am permitted to use when their decision may put me in grave physical danger.

Worse, when ordinances like HERO are defeated, it sends a terrifying message to transgender kids: You are not welcome in this city, your identity is not validated. That message can and has cost lives. Please stop it.

It’s frustrating that it is so easy for those on the religious right, who have no shame, to lie to people’s faces and so easily defeat something as important as HERO with lies. The truth is, I’m no threat to your kids. I just need to use the bathroom.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 13, 2015.