The notion of antigay lawmakers being self-loathing and closeted is by no means an uncommon thing. Whether it’s Larry Craig and his toe-tapping, wide-stance antics in a Minneapolis airport bathroom, or George Rekers and the rent boy he hired to “lift his luggage” on a two-week European vacation, those who espouse the strongest antigay positions seem to be the largest hypocrites.
Last month, when the Grindr profile of Matt Makela — a Michigan-based pastor with a strong antigay history — became public, I viewed the outing as a bit of a yawn. It’s just become so common that I expect a strongly antigay voice in today’s political climate to have a gay double life.
It wasn’t until this last week, in news that overshadowed that of Makela, that I finally discovered the transgender corollary.
No, I didn’t assume that those who are strongly anti-transgender are trans, though I suspect we’ll see a few over time. I assumed, rather, that the attacks against transgender people were simply antigay hucksters trying to find a new target in the wake of various LGBT legislative victories. With the long slog towards same-sex-marriage rights appearing to be all but over, surely opponents need a new target to fill their coffers. The anti-transgender “bathroom bills” seem tailor-made for them.
The right has crafted a “bathroom meme” to fight against transgender rights. Their argument is that letting transgender people use public accommodations consistent with our gender identity or expression will allow non-transgender rapists and molesters to gain access to opposite-gender restrooms.
That idea has been at the heart of a series of insidious bills introduced in Kentucky, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada and elsewhere. It has been used to stall and prevent rights gains, including a recent loss in Charlotte, N.C., marked by radio ads extolling the “bathroom meme,” as well as a notorious antigay activist harassing transgender people who used appropriate facilities at the hearing over the bill.
There’s one time in particular the “bathroom meme” was used that I want to focus on.
In August 2014, the Fayetteville City Council in Arkansas was voting on the repeal of an antidiscrimination bill. The bill in question — Ordinance 119 — protected against discrimination due to sexual orientation and gender identity, among other protected classes. A robocall recorded during the fight to repeal Ordinance 119 evoked the “bathroom meme”
“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men — yes, I said men — to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only,” the call stated. “I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child-predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child. Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool’s private changing area?”
The robocall in question was recorded by Michelle Duggar, the wife of Jim Bob Duggar and mother of the “19 Kids and Counting” Duggar clan of the TLC reality show. Jim Bob and Michelle are part of a movement of hard-right evangelicals who focus on female submission and sexual purity while also promoting large family units. Their strong beliefs have been passed onto their kids, including Josh, the oldest of their 19 children. Josh had been a rising star among the right, even being pictured with most of the GOP presidential hopefuls for 2015. Until last week, he was the executive director of FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council, which has also been pushing the “bathroom meme.”
I mentioned that Josh is now the former executive director. He stepped down after molestation allegations came out.
You see, between March 2002-July 2003, Josh molested several young girls, including his own young sisters. Initially, he snuck up on them as they slept, later assaulting one while she sat on his lap.
His parents initially told their pastor, and placed Josh into a “treatment program” that was little more than helping a friend remodel a building. It was a year later that they finally told a police officer. The officer did not arrest him, only offering a “stern talking-to.”
That police officer, by the way, is now serving a 56-year sentence for child pornography.
Josh, his parents and his wife all want this story to go away, claiming that, while he “made some very bad mistakes,” Josh has found his forgiveness with God. The statute of limitations will keep him from serving time in jail for what he did.
So what does this teach us?
Next time you see someone who seems to focus just a bit too much on anti-transgender “bathroom bills,” consider that they may be the next Josh Duggar. Perhaps we need laws to protect us from evangelicals in public restrooms.