When I was sixteen years old and in Dallas attending a Baptist Convention (not to be confused with the Southern Baptist Convention because segregation still rules in church), I was left alone in a bathroom at Ryan’s, a local buffet restaurant. While washing my hands, a large, tall white man came out of one of the two stalls and I was terrified. Nearly twenty-four years later, I can still see him trying to shush me and screaming as I had to take a step towards him to open the door of the tiny restroom and run out. He ran behind me as I went to my church group in terror. The waitress and manager of the restaurant recognized him as a regular with developmental delays and tried to assure us he must have just wandered into the wrong restroom, froze in the stall when he heard girls’ voices, then tried to exit quietly not knowing I was still there.
I know bathroom terror intimately. This is one of the reasons it infuriates me that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was not approved by popular vote because conservative Christian pastors banded together to mislabel it a bathroom ordinance and used the mantra “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” as a battle cry. It was not just false and misleading, it was these Christians flat out lying to preserve their brand of control and injustice.
Which leads me to the actual point of this piece. Over fifty percent of the discrimination reported in Houston is race based, yet black pastors all over the city not only refused to endorse this ordinance, they actively campaigned against it. They actively campaigned against a piece of legislation that would have protected them and their congregations from discrimination, or at least given them a local ordinance to use in litigation. Let that sink in for a moment. These black pastors were so worried about transgender Houstonians using the restroom they encouraged their parishioners to shoot themselves in the foot. In the name of Jesus at that.
This is why Christianity has never been anything more than another tool of white supremacy. Introduced to the slave, it has been and continues to be used to control the black community. Label anything with Jesus and you don’t even have to try hard to gain control. Racist, homophobic white pastors told the black pastors this ordinance would take away their freedom to discriminate against “the gays,” and the black pastors concluded the best way to protect against that was to emulate Jesus and die on the cross along side them. In other words, it was more important to be able to hurt the LGBTQ community than to help themselves. That is pathetic and it is wrong.
Passing HERO should have been an easy decision based on human decency. Instead, white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia won out easily because…Jesus.