In the wake of Senate's passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), conservatives have latched on to a demeaning stereotype: that a transgendered person isn't real and that the bill would turn women's bathrooms into dens of sexual harassment. Enter Bill O'Reilly, who compared transgender women to a randy patron at Hooters. (Also: not all Hooters patrons are horny pervs!)
O'Reilly made the comparison on his show on Tuesday night when discussing a recent news story, and then extrapolated that into a moral argument of letting 12-year-old boys eat at Hooters. He took that opportunity to weigh in with his expertise about transgender people to commentator Alan Colmes. Part of that expertise involves comparing them to leery Hooters patrons:
O'Reilly: In — the transsexual in the locker room, in the bathroom, and all of that, you're fine with that. But you won't take the kid to Hooters...
O'Reilly: The way to deal with it is basically, look, if you're born a boy you stay in the boys locker room even though — and then when you're an adult you can go where you want. But this is what gets me about you — you, Colmes. You. You. You say no to Hooters, but yes to the transgender ...
Colmes tried to talk some sense into O'Reilly, but the latter was adamant in making this parallel of a woman's bathroom or locker room to a breastaurant:
Colmes: One is taking a 12-year-old to see 'T and A,' and the other is someone who happens to be of indeterminate gender because that's the way they're built. It's a different thing.
O'Reilly: Listen. If the guy goes into the girls' locker room, there's going to be what you just described! But you're ok with it!
Colmes: So a girls' locker room is like Hooters to you?
O'Reilly: Have you ever been in a locker room, Colmes?
Colmes: I actually have. Yes.
O'Reilly: They don't have chicken wings but — it's called a locker room for a reason. Do you see what I'm saying?
Locker rooms have plenty of nudity (there are many stories on how, often times, it's not the kind of nudity you want to see). Hooters do not. And yes, women at a Hooters are actually more covered up than those in a locker room. If someone is nude in a restroom, then you have problems.
Hooters are unisex. Locker rooms are not. Restrooms are separated by gender (though there is that weird unisex "family" bathroom/poop suite). There was that Ally McBeal unisex bathroom, which is just something that no office should ever implement.
O'Reilly gets this one right. There is no food served in a locker rooms or restrooms — that, like the Ally McBeal bathroom, would be not a good idea.
The Sexiness Factor
This is the cornerstone of O'Reilly's argument, and possibly proof that he has never been inside a women's bathroom or locker room. Women at Hooters are paid to be nice, friendly, wear short shorts, serve people wings. Women who use public restrooms are usually not paid to be there, and are usually doing business, like defecating, farting, urinating, or dealing with menstruation that men — heterosexual, gay, transgender — don't really want to think about. And women are at least equal to men when it comes to making a restroom a pretty disgusting place.
Transgender Sexual Assault
And that brings us to perhaps O'Reilly's most harmful insinuations: that transgender people are not valid and that there are people (including transgender women) who will try and use the law to sexually harass and assault women in places like locker rooms and restrooms. It's a fear-mongering myth that's been peddled by right-wing groups, like the National Organization of Marriage, during the political debate on ENDA.
That transgender assault fable also came up this summer, when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that required public schools to allow students to use bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms based on gender identity. Organizations like the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative legal defense organization, made the call to plaintiffs who felt like they were victims. PJI President Brad Dacus said in August:
"We at Pacific Justice Institute stand ready and willing to defend anyone who will be victimized as a result of this new law. That includes someone whose privacy rights are violated in the bathroom, in the locker room, in the showers, or someone who is prevented from playing on a sports team because someone from the opposite gender took their place."
The PJI found some people in Colorado who alleged that they were victims — a story which Fox News picked up and promoted. The PJI have a video of teary complaints from students and parents, but in these accounts there are no claims of harassment, no evidence that there was a sudden uptick in boys claiming to be transgender just to watch girls poop, or that their children have even used the bathroom at the same time. The only thing that seemed that those accounts agreed on was that a transgender person was using the toilet.
According to school's superintendent, the story of harassment was made up and there have been no claims of harassment. Florence High School Superintendent Rhonda Vendetti clarified the misinformation:
"We do have a transgender student at the high school, and she has been using the women's restrooms. There has not been a situation. All the students of these parents who say they feel uncomfortable just about the fact that the student is allowed to go into the restrooms at the high school, into the stalls – they don't believe that that's appropriate, so that's where it stems from. There has not been an incident of harassment, or anything that would cause any additional concern."
Bottom line: a transgender girl used a bathroom, and the most harmful thing about it is Bill O'Reilly.
Photo of women's bathroom by: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr.