As a proposal to revise Cleveland's laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people enters its second month of consideration, the editors of that city's largest newspaper are weighing in on the issue. And as Media Matters reports, when it comes to changes regarding "public accommodations," a majority of the editors got it wrong.
The media watchdog site accuses the editorial board of The Plain Dealer and the Northeast Ohio Media Group of "peddling the myth that sexual predators will be allowed to sneak into women's bathrooms."
In what the board described as a series of "preliminary thoughts," editorial writer Sharon Broussard declared she didn't have a problem with "transgender people using whatever bathroom makes them comfortable," but added that she was "not comfortable with a broad, gender-neutral bathroom ordinance that would make it easier for heterosexual men with criminal intent or just kinky habits to gain access to bathrooms used by women and children."
She was joined in that view by her colleague Peter Krouse, who wrote, "I don't think opening up all bathrooms to both sexes is the answer. That would deny people, males and females, the privacy they deserve and possibly put them in uncomfortable or compromising situations. It could also create a fertile environment for predators to strike."
But that's not what the proposed ordinance does. As Media Matters reports, the language says nothing about allowing men to use women's restrooms.
Editorial writer Christopher Evans clearly understands that: "I don't see the problem here. I think city council would rather wring its hands and dither over a no-brainer anti-discrimination measure than deal with real issues such as the use of deadly force by city police officers. "
His comments were echoed by Thomas Suddes, who wrote,"If this hasn't proven to be a problem in Columbus, why should it be a problem in Cleveland? Answer: It won't be. Public policy should be fact-based, not phobia-based."
The Plain Dealer first reported on the proposal last month. If adopted, the proposal would not only update the city's existing antidiscrimination laws, which have covered transgender people since 2009, to include protections for the transgender community, it would also "give transgender people the power to use whichever restroom aligns with their gender identity."
Columnist Mark Naymik summed up that change this way: "It aims to prevent Cleveland businesses from dictating which restrooms and locker rooms a person may use."
In its coverage of the editorial board comments, Media Matters explained the change even more thoroughly, by citing a statement from Equality Ohio that explains the change would remove a loophole in Cleveland's existing civil rights law, which explicitly allowed businesses to deny access to restrooms based on a person's gender identity.
And even though the proposal does not require businesses to build separate facilities or change existing signage on restrooms now in use, The Plain Dealer ignited opposition by headlining its initial coverage of the ordinance "Cleveland's Transgender-Friendly Legislation Would Open All Public Restrooms and Showers to Both Sexes."
Naymik urged the City Council to address the "concerns about the letter of the law and its implications" if it "wants to win acceptance from the public for transgender people."
But the public commentary on The Plain Dealer's editorial roundtable article suggests that "acceptance" will not come easy.
Comments in support of the ordinance were greeted by a flurry of hate, including: "im sorry but god made you what you are and thats what you should be. the rest is BS;" "whatever you were born as, is what you are period. Anything else is a severe mental disorder."
And when one commenter cited a study on antitransgender bias from earlier this year that showed 65 percent of respondents reported discrimination in one or more public accommodations settings in the past 12 months, the onslaught from opponents hit high gear: "I really do not care what they FEAR..... They can just were PAMPERS..... There is no way I want a PERVERT in the same bathroom....." and "Born a man, you die a man. Born a woman you die a woman. No amount of mutilation or drugs or makeup can change that. This whole attack on common sense is just so much garbage."
One trans commenter lamented the editorial board's reported ignorance on what the ordinance does and doesn't do: "Do you really care about transgender people or are you just trying to stir the pot so you will get more attention? We are real people and this incorrect information that keeps being brought up is not doing my community any good! This ordinance is no different than many of the other ordinances in other cities across Ohio or the country."
A reader from outside Cleveland echoed that sentiment: "Some of you are just insane with fear and ignorance. Several cities, including my city of Columbia, SC, have ordinances like these and NOTHING even remotely near the fears you all have cited has taken place."