As LGBT leaders pontificate on the "how" and "why" of Tuesday's overwhelming electoral defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, the editorial board of The New York Times is pointing its finger squarely at the Texas State Capitol in Austin.
"Sometime in the near future, a transgender teenager in Texas will attempt suicide — and maybe succeed — because vilifying people for their gender identity remains politically acceptable in America," opens the editorial, published one day after Houston voters soundly rejected the broad nondiscrimination protections HERO sought to provide.
An increase in recent media attention to the trans people who have taken their own lives has spotlighted the deadly impact of such false, misleading messages, especially when sent by those in positions of power. While experts contend that suicidal ideation is a complex issue fed by multiple factors, transgender people are acutely at risk. A reported 41 percent of trans people have considered or attempted suicide; that's 10 times the average rate for the cisgender (nontrans) population. Suicide prevention experts often point to the harsh, misleading public campaigns against basic rights for trans people as a key ingredient of the toxic environment that leaves many trans people hopeless.
The Times editorial continued:
"The hateful rhetoric of leaders like Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the latest, ugliest example. Mr. Patrick was ebullient on Tuesday night after it became clear that Houston voters had decidedly rejected a broad equal rights ordinance that opponents maliciously and misleadingly characterized as a boon for cross-dressing sex offenders."
Going on to note that HERO sought to protect from discrimination 15 classes of people — including disabled individuals, like Gov. Abbott, who is a paraplegic — the Times turned its focus to using HERO's loss as a teachable moment for the LGBT equality movement in a post-marriage equality nation, concluding:
"When that movement achieves irreversible momentum — and it is a matter of when, not whether — people like [anti-HERO campaign organizer Jared] Woodfill, Mr. Abbott and Mr. Patrick will be remembered as latter-day Jim Crow elders. Their demagogy is egregious because it preys on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
"As opponents of the ordinance celebrate their victory this week, transgender people across the country are understandably reeling. They should take comfort in knowing that history will not be kind to the haters who won on Tuesday. In time, the bigots are destined to lose."
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.