Kalamazoo Passes Non-Discrimination Ordinance; Opponents Still Whiny

07Nov09

Kalamazoo’s non-discrimination-ordinance amendment passed yesterday by a 2 to 1 vote. (I could not vote for it on account of not living in the city proper.) The ordinance bans discrimination in housing and public accommodations based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

I actually first learned of this proposed ordinance AND became a supporter of it when I saw an appallingly transphobic and fearmongering poster put out by the “Vote No” side. It featured “mug shots” of men-dressed-as-women (whether they were actually transgendered, transvestites, or just dressed up for the fearmongering poster, I have no idea) and tales of how these men had been, or were going to be, peeping at women in a restroom near you.

I said, “I have no idea what this ordinance says or what it’s even about, but I would vote “Yes” on it just because this poster is such an appalling piece of bullshit that I can’t bear to be even tenuously affiliated with whatever hateful asshats produced it. Thanks, poster!”

…Then I learned I’m not in the city and so could only vote on the much less interesting (but, sadly, equally controversial) public transportation millage. Egh.

I still have no idea what the “Vote No” position was, exactly. A few weeks before voting day, signs started going up in local front yards reading “NO Discrimination – Vote NO on Ordinance 1856.” Which, of course, confused me. And which, of course, the opponents insisted was NOT going to confuse people (yeah, right), and that they thought the ordinance actually caused discrimination. (I found out this morning their group is called “Voters Against Special Rights” or something like that.)

Now, someone help me out here, because I just don’t get the following:

1.) How does an ordinance that prevents Person A from discriminating against Person B based on (a) how they dress and/or (b) what Person A thinks Person B’s sexual orientation is, and/or what Person B’s sexual orientation actually is grant “special rights” to anyone?

Granted, I understand that as a straight cis woman that no one’s ever likely not to rent to me because I am (or generally appear to be) straight or cis. But that’s a function of my straight cis privilege – that I get because “straight” and “cis” are the perceived “normal” categories. It has nothing to do with those categories actually having some inherent virtue more worthy of being respected. And, if someone did want to refuse to rent to me or serve me beer because I look straight or cis, this ordinance stops them from doing that too.

2.) This ordinance does not prevent people from having all the private animus they want against, say, transgendered folks, nor does it prevent them from privately expressing that animus. Non-het, non-cis people don’t suddenly get a life that’s all sunshine and roses just because you’re not allowed to say “get the fuck out of my restaurant, you queer.” Plenty of people are still going to treat them like complete shit. This is unfortunate crap and I wish it were not so, but it is. Furthermore, if you are one of the people who still wishes to treat non-het, non-cis people like complete crap, you are still free to do so on your own time (though I really wish you’d quit).

3.) Why exactly are men who never came up with the idea before suddenly going to say, “oh, hey, I can totally dress up as a woman and go into women’s bathrooms and peep at them or assault them or, hey, whatever!” Keeping in mind the amount of still-totally-legal private animus they will be drawing towards themselves from #2 above.

4.) We still live in a male-dominated society, where very little, if anything, seems to stop those men (I am overlooking that women also commit sexual assault because the “opposeds” did, and because the overwhelming majority of assaults period are still committed by men) who really really want to assault a woman in a public place. Can somebody show me a concrete example of a case in which knowing that a gay or trans self-expression could get him beaten up was the direct cause of a man deciding, “oh, hey, better not try to sneak into the women’s bathroom and assault them!”?

5.) This ordinance also prevents people from discriminating based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Not only does it prevent, say, a restaurant owner from kicking out actual trans or gay people, it also prevents them from kicking out people whom they have randomly decided must be trans or gay.

I bring this up for three reasons: (1) every now and then (frequently), I get mistaken for a lesbian, (2) obviously by people whose gaydar is broken, which I can sympathize with even when I’m laughing my straight ass off because I have the brokingest gaydar that ever broke, and (3) I have an acquaintance who was permanently crippled after three teenagers beat him up one summer night on the grounds that he must be gay. He was not gay. They just arbitrarily decided he was, presumably to “justify” their assault.

My point being, tangentially, that even if you live in the magical land of Stupid Hatred, where it is non-het and non-cis people’s “fault” for having been born the way they are and if they want anything good out of this life they’ll straighten up (pun intended) and fly right goddammit, this ordinance protects the “good” “normal” het-and-cis people from moron landlords and bartenders who just can’t see I’m really straight and also really a man dammit. You’re protected even if you’re doing everything “right” – so WTF is the problem???

Maybe I am just a hippie pinko liberal socialist tree-hugger, but I don’t get it. ??

(Oh, and: the losing opposition blamed their loss on not having as many funds as the supporters. Because when your entire position is based on hate and fear-mongering, the only thing that could ever stop you is lack of funds. Totally.)

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