Child safety is a big concern in the controversy over Houston's equal rights ordinance, and this drives me a little bit crazy.
Only a very little bit crazy, mind you. As mama to six extraordinarily precious munchkins, I can't get too mad at anyone who wants to keep kids safe.
I do, however, feel approximately the same way as I would over a campaign to protect children from auto injuries by keeping car windows closed at all times.
You see, red herrings are not harmless. Given that carefully rolling up your windows won't actually keep your kids safe, this hypothetical misconception would be dangerous as well as silly. Auto safety is too important to dink around with ineffective strategies. Just strap your kids into appropriate car seats, observe all traffic laws, and put away that cell phone already! The windows have nothing to do with it.
In the same way, keeping gender nonconformists out of public restrooms won't protect our children from pedophiles.
It just won't.
There has been a good deal of hand-wringing over the idea that biological males might gain access to the restrooms that little girls use, but as a mother of five sons I am keenly aware of the fact that biological males already have full access to the same facilities as little boys.
There's no call for paranoia, but the buddy system is definitely in order. And if you really want to keep kids safe, family restrooms are the way to go.
Family restrooms solve all kinds of problems!
Other cities have had similar equal rights ordinances for quite some time, so Houston isn't exactly jumping into the dark. If you find any evidence that these laws have increased the risk of assault, please let me know, but my own search has come up blank.
Still, even if this law wouldn't affect our children's physical safety, emotional safety also matters. Here too, I think that worries about restrooms are a dangerous distraction. Restricting restroom access won't actually keep our kids safe, and parents need to focus on the things that really will prepare and protect their children.
But I will save this for a future essay.
Michael Symmons Roberts*
2 days ago