Michelle Duggar's hateful anti-transgender rights campaign

No, it's not about "males with past child predator convictions"

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published August 20, 2014 2:24PM (EDT)

Bob & Michelle Duggar                      (Wikimedia)
Bob & Michelle Duggar (Wikimedia)

As a mother of 19 children, Michelle Duggar is no doubt an expert on many things. She can probably talk all day about pregnancy and baby-proofing and how to not fly into a blind rage when you step on a Lego in your bare feet. What she is not an authority on, however, is LGBT issues. But that didn't stop her from speaking out about a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in the nearby town of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The bill, which passed early on Wednesday morning after almost 10 hours of public debate, prohibits discrimination by businesses and landlords based on, among other criteria, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression. But earlier in the week, matriarch and reality star Duggar sent out a profoundly misleading robocall about "some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children." In it, she went on to assert that the ordinance "would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women's and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only" and stated, "Males with past child predator convictions [could] claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space." And she asked, "Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool's private changing area?" Yes, it's true; everything transgender people are fighting for is the right of child molesters to take off their pants in front of your daughters.

Where to even begin on this one? How about the ridiculous way that discussions over transgender rights always somehow seem to boil down to somebody being afraid that someone who makes them uncomfortable will share a bathroom with them? How about the already existing Arkansas state laws prohibiting people from entering the wrong bathroom "for any unlawful purpose" including "indecent exposure and disorderly conduct"? How about the fact that the whole point of the ordinance's acknowledgment of gender identity and gender expression is because it's not about "men, yes men" using opposite sex facilities but people being able to use the appropriate facilities for their gender identities?

Men, yes men aren't dressing up as women to go molest girls at the swimming pool. But transgender men and women should have a right to a safe space. Three years ago, Chrissy Lee Polis, a transgender Baltimore female, was beaten, kicked and spit on by two teenage girls when she tried to enter a McDonald's women's room. And as writer Jillian Page explained in the ensuing public commentary, "I’m just not sure what the women who are opposed really expect trans people to do when they need to use the washroom." And by the way, if you're really very concerned about sexual predators targeting children in locker rooms and showers, I've got two words for you: Jerry Sandusky. 

Ultimately, Michelle Duggar's ignorant little campaign failed anyway, but just remember that this person and her incredibly populous brood continue to have a massive platform and influence, not just in their town but on a national level. And remember that Michelle Duggar is spreading hateful, hurtful misinformation about transgender people and willfully ignoring what the real issues are. At Tuesday night's public meeting, Lowell Grisham, rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, said, "I’ve heard stories from people who have been beaten up, threatened or followed as they left a restroom." So who really needs protection? Some imaginary children or real human beings? At the end of Tuesday, Mayor Lioneld Jordan made his stance clear, saying, "Today we’ve seen many of our citizens who’ve been excluded from the table of equality, and I believe it’s time for everyone to have a place at that table, no matter where they come from, what they believe or who they love." And that leaves the score at Fayetteville: 1, Michelle Duggar: 0 and counting.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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19 And Counting Arkansas Duggar Family Michelle Duggar Transgender Transgender Rights