Watch out, Missourians: Your state is being threatened by people who do not respect the "social norms" of nineteenth-century bathrooms.
So claims Jeffrey Pogue, a Republican state representative from Salem, who yearns for the halcyon days of the Missouri's infancy, a time when men were men, women were women and transgender individuals weren't clamoring for the right to use facilities that aligned with their gender identity.
"I'm wanting to protect the social norms of our state, the same social norms that have operated in our state since the organization of Missouri in 1820," Pogue told the Columbia Daily Tribune, defending two bills he proposed last month that would prohibit the state from accommodating the needs of its transgender citizens. One bill would mandate that all public bathrooms, unless they are single-occupancy, be divided by gender. The other would make it illegal for state funds to go to "any entity" that tries to implement a "project, program, or policy that creates or attempts to create a gender-neutral environment."
"These Missourian cultural rules, the status quo, are nearly 200 years old, and have operated well throughout our state," Pogue said.
The bills, if they were to become law, would impact the University of Missouri's plans to open a gender-neutral dormitory later this year.
Pogue's statements about "social norms" and "status quo" leave a somewhat ambiguous picture of his motivations for banning gender-neutral bathrooms, and messages left with his office were not immediately returned. Thankfully, Pogue is a vocal opponent of Springfield's recently expanded nondiscrimination ordinance, which now includes protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
"I believe that predators should not have free access to the restroom of their choosing," Pogue wrote in a Facebook comment dated March 17, after he had posted a link to an article on a Christian conservative website that argued Springfield's nondiscrimination ordinance "would open the door for predators to feign gender identity struggles to gain access into restrooms and locker rooms to prey upon our children."
The Springfield nondiscrimination ordinance is facing a repeal effort from church groups and an organization called Yes On Question 1. The vote will take place on April 7.
In his Facebook post, Pogue wrote that his opposition to Springfield's nondiscrimination ordinance is not fueled by a prejudice against the LGBTQ community.
Similar claims about predators posing as women have been widely repeated in other states, but A.J. Bockelman, director of LGBT advocacy group PROMO, scoffs at these attempts to frame the issue as one of safety.
"These bills are just fear mechanisms trying to generate anxiety against the LGBT community," he says. "They seek to solve a problem that doesn't exist."
Pamela Merritt, communications director for Progress Missouri, points out that transgender people already use bathrooms every day. On the flip side, it's clear that sexual predators are not magically repelled by gender-divided bathrooms.
"Transgender people are part of the community and not a threat," Merritt says. "The overwhelming amount of people in Missouri do not support discrimination against LGBT people. It is disheartening to see our legislature so out of step with the way the general public have moved."