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The “Bathroom Bill” Meme: Addressing Thomas Lee Benson’s Story

Image: Autumn SandeenThere is a logical fallacy called Argument By Generalization, where a broad conclusion from a small number of perhaps unrepresentative cases occurs. And, there is a related logical fallacyArgument By Selective Observation, which is also called Cherry Picking. It’s the enumeration of circumstances that support ones point of view, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses.

There is also a logical fallacy called Argument Ad Nauseam where one repeats something over and over again with the goal of having people believe it’s true. When that oft repeated something becomes to be perceived to be true…well, the English word for such a perceived “fact” is called a factoid, which defines as:

something fictitious or unsubstantiated that is presented as fact, devised especially to gain publicity and accepted because of constant repetition.

Image: Integrated Male and Female Restroom Sign; Link: Pam's House Blend tag: 'Bathrooms'Combine either an argument by selective observation or an argument by generalization with the logical fallacy argument ad nauseam and one has the fixings for a meme.

In specific, we have the “bathroom bill” meme, with a “not in my shower/peeping tom” twist, that we can trace back to the Maryland Citizens For Responsible Government. In an interview entitled Not My Shower, Maryland Citizens For Responsible Government director Theresa Rickman was questioned by Concerned Women For America‘s Martha Kleder and then CWA Policy Director for Cultural Issues Matt Barber, talked about a staged media event. In the interview she admitted that the Maryland Citizens For Responsible Government staged a intrusion of a gym’s locker room. From an excerpt of the interview (emphasis added):

Martha Kleder: Theresa, I also heard someone tried to test this. Was there some there some event where a transgender or a shemale or a someone tried to use the opposite sex bathroom?

Theresa Rickman: Yes. At Rio Sport and Health up in Germantown a guy dressed as a girl went into a ladies bathroom. And, essentially, what…that was meant to get some media attention, y’know. The guy left immediately, apparently.

But, this was the Rio Sport and Health club. Y’know, Sport And Health has steam rooms, and there are ladies changing in those locker rooms…people in various stages of undress all the time, so there was a lot this guy could see.

Social conservatives, especially those on the religious right, have been heavily using the “bathroom bill” meme since that staged Citizens For Responsible Government event in early 2008.

Which brings us to Thomas Lee Benson.

[More below the fold.]

Thumbnail link: Citizens For Responsible Government Flier regarding Thomas Lee Benson

The October 27, 2011 article by Oregon Live entitled Cross-dressing sex predator sentenced for Clackamas aquatic park crimes:

A predatory sex offender who dressed as a female and entered the women’s locker room at North Clackamas Aquatic Park was sentenced Tuesday to nine months in jail.

Thomas Lee Benson, who was convicted of sexually abusing children 17 years ago, has a long history of dressing as a female and using women’s dressing areas.

Clackamas County Circuit Judge Steven L. Maurer found Benson guilty of second-degree criminal trespass, unlawful entry into a motor vehicle and frequenting a place where children regularly congregate, which is a crime for predatory sex offenders.

Benson was arrested in July shortly after he left the girl’s locker room at the aquatic center, 7300 S.E. Harmony Road. He had been observed wandering around the swim center talking to children. Benson fled when a man tried to detain him. Tayo Cotton, who was helping supervise a group of children, chased Benson through nearby Clackamas Town Center mall.

This case is the smoking gun story that the Citizens For Responsible Government that “confirms” their narrative. The even created a flier for this case. And just this past week, Citizens For Responsible Government Treasurer Ruth Jacobs M.D. in an organization press release stated:

Thumbnail link: Citizens For Responsible Government Press Release entitled 'Women Oppose Transgender Laws' (Via Christian Newswire)

Naturally upset that they will be forced to share their bathrooms with men, a long line of women testified before [Baltimore County councilmember Tom Quirk] and asked him to consider their privacy and safety concerns. Rape victims complained that his bill opens the door to peeping toms and cross-dressing men still sexually attracted to women. Yet Quirk ignores legitimate female concerns and self-righteously asks — “What would Jesus do?”

Yes, what would Jesus do about people like Thomas Lee Benson, a cross-dressing sex offender re-arrested for invading a female locker room? Would Jesus make it easier for Benson to enter the women’s locker rooms — again? That seems to be what Quirk believes.

By this standard, we should be stating that all Christian men shouldn’t own businesses that have women’s restrooms.

The Los Angeles Times had a story yesterday (November 2, 2009) entitled Clerk at religious bookstore arrested on peeping charge:

Thumbnail link to Pam's House Blend tag: 'Godly Perverts'A clerk at a Christian bookstore in Simi Valley was arrested on suspicion of peeping after Simi Valley police found a video camera hidden in a bathroom at the store, authorities said today.

Officers were called to the Family Christian Book Store in the 2900 block of Cochran Street on Sunday afternoon after a 40-year-old woman and her husband reported finding the video camera, said Simi Valley Police Sgt. Dwight Thompson.

After examining the video, investigators determined that 28-year-old Joseph Moreaux had gone to the restroom just before the victim to hide the camera and record her while she was inside…

And, this isn’t a particularly new story when it comes to piety. Women obviously need protection too from the male, Drug store managers who support keeping trans women out of women’s restrooms. From the Gainesville Sun‘s October 20, 2009 New details emerge in CVS voyeurism case:

The CVS Pharmacy manager who allegedly admitted Friday to filming women in his store’s bathroom was an active participant in the 2008 charter amendment to “keep men out of women’s restrooms.”

Jonathan Matheny, 27, was charged with one count of video voyeurism after a customer told police she had discovered a cell phone equipped with a camera under a pile of tissues in the CVS bathroom at 125 S.W. 34th St.

…The petition drive in the summer of 2008 was aimed at a city ordinance that provided rights, including equal access to public accommodation, for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Matheny signed the petition, according to records with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, and opponents of the charter amendment say they received reports that Matheny allowed the petitions to be distributed and signed at his store. Those behind the drive said the amendment was essential to prevent men from using the public-accommodation portion of the law to enter women’s restrooms and film, rape or otherwise prey on the opposite sex

Which brings us back to the logical fallacies of argument by generalization, argument by selective observation, and argument ad nauseam.

If we repeated a “Christians and bathroom cameras” meme based on two stories, stating that Christian men shouldn’t be allowed to work at jobs where women’s restrooms are at their workplace, Rickman and Jacobs would no doubt accuse us of drawing too broad a conclusion from a only a couple of stories.

However, if we who are fighting the “bathroom bill” meme repeated ad nauseam that the Rickman and Jacobs facilitated a man engaging in behavior they themselves consider dangerous, that wouldn’t be a lie — it would be truth based on Rickman’s admission that it was a purposeful media stunt “meant to get some media attention.”

And we’re back to what I advocated in the Pam’s House Blend piece One Example Of A Tool To Fight The “Bathroom Bill” Meme Before Us All: we need to ask publicly two questions to confront the “bathroom bill” meme:

  1. Is bathroom predation of women and children by “men in dresses”/”transvestites” a common occurrence in your jurisdiction?
  2. If it is a common occurrence, is it a more common occurrence your jurisdiction since your antidiscrimination law based on gender identity has been in effect?

And in that same em>Pam’s House Blend piece, we have one example of what kinds of responses we would get if we asked those questions frequently. And if we asked the Portland Police Department if the story of Thomas Lee Benson is a common occurrence in their jurisdiction, the answer would very likely be “no.” And if we were surprised with a “yes,” then in asking whether it’s a more common occurrence since Portland passed their antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity, the answer for that question with near assuredly be “no.”

If the only case Rickman and Jacobs are going to point to in support of their “bathroom bill” meme is the Benson’s case, then trans community and its intra-community lesbian, gay, and bisexual allies can respond by stating that the case is an outlier, and the behavior Benson engaged in would be unlawful whether or not he identifies as trans or not, and whether or not public accommodation antidiscrimination laws were in place or not.

And, Rickman and Jacobs should in turn be made to answer for why they created what they consider to be a dangerous situation with their media stunt — when they were involved in putting a man into a women’s locker room.

* This Story Smells A Little Foul
* It Looked Like Sh*t, It Smelled Like Sh*t, And By Golly It Apparently Was Sh*t
* A Referendum Built On A Factoid
* Godly Perverts And The Bathroom Meme
* Civil Rights, Bathrooms, And The “Bathroom Bill” Meme
* Policing Public Bathroom Use: The Enforcement Problem

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