The implications of this rhetoric unspooled in private correspondence and conversation.
“I do not want to share a public restroom with black or white hippie males,” wrote one Floridian woman in 1973 to a Florida state senator.
Among those ensnared by this policing was Walter Jenkins, chief of staff to President Lyndon Johnson, whose 1964 arrest made international headlines.
Because police, medical authorities, and the media frequently depicted homosexuals as child molesters, public restrooms came to be understood as sites of sexual danger for young children.
Anti-ERA activists asserted that among the ERA’s consequences would be mixed-gender bathrooms.
Here anti-ERA activists applied widely shared racial codes to the Equal Rights Amendment, particularly in their idea that the sex integration of bathrooms would lead to black sexual violence against white women and children.
Placing Houston’s rejection of HERO within the history of discrimination against racial minorities, sexual minorities, and women reveals a broader pattern: When previously marginalized groups demanded access to public accommodations, conservatives responded with toilet talk to stall these groups’ aspirations for social equality.
Since World War II, public bathrooms have figured centrally in African-American civil rights struggles for racial integration in the workplace and in schools.
Always leave immediately.” The pamphlet circulated nationwide and police in Dade County, Florida, distributed it to 80,000 schoolchildren in 1954 alone.
A cartoon booklet distributed by Phyllis Schlafly’s anti-ERA organization, the Eagle Forum, posed the following question meant to incite negative comparisons between the ERA and civil rights: “Do you want the sexes fully integrated like the races?
” Referring to the ERA as enabling “sex mixing,” anti-ERA literature appealed to anti-miscegenation and anti-integration discourses.
This assistant tried to explain these racial roots in a letter to one ERA opponent: “Many critics of the Equal Rights Amendment have used the idea of an ‘integrated’ restroom to illustrate their fear of the proposed Amendment. Board of Education case of 1954.” Dovetailing with conservative fears of gender and racial anarchy in bathrooms were widespread concerns about gay men having sex in public restrooms.
In the postwar period, police monitored these cruising spots, known as tearooms, and regularly arrested and published the names of men who were having anonymous and consensual public sex.