HOUSTON–The National Football League promises that Super Bowl LI, scheduled to be played in Houston on February 5, 2017, will be “the most all-inclusive, welcoming, and gender-affirmative Super Bowl in history.” The foundation of all that welcoming and affirmation will be two hundred “special bowls,” the centerpieces of new gender-appropriate rest rooms to be installed at league expense in Houston’s NRG stadium.
“We were troubled by the recent defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO legislation,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “This is our way of leveling the playing field.”
HERO, which the Houston city council passed in preliminary form eighteen months ago, protected fifteen classes of people from discrimination, including veterans, pregnant or menstruating women, senior citizens, undocumented workers, and persons with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities; nor could anyone be discriminated against because of race, color, religion, national origin, previous condition of servitude, political affiliation, sexual preference, or sexual identification.
“No matter who you are or whom you identify with or what position you normally assume,” Commissioner Goodell declared, “there will be a toilet seat at Super Bowl Fifty-One for you.”
The fight over HERO, which was defeated roughly 62-to-38, was bitter and somewhat puzzling, given that Houston’s three-term mayor Annise Parker is openly lesbian. A New York Times op-ed piece charged opponents of the law with fearmongering for suggesting that “sexual deviants were waiting for the ordinance to kick in to sneak up on unsuspecting women in bathroom stalls.”
Meanwhile opponents of the ordinance, such as Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, warned that the vote “was about protecting our grandmoms and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters.”
Immediately following the defeat of HERO, representatives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups called on the NFL to punish Houston by stripping it of Super Bowl LI. A source close to the NFL, who asked not to be identified, by gender or any other means, said that some football team owners could not understand why lesbians, gays, and bisexuals joined ranks with transgenders, “because [gays] can still take a leak in men’s or women’s bathrooms. Another owner wanted to know if transgender persons were the same as transvestites.”
If Commissioner Goodell is looking for resources on alternative restrooms, he might begin with Facebook’s “Fifty Ways to List Your Lover” gender preference guideline, which was introduced in time for Valentine’s Day 2014. That list includes everything from agender . . . identifying more as a person than as any gender at all, to non-binary . . . having multiple gender identities such as bigender and pangender, to two spirits . . . usually applied to a Native American who feels his or her body simultaneously manifests both a masculine and a feminine spirit.
Because gender identification is such a fluid subject, the NFL realizes that by the time the last fighter pilots have buzzed NRG stadium and the game is almost about to begin, there might be as many as a dozen new gender identifications not to offend.
“We plan to install a number of spare restrooms that will be ready on game day,” Commissioner Goodell told ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser. “We’ll also have a painter and a designer standing by to put the name of that new gender identity and its flag, if any, on the door.”
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