Tracy Murphree, Republican candidate for Denton County sheriff, announced he had said all he needed to say in regard to his Facebook post claiming he’d beat a transgender woman if he caught her in the bathroom with his daughter.
“This whole bathroom thing is craziness I have never seen.” he wrote in his original April 22 Facebook post. “All I can say is this: If my little girl is in a public restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into that bathroom, he will then identify as John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety.”
Murphree’s post set off a firestorm that led to Equality Texas, a statewide organization dedicated to LGBT equality, to reach out and set up a meeting with the GOP sheriff elect and a Denton County family with a transgender child. Murphree abruptly canceled the meeting Wednesday evening, the day before it was scheduled to take place.
“I feel I have made my position clear that I am not targeting transgenders but concerned about predators taking advantage of the [bathroom] policies,” Murphree wrote in April 27 email to Equality Texas. “I really have nothing else to add.”
Equality Texas sent out a press release about Murphree’s cancellation, citing disappointment that he’d refused to meet and learn more about the transgender community, which is often misrepresented and misunderstood, the organization says. “What you’ve not done is allow yourself the chance to listen,” Equality Texas board chair Steve Rudner told Murphree.
The LGBT rights organization pointed out that research shows the best people to respond to the bathroom hysteria are law enforcement officials and transgender men and women because the threat of bathroom safety that Murphree claims is not “borne out by real facts or experiences.”
“At Equality Texas, we understand that people don’t have a good understanding of transgender people,” CEO of Equality Texas Chuck Smith wrote in the press release. “Even more so if they have not met or talked to someone who is transgender. By challenging inaccurate representations of the transgender community, we can help ensure that everyone has accurate information to make informed decisions on public policies that affect their lives, health and well-being.”
Murphree did appear on several local news stations, reiterating that he wasn’t talking about all transgender people but child molesters who may take advantage of bathroom policies at retailers like Target, a company that announced last week it would allow transgender people access to the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Other companies like Starbucks are looking into using more gender-neutral signage in their restrooms.
“I have clarified my statement,” Murphree told the Observer. “I am against these policies for safety reasons, not gender identity reasons. I will treat transgenders equally under the law and work just as hard to serve them as any one.”
While some of Murphree’s supporters stand behind his original Facebook post, other Denton County residents were disappointed that Murphree didn’t even take the time at least to listen to issues that affect the transgender community and why it’s important for someone in his position to choose his words wisely.
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“As he seeks to fill the top law enforcement position in the county, with a department that has not yet solved the murder of Artegus Madden, a transgender woman of color murdered nearly three years ago, it concerns me that such violence will get even lesser attention under the leadership of someone who has openly advocated violence against our community,” one Denton County resident wrote. “I hope he will understand that if he wants to lead, listening will be a vital and important skill.”
Amber Briggle, who originally pointed out to Murphree that his post was calling out for violence against her 8-year-old transgender son, was disappointed that he canceled the meeting with Equality Texas. She and her husband, Adam, who wrote an essay about the experience, also reached out to meet with Murphree to discuss his words, but he has yet to respond to their invitation, they say.
"I don’t feel safe," Amber says. "I know I am not alone. I have trans friends who have reached out and said they felt scared. I also have friends who identify as women but don’t look feminine, and they will be in the bathroom where they belong, and they feel threatened. This is a huge portion of the population that he will be protecting. But I can’t force the man to sit down and talk to me."