Boycott Houston

Anti-gay bigotry and fear won in Houston last night. Let the city have its anti-equality ordinance, but not our money. Boycott Houston.

I see this as an example of how libertarianism cuts both ways. Certain business people and renters want the freedom to discriminate against any class of taxpaying individuals they don’t like, but forget that this cuts both ways: there are consumers who don’t like bigots, and won’t spend money in businesses or cities with a reputation for unfriendliness toward gay people and others.


In one of the most closely watched referendums in the country, voters repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance, handing gay rights supporters a stinging defeat.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to Boycott Houston

  1. andrewclunn says:

    This measure would have passed easily without the gender identity part. Gays can say, “I was born this way, and I don’t want any special treatment!” The Transgender community can make no such claims. This was a hand overplayed.

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      But consistent with libertarianism, if businesses or renters don’t like the lifestyle choices of transgender people, and CHOOSE to withhold or deny their services from those in that community, those of us who think discrimination against transgender people is obnoxious can also choose to boycott those businesses and cities that swing a big legal dick at transgender people.

      Fair is fair. If you want to exclude people who are part of the liberal tribe from paid services, expect the liberal tribe to rally, with their considerable economic heft, behind their targeted brothers and sisters. Apple Computer, for example, is none too pleased with Houston’s fine-grained discrimination shenanigans.

      Making socially acceptable in Houston the sorts of fine-grained discriminations that please bigots is a choice that will have economic consequences for the city–and this is just.

      So the overreaching here is on the right, for it’s a temporary and Pyrrhic victory. It’s not hard to surmise that within a couple of years (if not sooner), the forms of discrimination being winked at will be upended (either in court or by politicians under pressure from businesses that don’t like the economic consequences of the existing law).

      • andrewclunn says:

        Nah. Boycotting here won’t work because it won’t happen. Sure you’re free to do so, but boycotts really only work when there’s unified outrage. There’s no such unity with the transgender community for various reasons. We’ll see how views change or if they change in the coming decades, but there’s simply not really support for this kind of protection. I mean Houston elected an openly lesbian woman as their mayor, so clearly it’s not homophobic. It’s all about the transgendered portion. And quite honestly, I’m more morally outraged by people telling me that my views (I consider wanting gender reassignment to be a mental disorder) bigoted and trying to pass laws to compel me to conform, than many of these armchair activist liberals calling for a boycott. So show some real outrage and find a way to personally make sure your boycott matters because the passion isn’t on your side right now.

      • Santi Tafarella says:


        In the rejection of the ordinance, 15 protected classifications were struck down (including race, which would never survive a court challenge), all in the name of just one of those classifications being objectionable (transgender). So, whatever the pretense, this really is an attack on the notion of protected classification qua classification, and therefore a rejection of gay protection as well. The pretense is transgender objection; the reality is that every notion of class protection is rejected by the city. It’s quite a price to pay for one objectionable category out of fifteen. (I therefore eagerly await conservative grassroots energy and funding of an alternative ballot initiative that protects the fourteen supposedly non-objectionable classes of people.)

        So I think you underestimate the mendaciousness of conservatives on this, and the unity of the liberal tribe on this. Houston has set itself up as a city that is not prepared to protect gays and others in hiring, housing, etc. That can’t be good for business. Even if a formal boycott is not sustained, a reputation develops. Comedians start to include Houston as shorthand for a place where Caitlyn Jenner is not welcome. Liberal entrepreneurs, who might have come Houston’s way, may decide to go elsewhere. These reputational energies accumulate. They may not come on all at once.

        And I see this issue as a way that tribes bond. The American liberal tribe bonds by saying, “We accept transgender people in our tribe,” and the American conservative tribe bonds by saying, “We don’t accept transgender people in our tribe.” Unfortunately for Houston and conservatives, once you start defining your tribe by who you exclude, rather than who you include, you alienate those you’ve rejected from your tribe, and it makes it difficult to then engage in commerce and trade with others. People in Houston are free to exclude transgenders, but they then have to accept the fact that, because transgenders are part of the liberal tribe, the solidarity of that tribe will manifest in the form of an economic boycott. Better for business (and human kindness) to expand one’s tribe, and not define yourself by how narrow you can make the parameters of your tribe. If you’re pure, somebody has to be impure. Human prosperity is grounded in the ongoing expansion of tolerance and trust among diverse peoples.

        And even if you think that transgenders are objectively disordered, how does that change giving them straightforward protections in employment, housing, etc.? Lots of people have desires and beliefs that I don’t understand, but they pay their taxes and function as workers and citizens, violating no laws. If you’re punitive toward those who strain the limits of your imagination and comprehension, your world of commerce with others will necessarily narrow rather dramatically. Nobody likes to be punished for who they are.

        Also, from an evolutionary vantage, your view runs up against what every taxonomist will tell you: irreducible variation is the raw material of natural selection. Variety is not something you’re going to tame in an evolutionary cosmos. Better to trade than tame.

      • andrewclunn says:

        That’s ridiculous. By that logic, anyone who rejects a deal based on a clause they cannot accept is rejecting all other aspects of that deal. Instead of engaging with the clear point of contention, you’re trying to make this about other issues that you know play better with the public at large. You’ve internalized political talking points to the extent that it has corrupted your ability to think about this critically.

  2. Staffan says:

    It’s not about accepting transgenders or not in this case. It’s the fact that any perv can put on a dress and approach women and young girls in public bathrooms.

    Also: a true liberal isn’t tribal. He can accept that other liberals view transgendered people as disordered based on the evidence at hand since that is the real legacy of Enlightenment. True liberals rely on principals, and above all science. Tribalism is what some epigones have regressed back to.

    • lisdfsdf adfhgj says:

      WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN??? Boring fear mongering from a pretentious tool, what are you even trying to say? Oh wait who cares

  3. Staffan says:

    Also nr 2: Boycott may seem grassrootsy and democratic, but it’s often a form of plutocracy.

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