Anti-trans activists in Washington State have been trying to tell cisgender women for more than a year that we ought to be afraid of transgender people using the bathroom. This is the main marketing behind I-1552, a proposed ballot initiative from anti-trans group Just Want Privacy that attempts to repeal state anti-discrimination protections for trans people and mandate that public schools keep trans students out of bathrooms that correspond with their gender.
But it appears that Just Want Privacy's latest fear-mongering effort has backfired. Last week, the group tried to use the story of Kelly Herron, a local marathoner who was allegedly attacked by a man in a Golden Gardens bathroom, to promote their anti-trans ballot measure in a fundraising e-mail and on Facebook. Unfortunately for Just Want Privacy, Herron has now spoken out against their campaign.
"To the people behind I-1552, I say 'not today, mutherf*ckers,'" Herron said in a public statement today about Just Want Privacy's attempts to use her story, repeating the words she says she screamed at her attacker. "I refuse to allow anyone to use me and my horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others."
According to charges filed last week by King County prosecutors, Herron was attacked in a public Golden Gardens bathroom on March 5 by Gary Steiner, a 40-year-old registered sex offender from Arizona. Herron, who had recently taken a self-defense class, was successfully able to fight off her attacker and lock him in the bathroom until police arrived, the charges say.
"I fought for my life screaming("Not today, M**F**er!"), clawing his face, punching back, and desperately trying to escape his grip- never giving up," Herron wrote in an Instagram post following the alleged attack.
On March 9, Just Want Privacy sent an e-mail to its supporters with a picture of Herron's bloody face. "Sadly, what happened to Kelly is hardly rare," Just Want Privacy's communications director Kaeley Triller Haver wrote. "Each week yields new stories of deviant men who found ways to access female's vulnerable spaces in order to exploit them."
The e-mail continued: "The current rule in Washington grants males unrestricted access to women's spaces, provided they use just four words: 'I identify as non-binary.' Or fluid. Or demigender. Or pangender. Or gender gifted. Or anything they want to declare themselves other than male. Anything goes."
Two days later, Just Want Privacy reposted a KIRO news reporter's photos of Herron's bloody face and bruised arm to Facebook. "There are more than 1,000 registered sex offenders in WA who are listed as missing or non-compliant," the organization wrote. "We cannot be naive and normalize the presence of males in females' vulnerable spaces. #YesOn1552"
To be clear: There's nothing in Herron's story, nor in the police narrative, that suggests she was attacked by someone claiming to be trans. Trans people are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence and not the perpetrators.
Today, Herron requested that Just Want Privacy issue a public retraction of their post and return any money in donations they made off her name and photos.
"I-1552’s backers use fear mongering to justify singling out one group, transgender people, for discrimination," Herron said. "I strongly oppose their efforts to repeal Washington State’s decade-old protections against discrimination for our transgender friends, family and co-workers."
The Stranger has reached out to Just Want Privacy for comment, and we'll update if we hear back. As of today, the Just Want Privacy Facebook post in which Herron's name and photos are used is still public.
Read Herron's full statement below:
Last week I successfully defended myself against a violent sexual assault in a public restroom at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle, yelling “not today, mutherf*cker!” But I’m more upset now than I have been all week after seeing that a political group is using my face, my name and my story to fundraise for I-1552, a ballot initiative that deliberately targets and harms transgender people - including friends whom I respect.
To the people behind I-1552, I say “not today, mutherf*ckers.” I refuse to allow anyone to use me and my horrific sexual assault to cause harm and discrimination to others.
All of us, including transgender people, are concerned about safety in restrooms or any place where we’re isolated and alone. But the fact is I-1552 would not have done one thing to prevent the attack on me. It’s already illegal to enter a restroom or locker room to harm someone, period.
I-1552’s backers say it is supposed to protect women and children from attack, but this initiative is an invitation for abuse and harassment because under this law men could demand to see a woman’s ID with her name and home address, or otherwise force her to prove her gender before allowing her to enter a public restroom.
I-1552’s backers use fear mongering to justify singling out one group, transgender people, for discrimination. I strongly oppose their efforts to repeal Washington State’s decade-old protections against discrimination for our transgender friends, family and co-workers. I demand they immediately refund any money raised using my image, my name, and my story, and I demand Just Want Privacy immediately issue a public retraction.