A controversial TV commercial this fall featured a teenage girl, undressing in a ladies locker room, while a hooded cisgender man leers at her from within a stall. As she unbuttons her top, the creepy guy reveals himself, and the message of this horrifying ad becomes clear: allowing trans people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity gives male sexual predators permission to prey upon women and children.
As it turns out, transphobic messaging like this — which links access to public bathrooms and locker rooms to the threat posed by sexual offenders — was “concocted,” according to a Massachusetts-based “pro-family activism” organization Mass Resistance. Its president, Brian Camenker, is believed to be the author of the group’s November 9th “Election Analysis” post, in which the organization (which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center) admitted its scary campaign to repeal a statewide Massachusetts nondiscrimination law was a lie.
“Our side concocted the ‘bathroom safety’ male predator argument as a way to avoid an uncomfortable battle over LGBT ideology, and still fire up people’s emotions. It worked in Houston a few years ago,” reads the post.
“But the LGBT lobby has now figured out how to beat it,” the Mass Resistance post continues. “Their lopsided victory in Massachusetts will likely be repeated everywhere else unless the establishment pro-family groups (and their wealthy donors) are willing to change their tactics.”
The blatant confession was also published on the conservative and anti-LGBTQ platform LifeSite on November 20th.
The post summed up conservatives’ sour feelings after November’s bitterly fought campaign to maintain non-discrimination protections for transgender people in Massachusetts resulted in a landslide victory for the trans community. But it also made it clear that the anti-trans ‘bathroom predator’ myth was created because conservatives knew that simply being discriminatory wouldn’t fly.
Lawn signs are now available!
— Vote NO on 3 (@keepMAsafe) October 10, 2018
The post also links the current anti-trans movement to earlier fights against same-sex marriage.
“Over a decade ago when [the] LGBT movement took the ‘gay marriage’ battles into the state legislatures, and later into the federal courts, the major pro-family groups tried a similar strategy…they refused to argue that homosexuality was immoral…Instead, they concocted less offensive arguments such as, ‘Every child needs a father and a mother’ and ‘the word “marriage” is special’ – and used them almost exclusively. It actually worked for a little while,” reads the post.
In the most recent battle, opponents of the Massachusetts nondiscrimination law gathered enough signatures on a petition to force a question onto the state ballot this November, asking voters to decide if they wanted to keep the law that affords equal public accommodations to all, or if the law, in the words of that nasty, fear-mongering campaign advertisement, “goes too far.”
“Anti-LGBTQ activists are finally admitting what we’ve known all along — that their ‘safety’ arguments were concocted for a purely political purpose,” said Masen Davis, CEO of the LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans, in a statement to INTO. Freedom for All Americans was a leading partner in the successful Yes on 3 campaign to keep the nondiscrimination law.
“Our opponents’ schemes to advance so-called ‘bathroom’ bills and repeal protections for transgender people at the ballot were manufactured with one goal in mind: to slow down progress on LGBTQ rights writ large,” Davis said. “The good news is, we’ve cracked the code.”
As MassResistance mentioned in its post, anti-LGBTQ groups have long depended on this predator myth to fight transgender rights, going back to its successful effort in Houston in 2015. A conservative campaign that equated equal rights for LGBTQ people with allowing “men in women’s bathrooms” repealed an existing law, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO. But that message clearly didn’t work in Massachusetts. The conservative American Family Association called on followers nationwide to boycott the Target retail chain because of an October 2018 incident involving a transgender woman in a Massachusetts store’s women’s restroom. News of the incident appeared like wildfire on conservative anti-transgender rights websites. But as it turns out, police investigated, and decided it was nothing — no one was harmed or arrested, and Boston’s Fox station, which had originally reported the story, later said “the incident appeared to be a misunderstanding” and removed it from its website.
A conservative Christian-run law firm that’s also been labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center has turned the predator myth into a cottage industry. The powerful Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) drafted model legislation, the “Student Physical Privacy Act.” The goal was to assist conservative lawmakers in a dozen states, from Colorado to Minnesota, to enshrine transphobia into law with “bathroom bills.” Over and over, these bills focused on restricting trans students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms by making the privacy of cisgender students the primary issue. Not one such bill passed in 2017 or 2018, and North Carolina’s controversial HB2 law was repealed last year.
Perhaps it’s that track record that has Mass Resisitance president Brian Camenker concerned. GLAAD notes that Camenker has compared gays to Nazis and claims anti-LGBTQ Christians are suffering like the Jews did during the Holocaust. As SPLC describes him, he “continually links homosexuality to pedophilia, violence and disease.” In a video his group posted to YouTube in April 2017, Camenker declared many parents joined MassResistance after their children were “not only indoctrinated but molested and propagandized on horrible things in their public schools.”
His group is so heinous even the Conservative Political Action Convention (CPAC) booted him from this year’s annual convention. He’s also denied that LGBTQ students are bullied in school. “When they started the gay clubs in schools, they got a lot of reluctance from the schools to do it,” Camenker told the Washington Times. “They found that if they tied it into safety, they could claim that all these kids were being harassed, and they could get it in faster,” he said. “There are no legitimate surveys done because it’s a phony problem.”
Those lines about “tying it into safety” and “a phony problem” now appear prophetic regarding his favorite target, trans women, and his false claim connecting them to sexual predators.
His group’s frank statement, that the predator myth is a lie , supports the findings of the Williams Institute at UCLA. In September, gender identity researchers revealed they found no link between transgender public accommodations laws and crimes that occur in bathrooms, refuting the premise that anti-discrimination legislation threatened public safety.
Davis said that victories for transgender people in New Hampshire and Alaska, as well as in Massachusetts, are evidence of growing bipartisan support for comprehensive protections for all LGBTQ Americans.
“We won’t stop until all Americans are free to live their lives,” Davis said, “without the fear of discrimination in the communities they call home.”
Camenker, his group and ADF did not return requests for comment by deadline.
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Masen Davis was the leader of the Yes on 3 campaign. The line has been corrected to reflect that Freedom for All Americans was one partner organization in the campaign.