Mercedes Allen

Ruthie Johnson Is Confuzzled

Filed By Mercedes Allen | April 11, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Commission on Human Rights, drag queens, gender identity, Idaho, Ruthie Johnson, sexual orientation, transgender

Ruthie Johnson seems to be a little confuzzled. Back on April 3rd, when asked about equal rights for gay and lesbian people, she remarked, "If someone comes to work dressed in drag, they should be able to fire them."

Now, it's not unusual for LGBT-unaware people to conflate sexual orientation with gender expression, although it does show a serious lack of understanding when coming from a public official. But on top of that, in clarifying her remarks, she says she was speaking only about dress codes, and said, "I have not discriminated against anyone."

This should probably concern the people of Idaho, especially because she's been reconfirmed to the Commission on Human Rights.

Now, I get the impression that there is a little bit of history here, and perhaps Idahoans can give us a bit of perspective on this overall picture. But said Human Rights Commission recently voted 5-4 to reject protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

"I said, when they wanted to include BLGT, 'Does that mean if someone
comes to work in drag and they get fired, does that mean we have to defend them then?'" Johnson said.

She also said the bill to amend the state's Human Rights Act could have led to same-sex marriages, which she opposes.

According to the Coeur d'Alene Press (you need a password to see the actual article), she has said that she opposes discrimination against a person because of their sexual orientation.

Clearly, gender identity and expression are another matter.

It's not unusual, of course, for dress codes to be given priority over a person's identity or gender expression. While there have been important precedents to establish implicit protections in this regard, courts and even human rights bodies often continue to ignore them.

Would there be anyone in the Idaho area that can pass on a little GLBT education? Apparently, the ones who are supposed to be in the know are a little confuzzled.

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Gerri Ladene | April 11, 2009 2:02 PM

You are so right about people being confuzzled Mercedes! It just goes to show how deeply the binary dress code runs in our society. If this is a free society why should anyone be discriminated against for the cloth they choose to wear on their person. For many years now women from all walks of life have taken to wearing what is deemed to be male clothing without any repercussions but put feminine clothes on those seen as male and all hell breaks loose, the senses become thoroughly confused as to reality of gender. As a public official Ruthie Johnson shows to be just as confuzzled about this as so many presumed hetro's are. If she ever wears a t-shirt or jeans should she be considered as dressed in drag? I think I'll write her and ask!

i was born and raised in a small city in Idaho. i was driven out of state by what i saw, and now thankfully reside in Washington State.

The racism, bigotry and hate for *anything* and *everyone* who is in the slightest way 'different' exceeds any redneck cliche you can come up with.

Nobody really seems to care as much when Idaho's usual embarrassments are thrown up on display. Perhaps it's because of the low odds in getting anything changed there. Perhaps it's because nobody who is visible online seems to be from there. Count me as one.

As i understand it, idaho is one of only two states left that refuses to alter birth certificates for transsexual women. Even after SRS, they stubbornly refuse, causing havoc for T women like myself who just want to get on with our life. It was not until 1983 that they relented in changing names for people. Even those who aren't transsexual were not allowed before.

Marriage to my boyfriend will always have a legal shadow over it. Getting a passport approved and taxes resolved is a never-ending hassle. i have attempted to contact the ACLU several times about it, and they have never bothered responding.

Given the state's history, i can't help but depair over how long i'll be held hostage to this.

I lived in all three corners of Idaho for many years and served on the faculty and administration of the University of Idaho at Moscow. Sadly, I chose to move my family out of the state nearly fifteen years ago to escape the attitudes typified by Mrs. Johnston's remarks about gender diversity and transitioning employees. Mrs. Johnston is from Hayden Lake in the Idaho panhandle, a community remembered as headquarters of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations organization from the 1970s through the 90s. While there are many wonderful people in Hayden Lake whose views are not represented by hate groups, Mrs. Johnston's thoughtless and intolerant comments are reminiscent of her community's long association with bigotry. Mrs. Johnston might better focus her concern on the conduct of her state's Republican Senators in public restrooms.

Emilie Jackson-Edney | April 12, 2009 10:44 PM

Your post discusses recent statements made by Ruthie Johnson, and about her recent confirmation (Geeeeesh!) to the Idaho Human Rights Commission AGAIN! While I try to be respectful of my elders, I can't help but think that it is way past time that this 80's-something old woman be put out to pasture. I've sat directly across from her a couple times over the past 3 years when presenting testimony to the Idaho Human Rights Commission as they were considering endorsing the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination protections to the Idaho Human Rights Act. She is a classic example of the problems with good-ol-boy political cronyism. She has looked me straight in the eye and blatantly cast her vote to deny me basic human rights and has endorsed blatant discrimination against me. I've had to endure her whacked-out statements regarding LGBT stereotypes and her repeating the mis-information that is in lock-step with the hate rhetoric that is spouted by Focus on the Family and other fundamental Christian right folks. She stated in one of the Commission meetings that, "The people who are actually experiencing discrimination in Idaho are white Christian males." She justifies her statement by telling the story of her 2 sons being denied entrance into California medical schools for 3 years in a row because they are from Idaho where there are no medical schools, and even though their college transcripts were exemplary. I don't know why she chose to relate that story when justifying her vote to not extend basic human rights protections to LGBT people, but it's possible that Ruthie was criticizing Affirmative Action Policies, which are policies making active efforts to improve the employment or educational opportunities available to members of minority groups or women; -- achieved by employers or schools by using various techniques, but excluding the use of simple quotas or outright discrimination against white males.

I'm not surprised, considering this is coming from the second-most conservative state in the US.