Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987)

Houston v. Hill is a remarkable U.S. Supreme Court case that tackles abuses of power by police departments. The Supreme Court decided 7-2 that a Houston, Texas ordinance that was routinely used to arrest citizens for merely “arguing, talking, interfering, failing to remain quiet, refusing to remain silent, verbal abuse, cursing, verbally yelling, and talking loudly” toward a police officer.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule this type of conduct to be protected First Amendment speech, but the Supreme Court also expressed that the right to question police conduct is a fundamental distinction between democracy and dictatorship.

Consider these key quotations:

  • the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers. Speech is often provocative and challenging [b]ut it is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest.
  • a properly trained officer may reasonably be expected to “exercise a higher degree of restraint” than the average citizen, and thus be less likely to respond belligerently to “fighting words.”
  • The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.
  • Although we appreciate the difficulties of drafting precise laws, we have repeatedly invalidated laws that provide the police with unfettered discretion to arrest individuals for words or conduct that annoy or offend them.
  • in the face of verbal challenges to police action, officers and municipalities must respond with restraint. We are mindful that the preservation of liberty depends in part upon the maintenance of social order. But the First Amendment recognizes, wisely we think, that a certain amount of expressive disorder not only is inevitable in a society committed to individual freedom, but must itself be protected if that freedom would survive.
  • Although some of these incidents may have involved unprotected conduct, the vagueness of these charges suggests that, with respect to this ordinance, Houston officials have not been acting with proper sensitivity to the constitutional rights of their citizens.


Why I Wear Skirts

I have worn a skirt most days since July 16, 2016. I often see the curiosity in people’s eyes, but I am surprised by how few ask me questions directly. This is, after all, the deep south far from international megatropolises like Miami, Los Angeles, and New York where cultural anomalies might be more commonplace. Recently, a librarian lamented that I had not kept a blog of my experience and this led me to think that just maybe the public at large might be interested in my underlying social argument.

As a starter, I deny that the skirt is an exclusively feminine garment. The American celebrities Jaden Smith, Marc Jacobs, and Jared Leto regularly wear skirts and skirt-like garments, as do countless Scotsmen, Japanese, Indonesians, Fijians, Samoans, and roughly one billion Indian and Arab men.

A few decades ago, the women’s liberation movement argued that gender equality afforded women as much right as men to wear pants in the workplace. Workplaces, in turn, shape the culture of industrialized nations. One example of this is the gender-segregated toilet which appears to have started in 1887 when Massachusetts and New York legislated that employers provide separate toilets for female employees (but whether women were required to toilet separately is less clear). Factory inspectors thereafter frequently included superfluous comments in their reports concerning the propriety of toilet facilities—in some cases, noting that entrances to women’s toilets were not sufficiently hidden. If this sounds bizarre, it will help to know that this was the height of the Victorian era and it was scandalous for the public to have knowledge that women also obeyed nature’s call. Inspectors also frequently remarked on the adequacy of adjoining lounge areas where women could rest and recover their strength when the boisterous world so taxed them that they grew faint (of course, fainting spells had much more to do with their unhealthy corsets).

In a 20,000-word essay published in 2007, Professor Terry Kogan of the University of Utah School of Law argues that gender-segregated toileting is purely a consequence of societal changes during the American industrial revolution (which came later than the European industrial revolution) combined with a little known “sanitarian movement,” both arising during the Victorian era. Professor Kogan poignantly suggests that gender-segregated toilets had little (if anything) to do with the anatomical or sexual differences between men and women.

I wonder if the same could be said of bifurcated garments. Pants are a relatively modern contrivance and speak more to Western exploration and industrialization than anything else. Pants are more practical for manual labor and they are definitely safer when working around machinery. But our society is now undeniably characterized by corporate environments, so what reason is there for cubicle-confined men to be denied more comfortable attire—especially when our summer temperatures swelter above 100 degrees?

Yes, temperature was actually the final straw for me one July afternoon when my Camry advised me that the outside temperature was 103° F. I went to a thrift store looking for some medical scrubs and instead left with two skirts. My employer’s dress code prohibited men and women from wearing shorts, but specifically permitted women to wear pants, skirts, and dresses. While an employer may lawfully ban certain garments, it seemed to me that since skirts had been deemed acceptable, it would be discriminatory to allow only one gender to enjoy them (as shown by the aforementioned women’s lib movement).

I can tell you that skirts can be far more comfortable than pants. Additionally, they have also become a platform to promote a sociopolitical message of equality and acceptance, and a condemnation of pervasive appearance-based prejudices like sexism and racism. I am quite particular in the styles that I wear, and I usually pair them with strong polo or oxford shirt and other masculine accessories. I don’t shave my legs and to my knowledge no one mistakes me for a mere cross-dresser. I sometimes get perplexed smiles and chuckles in public spaces, but I have not been accosted, threatened, or harassed. I am single and I can still flirt with ladies and they flirt back. Sure, I have to step up my game, but merely wearing a skirt is not an automatic block (and perhaps even presents an advantage as a manifestly self-confident person is always more alluring). As a case in point, I subsequently worked elsewhere and I even interviewed for that job wearing a skirt.

I would like to point out that skirts are functionally superior than pants and shorts. Skirts afford better conduction of heat away from the femoral blood vessels. Better thermoregulation, in turn, reduces perspiration and itching, and improves reproductive system health. Plus, skirts eliminate wedgies and plumber crack. In 2009 H&M briefly introduced a line of men’s skirts. Today there is a neat carpenter design available online from Utilikilt as well as a unisex skirt from SkirtCraft. There are commercial lines of male and female running skirts and a growing community of avid backpackers who wear skirts to thwart the “crotch rot” menace while on the trail.

Just because bathroom icons still depict women in skirts and men in pants does not mean that a man who wears a skirt is automatically a cross-dresser or sexual deviant. In actuality, gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation are all independent variables that comprise a person’s sexual self (but that is a subject for another blog post). Societal expectations evolve slowly and effecting change takes time, participation, and dialogue. In this line, I want to encourage others to find within themselves the personal freedom to expand their horizons, and I also invite those who see me in the community to feel at ease asking any questions on their mind.

Read an article in a local paper that came about as a result of this blog post.

Ricardo Arjona – Minutos

Por tanto que Dios dijo que las rocas proclamarían su gloria si nos calláramos nosotros, siempre se puede encontrar verdad eterna en nuestro alrededor. Con este enlace, nos exhorto a pensar en la vida fuera de las paredes de la iglesia—un mundo que necesita el ministerio que tenemos. Y también, que nos tomemos en cuenta que hay que apreciar cada minuto de la vida que tal vez sea de poco valor para nosotros, aquel minuto podría cambiar la vida de nuestro prójimo.

Los Hermanos Cintrón

Abre tu corazónConocí primero la música de Cintrón mientras estaba en Antigua, Guatemala durante la navidad de 2000. Yo me ocupaba un día paseando por un mercado enorme donde, muy cansado ya, hallé un vendedor de discos compactos. No vi ni escuché nada que me interesó pero al decidirme abandonar mi búsqueda, yo vi este álbum Abre tu corazón. Pedí al vendedor que me lo tocara y cada vez que yo dije Cintrón, él me corrigió diciendo cinturón. Pero era yo quien tenía razón, y de todos modos, yo tenía el presentimiento de que me gustaría este álbum aun antes de escucharlo y tenerlo entre manos.

Yo me quedé con el disco apenas dos meses cuando una tragedia se me asió. Bajo cubierta de noche, un ladrón me robó de mi mochila que yo había dejado en mi coche. En cuanto a este mal…me pregunto si, como Lazarillo de Tormes, me lo hizo para que ningún otro sufriera la desgracia de rebajarse hasta ser ladrón.

No es sólo un sentimientoYo buscaba el disco por todo el internet sin encontrarlo. En el curso de mi búsqueda, no obstante, aprendí que Cintrón había grabado ya otro CD. Pues, yo lo pedí a una tienda en línea y dentro de poco lo tenía. Aunque al principio no me gustó, la expresión artística eventualmente me ganó, aunque era poco consuelo por el disco que me faltaba.

Una tarde muchos meses después, hallé un número de teléfono en la carátula. Pensando que era el número del publicista o del manager, y esperando poder conmoverle con mi historia, marqué el número. Una voz masculina contestó. Empecé con un chorro de palabras apasionadas e indiscernibles para contar la historia antes que quienquiera me descolgara.

La voz incrédula me interrogó, sospechosa de que yo era algún primo gastándole una broma. La voz no era ni la del publicista ni la del manager sino la de Carlos Cintrón mismo. Carlos no podría haberme sido más cordial. Aun ofreció enviarme un CD, diciendo que de todos modos le curioseó la tal «agotación».

Desde ese día, Carlos Cintrón ha grabado dos proyectos, Próximo Nivel y Otra Vez, y los CDs de los hermanos son bien disponibles. Se vale conseguir una copia personal como tiene un son particular, y yo ofrezco aquí una muestra de seis pistas. Y gracias al hecho de que nada se desaparece en el internet, puedes leer esta biografía en el archivo de internet.

Anoche, Cuando Dormía

Cursando en la Universidad de Alcalá en 2002 con la Dra. Susana Cavallo, tuvimos la tarea de buscar y recitar un poema que «nos conmoviera». Luego de una larga búsqueda, una amiga madrileña me sugirió el siguiente escrito por Antonio Machado.

Anoche, cuando dormía,
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que una fontana fluía
dentro de mi corazón.
Di, ¿por qué acequia escondida,
agua, vienes hasta mí,
manantial de nueva vida
en donde nunca bebí?

Anoche, cuando dormía,
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que una colmena tenía
dentro de mi corazón;
y las doradas abejas
iban fabricando en él,
con las amarguras viejas
blanda cera y dulce miel.

Anoche, cuando dormía,
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que un ardiente sol lucía
dentro de mi corazón.
Era ardiente porque daba
calores de rojo hogar,
y era sol porque alumbraba
y porque hacía llorar…

Anoche, cuando dormía,
soñé, ¡bendita ilusión!,
que era Dios lo que tenía
dentro de mi corazón.