Texas Tramples the LGBT Community

Maria Esquinca, Copy Editor

As I stood in front of the restroom of the Family Life Center in Austin, an older lady came out of one the stalls. She said “hold up, I’m just going to put some lipstick.”

From one of the stalls another voice was heard, “I’m going to do the same,” she said. As she came out she jokingly added, “what else does a transsexual do in the restroom?”

As I look back now, I think how symbolic that moment was for Freedom Advocacy Day.

As a member of  Texas Freedom Network, I joined a group of students, activists, organizers, trans men and women alike, who came together for a day of lobbying against anti-LGBT legislation at the Capitol on April 13.

Huddled at the steps were 120 supporters of the LGBTQ movement, the event was spearheaded by Equality Texas, and joined by the Human Rights Campaign and Texas Freedom Network.

“It’s a day of advocacy, where people have come together to share their stories about how the laws in Texas can have a negative impact on their daily lives,” said Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas.”The laws in this state don’t treat everyone equally in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity.”

This day was particularly important considering the slew of nasty, anti-gay bills that were introduced into the legislature. More than 20 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced, representing a 30 percent increase from the previous legislative session

Among them are HB 1747 and 1748, both authored by Texas Rep. Debbie Riddle R-Tomball. HB 1747 would prosecute transgender individuals for using a public restroom that is appropriate for their gender identity, but that does not coincide with the gender on their driver’s license.  HB 1748 is similar, but it would prosecute a transgender person for using a public locker room, shower facility or toilet facility, appropriate to their gender identity, but not to the individual’s chromosomes.

While HB 2801, authored by Rep. Peña R-Pasadena, would fine school districts up to $2,000 for allowing students to use a bathroom or other public facilities that do not coincide with their sex chromosome.

Bills Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, called “state-sponsored bullying.”

I’m reminded of the trans women in the restroom, who was full of life and humor. She was also black. I mention her race because being black and a trans woman means that the ugly fabric that dictate the oppression and marginalization of minority groups, are enmeshed by a magnified amount into her everyday life.

It’s American’s little unreported secret that trans woman, and in particular trans woman of color, get murdered under a veil of invisibility.

Latina Kristina Gomez, was the seventh trans woman to get murdered this year. The other six were trans woman of color.

Not only are transgender people getting murdered by a society that is silent and blind to the violence they face, but now they are being targeted by politicians who are using them as their political pawns.

“We cannot let homophobia and heterosexism and transphobia to exist in our state and we are glad they are here to say that we will not allow these bills to pass,” said State Rep. Mary Gonzalez D-El Paso, who is openly gay, when speaking to the crowd on Freedom Advocacy Day.

But the transphobic bathroom bills are just the beginning.

Others include Amendments to the 1999 Religious Freedom Restoration act, which would allow business owners to deny service to individuals based on their religious beliefs.. It has been compared to Indiana’s RFA act.

A slew of five bills such as HB 1911 would nullify non-discrimination ordinances in cities, even if they were passed by popular vote.

“When this can become a conversation about people that they know…if that can become a conversation that relates to someone that they know, then it becomes much harder for people to stand on the side of discrimination,” Smith said.

We’re all touched by members of the LGBTQIA community, they are our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, colleagues and peers. People fighting for the minimal of rights.

But if TFN, and advocacy day have taught me anything, is that we can ALL participate. As state Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said, “this is your Texas, so own it.”

If these issues matter to you exercise your right to make your voice heard, VOTE, vote crazy Republicans like Riddle and Tomball out of office. Send a letter, an e-mail, drop by their office.

Make your voice heard, so everyone can be heard.

Maria Esquinca may be reached at [email protected]