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Equality Texas by Chuck Smith - 5d ago

Pride season is officially underway in Texas, as LGBTQ people across the Lone Star State join with their neighbors in big cities and small towns in joyous, colorful, raucous celebrations.  But Pride is more than a party. It’s also a reminder of how far we’ve come and the work we still have to do.

Pride festivities commemorate a radical act of defiance in 1969 against government policies that targeted LGBTQ people for harassment and criminalization.

It all began with yet another police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a New York City bar frequented by LGBTQ patrons.  The raid was nothing new. Police regularly harassed the clientele of gay bars all over the city, arresting them for “cross dressing” and targeting them with sting operations designed to entrap people into making a pass at an undercover officer.  Members of the community knew all too well that they could be jailed for merely drinking or dancing together. And the clientele of the Stonewall Inn, among the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community, were particularly vulnerable.

But in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, when the police yet again descended on the Stonewall Inn—lining up the patrons on the street, preparing to put them into paddy wagons and haul them off to jail, as they had done so many times before—nothing went as planned.  

The transgender women of color, the homeless kids who sometimes had nowhere to sleep but the bar, the butches and queens who’d been tormented for so long had had enough. That night, they rose up and fought back, forcing the police to retreat into the bar and wait for reinforcements.  One Stonewall Inn patron, Michael Fader, remembers the power that came from resistance:

“We all had a collective feeling like we’d had enough of this kind of shit. . . . We weren’t going to be walking meekly in the night and letting them shove us around—it’s like standing your ground for the first time and in a really strong way, and that’s what caught the police by surprise. There was something in the air, freedom a long time overdue, and we’re going to fight for it.”

David Carter, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, p. 160 (2004).

The riot sparked six days of protests, with thousands pouring into the streets of Greenwich Village to show their anger at the repeated abuse.

One year later, organizers called on the LGBTQ community to march in the streets to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Marches took place in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Those first pride marches helped cement the Stonewall riots as an iconic moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality.  

The marches also became an annual event that has now spread across the world. As we gear up for Pride this year, it’s worth remembering the activist roots of our movement.  At Equality Texas, we know that transgender women of color are still targeted by the police. We know that LGBTQ youth still end up on the streets because their families reject them. Those of us who dare to be too butch or too effeminate still get targeted for failing to conform to gender norms.  Elected officials still seek to pass laws that challenge our very right to exist.

Pride is our inheritance. We turn out into the streets to take up the cause of those marginalized patrons of the Stonewall Inn and tell the world that we are proud to be who we are.  As we did that night in 1969, we’re standing our ground. There’s freedom in the air, and we are willing to fight for it.

Join us.
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We have 4 tremendous Equality Texas birthdays to celebrate this month! You could say we’re bullish on equality this month (it’s a Taurus thing). Chuck Smith, Chief Executive Officer; Rebecca Robertson, Chief Program Officer; Lou Weaver, Transgender Programs Coordinator; and Rachel Gonzales, Education and Resource Coordinator, all have birthdays this month.

Help us celebrate by making a gift to Equality Texas Foundation! When you do, your gift will be matched by a generous foundation and will go twice as far!

Amber Briggle, fierce Mama Bear, advocate, and incredible Equality Texas supporter, has donated her birthday to Equality Texas Foundation, too. She has already raised over $1,000 for our programs! If you would like to help in her campaign, you can donate HERE.

Your support of Equality Texas Foundation is a great gift to our team and also supports our public education and engagement programs.

The TransVisible Project reduces prejudice against transgender Texans by identifying transgender leaders and communicating their powerful stories of resilience.

Keep Texas Open for Business is a coalition of small business owners committed to making our state welcoming to all.

Our Safe Schools project is premised on the belief that LGBTQ kids are perfect just the way they are and advocates for their right to be themselves at school without fear of discrimination or bullying.

The Equality Project mobilizes LGBTQ Texans and their allies to advocate for change in their communities and at the State Capitol.

TransForward is a collaboration with the Texas Health Institute to ensure access to culturally competent healthcare.

Help celebrate our outstanding leaders, and support our work!

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Equality Texas by Chuck Smith - 2w ago

Equality Texas is comprised of two organizations that share a single vision – The Equality Texas Foundation and Equality Texas.  The Equality Texas Foundation, an IRS 501 C(3) public charity, works to secure full equality for lesbian gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Texans by focusing on education, community organizing, and collaboration.  As an IRS 501(C)(4) organization, Equality Texas works toward the same goal through political action as well.  These shared missions are supported by a vision of Texas where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans and their families have full equality in the hearts and minds of all Texans and in all areas of the law.

Since 1989, Equality Texas has worked to eliminate public policy discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. With grassroots support, Equality Texas is building an organizational presence, political power and a roster of committed elected officials to enact its agenda into law. Through public education, community organizing and collaboration, it strives to ensure that its foundational values are shared by the majority of Texans.

Equality Texas is based in Austin, and has additional field staff in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Six full-time staff and four contractors comprise the statewide workforce. Two separate and committed boards, with a combined census of 30 diverse members representing all regions of the state, provide legislative guidance, fundraising support, and organizational governance.

Over the next several years, Equality Texas will work to make equality real for LGBTQ Texans by increasing the number of residents protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in cities, towns, counties, school districts, government agencies and public and private workplaces.  This effort will require greater financial resources, and a focus on increasing the contributed income necessary to mobilize all sectors of the community, including corporate partners, grant-making foundations, individual donors, and community-impact philanthropists. To reach this goal, Equality Texas is seeking an individual experienced in executing a donor-centric approach to individual and institutional philanthropy.

The Development Manager

The Development Manager (DM) will oversee the planning and implementation of all fundraising strategies for Equality Texas, including major gifts, annual gifts, sustaining gifts, corporate gifts, grants, and events. The DM will provide the strategic direction and support for Equality Texas’ board development team focusing on individual major donors, sustaining donor programs, corporate gifts, and signature community events.

The DM will oversee management and growth plans for the Capitol Club sustaining donor program, including recruitment, solicitation, and retention. The DM will supervise a Volunteer & Events Coordinator who will execute events, and high-level volunteer management for all aspects of the organization’s engagement programs. Ultimately, the DM will work with Equality Texas’ leadership team to create the strategies and mission-based campaigns that will engage and retain donors supportive of our mission.  Additional responsibilities include identifying potential new donors, advancing relationship building with those prospects, and pursuing timely and appropriate solicitation of gifts.

The Development Manager will be required to:

  • Design, plan, develop, and execute a comprehensive strategy to increase contributed income on behalf of Equality Texas to enhance the mission and vision established by the Board of Directors.
  • Serve in Staff Leadership role to the Fund Development Committee of the Board of Directors facilitating twice-monthly meetings and providing financial data to monitor progress toward planned goals.
  • Implement a donor-centric moves management plan to identify, cultivate, solicit, steward, and close individual donor prospect gifts at the Capitol Club Circle ($2,500+), Capitol Club Council ($5,000+), and Capitol Club Leadership ($10,000+) levels.
  • Work collaboratively across the organization to secure maximum gifts from current and newly identified prospects, and ensure that this effort will increase the use of community philanthropists across all phases of the solicitation process.
  • Maintain an individual major gift portfolio and work with the staff leadership team and board members on building active donors and pipeline prospects.
  • Evaluate various gift opportunities and giving vehicles and make recommendations as to the most suitable giving for a particular donor.
  • Explore funding opportunities that coincide with the strategic plan and the organization’s priorities.
  • Develop appropriate solicitation and briefing materials, including personalized solicitation letters and tailored proposals.
  • Design strategies and procedures to enhance the stewardship of all donors.
  • Design strategies to enhance the sponsorship income from signature community events.
  • Travel frequently across the state to oversee and support the operations of regional Steering Committees.

The ideal candidate will possess a combination of the following experience and characteristics:  

  • A record of success in raising major gifts from individuals and institutions and a broad-based knowledge of various development activities including relationship-based philanthropy, annual fund, campaigns, planned giving, event sponsorship, and social media.
  • Strong knowledge of key philanthropic trends and top-level contacts with major local, regional and national funding sources.
  • Experience working closely and effectively with board members and as a strategic partner to staff leadership teams.
  • A reputation as an innovator, change agent and builder.
  • Excellent human relations skills, persuasive writing and presentation skills, exceptional judgment and maturity.
  • Demonstrated experience building, nurturing and creating investor collaborations with board, donors, philanthropic foundations, community leaders, political and business leaders, and other stakeholders.
  • A strong work ethic, honesty, integrity, a high energy level, and a commitment to teamwork.

Financial Targets

Equality Texas/Equality Texas Foundation have a combined 2018 operating budget of $1.41M in the 2018 calendar year: $368,000 for the lobbying/advocacy arm, and $1,044,000 for the Equality Texas Foundation.  The DM, along with the staff leadership team, and boards of both organizations, will be responsible for raising the budgeted funds through existing and newly developed donor platforms and events, as well as corporate and foundation grants.

Reporting Relationships

The Development Manager works under the direction of the Chief Executive Officer and will directly supervise a to-be-hired full-time Volunteer & Events Coordinator.

Requirements, Career Path and Education Background

The ideal candidate has a creative, entrepreneurial and innovative approach to work, the ability to represent Equality Texas with professionalism, and possesses strong and engaging communication skills (both written and spoken).  Excellent organizational skills are required, coupled with the ability to work under many priorities and deadlines, and a talent to work effectively with volunteers.

Familiarity with NGP/VAN or a broad understanding of maximizing ECRM software is required.  Knowledge of/or passion for LGBTQ, civil rights/civil liberties issues and/or background and understanding of political fundraising is highly desirable.  At a minimum, this position requires:

  • Bachelor’s Degree, a Masters is preferred
  • Five to seven years of increasing experience and responsibility in fund development, including major gifts solicitation, and special events as they relate to major gifts and individual donor engagement campaigns/initiatives
  • Knowledge of the Texas and regional philanthropic sector.

Compensation

Equality Texas is offering an industry competitive compensations package based on the candidate’s qualifications and experience.

Application Process

Using the subject line “Development Manager”, please submit the following to Chuck@EqualityTexas.org

1.) Cover letter:  All candidates are strongly encouraged to develop a cover letter that describes how their qualifications, experiences and past successes in executing successful development plans, and building major gifts and individual giving programs fully intersect with Equality Texas’ requirements for this position.

2.) Resume/CV

3.) Compensation history and compensation requirements

All three attachments must be received; incomplete applications will not be considered.  Due to the anticipated volume of applications only principal, qualified candidates will receive a response.  We ask that no phone calls be placed to Equality Texas.

To learn more about Equality Texas, please visit the website: https://www.equalitytexas.org

Equality Texas is an Equal Employment Opportunity Employer and actively seeks and desires a diverse pool of candidates.

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Later this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that is likely to ignite a firestorm here in Texas, no matter the outcome.

The case arose in 2012, when Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig tried to buy a cake for their wedding reception from the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Denver, but were turned away by the shop owner because they are gay. Mullins and Craig notified the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which investigated and found that Masterpiece had violated a Colorado law that bars businesses from denying service to customers on the basis of personal characteristics like race, sex, or sexual orientation. The Commission ruled that Masterpiece need not sell wedding cakes at all, but if it chooses to do so, must sell cakes to any customer who wants one. The shop owner has appealed that ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that he should be exempt from state civil rights laws because of his personal religious beliefs about homosexuality.

So why all the fuss over a cake?  The transaction that gave rise to the case may have involved a simple cake, but the case is about something much bigger.

The Masterpiece case is part of a coordinated strategy to roll back rights that LGBTQ people have spent decades fighting to achieve.  Masterpiece is represented in the case by Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for extremist anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and advocacy. ADF and its ilk have devised a cynical strategy to use religion as a justification for discrimination.  In this case, ADF is asking the Supreme Court to create a constitutional right to discriminate under the First Amendment, giving some people the right to ignore laws meant to protect everyone.  So much for “love thy neighbor,” huh?

If the opponents of equality have their way, such a license to discriminate could have consequences in many contexts beyond wedding-related services.  In a system where personal religious beliefs trump the law, the LGBTQ community will be targeted in every facet of our lives:

  • An ER doctor could refuse to treat a transgender patient needing urgent life-saving care.
  • A boss could fire a lesbian employee for talking about her wife with coworkers.
  • A waiter could refuse to serve LGBTQ patrons.
  • A school counselor could decline to help a gay student with college admissions.

Nor are these harms limited to the LGBTQ community. A license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community opens the door for service refusals against people of color, against women, against people of different faiths.  We long ago rejected this kind of discrimination in our country, because using religion to divide people is the antithesis of what we hold dear in America.

Texas is at the epicenter of these attacks in the guise of religion. Just last year, the Texas Legislature passed a law that permits state-funded foster and adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people, including the kids they’re meant to serve. And the Masterpiece case is likely to spawn a whole new round of bills aimed at creating a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

All of us value the freedom to worship according to our own beliefs, and that’s why religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment. But religious liberty doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate against us for being who we are.

At Equality Texas, we have no intention of letting our hard-won rights be stripped away.  No matter the outcome in Masterpiece, we’re ready to defend the LGBTQ community from assaults in the guise of religion.

Help us fight back. Donate today.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Angela Hale, Equality Texas 512-289-2995, angela@redmediagroup.com

New Report Shows Epidemic of Violence Against LGBTQ Texans

3 Murdered in Houston-7 in Texas in 2017-Highest Number in 20 Years

Equality Texas Fighting on the Front Lines with the Houston Police Department & Montrose Center to Protect LBGTQ Victims of Hate Crimes During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Houston, TX (April 11, 2018) – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans, honored National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Houston with the Houston Police Department and the Montrose Center to raise awareness about a new report that shows Texas is at the Epicenter of an ‘Epidemic of Violence’ Against LGBTQ People.  Texas led the United States in hate-related homicides against LGBTQ people, which jumped by 86 percent from 2016 to 2017.   Seven Texans were murdered, including three in Houston: two gay Asian men who were targeted on a dating site and one transgender woman of color.

Fifty-two LGBTQ people in the United States were killed in 2017 as a result of hate-related violence, according to a new report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP). That’s the highest number recorded in the 20 years that NCAVP has tracked this information, representing an 86 percent increase from 2016.

“We’re living in a toxic environment.  We’re living at a time when the climate for homophobic and transphobic and violent oriented speech directed at the LGBTQ community is increasing,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas.  “This rhetoric is unacceptable and has real consequences for real Texans who are victims of hate crimes.”

Today, Equality Texas is unveiling a new campaign to combat LGBTQ violence and discrimination as we redouble our efforts to fight inequality and the ignorance that feeds it. We’re calling on Texans to join us because if you attack one Texan, you attack all Texans.

See a link to our video here: https://www.equalitytexas.org/if-you-attack-one-texan-you-attack-all-texans/

The Montrose Center is the nation’s 5th largest LGBTQ community center and more than 100,000 Houstonians find hope through their programs and services each year.

  • The Center is celebrating its 40th year of advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Houstonians, but during this 40th anniversary they are experiencing a troubling rise in the number of LGBTQ individuals who have experienced violence and hate crimes.
  • From 2016 until 2018 there has been more than a 14% increase in clients seeking support through their anti violence and hate crimes program. In 2017 and 2018, 17% of these survivors identified as transgender. This was a 32% increase in the number of transgender Houstonians seeking services for hate crimes and violence since 2015. This alarming increase in Houston has mirrored a national increase in violence facing LGBTQ individuals.

Working together we are bringing attention to the series of murders and hate crimes targeting LGBTQ Texans in Austin, Dallas, Houston and across the state.   44-year-old Glenser Solimon was found dead on February 25, 2017 in Houston.   Soliman was lured to his death while using a dating app. Two cousins, Brandon Alexander Lyons and Jerrett Jamal Allen have been charged with capital murder.

The cousins are also suspected in the murder of 26-year-old An Vinh Nguyen who was last seen on March 31, 2017 and is presumed dead. It is believed that Nguyen was lured to his death while using a dating app.  Nguyen was a University of Houston student, a member of Houston’s LGBTQ community, and worked part time as an optician.

Brandi Seals, a black transgender woman was fatally shot on December 13, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Police are investigating her death as a homicide.  Brandi was misgendered at the time of her death.  Brandi was remembered by her aunt as a “loving, beautiful person.”

Following the murder of Seals, the Houston Police Department is partnering with Equality Texas and the Montrose Center and implementing new training to ensure officers are more educated when they respond to incidents regarding transgender Houstonians.

“The Houston Police Department will not tolerate acts of violence against any member of our community, regardless of race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.  It is imperative that we not only appreciate one another’s differences, but make it a priority to protect any person or group whose differences make them a target for violence.  Our Department is creating new polices to educate and bring awareness to the intricacies of how criminal cases involving the LGBTQ, and specifically the transgender community, are handled.  We are extremely proud to stand with our LGBTQ community members to make Houston safer for all who live, work or visit our diverse and welcoming city,” said Chief Art Acevedo, Houston Police Department.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is a time to bring attention to crime victims across Texas and the country to raise awareness.

Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.

Montrose Center’s Anti-Violence Program was founded in 1996 and is recognized as one of the most comprehensive in the nation. The program offers rapid rehousing, advocate accompaniment to hospitals, court, and law enforcement interviews, an educational grant to help survivors go back to school, and vouchers for food, transportation and furniture. Additionally, The Montrose Center operates the only LGBTQ domestic violence shelter in Texas which is specific to the needs of the LGBTQ domestic violence survivor as there are no existing shelters for gay or transgender men, and lesbian survivors are vulnerable to their partner following them into shelters serving women. If you are aware of anyone in need of our services please encourage them to visit montrosecenter.org

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Judge Lee Rosenthal, the chief judge in the Houston-based Southern District Court of Texas, said in a decision last week: 

Within the last year, several circuits have expanded Title VII protection to include discrimination based on transgender status and sexual orientation. The failure-to-conform stereotyping protection from Price Waterhouse has been expanded to include transgender persons. The Sixth Circuit recently held that “Title VII protects transgender persons because of their transgender or transitioning status, because transgender or transitioning status constitutes an inherently gender non-conforming trait.”

In Zarda v Altitude Express, Inc., the Second Circuit held that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII, following the Seventh Circuit’s opinion in Hively v Ivy Tech. The Second Circuit explained that discrimination for failure to conform to sex stereotypes supports treating sexual orientation as a protected class.

Although the Fifth Circuit has not yet addressed the issue, these very recent circuit cases are persuasive. They consistently recognize transgender status and orientation as protected classes under Title VII, applying the long-recognized protections against gender- or sex-based stereotyping. Applying these recent cases, the court assumes that Wittmer’s status as a transgender woman places her under the protections of Title VII.

Statement of Equality Texas CEO Chuck Smith:

The ruling by a federal court in Houston is the latest to acknowledge that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex is broad enough to include discrimination based on the employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBTQ workers just want the chance to earn a living and provide for their families on the same basis as their co-workers.

It’s long past time to end the invidious discrimination that keeps LGBTQ workers from full participation in professional life.

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A story based on real world experiences…

Jill Stevens listens as the nurse calls out for “Jack Stevens.” Jill shudders involuntarily for a moment, gets up and approaches the perplexed nurse. Jill discreetly informs the nurse that Jack is still her legal name but that she has been living full-time as Jill, a transgender woman, for more than a year and her records need to be updated.

Fiction? No, unfortunately this is a common occurrence. It’s also one of the many patient experiences that can be remedied using the “Patient-Centered Medical Home” framework.

Texas is home to an estimated 140,000 transgender Texans including an estimated 13,800 youth. Transgender people reside across our state—in urban, rural, and suburban areas, not just in one or two large cities.  And experts tell us that many of them experience significant barriers to medical care.

On April 5th, medical professionals had an opportunity to explore and learn from members of the transgender community and healthcare providers treating large numbers of transgender patients and LGBTQ+ people at the Texas Primary Care and Medical Home Summit. They identified steps to apply the framework to coordinate services provided by physicians, midlevel providers, nursing staff, social workers, and transgender patient navigators/advocates in order to support the needs of transgender patients and their families.

Fitting the framework’s puzzle pieces together is an important step in creating culturally competent healthcare for transgender people and viewing the patient as a “whole person.” This is not the typical experience for transgender people and many others in the LGBTQ+ community. Patient-Centered Medical Homes enable medical providers to support each patient with a range of needs including housing, social services, behavioral health support, and all aspects of their physical health and wellness.

In many ways, transgender people, and to a lesser extent most members of the LGBTQ+ community, remain invisible inside the health system. Invisibility severely limits our ability to conduct patient-centered outcomes research because we can’t create large enough cohorts, or groups of similar people, to understand the medical consequences for treatments.

Collecting information about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in a respectful, engaged, and thoughtful manner is vital. Approximately, 62% of transgender people currently live full time in a gender that is different from the one on their original birth certificate. The remaining 38% are not “out” creating the need to rigorously protect a person’s privacy. SOGI data better informs medical providers to help transgender patients meet their total health needs.

The term carpe diem, or seize the moment, fits. Texas has the second largest number of transgender people of any state. Primary-Care Medical Homes for transgender people can advance their health.

PrismHealth North Texas played a significant role in making this discussion a reality through their generous support. The session—Implementing Patient-Centered Medical Homes for Transgender Patients and Families, and other members of the LGBTQ+ Community—was not only the first LGBTQ+ session at the 6-year old Summit, but is also the first to focus on providing culturally competent transgender healthcare using this framework.

 Several of the panelists are transgender:  Dr. Jamison Green, the immediate past president of WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health; Lou Weaver, Equality Texas Foundation’s transgender program coordinator and TransFORWARD: Texas Transgender Health co-director; and Mikayla Avery, Patient Advocate/Gender Care Coordinator at KIND Clinic in Austin. Three of our panelists represent healthcare organizations facilitating the care of roughly 5,000 transgender patients in different states. We appreciate Dr. Sue Bernstein, director of Texas Medical Home Initiative; Stephanie Ondrias, Texas Health Institute’s director of education and events; and, the Summit’s Steering Committee in making this important and unique opportunity available.

John Oeffinger is the director of eLearning and Training at the Texas Health Institute, and co-director of TransFORWARD: Texas Transgender Health

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Once upon a time I was ashamed of myself. Ashamed of my identity, ashamed of my skin, ashamed of everything about me. As a transgender woman of color, I have had much to overcome.

Over time, I have come to accept myself, my body, my history, my present, and my future. And as I pursued a career in modeling, I built the confidence necessary to be visible for my community. Transgender women of color are being murdered at an unprecedented rate, often without anyone outside of the trans community taking any notice. We are at risk on a daily basis. It can be terrifying at times, but I cannot and will not live in fear. 

Even though the public visibility of modeling comes with difficulties and at times pain, it’s one of the ways to show the world I accept myself. For me, there is too much at risk not to be visible. The Texas Legislature and our current President are trying to push transgender people out of public spaces and into hiding.

No more. As long as I can, I will be visible and I will carry the voices of all those who cannot. I am proud to live an authentic life and it saddens me that so many people have shame for who they are or who they are attracted to.

If I leave any mark on this world, I hope it is to show that you are beautiful just as you are. You deserve to be yourself, without the pressures of society forcing you into who they say you should be.

Love yourself and this one life we have in this world.

Jessica Zyrie is a Houston-based model who works in runway and editorial, and also has experience in print, commercial, and promotional work.

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What a week for equality in Texas!

On Monday, Equality Texas recommitted to our vision of a state where all Texans can feel secure in knowing they have full legal and lived equality. Our new logo makes it clear exactly what we’re working for and for whom.  And we’ve got a message for the enemies of equality: If you attack one Texan, you attack all Texans.  Watch our video here.

No Texan should have to leave the home they’ve known their entire life just to feel safe. No one should have to start life over and go somewhere else because they cannot get the support they need to be safe. It’s not OK that we allow hate to continue to grow in our state. After she helped defeat the bathroom bill, Kimberly Shappley packed up her family and left Pearland so her daughter could be free to be her authentic self. See how this mama bear is keeping her family safe.

No one deserves to have their job threatened because of who they are or whom they love. But in Texas, it happens all the time. Look what has happened to a teacher in Mansfield ISD who was suspended for saying she has a wife! Equality Texas believes that everyone deserves the right to earn a living and provide for their families without fear of discrimination.

This week, Equality Texas joined with the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal, and the Transgender Education Network of Texas to launch a resource hub for transgender youth. TXTransKids.org is an online portal offering information on practical issues related to school dress codes, bullying, harassment, access to facilities, and GSAs.

“It is so exhausting to live in a state where political leaders pride themselves on their discriminatory actions. But the kindness, love, respect, and support we receive from our community — the people of Texas — is far more energizing. It would devastate my family to leave our home and community, and we simply will not stop fighting the inequalities in this state and the ignorance that feeds them.” These are the words of Rachel Gonzales, our Education and Resource Coordinator, in a commentary published Thursday by the Dallas Morning News.  Read “People wonder why I would raise a transgender child in Texas, but I couldn’t do it anywhere else.”

Saturday is International Transgender Day of Visibility. Please check our website and social media platforms as we celebrate transgender people and raise awareness of the discrimination they face.

Thank you for supporting Equality Texas and our work. Please share our digital content and ask your friends to join us in the fight. If you are able, please help us continue this work with a gift of $15.

Have a great weekend!
Chuck Smith
CEO, Equality Texas

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When I was twelve I put together that I was transgender. I didn’t really know any trans people I could talk to about this self-realization, and I didn’t know what to do. I started to do research on what it meant to be trans. I found a few things, but information was always inaccurate, bigoted, or outdated, so I kept researching. I didn’t know what I was looking for. Other people like me. If there was any way I could make my outer self match my inner self. After months of research I concluded that all I had to do was go to gender therapy for three months, get a letter that said I can go on hormones, then go stealth, meaning not tell anyone I was trans. This was my twelve-year-old self’s plan.

But things weren’t as easy as they seemed to the twelve-year-old me. I never wanted to be trans. I just wanted to be a girl. And who could blame me.  Just look at how transgender people are under attack. Of course, the only way I could become the girl I knew I was, was to embrace being trans and transition.

Eventually, I realized that the act of being trans in itself is revolutionary. I realized that I owed it to my past self and to all the other twelve-year olds who might be where I was to be visible and to tell my story. I realized that being trans is the hardest thing a person can do, and I want to make it easier. I want kids doing research on what it means to be trans to have good things to find. To find others like them. To find the truth.

I have learned so much over the past four years. I know that if you attack one Texan, you attack all Texans. I know from personal experience that it’s not just a slogan. It’s true. If any kids are feeling the way I felt before I came out, then our work is not done. We owe it to all of our fellow Texans to stand up for our brothers, sisters, and other siblings. We owe it to ourselves and to them to be truthful and authentic. If we are visible, we can end the attacks on trans people and make a world where trans kids can grow up happy.

Lily Pando lives in Houston where she serves on Mayor Sylvester Turner’s LGBT Advisory Board.

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