This is the full text of the TENT Trans Lobby Day speech I gave on the north steps of the state capitol building earlier this morning,
To Emmett Schelling and the TENT leadership team, the Texas NASW leadership team, my fellow trans Texans, you Mama and Papa Bears,you citizen lobbyists, friends and allies in attendance.
It is a tremendous honor, blessing and privilege to be standing before you today as we prepare to head into the Pink Dome and lobby our state legislators and senators for our human rights. And since I am the TransGriot. I needed to take a moment to drop your trans history on you before we send you on your way to lobby your state reps and state senators.
Our job today, citizen lobbyists is very simple. It is to advocate for just laws to get enacted and do our best to ensure that unjust laws don’t pass this session.
So what is a just law versus an unjust law? As the Rev Dr Martin Luther King so eloquently put it in his 1963 ‘Letter From Birmingham City Jail’, ‘Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.”
Translation: if you’re trying to pass laws that denigrate marginalized communities and people you don’t like, it is an unjust law. If you’re trying to pass laws that uplift people, they are just laws.
I had fun reminding Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and Lt Governor Dan Patrick of that point two years ago. I will continue to drive that point home to any legislator who believes their dry as dust religion gives them the right to oppress and discriminate against people they don’t like..
I’m happily here in the ATX with you a mere 26 days before my 25th transition anniversary on April 4. I’m also here exactly 20 years to the day I made my first trip to Austin to participate in a trans specific lobby day.
I’m also doing so with a heavy heart. Sarah DePalma, one of our trans elders who was the former executive director of TENT’s progenitor organization TGAIN, the Texas Gender Advocacy Information Network, passed away a few weeks ago at age 67 Her memorial service is today. .
She not only was TGAIN’s executive director, she also headed an early national trans rights organization called It’s Time America She was proudly standing up for our human rights in the late 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, and walked these Capitol building halls multiple times.
Sarah was also along with Phyllis Frye one of my activist mentors. She was standing up for trans rights before I transitioned in 1994. She was a co host on KPFT-FM’s ‘After Hours’ show
As TGAIN’s executive director, DePalma also organized trans lobby days over multiple Texas legislative sessions. She fought for trans inclusion in lesbian and gay orgs resisting it until Parkinson’s Disease started affecting her in 2005.
We in Texas and the nation are indebted to our transcestor for being a fierce warrior for our community.
DePalma wrote in a 1994 letter a comment that was published by the This Week In Texas LGBTQ magazine that I’m going to remix here “Transgender people and drag queens cannot be hidden without our cooperation, and we refuse to hide. Get used to it, Texas.”
May we please take time to honor Sarah DePalma by having a moment of silence in her memory? Thank you
It’s roll call time! What part of the Lone Star State are you peeps from?. Dallas-Fort Worth-North Texas, where y’all at? East Texas? The Beaumont-Port Arthur-Orange Golden Triangle? The Rio Grande Valley? West Texas? The Panhandle? San Antonio? Austin? Central Texas? Houston, are y’all in the house?
Raise your hands if this is the first time you have participated in a trans lobby day or a lobby day of any kind.
Whether this is your first time or you’re a veteran of these events like me, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to let your legislators know that your human rights are precious to you.
There are nearly one million of us TBLGQ Texans in the Lone Star State. If all of the estimated 930,000 of us were living in our own fabulous rainbow flavored city, we would be the fifth largest city by population in Texas. It would also be a city that had non discrimination protections for its citizens, something that the unjust SB 15 wants to take away.
And note to all you politicians within and beyond the sound of my voice. We LGBTQ Texans vote in EVERY election cycle..
As I mentioned, I first ventured to Austin for a trans lobby day in 1999. The political landscape was different at that time. George W Bush was our governor. The Texas House had a six seat Democratic edge, and a one seat Republican one in the Texas Senate.
We had a modest goal of getting included in the James Byrd Hate Crimes bill and getting a TGAIN sponsored name change bill passed that would take the name change process out of the Texas court system and make it an administrative process.
While we weren’t successful in doing so in 1999, what we did accomplish was visiting all 150 house offices and all 31 Texas senators despite having about 20 people to do so who were predominately from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin.
Today that torch on the name change legislation has been picked up by Reps Jon Rosenthal with HB 1835, HB 2089 by Rep. Garnet Coleman, and Sen. Jose Rodriguez with SB 154.
We’re also still trying to get included in the Byrd Hate Crime bill, and Rep Coleman has sponsored HB 1513 to make that happen
One of the things we didn’t have 20 years ago that we do now is the support of many organizations like the Texas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, PFLAG, Equality Texas, and HRC,
Texas based organizations now exist that advocate for the issues of trans people of color like the Dallas based Black Trans Advocacy Coalition founded by Carter Brown, and the Houston based Organization Latina de Trans in Texas founded by Ana Andrea Molina
We also have fighting alongside of us the parents of transgender kids that we lovingly call Mama and Papa Bears. They have been invaluable, along with our trans kids themselves, in dispelling the myths and stereotypes that crop up about trans people, and even getting legislators through their lobbying efforts to change their minds about unjust legislation and pass
The trans kids have also been some of our best community ambassadors for spreading the word that trans people exist, and that we are an undeniable part of the diverse mosaic of human life.
And everything we are doing here on March 7, 2019 is to ensure that 20 years from now the Kai Shappleys, Libby Gonzales’ and Zuri’s of our state who are in elementary and middle school don’t have to come here to lobby every session for basic human rights coverage.
I want them to be building upon the trans lobbying work we do in our Capitol today. But since I’m still doing this work 20 years later, I won’t be surprised if I’m still blessed to be around in 2039 to witness it that I will probably see them doing so on behalf of our community
Yes, Trans Lobby Day is about our trans and gender non conforming kids and making life better for future generations . Some of what we elders do here we may never reap the benefits of it. But if it does happen for us trans elders sooner than that, that’s all good as well.
Texas trans kids, here’s a message to you from your Aunt Moni. I and your trans elders will fight for you with every fiber of our unapologetic trans beings You are our future. We will do our utmost to make it a great one for you. So dream big, get those good grades, make friends with people who unconditionally love you, and be better quality people than the bullies who irrationally hate on you.
One of the things we also have going for us now we didn’t have in 1999 was the overwhelming support of the business community. They said it loud and clear in 2017 and before this session started that they see diversity as a core principle of their businesses, and discrimination hurts their bottom line.
Target and Victoria’s Secret are excellent examples of what I’m talking about here. Target just reported their best earnings since 2005 and business is booming for them. Meanwhile a business that went in the opposite direction in Victoria’s Secret is seeing lackluster sales and is closing 58 stores.
Bigotry costs you money As North Carolina proved in the wake of the passage of the unjust and transphobic HB 2, it can also cost you convention and hospitality business and sporting events that bring in millions of dollars to your state’s economy. .
We also have increasing support from progressive pastors who have no problem telling the world we trans people are God’s children despite whatever faux faith based anti-trans hate speech Dave Welch, Jonathan Saenz, Steven Hotze and other Texas right wing hate mongers keep putting out there.
I also must give thanks to the people in the social work, education, media and medical communities who unequivocally support our human rights struggle and fight back against the ignorance and attempts to demonize and dehumanize our community.
In closing I want to salute you citizen lobbyists and give you a few pro tips. Relax, take a deep breath and don’t be scared to talk to your state senators and state reps. Yes, they reprepresent you here in Austin and have the power to write legislation, but the bottom line is that they still work for you.
Frankly, your legislators and staffers enjoy talking to a constituent who made the effort to come to Austin from their district far more than they do some paid corporate lobbyist with an expense account who is here in the Pink Dome nearly every day
Know your bill numbers and the basics of what they do when you talk to staffers and legislators so they can be on the alert for them when that bill hits their committee or the floor They can also tell you where they are in the legislative process as well in their respective chamber.
Please and thank you works, especially in liberal progressive offices that get a constant barrage of nasty calls from our loud and wrong opposition. Thank them for doing their demanding jobs and being legislative supporters of our TBLGQ community.
And before you leave Austin, take some time to get to know some of your fellow citizen lobbyists here today. You may make a lifelong friend before this day is over.
Your authenticity is your strength as a citizen lobbyist. You have a unique story to tell, so tell as much of that story to your reps and the legislative assistants in their offices as you feel comfortable in doing.
You don’t have to be perfect. Just be the beautifully human people I know all of you are.