This message was supposed to be celebratory. Houstonians, living in a city ranked as the fourth largest in the nation, situated within highly conservative region of our country, yet possessing one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the United States, managed to elect an openly gay candidate to three terms as Houston's mayor, and yet, for the third time in a row, we were unable to pass comprehensive non-discrimination protection.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, also known as HERO, was Mayor Anise Parker's signature legislation, a citywide ordinance designed to extend local protections against discrimination to 15 groups, including veterans and pregnant women. HERO was soundly defeated last night in a referendum instigated by an anti-HERO campaign centering around the use of public restrooms by transgender citizens.
It was no accident the anti-HERO lobby failed to mention the 14 other groups protected under the ordinance. Nor was there any acknowledgement on their part that a vote against HERO would single-out Houston as the only major city in Texas without some form of anti-discrimination law.
Much is being written on the failure of HERO, some of which you can and should take the time to read on the front page of today's Houston Chronicle, but perhaps the most troubling aspect of HERO's disheartening defeat was its loss due primarily on the basis of Transphobia.
In a city as rich in diversity as Houston, there should be no place for Transphobia. It was shameful for the opposition to push forward a m
isleading campaign that aggressively tapped into people's fears of the trans community, one commercial going so far as to depict a young girl being attacked in a bathroom stall by a man. Even former Astro Lance Berkman took part in the campaign to speak out against HERO.
But there is hope, depending on how you choose to look at things. Despite a larger than anticipated turnout for this election, only 27.41% of all registered voters actually took part in this election. In hard numbers, out of 979,401 registered voters in Houston, only 268,459 voters participated. Looked at one way, 710,942 registered voters failed to take part in the election, either because they did no think their vote mattered or they simply did not care. Looked at another way, 710,942 voters are in desperate need of civic engagement, and it is the responsibility of civic-minded individuals and organizations to create and foster strategies to turn non-participating registered voters into active citizens so that legislation impacting all Houstonians is not decided by a mere 27.41% of the population.
Houston Stonewall Young Democrats will be hosting a meeting Tuesday November 10 at Little Bigs to discuss next steps. To learn more, please visit their
Facebook Event Page
Also, longtime QFest supporter and QFest performer Koomah, along with Stephanie Saint Sanchez and Jay Mays, will be organizing the Houston Edition of The Gender Reel Film Festival. Taking place November 20 through 22, I encourage each of you to show your support of the trans community by visiting their
and participating in the event.
Finally, Houston Cinema Arts, taking place November 12 through 19, will feature five high profile queer films, including Todd Haynes' CAROL, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Stephanie Saint Sanchez is the festival's Volunteer Coordinator and she needs your help. There are two more volunteer orientations scheduled for tonight and tomorrow at 6:00pm at
ICO Houston, located at 5900 Memorial Dr, Houston, TX 77007
. You can
and be a part of an exciting line-up!
I promise we'll have more information to share about both of these and other upcoming events, but first, we just need to take some time to lick our wounds and regroup.
Thank you for all of your continued support,
Artistic Director, QFest 2016