Just over 52 years ago, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera led LGBTQ+ New Yorkers at the Stonewall Inn in an uprising against homophobic and transphobic police violence that would spark the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement as we know it. The uprising at Stonewall, and the Compton Cafeteria riot that preceded it, remind us that Pride began as a protest movement, and this legacy of political action to fight for the rights of all LGBTQ+ people continues today.

Although Pride Month may be behind us, Community Catalyst wants to continue to highlight the work of advocates who have been working this past year to stand up for the rights of transgender youth. This year, over 70 anti-trans bills were filed in state legislatures, more than in any prior year. These sought to ban access to medically necessary, gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary (TNB) youth and prohibit transgender girls from playing sports. We spoke Andrea Segovia, Policy and Field Coordinator at the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and with Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas about the work they have been doing to fight the onslaught of anti-transgender bills in the Texas legislature during the 2021 legislative session.

Community Catalyst: Beyond your mission statement, what do you want people to know about your work?

Ricardo: I don’t think people know the irreparable harm that our communities have been subjected to — in terms of further stigmatizing and discriminating against LGBTQ+ people, primarily trans youth and trans people. We don’t have to wait for these bills to become law for them to cause harm. Back in March, a teacher of 16 years called us and said she was witnessing the worst bullying that she has ever seen escalated to physical assault on trans youth.

The other thing that I would say is that this is incredibly traumatic work. This is highly traumatic for our community, especially those advocates on the front lines.

Community Catalyst: How are you/your organizations honoring pride?

Ricardo: We didn’t have the capacity to run a pride campaign in the same way that we would have, had we not had this relentless sustained cruel attack on LGBTQ+ people. In 2019, we only fought 19 bills. What we fought this time is almost double. But in terms of how I’m celebrating pride, I think part of having pride is anchored in your strength as a person, and how you show up authentically in any space and right now what I’m doing is just healing and taking back time and trying to relax. That is pride: taking care of yourself and your vessel, your body – so you can be of service to your community

Andrea: We’re in the same boat, of not having enough capacity. But people in Texas see how hard we’re working and say “Hey, I want to do a fundraiser for you.” And even if it’s $20 or $50, it’s still the fact that the community sees us working and sees hope. And every time that we defeat these bills it’s progress and another kid feels that they can be who they are. A person feels that like, even though maybe their state government doesn’t support them, there are organizations in their state that do.

Personally, I’m celebrating Pride by going on a vacation. Understanding self-care and that you can’t pour from an empty cup is important. Pride Month is the best time to do it for people who are in this realm of work. You deserve the rest, take the rest. It’s your month to do it. Do what makes you feel good.

Ricardo: I will say, if you’ve haven’t checked out TENT’s online store you should; they came out with a couple of pride t-shirts that are pretty stellar.

Community Catalyst: It’s clear TENT and Equality Texas have a really strong partnership – in addition to your organizational partnerships, what strategies and tactics did you use to defeat these bills in session?

Andrea: I’ve seen time and time again the importance of highlighting trans people, point blank, period. If they are teachers, if they are married, if they have kids, no matter who they are, they deserve to have their voice heard by representatives who are trying to dismiss them.

Parents and kids are really owning the voice that they have. One of the pillars that TENT does our work through is empowerment. We want people to understand that even in this tough time you own your own voice, you have that power to have them listen to you every single time.

Ricardo: I would agree with everything that Andrea said. I would also add that we really take control of our own narrative. We don’t want to fall into this trap that other organizations have fallen into which is basing our talking points on the oppositional narrative, which gives them a tremendous amount of power. We must take control of our own narrative – we have to tell our own stories.

The thing is, truth is on our side. You can create any misconceptions, you can distribute whatever misinformation, but truth is on our side.

Community Catalyst: This battle is won but we know the fight continues – how are you using any lessons learned from this year’s legislative session to prepare for what’s ahead?

Ricardo: We are raising money because we didn’t budget for a special session, and we’re a small organization – we don’t have millions and millions of dollars – so we’re fortifying the resources we need to put up a fight and that includes money.

Andrea: Every time they pick a fight with us, we’re ready. And so far, they’ve lost because the people in Texas are also on our side. So, for us, it’s revisiting our talking points, making sure that our allies are ready, and that we have the best information possible for what could be on the governor’s agenda. Also, in Texas, like many other states, legislators love to add our issues into amendments and so just keeping an eye on that. We can defeat these. We’ve done it in the past and will continue to do it.

Community Catalyst: What keeps you motivated through all of this?

Andrea: I think it’s seeing all of our youth go and talk about their experiences, and they speak so well and I tear up. It’s just having that community, because it’s very taxing to just be in that Capitol building.

Ricardo: I wake up every single day excited about the work that I’m doing and knowing that I can use my individual power to really make a difference to improve other people’s lives and that to me is incredible. And it’s not only incredible for me as a person, but it’s a privilege to be able to do this work, and to be in service of our community and so that keeps me motivated.

Community Catalyst: Any final thoughts you want folks to know?

Ricardo: There is a tremendous amount of talent and leadership in Texas who are doing this work. And so if there’s any LGBTQ identified Texan who is afraid, just know that there are countless advocates that are doing the hard work to make everyone’s life easier.


To learn more, read Texas Equality’s summary of this past legislative session here.