Op-Ed: Texas hasn’t always loved me, but I’m committed to fighting for change

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By Brandon Mack

June 7, 2024

June has always been one of my favorite months of the year because I get to celebrate all of my intersections. As a Black, queer, disabled Texan, June represents all of my intersections.

June is Pride Month, where we celebrate and commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which is regarded as the start of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. (I do want to point out that there were others who started that work prior to the Stonewall Riots, such as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966, which was primarily led by transgender women in San Francisco. These acts of resistance and others are also worthy of being celebrated and commemorated this month.)

Juneteenth is also coming up soon. The federal holiday offers us the opportunity to celebrate the emancipation of Black slaves in Texas, and commemorate the amazing contributions and rich cultural history of Black Texans.

June is also Cancer Survivors Month, and as a two-time cancer survivor who is currently battling cancer for the third time, this month reminds me of my previous battles. It also reminds me of the fact that I have been resilient: I’m still here in the fight along with so many others who have survived and are still fighting the Big C.

Amid all the various celebrations that come in June, it is also a very important month to recommit and reaffirm my right to be here in a state that I love. A state that, to be frank, hasn’t always loved me back, especially as an LGBTQ+ Texan.

According to Equality Texas, during the 2023 Texas Legislative Session there were 141 anti-LGBTQ+ pieces of legislation. We have seen the banning of books about the LGBTQ+, Black, and other historically marginalized communities’ experiences. We’ve seen the restricting of transgender affirmative health care for trans youth. In my own neighborhood, in fact, my now former state representative made the erroneous association of trans affirmative health care being equated to genocide, stoking anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments and causing a rift between the Black community and the LGBTQ+ community.

I have often been asked why I stay in Texas, when I could move to other places where I might feel more accepted. My response always is, “I’m a Texan. It’s my home. Home is always worth fighting for.”

For over 15 years, I have fought for racial justice, education, and LGBTQ+ rights, helping people to see the intersections among all of these issues. We as Black LGBTQ+ Texans do not cause the genocide of our community. We have been contributors to all of our intersections. I am reminded that I come from the strength of people like Barbara Jordan who used her political acumen to secure great rights and victories for Texans both here in our state and at the national level. I come from Alvin Ailey, who was born in Rogers, Texas, and started the first and now longest running dance theater dedicated to the African American experience. Dr. Charles Law, who is the University Archivist at Texas Southern University and spoke at the 1979 National Lesbian and Gay March on Washington, D.C., where he connected the work of Harvey Milk and Martin Luther King Jr. to show that our oppressions, while unique, are also linked and we should join together and fight our common oppressions.

All of these amazing Black LGBTQ+ Texans came before me, and their examples give me the strength to know that I and all of us have the right to be here in Texas, to fight for ourselves and others, and that we are capable of and have achieved greatness and impact.

When the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, a local remedy that would have provided protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations for 10 classes of identity including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran status, and many others was proposed a decade ago, I joined the chorus of many voices that advocated for its passage. To be in a room filled with so many different intersections fighting and advocating for a common cause demonstrated that here in Texas we are capable of great things when we see a common issue such as discrimination and we collectively come together and address it.

It was beautiful to see the cheers and excitement when the ordinance passed on May 28, 2014. It was disheartening when it was later repealed due to a referendum vote the following year because those who opposed the measure used anti-trans misinformation and trans panic to convince people to vote against an ordinance that would have offered needed protections that they would have benefited from.

At the time, it would have been easy to have just said, “Texas hates me. Houston hates me. I’m going to leave and go somewhere else.” However, the H.E.R.O. fight and my 40 years of living in this state has shown me that there is a lot of love in this state. The examples of previous Black LGBTQ+ Texans who have bridged communities together has demonstrated the ability for us to break down the walls between our communities that have been built based on misunderstanding, misinformation, and miscommunication. The fact that I and many others have given so much to Texas means that we have every right to stay here, continue to build upon the legacies and work of those who came before us, and that Texas is still worth fighting for.

So, this June, I invite all of us to recommit to the fight. To recommit to Texas. To recommit to ourselves being fully unapologetically all of our intersections. We can engage in this recommitment by being in community with one another. If you are not a member of the LGBTQ+ community, attend some of the Pride celebrations happening around the state. If you are not a member of the Black community, I encourage you to attend Juneteenth celebrations and learn about the many contributions of Black Texans.

June is a time for us to learn about each other, because when we learn about each other it makes it so much harder for us to devalue one another, and we have a serious human devaluation problem in this state and in this country. Now is the time to fix it. One of the simplest ways is by celebrating each other and learning about and from one another.

So, I end this with Happy Pride, Happy Juneteenth, Happy Black Music Appreciation Month, Happy Cancer Survivors Month, and Happy all of us being able to be our unapologetic, authentic selves, because my existence doesn’t stop you from your existence. If anything, we should all be able to be and breathe; we all should be liberated because we have all contributed to Texas and to this world.

  • Brandon Mack

    Brandon Mack is a college admissions professional, educator, activist, and entrepreneur. His most recent position was as Interim Director of Operations at the International Association for College Admission Counseling, an organization dedicated to providing professional development opportunities for individuals who work with international students.

CATEGORIES: LGBTQ

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