HCC Board of Trustees unanimously approves trans protections

The Houston Community College Board of Trustees unanimously approve trans protections during their regular meeting last week. The measure to include Gender Identity and Expression in the college’s system-wide nondiscrimination policy was voted on as part of a group of noncontroversial actions considered by the board.

Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, attended the board meeting and said the vote happened so quickly, and with so little discussion, that he almost missed it. “As an HCC alumni, I can’t express how thankful I am to the HCC Board of Trustees for taking this step,” said Weaver. “I look forward to working with the school to insure that the new policy is fully implemented in a way that insures that members of the transgender community have the same educational opportunities as everyone else.”

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Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

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Texas A&M Student Senate passes resolution supporting trans inclusion in nondiscrimination policy

Andrew Jancaric

Andrew Jancaric

The Texas A&M Student Senate recently passed a resolution supporting the addition of gender identity and expression to the attributes currently covered by that university system’s nondiscrimination policy. The policy already includes sexual orientation.

The action by the Student Senate stands in stark contrast to a resolution passed by the same body last year supporting legislation in the Texas House to defund campus LGBT resource centers, that resolution was later vetoed by the student body president. The nondiscrimination resolution’s author, Andrew Jancaric, says it’s no coincidence that the student senate has done such an about face. “Certain members who supported resolution [to defund LGBT resource centers] are gone,” says Jancaric. “I wasn’t involved in student government until I saw what my representatives, the people who were supposed to be representing me, were trying to do.” He adds that many students were spurred to action by what they saw as a misrepresentation of the Aggie spirit. “We saw what they were doing and thought ‘this is a problem that we have, we need to get involved to change the dialogue.’” According to Jancaric over 90% of the student senators supported his nondiscrimination resolution.

Jancaric is working with allies in the Faculty Senate and Graduate Student Council to pass similar resolutions. He says the next step will be to begin a lobbying campaign with the A&M system Board of Regents and Chancellor, who oversee the statewide A&M university system and its 100,000 students.

Jancaric acknowledges that A&M is not the most LGBT friendly school (last year the Princeton Review ranked it the least friendly public university in the nation for GLBT students). “It’s an institution that’s steeped in it’s traditions as an all male military school. There’s a culture of masculinity. That has been an obstacle towards equality.” At the same time he feels that fighting for LGBT equality at A&M is vital. “I believe that equality needs to happen everywhere,” says Jancaric. “If we leave instiutions like A&M alone in the corner to fester we won’t achieve it.”

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