Annise Parker to seek 3rd, final term; trans woman to run for Houston council

Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker at Dallas Pride in 2010.


Jenifer Rene Pool

Houston Mayor Annise Parker plans to seek a third and final term in November, and a transgender candidate has launched her campaign for City Council. Houston mayors and council members may serve up to three two-year terms.

On her campaign website Parker writes:

“We’re leading the nation in job creation. We’re ‘America’s Coolest City’ (Forbes) and the 7th best place in the world to visit in 2013 (New York Times). We’re the #1 city in America to further a career ( And those are just a few examples in just the last year.”

This year Parker may have some serious opposition. Benjamin Hall III, who served as city attorney under Mayor Bob Lanier (1992–1998), told a local TV station he is seriously considering a run. As of today, he had no campaign website in place.A recent poll by a Rice University political scientist shows 57 percent of voters approve of her job performance and 30 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, Jenifer Rene Pool, who is transgender, tells Instant Tea she’ll make a second run for an at-large City Council seat.

Pool is a self-employed consultant in construction management and permitting. She served as a member of the Buildings and Standards and Police Advisory commissions and was appointed by Parker to a special blue ribbon task force on buildings and standards. She co-hosts Queer Voices, a weekly radio show on the Houston Pacifica station.

But her biggest asset in running for office in Houston may be the three terms she served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Both Parker and former three-term City Councilwoman Sue Lovell began their political careers heading the caucus.

Pool’s campaign kickoff event takes place from 5:30–7 p.m on Thursday at BB’S, 701 Studewood St., Houston.

Houston municipal elections are in November.

—  David Taffet

Community rallies to support GLBT Community Center President

Tim Brookover

Last fall Tim Brookover, a long-time Houston LGBT activist and current president of the Houston GLBT Community Center, made public that he was undergoing treatment for cancer. Throughout his treatment Brookover has remained the vibrant advocate for LGBT people that Houston has always known him to be (he even started a cancer support group at the center). Brookover recently ended his employment in the office of Houston City Council member Sue Lovell and applied for disability.

While his application is pending the people of his long-time church home have decided to help. Bethel United Church of Christ (1107 Shepherd) will host a spaghetti dinner to raise funds for Brookover’s expenses this Sunday, Feb. 12, at noon. Ticket’s are $10 and include beverages and speghetti. RSVP via facebook.

—  admin

Lesbian incumbent backing gay man over transgender woman in Houston council race

Jenifer Pool
Jenifer Pool

Earlier this month we reported on transgender candidate Jenifer Pool’s bid for the Position 2 At Large seat on the Houston City Council, which is being vacated by term-limited Councilwoman Sue Lovell, an out lesbian. Well, since our story ran about Pool, the plot has thickened considerably.

As we noted, Pool appears to have the backing of the city’s LGBT political establishment — having been endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (which she once led), the Houston Stonewall Democrats and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats.

Which is why it was surprising to many when Lovell, also a one-time president of the Caucus, endorsed Bolivar Fraga, one of Pool’s opponents in the November race. Fraga, the son of a former Houston councilman, just recently came out as gay.

We’ve heard all sorts of possible explanations as to why Lovell didn’t endorse Pool, from the fact that the two were on opposite sides of the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama primary to allegations that Lovell is transphobic.

Meanwhile, the Lovell-endorsed Fraga has been linked to an email attacking Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, an LGBT ally who represents Houston’s Montrose gayborhood but has butted heads with Lovell in the past. And now, the Houston’s Office of Inspector General is conducting an “initial inquiry” into a complaint that Lovell illegally used her city computer to send an email in support of Fraga to none other than the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

In the words of Monica Roberts at TransGriot, “Stay tuned, because the Houston political battles and intrigue really start heating up after Labor Day.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Annise Parker accepts LGBT Trailblazers Award while Westboro Baptist protests outside

A member of Westboro Baptist Church protests outside the LGBT Trailblazers luncheon in Houston on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Noel Freeman)

On Saturday, while Gov. Rick Perry was throwing his prayer rally “The Response” inside Reliant Stadium and GetEQUAL was staging mock funerals at the front gate, the Harris County Democratic Party sat down to a quite luncheon honoring LGBT Trailblazers. The highlight of the luncheon was the videotaped acceptance speech by Houston Mayor Annise Parker (WATCH IT BELOW). In 2009 Parker became the first out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city after years of community service as an activist, city council member and city controller.

Parker was unable to accept her award in person due to previously scheduled city business. Via pre-recorded message she thanked the luncheon’s co-chairs, Robert Shipman and Brad Pritchett, and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, who took the lead in organizing the event.

Parker’s son, Jonon Tyler, accepted the award on behalf of his mother. Tyler talked about the thrill of riding with Mayor Parker in the 2010 Dallas Pride Parade, about how the crowd seemed to swell with hope and pride at seeing her. “When we see Mayor Annise Parker, we see the best in ourselves,” said Tyler. “We’ve only seen the beginning; the best is yet to come.”

Also honored as LGBT Trailblazers were Judge Steven Kirkland, City Councilwoman Sue Lovell, Judge Phyllis Frye and Linda Morales. Judge John Paul Barnich received a posthumous award.

—  admin

Transgender woman running for Houston council

Jenifer Rene Pool hopes to follow in the steps of another former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president, Mayor Annise Parker

Jenifer Pool
Jenifer Pool

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Jenifer Rene Pool is running for an at-large position on the Houston city council. Sue Lovell, who reached her term limit, is vacating the seat. Before Lovell joined the council, Mayor Annise Parker also served on the council at large.

Unlike her two predecessors who are lesbian, Pool is transgender.

Pool explained that in Houston, the at-large seat, rather than the single member district that includes Montrose, is the LGBT seat. She said that Houston’s LGBT community has always been even more spread out than that in Dallas. To put together the LGBT vote, a candidate needs to run citywide, she said.

Pool said her goal has always been to run for public office. But when she began to transition in the 1990s, she set her political ambitions aside.

Then Parker was elected to the City Council,  and Pool took notice. When Parker  was elected mayor in 2009, Pool decided the atmosphere in Houston was right.

Pool works in the construction industry. When she began transitioning in the ’90s, she was fired from her job. “I went from being one of the top project managers in the city to unemployable,” she said.

Since then, she has been self-employed as a consultant in construction management and permitting. She has served as a member of the Buildings and Standards and the Police Advisory commissions and was appointed by Parker to a special blue ribbon task force on buildings and standards. And like Lovell and Parker, Pool has been president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. She served three terms in that position.

She’s worked with other LGBT community organizations including the Houston Transgender Unity Committee and PRIDE Houston and several AIDS groups. But she’s also volunteered with groups such as the Houston Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Walk for the Cure.

In addition, for the past six years Pool has co-hosted Queer Voices, a two-hour weekly LGBT talk show on KPFT, Houston’s Pacifica station.

She said there’s no hiding who she is. She and her co-hosts talk about their lives on the air each week.

Because of FCC rules, she will be leaving the show temporarily during the campaign. Her last show is on Labor Day, since she officially will be on the ballot later that week. After the election, she can return to the air, whether she wins or loses.

Pool said she is fashioning her campaign after Parker’s and using what she learned at Victory Fund candidate training.

She said that begins with earning endorsements from LGBT and progressive organizations. She has already gotten four including Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, Houston Stonewall Democrats and Democracy for Houston. On Aug. 4, she also was endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.

She said that she’ll be trying to energize the LGBT community, progressives and friends to vote. “I’ll outreach to organizations to let them know I’m here,” she said, “Then go into the community knocking on doors.

“The race is going well,” she added. “I’m in parity with all but one of the candidates.”

Five people have entered the race, including a gay candidate. That could affect an endorsement from the Victory Fund.

“Generally, when there are two LGBT candidates, we stay out of the race,” said Denis Dison of Victory Fund.

He said that there are exceptions, especially when one candidate is viable and the other isn’t. But he confirmed that no endorsement had been made in this race so far.

Houston’s City Council is made up of five at-large seats and nine local-district seats. Two local seats will be added in the November election because of population increase.

Council members are elected for two years and may serve three consecutive terms. Unlike most Texas cities, municipal elections in Houston are held on Election Day in November.

If elected, Pool won’t be the first transgender public official in Houston. Earlier this year, Parker appointed Phyllis Frye as a municipal court judge.

Nor will she be the first transgender candidate for city council. In the late ’80s, another transgender woman ran but was not elected.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Misleading Houston TV report suggests Parker is receiving piles of cash from gay donors

Mayor Annise Parker

Houston’s KHOU reports that Mayor Annise Parker is receiving piles of cash after sending out a mailing nationally to supporters. Parker’s  fundraising letter quoted Houston bigot Dave Wilson, who explains to KHOU that he has nothing against Parker being a lesbian but opposes her pushing the “gay agenda.”

“Her homosexual lifestyle doesn’t bother me,” Wilson told KHOU.

Wilson doesn’t represent any organized group opposing the mayor, but his criticism has always focused on her sexual orientation, not the job she’s done as mayor or as controller or as a council member.

Twice in the KHOU report, the station shows actual piles of coins and bills as if “homosexuals” from around the country are stuffing envelopes with cash and sending them to Houston City Hall.

The report also says that during her first mayoral campaign, Parker was uncomfortable talking about her sexual orientation. As the former president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Parker was never uncomfortable talking about her sexual orientation. But as a candidate for mayor, she preferred talking about actual issues facing the city.

Sue Davis from the Parker campaign said that June 30 was a fundraising reporting deadline.

“I think we did very well,” Davis said, laughing at KHOU’s version of piles of cash pouring in. “I wish.”

Davis did not have exact numbers yet and the report is not due until mid-July.

The filing deadline for candidates is early September. Two opponents have already entered the race and Davis said the campaign is taking the challenge seriously. The opposing candidates are not well known.

Hopefully Wilson has the latest copy of the gay agenda, which has presumably been revised since the passage of marriage equality in New York in June. If not, Davis can get him a copy, which she said includes writing a balanced budget, street maintenance, and maintaining and improving other city services.

—  David Taffet

Phyllis Frye becomes Texas’ 1st trans judge

Phyllis Frye

It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.

On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.

Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:

Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.

The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.

It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.

UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts.  Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.

It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse.  I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges.  And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge.  The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation.  This is a great honor.  I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously  confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.

(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position.  The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission.  Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011.  If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at <> .)

(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship.  I think there are a few other  appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country.  Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January.  Congratulations to Vicki.)

My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”

I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at <> .

Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community.  And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.

I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation.  I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.


For more go to
Phyllis Randolph Frye

—  John Wright

WATCH: Houston councilwoman 'brought to tears' after being accused of hating gays

OK, I admit it, I’m sick and tired of the other major cities in Texas getting all the fun gay stories this week. First there was the big hubbub over Austin Pride, and now a Houston city councilwoman has been brought to tears after she was accused of hating gay people. How great is that?!

Actually, despite the headline from Fox 26, I didn’t really see any tears in the video. And Fox’s story is wrong too: Councilwoman Wanda Adams didn’t vote against funding a facility that provides housing for people with HIV/AIDS. She instead chose to leave chambers so she didn’t have to vote, which to me is actually worse. (Maybe Adams was just afraid that if she stayed, gay Councilwoman Sue Lovell would tell her to shut it.)

According to the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Adams represents both the Sunnyvale area, which has the highest concentration of HIV in Houston, and Montrose, the city’s gayborhood. Adams also used to employ Kris Banks, who’s now the president of GLBT Political Caucus.

Like I said, it’s good stuff.

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—  John Wright

WATCH: Gay Houston official Sue Lovell tells colleague to shut up in AIDS facility debate

Houston city councilmembers clashed Wednesday during a debate over whether to continue grant funding for Marjo House, a 12-year-old facility that provides transitional housing for people with HIV/AIDS. At one point, openly gay Councilwoman Sue Lovell, a supporter of the funding, nearly came to blows with Councilwoman Jarvis Johnson, who wanted to shut down the facility. The exchange takes place at about the 00:35 mark in the above video.

The council ultimately voted 10-2 to continue funding the nonprofit group home in East Houston with a $400,000 grant, with openly gay Mayor Annise Parker also among those backing the facility. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus sent out a Call to Action about the issue morning:

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus applauds the Council Members who voted in favor of extending the funding. We are concerned that two members, Council Member Jarvis Johnson and Council Member C.O. Bradford, voted to shut down Marjo House. We are also concerned that Council Member Wanda Adams, who represents Montrose, walked out just before the vote was taken in order to avoid voting on this issue.

Funding for Marjo House and other HIV-related programs is a priority for not only our community, but all Houstonians.

Please help the Houston GLBT Political Caucus contact each member of city council to express our thanks for supporting HIV/AIDS Housing and to also contact the three members of city council that did not support the funding.  We must make our voices heard.

Click here to contact, with one click, all Council Members to voice your thanks to those who voted for their HIV-positive constituents and to voice your disappointment in those who didn’t.  By entering your name on the form in the link, the GLBT Caucus will send a letter to each member of council from you. It’s that easy to stand up for those living with HIV and AIDS.

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—  John Wright