This year’s choices broke barriers for the annual Pride parade

Marshalls-Art

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

For the first time in the history of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, a transgender person has been chosen as grand marshal. She is also black, another first for the event.

Nicole O’Hara Munro and Omar Narvaez were elected grand marshals of the 2017 parade. Munro is a fundraiser for the trans community. Narvaez is serving his first term on the Dallas City Council. Nominations were accepted from the community, and the six people with the most nominations were then placed on the ballot.

Nicole O’Hara Munro

“I remember being that young kid and someone stepped in and helped me,” said Nicole O’Hara Munro, explaining why she is working with Shannan Walker to raise money and create a new organization to help transgender people with some of the steps of transitioning.

“Job placement, name changes, housing, medical,” Munro said, listing the needs she sees everyday as she tries to help others in the community. And, she said, she’d like to create a transgender resource center — someplace for those who are transitioning to go to get the medical care, counseling and support they need as they become their authentic selves.

“We need to get people education,” Munro said, “but that’s difficult when people are afraid to
sit in a classroom where their name will be called.”

Munro is a show hostess at Marty’s, and she credits Dannee Phann with getting her on stage. “He gave me my first job as an emcee,” she said.

She’s been using that to leverage her work in the trans community.

So far, Munro has been raising the money and Walker has been using those funds to help with name and gender marker changes. At a recent fundraiser, they collected $600 they used to assist four trans men and women to get their legal documents.

Munro said once they have the money for the documents, Walker shepherds people through the legal process. Showing up at the courthouse alone can be daunting. While Walker has no legal experience, she understands the steps that are necessary. So she accompanies them to the court and holds their hand through the process. So far, she’s helped more than 25 people with their documents, Munro said.

Munro was raised in New Orleans by her grandmother after her mother died and began transitioning at 15. Although her grandmother didn’t understand what Munro was going through, she did one thing right, even though quite by accident: She sent Munro for counseling.

That school counselor allowed Munro to express herself and helped her understand who she was.

At the time, she had no role models. She did see one trans woman on TV and when she later met her, she called her “inspiring.”

Once she transitioned, Munro tried to be that role model for trans teens. One of them, Chyna Gibson, called Munro “Mom.” Gibson was murdered in February in New Orleans, the fifth trans woman of color killed this year (there have been 11 more since then). The murder remains unsolved and Munro is still grieving Gibson’s death.

She said she keeps herself busy trying to get her nonprofit organization off the ground. She’s looking for others to help her with her with leadership, organization and fundraising.

About her selection as a grand marshall, Munro said, “I’m truly honored and humbled. It was a total shock to even be nominated.”

Omar Narvaez

“At Lambda Legal, we’re incredibly proud of Omar’s achievements this year, beginning with his election to Dallas City Council and then capping that achievement off with being elected grand marshal of the Pride parade,” said Lambda Legal interim director Chuck Marlett.

When Narvaez began his campaign for Dallas City Council, Lambda Legal changed his position. Originally community educator for the group, he has become policy advocate.

“He’s been consumed by the Texas Legislature and more particularly now the special session and its focus on bathroom bills,” Marlett said.

For the short term, Narvaez said he plans to continue working with Lambda Legal while carrying out his duties as a councilman. How that will work is something he and Marlett are still working on. During the special session, all eyes are on the Legislature.

“If we had a sane legislature, Omar might find time to do something else,” Marlett said.

Should the House of Representatives pass the bathroom bill or any other discriminatory legislation that would impact the LGBT community, Marlett said, “We will pursue all options available to us, along with our partners in the fight.”

Whether he’s working to battle bathroom bills and sanctuary city laws as a policy advocate for Lambda Legal or as a Dallas City Councilman, Narvaez is passionate about fighting discrimination.

Narvaez got his start in activism about 10 years ago when he joined Rainbow LULAC. He was invited to an art exhibit reception at the Ice House Cultural Center in Oak Cliff but sat out in his car for an hour before venturing inside. He didn’t know anybody and was nervous about meeting anyone. He described himself as introverted.

But Narvaez ended up going out to dinner with LULAC board members and that night became the group’s newest member.

He also joined Stonewall Democrats. He had been interested in politics since he was 5 years old when he knocked on doors for Jimmy Carter, because, his mother told him, Democrats help poor people.

Within a year of his joining Stonewall, Erin Moore, who was president of the local chapter at the time, put him on the board. When Moore retired from her position, Narvaez became president of the group and served three years.

Currently, Narvaez works for Lambda Legal as its policy advisor. He said he’s still working out whether he will continue with the organization in addition to serving on the Dallas City Council. About half of Dallas City Council members have other jobs.

Before his election to Dallas City Council, Narvaez served on the Dallas County Schools board. After his initial appointment to the board, he said, “The first piece of policy to get passed was a nondiscrimination policy for employees and students.”

When his term was up, he was elected to the position, but his first attempts at election weren’t as successful. He ran for precinct chair twice — and lost twice.

He said he was happy that he got to vote this week “to kill the zombie toll road” in the Trinity River bottoms.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 11, 2017.