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Just Happens to be LGBT: Transcending the LGBT label in politics and beyond

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Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Mayor Ivy Taylor has promised to work on the NDO.

Last year at this time, I began writing this monthly column with the intent of showcasing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in San Antonio. The key was to spotlight the community and the culture, and not necessarily the politics. At least not exclusively.

When asked to think of a perspective from which to write the column, I came up with the name “Just Happens to be LGBT.” My rationale was that being LGBT is just one small, but important, part of who we are. We, along with the straight community, have to learn to see us beyond the badges of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We’re complex, multifaceted human beings with diverse backgrounds, demographics and interests.

During a special session on July 22, San Antonio City Council voted Ivy Taylor into office as interim mayor. This was a vote that many saw coming, and several prominent LGBT people and organizations voiced their dissatisfaction with such a result long before it became a reality. Their rationale, not necessarily without justification, was that the mayor should be willing to represent the entire city. Her “no” vote on the non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) last year seemed, to many, like a slap in the face against the idea of civil rights for all people as the expanded NDO language prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The predominant question on the minds of many was simple, if often unstated: How could an African-American woman not understand that all types of discrimination are, plainly, discrimination? How could she not vote for the ordinance?

I admit that I felt—and feel—the same way. I strongly disagreed with both her vote and her reasons for voting the way she did. In various forums and on the council dais the day of the NDO vote, she stated concerns both for religious liberty and free enterprise. Her tone seemed defiant and unchangeable.

How—how in the world—could anyone who is LGBT support a candidate who took such a strong stance against LGBT equality? Especially someone who is a minority and should “know better” what discrimination is all about.

Well, for one, there was Barack Obama in 2008. You know him: the pre-enlightened Obama, who in 2008 ran on a platform of traditional marriage, until he later “evolved” to support marriage equality, conveniently a few months before the 2012 election. If progressives and LGBT voters had not been willing to support the 2008 Obama, we never would have enjoyed the political reality that paved the path for 2012 Obama to appear.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe Mayor Taylor has given the public any indication whatsoever that she would change her mind on the NDO vote. But what she did provide were several promises to work on the NDO, create an enforcement mechanism for it, and appoint (as Mayor Castro had appointed) an LGBT liaison to the mayor’s office. In other words, she did what all good elected officials should do in a democracy—if they lose a vote, they recognize the loss, yet they still uphold their oath of office to follow majority rule. That is the hope of what a democracy is supposed to be.

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