The Pride Issue
San Antonio's Glacial Progress on LGBT Rights
Published: June 26, 2013
“The low score was a real eye opener for us,” said Greenup. “But the good thing about those indicators is that they provide us with the opportunity to be reflective and take stock of how the city is relating to the LGBT community.”
Greenup’s job is keeping Castro updated on what concerns that community most, anything from day-to-day logistical issues to heavy, policy-related items. The liaison anticipates the progress made – including the formation of Pride Center, a grassroots LGBT community project, and the non-discrimination ordinance proposal – will be reflected through a significantly increased MEI score next year.
“For too long the LGBT community had no outlet to turn to and there was a feeling they were being left out of policy discussions,” said Greenup.
Adding to the transformation are dramatic changes in state and national attitudes that typically end up seeping into city consciousness. According to a 2013 Equality Texas poll, 75.8 percent of voters support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and 69.7 support the same for transgender citizens – impressive figures for a state as conservative as Texas.
Still, the ordinance is far from set in stone and while runoff election results seem to help the odds of its passage, equality activists say they’ve waited too long for the “no-brainer” policy to be enacted. So the question remains: why such a lag in the River City?
Fired on the job while transitioning genders, professional photographer Antonia Padilla has felt the sting of workplace discrimination and believes the ordinance is vital to her community. Padilla threw herself into activism as a legislative lobbyist for Equality Texas, a member of Stonewall, San Antonio Gender Association (SAGA) and CAUSA and a delegate for Hilary Clinton. The San Antonio native points to the city’s cultural heritage: “This is a Mexican town and a Catholic town; when you combine those two things you get an incredible system of shame and guilt that can be conceived.”
Reinforcing those deep roots is a small yet influential group of local social conservatives, says Lauryn Farris, president of SAGA and Transgender Education Network of Texas-Alamo Region board member.
“There is a vocal minority here that blocks progress on a lot of different issues,” says Farris, who was shunned from her evangelical church while transitioning genders.
The transgender mother of two said “I’ve seen too many people struggle, commit suicide. We really need these protections because a lot people just don’t survive – literally do not survive.”
Despite a direct line to local government and a council that’s more supportive than in years past, some activists agree that overall, the City has been slow to the table and sometimes unresponsive in meeting their needs.
“When protections are added, it begins to change attitudes of the city as well. But right now, part of this city and some of the council feel that if you’re not normal, by their standards, you shouldn’t be here. Some of the council won’t even meet with us or talk with us,” says Farris, who is inviting city figures to engage with the transgender community.
> Email Mary Tuma