Trans Texan Lobby Day has been going on for two decades, but this year saw an explosion in turnout due to the odious 'bathroom bill' SB-6.
I naturally oppose it for a very simple reason: it doesn't solve any problem. This bill would target transgender people and perpetuates a very old dog whistle used against the LGBT community, that 'the queers' are some sort of predator looking to 'convert' children.
Never mind that Former House Speaker Denny Hastert was implicated as a child abuser, and he wasn't LGBT. Nor Jared Fogle. Nor Josh Duggar from 18 kids and counting, and that this law won't stop sexual predators any more than 'gun free zone' signs won't stop school shootings.
But I digress.
I arrived to Austin at 8am at the Capitol building and immediately regretted my choice of footwear. (Do not wear heels, you have to walk a lot) I ran into Jess Herbst, who directed me towards the staging area for the Trans Texan Lobby Day at the Scottish Rite Theater.
We heard about how to talk to legislators and had a press conference at the north steps of the Capitol Building. Pictures will come out, but I didn't even try to count the number of people as I was having a mini-reunion with the fellow trans people and parents and allies from Equality Texas' Transgender Leadership Institute from a few weeks ago. One of the amazing people I ran into was Hunter Bodin with Equality Texas, and I turned in my written testimony as I'd have to be back at work the next day and couldn't stay to testify.
After the press conference (I was in the very back with Jess, so you won't find us in photos) we had lunch and teamed up with people from our district to go speak with our legislators. Lou Weaver, Amy Hunter, and Sarah McBride are some of the many outstanding leaders we had out there. (I know I'm forgetting to mention some others though, and I apologize.) For lobbying, I wound up with Pamela Curry and my roommate Moniqa, as we had the same legislators. Pamela is a long time transgender activist and election judge, while Moniqa is a volunteer with the TEA fund and Planned Parenthood.
We had our packets, we had our talking points, and we made our way to Texas State Senator Van Taylor's office first. He wasn't there, but his staff was. Welcoming us at the door was Gabriela Perdichizzi, the scheduler and office manager. I recognized her voice from when I called the office about SB6 and she was as polite and professional as ever. Even if we did disagree on the bill, I couldn't tell. (Later on I'd find out that other groups met hostile resistance from Democratic State Senator Lucio as well as other Tea Party extremist lawmakers) She did inform us that it would be best to send emails for Van Taylor, as they are read.
Pamela, Moniqa, and myself explained why this law wasn't effective and how it would only target women based on appearance (short hair, no makeup, etc) and would be impossible to enforce unless police demanded we carry our birth certificates at all times. I even brought up how UNT solved this issue with gender neutral bathrooms in 2005, even if it meant we had to walk a quarter mile across campus to pee in peace. We thanked Gabriela for our time (as others were there to lobby on behalf of healthcare and actually jumped in at our defense as well) and we made our way over to Linda Koop's office.
As I limped my way over there (seriously, don't wear heels) Pamela gave us a few tidbits of information: Linda Koop used to go to the Pride Parades when she was in local government. When we got to her office, she wasn't there either, but three of her staffers were. We went through the same ordeal, only this time we played the "she used to go to the parades in support" card as well as "this would overturn local non-discrimination ordinances" one. In both offices, the aides would not tell us how their legislator would vote on SB6 on Tuesday.
After our attempts at lobbying were done, I found the gift shop and treated myself to some pain killer and a $1 bottle of water. As we sat at a bench, State House Rep. Victoria Neave went by and said hello, offering her office space for us as she was going to the house floor for a bit.
My phone was dying, my feet were dying, and we had a report to type up, so we accepted her gracious offer. You don't realize how night-and-day the Democratic/Republican divide is until you step into a blue dot in a sea of red, and you're offered water/tea/fruit as a refreshment and can see the difference between true Texan Hospitality and professional politeness.
Neave's aides weren't on our lobbying list, but I did ask how they (and Rep. Neave) felt about SB 6. There was obvious support for trans students here and House Rep. Neave is a big ally to the LGBTQIA community. (Full disclosure, I accidentally ran into one of her campaign fundraiser events at my favorite lesbian bar, Sue Ellen's.)
At the end of the lobbying day, Moniqa and I went off to get some ice cream, shoes that weren't going to kill my feet anymore, and a small mixer/dinner with the anti-SB 6 lobbyists hosted by Danielle Skidmore. There I ran into Jess Herbst again, getting interviewed by Lauren McGaughy from the Dallas Morning News.
The event went well into the evening as many other great friends I've made were there, including Monica Roberts of TransGriot. (Seriously look up her blog, it's amazing)
As I'm typing this out; I do not know how the SB 6 vote will go. I do know, however, that this isn't the only legislation that we have to watch out for and get involved with our state government about. Those in office want to stay in office, and we have to be able to push back on them all.
So stay active, and stay informed. Politics isn't a spectator sport.