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A Fresh Face for a 91-year-old Organization

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Generation next: League of Women Voters executive director Christina Gorczynski brings new blood and energy to an organization that has provided nonpartisan electoral information for more than nine decades.

Taking over as the new executive director of the Houston League of Women Voters, Christina Gorczynski uses her experience from the Houston GLBT Caucus
by Karen Derr  •  Photo by Yvonne Feece

At 31 years old, Christina Gorczynski has been involved in political campaigns since she was a child, when her father served as the first Houston District H city councilmember. In 2009, as a board member of the Houston GLBT Caucus, she worked on that organization’s efforts to select candidates for endorsement—including Mayor Annise Parker—and organize field work to get them elected.

That history-making year in LGBT politics concluded with Gorczynski accepting the position of executive director with the League of Women Voters of the Houston Area in December of 2009. No longer wrapped up in the adrenaline-charged world of political races, Gorczynski speaks passionately about issues in which the League of Women Voters takes a stand. The local organization is currently taking a stand against human trafficking, she explains. “Nationally the League took a position on marriage equality in 2010,” says Gorczynski, “that moved me to tears. They voted unanimously to support marriage equality.”

Despite its name, the Houston League of Women Voters membership does include men and most of its members are well over 50 years old, some having been members of the League for 50 years. Gorczynksi feels her age and the young members she has attracted are a great fit with the extensive knowledge and experience of the League’s more mature board. Gorczynksi says she’s learned much working with the League’s eldest members, whom she believes are sometimes passed by and treated like “little old ladies.” She describes them as “just brilliant,” knowing more about the political process than anyone she knows—lavish praise, perhaps, but well-deserved, she says.

“The League wants their work to go on,” Gorczynski says, “and there is a sense of urgency”—one of the reasons that her personal pet project is youth engagement. As a young lesbian directing a 91-year-old organization, Gorczynski often speaks about bridging generation gaps. She encourages senior women to think twice before they ask a younger woman if she’s married or when she plans to have children. “For a huge segment of our community, marriage is illegal, as it is for me,” points out Gorczynski. She encourages women of all ages to celebrate life accomplishments such as college degrees, job promotions, and home purchases, just as they do births and marriages.

Christina Gorczynski has many accomplishments to celebrate. She completed her law degree and MBA at the University of Houston in 2009. In 2010 she passed the state bar. She’s currently training for a triathlon and loves to travel, whether with friends or alone. Gorczynski says she was lucky to have lesbian role models in public office, such as Sue Lovell and Annise Parker, giving her the courage to achieve in her own life. Her father had encouraged her to meet then-councilmember Annise Parker because of their common interest in women’s studies, the field in which Gorczynski received her undergraduate degree.

She admits, “I thought for years that coming out would affect my father’s political career.” Her father, Judge Dale Gorczynski, is probably best known these days for his work preventing and dealing with animal cruelty in Houston and often appears on episodes of Houston Animal Cops. “I feared it was something that people could attack about my family. I feared it would limit my ability to serve, too.” Gorczynski says that when she came out to her mother on Valentine’s Day in 2003, her mother asked her if she had a valentine. “Yes,” she replied. “Her name is Ann.” Next she called her father. “Daddy,” she began, “I think Annise and I have more in common than you know.”

Christina Gorczynski now lives in the Heights, where she grew up, and works just blocks away from where she went to elementary school. “I love living in the Heights,” she says. “I feel very rooted here. I’ve grown in 31 years and the city has grown, too. I’m proud to tell people I’m from Houston.”

Karen Derr, a Houston-area Realtor for over 20 years, writes and speaks about home and small-business topics.

SIDEBAR

The League of Women Voters was born in 1920 out of the women’s suffrage movement. They neither supported nor opposed political candidates. Through the years, the League has continued its nonpartisan role, earning a reputation for being a fair and unbiased voter resource for 91 years. Before the era of television debates, communities depended on League-sponsored public debates, where candidates announced and defended their stands on issues of the day. Originally concerned with educating new women voters, today the League continues its new-voter focus with its programs for educating 18-year-olds and new citizens. Voter registration is also one of their continuing efforts. While being nonpartisan with regard to candidates, the League has long taken stands on environmental issues and issues of social justice, such as the 18-year-old vote of the Vietnam era and their recent stand in favor of same-sex marriage. Further information regarding the League and its activities are available on its website, lwv.org. The League’s 2011 Voters Key: Guide to Voting Information and Elected Officials Representing Houston and Harris County is also available on the website and can be downloaded as a pdf file. —K.D.

 

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Karen Derr

Karen Derr is a Houston-area Realtor and the founder of Karen Derr Realtors. She writes and speaks about home and small-business topics and is a frequent contributor to OutSmart.

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