Queer people of color represent a vast and vibrant segment of the LGBTQ community. Throughout the gay rights movement in the U.S., queer people of color’s perspective and needs have been eclipsed by the push for same-sex marriage. There is a wealth of other issues that affect various queer people of color communities that nonmainstream activists and advocates are striving to address. This list includes only a handful of activists, community organizers, advocates, and trailblazers working toward improving the lives of the LGBTQ community. It is by no means comprehensive or fully representative of queer people of color in Houston and around the nation.
Award-winning activist and writer Kim Crosby hails from Trinidad and currently lives in Toronto, but she has spoken at various panels and queer conferences around the country. Through her dedication to community organizing, she has worked for race and gender justice across various intersections of oppression. Crosby is one of the owners of The Glad Day Bookshop (the world’s oldest LGBT bookstore), a yoga teacher at Brown Girl’s Yoga collective, and a coordinator for a radical healing retreat called Brave New Girls. She’s also the cofounder of The People Project, “a movement of queer and trans folks of color and our allies, committed to individual and community empowerment through alternative education, activism, and collaboration.” Her writing has appeared on Autostraddle, the Huffington Post, the Toronto Star, and the National Post.
Mia Mingus is a writer, activist, and community educator working toward disability justice, ending child sexual abuse, and prison abolition. She identifies as a physically disabled, queer Korean transnational and transracial adoptee who currently lives in California. Mingus has received several honors and awards, and was recently recognized by the White House Champions of Change program, an honor given to people making exemplary changes in their communities. She is a member of Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective, a group “working to build and support transformative justice responses to child sexual abuse.”
Dark Matter is a queer South Asian duo comprised of spoken-word artists and activists Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian, who work to build radical queer movements that resist white supremacy and imperialism. They have toured around the nation, speaking and performing at various events showcasing poetry that is centered around race, gender, and sexuality, including the failures of the gay rights movement in the U.S. to include people-of-color narratives, cultural appropriation, and stereotypes that occur in the South Asian community. Vaid-Menon is an organizer with The Audre Lorde Project, a queer people of color activist organization based in New York. Balasubramanian writes for Black Girl Dangerous and works with The Rootspace Design Collective.
Latina transgender advocate Bamby Salcedo is the founder and president of the [email protected] Coalition, an organization dedicated to the specific needs of trans Latina immigrants in the U.S. She is recognized nationwide for her work with trans issues and HIV education and prevention through her participation in various committees, coalitions, and organizations, including the California HIV Planning Group. She is the creator and producer of a calendar that features trans youth role models called “Angels of Change,” which benefits the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She has received numerous honors and awards for her work in the community, including the Sheila J Kuehl Trailblazer Award and the City of West Hollywood Women in Leadership Award.
Born in the slums of Brazil to a single mother, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, codirector of GetEQUAL, immigrated to the United States when he was 14. While in college, he advocated for the DREAM Act, most notably by walking 1,500 miles from Miami to Washington DC with three other students. During this “Trail of DREAMS” walking tour, the students shared their stories of being undocumented. Sousa-Rodriguez was awarded the Public Interest Projects’ “Freedom From Fear” award in 2011 for his work on the Trail of DREAMS. Motivated by his own personal experience, he works toward marriage equality and immigration reform using an intersectional approach to organizing with GetEQUAL.
Mary Gonzalez, the first openly pansexual Latina state representative, serves the El Paso community for District 75. In her first legislative session, she authored numerous bills to improve public schools, increase economic development, and support agriculture. She also played a great role in fighting anti-abortion bills during the last legislative session. In addition, she has helped hundreds of families living in colonias to access public water and sewer systems for the first time. Gonzalez has received various recognitions for her work, including being named a “Next Generation Latina” by Latina Magazine, a newly elected “politician to watch” by NBC Latino, and a “Freshman of the Year” by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Activist Carter Brown is the founder of BlackTransmen, Inc., anational organizationbased in Dallas that provides resources, support, and social advocacy and strives to improve the lives of trans men throughout the country. The organization also advocates for an array of issues including HIV/AIDS awareness and education, sexual abuse awareness, and transgender homelessness. He wasincluded in the 2013 inaugural edition of the We Happy Trans website’s “Trans 100” list.
Native Houstonian Omar Narvaez is committed to social and economic justice for the LGBT community. He is the community educator for Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, where he is responsible for community outreach and education on various issues facing the LGBT and HIV-positive communities. He served three terms as president of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, but is most notable for speaking at local rallies and at city council meetings advocating for LGBT rights. He recently became the first openly gay member of the Dallas County School Board, which makes decisions on transportation, information technology, and continuing education for teachers in Dallas County’s 14 independent school districts.
Priscilla Hale is the codirector of allgo, a statewide people of color organization that she has been involved with since 1998. She is a native Austinite and has extensive experience in community organizing, program development and implementation, and nonprofit work. Allgo works with a network of LGBT activists across Texas to identify queer people of color’s priorities and strategies as they relate to reproductive justice, antiviolence, and immigrant/refugee rights. Allgo brings these activists together for an annual summit to design strategies for the future and celebrate their accomplishments.
Rose Pulliam is the codirector of allgo, a statewide people of color organization. She has extensive organizational development and community organizing experience and is a skilled policy and project designer and implementer. She was formerly the president of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and was the executive director for the Vermont Network Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Rose has served as the associate director of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence, executive director of the Family Service Center of Talladega, and executive director for 2nd Chance, Inc., a local domestic violence program in Alabama. She is a doctoral student in the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work.
Openly gay judge Tonya Parker presides over Dallas’s 116th Judicial District Court. She made headlines in 2012 when she said in a speech to the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas that she would not perform marriages until same-sex couples can legally wed in Texas. Prior to being elected to the bench, she was a trial attorney and litigator for more than a decade in complex commercial and tort litigation cases, prosecuting and defending matters on behalf of individuals and corporations.
Licensed social worker Melanie Pang is the Training Director at First Person Houston, a business-consulting firm that works with nonprofits and socially responsible organizations. As a pioneer for the LGBT community at the University of Houston, she revitalized the campus LGBT group, GLOBAL, and was one of the first to graduate with an LGBT studies minor during her undergrad years. It wasn’t until she finished grad school and got her license that she began to understand the various injustices she had witnessed throughout her life, including LGBT discrimination, mental health stigma, and institutional racism. “By the end of my graduate school experience, I felt empowered and compelled to do something about those injustices on a systemic level, which is why I love my current job,” she says. Pang is a tireless advocate for the homeless; she volunteers and serves on the board at Open Gate Ministries at Bering United Methodist Church in Montrose, which coordinates the Hawthorne Dinners that serve many homeless LGBT young adults.
Trailblazing trans community leader Monica Roberts is the person behind the acclaimed blog TransGriot, which was recently nominated for GLAAD’s Media Award for Outstanding Blog. She writes from her perspective as a black trans woman working to end the silencing of black trans women and queer people of color. Roberts was a founding member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition and served on the inaugural board as political director from 1999 until 2002. Roberts is no stranger to producing LGBT media—she was a cohost on the LGBT radio show After Hours on KPFT-FM (1999–2001) and wrote a newspaper column for The Letter, a Louisville, Kentucky-based LGBT newspaper (2004–2007). In 2006, she was the first black Texan to be awarded the International Foundation for Gender Education’s Trinity Award for honorable service. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including Ebony, Transadvocate, Racialicious, and Womanist Musings.
As a doctoral student at the University of Houston, Becca Keo-Meier’s research includes partners of trans masculine folks and transphobia. She is a trainer for Cougar Ally Trainings, which conducts diversity training for allies on campus with the goal of reducing homophobia and heterosexsim. Keo-Meier is a steadfast ally for the trans community, serving as a cofacilitator for both HATCH’s transgender youth group and Houston’s PFLAG group for parents, families, and friends of transgender individuals. In addition, she is one of four cofounders of the annual Gender Infinity Conference for gender-diverse youth and their supporters. She has received various academic accolades, including being named Student of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers (Houston Chapter) for her contribution to the LGBTQ community through academic and community work. Last year, Keo-Meier received the Champion Award from the Houston Transgender Unity Committee for being a devoted supporter of the trans community.
Bisexual student leader Yesenia Chavez is a senior at the University of Houston, studying political science and liberal studies with minors in LGBT studies and history. She led the Student Government Association’s lobbying efforts that played an instrumental role in passing the GENDA Bill, which added gender identity and expression to the university’s nondiscrimination policy. Through her various leadership roles on campus, she has led demonstrations in favor of domestic partner benefits for LGBT faculty and staff and to remove Chick-Fil-A from the campus. During the last legislative session, Chavez led efforts in lobbying state representatives to vote against the Zedler amendment, which would have stripped funding from public universities if they had an LGBT resource center. Last fall, she was selected as one of four National Gay & Lesbian Victory Congressional Interns, working with Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva. In addition to her work with several Houston leaders to pass a city LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, she is working on improving the lives of LGBT undocumented citizens in Houston.
Tye West is the president of the Houston Chapter of Black Transmen, Inc., where he mentors trans men, serving as a resource and helping them along on their journey. He has served on panels and presentations in the Houston queer community and has written articles published on the Human Rights Campaign’s national website. He blogs and hosts his own Blogtalk radio show once a month. His latest accomplishment is being elected to sit on the Montrose Grace Place board of directors. By day, he works at a hospital pharmacy, and by night he writes and performs spoken-word poetry.
Since 2008, Tommy Calzadias has been the program director of Open Gate Homeless Ministries at Bering Memorial United Methodist Church. The program serves homeless young adults in the Montrose area who usually have a difficult time gaining access to other shelters—mostly LGBT, undocumented, and HIV-positive folks. The program provides a safe place free from bias and discrimination by serving a meal every Sunday afternoon where homeless young adults can visit with peers, discuss topics of interest, and gain access to local resources in the community. In the U.S., 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT and suffer from physical and emotional abuse, which leads to an array of mental-health issues. Calzadias hopes to intervene in homeless youth’s lives and help them become successful adults.
Andrea Washington is the Substance Abuse Treatment Program coordinator at the Montrose Center. For the last three-and-a-half years she has spearheaded an integrated health program “that encourages behavioral health providers to collaborate with primary care providers in addressing the whole health of a person they are mutually working with.” The program encourages clients to move away from symptom management and be proactive in engaging in their wellness. Since 2003, she has volunteered with AssistHers, an organization that provides assistance to lesbians with long-term illnesses or disabilities. She has served on the board of directors for Unhinged Productions, a local LGBT-focused theater company, and volunteers with HATCH, an LGBT youth organization.
James Gonzalez is a licensed social worker who works with homeless adults in Houston. He is on the board at Transgender Foundation of America, a grassroots nonprofit helping to improve the lives of transgender people. He cofacilitates a peer support group for trans youth with HATCH and another transgender group with PFLAG. He has spoken about his experiences as a trans man on various panels and at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. Gonzalez is passionate about helping the queer community. “I feel like since I found my way through all of this, it’s important that I support other people as they make their own way,” he says. “It’s important to show others that the life you imagined for yourself can still happen—maybe even better than you imagined.”
Robert Gallegos, Texas’s first openly gay Latino city council member, serves District I, which includes the East End, EaDo, and most of downtown Houston. Gallegos grew up in that area and has a passion for improving his community. He hopes to improve infrastructure in the aging neighborhoods of District I, using money from the ReBuild Houston initiative. Gallegos also wants to make sure District I gets its hike-and-bike trails as part of the $100 million Bayou Greenways project.
Yvonne S. Marquez is a freelance writer based in Dallas and is the associate editor of Autostraddle.com, a kickass news and culture website for queer women.