While Pride Month is a time for celebration, attorney Brian Klosterboer hopes the LGBTQ community is reminded that the fight for equality is far from over.
“We’ve come so far, but it’s important to remember that there’s still more work to be done, particularly alongside the trans community,” he says. “I do hope it’s not just celebrating [this month], because we are facing such tremendous attacks on multiple fronts. We need to support each other, defend the rights that we’ve won, and push forward for more justice.”
Klosterboer, a staff attorney who joined the Texas ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in 2018, focuses on LGBTQ rights and represents Texas students and families who face discrimination based on gender, race, and religion in public schools across the state. As a member of the ACLU of Texas’ Smart Justice team, Klosterboer, who is openly gay, also engages in impact litigation and advocacy to transform Texas’ criminal-justice system, end police violence against Black and Latinx communities, and defend the rights of protesters across the state.
“Helping people in need was always an option for me,” he notes. “I have always been passionate about human rights. I just want to do my best to give back and improve the rights of all of us.”
The trans community has been Klosterboer’s main focus for the last four years as that community faces serious trouble in Texas.
“I feel like things have gotten even worse in the last six years, and it pains me to say that because I love Texas,” he says. “It feels like we are facing crisis after crisis. It unfortunately feels like the state’s leaders are obsessed with attacking transgender Texans, obsessed with attacking abortions, obsessed with attacking migrants, and just treating people inhumanely. They are playing politics with the lives of people. It’s not right. It’s a difficult and bleak time, but I am glad I can help fight back.”
2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the U.S. At least 50 trans and gender-nonconforming people were killed this year alone, per a report by the LGBTQ advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC). That is the highest number of deaths since the organization began recording fatal violence in 2013.
While more people seem to understand and accept the trans community, Klosterboer says that acceptance is under attack, and there are a lot of politicians who are playing politics with the lives of transgender youth. Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate gender-affirming care for transgender children as possible child abuse.
“Accusing the parents of trans youth of engaging in child abuse is one of the cruelest things you can accuse a parent of,” Klosterboer says. “They are just providing their kids with the best possible health care. Thankfully, we at the ACLU of Texas filed suit, and we blocked those attacks and investigations from continuing. We are continuing to fight to ensure that loving families are not separated simply [because parents are] providing their kids with essential medical care. We are also fighting to ensure that there are no criminal penalties and no one has to report anyone.”
Klosterboer emphasizes how important it is for the public to stand up and peacefully protest against these transphobic attacks, now more than ever. He hopes that is a prominent theme at this year’s Pride celebrations. “One thing that’s important for people to understand is that this is not just an attack on trans youth. This is a much broader attack, and it affects the rights of all of us. We have a fundamental right to be who we are, love who we love, control our own bodies, and make our own decisions.”
While many things for the gay community have gotten better, there’s still much work to be done, and Klosterboer has hope that the younger generation will help continue that fight.
“I think everyone has a role to play in the fights that we are in currently,” he says. “I have seen in recent months people stepping up all over the country and here in Texas. I think that’s what it’ll take, ultimately, for us to prevail in some of these issues. Especially during Pride Month, we need everyone to get involved and step up.”
Particularly in Houston, Klosterboer has witnessed younger people in the gay community stand up for what they believe in and immerse themselves in these important issues.
“People in the Houston area are so politically active,” he says. “It gives me hope for Texas as a whole, because a lot of change starts here in Harris County. Young people are so aware and engaged with the issues. I think everyone realizes that we need full and equal dignity for everyone.”
This article appears in the June 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.