Pride Houston held a town-hall meeting on Saturday, February 23, at the Montrose Center to discuss the future of Houston’s Pride marshals, as the community moves away from gender-specific marshal categories. Pride Houston plans to have a regular series of these town-hall meetings as a tribute to the late activist Ray Hill, who believed in creating spaces for community participation in important decisions.
The specific purpose of this town hall was to gain community input on the newly introduced ‘gender non-binary’ Pride marshal category. There was lively but respectful discussion during the hour-and-a-half session. Attendees expressed their appreciation to Pride Houston for responding to the evolution of gender thought by initiating the new category.
Several suggestions were offered for additional marshal categories to more fully represent the the community’s gender diversity. One proposal involved electing a marshal for each of the groups represented by the acronym LGBTQIA. There was no opposition to enlarging the number of marshal categories.
Suggestions were also offered for improving community outreach to raise awareness of these ongoing discussions. Teleconferencing was suggested as a way to include more people in the town-hall meetings. There was a positive consensus that although change takes time, these regular town-hall discussions will help mold new approaches to electing the Pride marshals each year.
The Town Hall was moderated by Isabel Longoria, a graduate of the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs. Longoria is not a member of Pride Houston, and was chosen to provide neutrality.
Pride Houston’s public-relations director, Radu Barbuceanu, is very supportive of the town-hall concept. “The best thing that an outwardly-focused organization can do [is to provide] opportunities for input and access for the community. By adding a non-binary marshal category, we are setting an example [and showing other cities] how they, too, can move forward and have their own conversations.
“People want to continue to engage with Pride on a variety of topics in a positive way, to continue to build this organization together and create something that is truly reflective of the community.”
Lorin Roberts, Pride Houston’s current president, added: “Pride Houston’s monthly board meetings are open to the public, and at end of each meeting there is a 10- to-15-minute space for community comments. Town halls are more centered on specific topics. If we are moving ahead with a new policy or procedure, Pride Houston wants to know if we are moving in the right direction.”
Roberts says there are plans to hold a town-hall meeting at least once a year, and possibly at shorter intervals. One future topic may be the vision and mission statements of Pride Houston.
A summary transcript of the meeting will be made available soon, so that further input can be gained from the community through email or on social media.