Mayor Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Board is changing its leadership roster this month. The Board, which was established in 2016 with 49 members to honor the 49 people murdered at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, rotates its chair position annually. Harrison Guy, who has just finished two terms as the Board’s chair, will be succeeded by co-chairs Jamie Gonzalez and Jeremy Edwards.
“The work that my LGBTQ Advisory Board does is critical in making Houston a more inclusive city. I am proud of outgoing Chair Harrison Guy’s contributions,” Mayor Turner says. “I know that Jamie Gonzalez and Jeremy Edwards will build on Harrison’s successes and bring a fresh perspective on how to amplify the LGBTQ community’s voices. I am excited to see what these two millennials who are stepping up to lead will accomplish, and the new ideas they will bring.”
Jamie Gonzalez, a 33-year-old pansexual woman, is a new member who was recruited by Guy to join and become the new co-chair. “It was a decision I did not take lightly,” she says. “I have big shoes to fill, but after speaking with several activists, I felt that I had the necessary capacity and desire. I was also impressed with the membership of the Board.”
Gonzalez says that the Board’s work is important because “there is still so much inequity and discrimination, from housing to hiring.” As the new co-chair, she wants to continue to build coalitions across the city.
A resident of Midtown, Gonzalez says that she can choose to ride either the light rail or her bicycle to work at the University of Houston (UH), where she is a career counselor in the Career Services Department.
Gonzalez was born and raised in Port Neches. She majored in political science at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin before moving to Houston in 2011 to be with her girlfriend, who is now her wife.
For three years, Gonzalez worked as the diversity education coordinator in the UH LGBTQ Resource Center, leading education workshops and leadership-development programs. She also coordinated UH’s participation in the annual Houston AIDS Walk, and worked with the annual Gender Infinity Conference at UH. Gonzalez is also a board member of the UT LGBTQ alumni network.
Jeremy Edwards, a 32-year-old gay man, previously served as the Board’s program/events chair. Guy says he nominated Edwards to become co-chair because of his hard work in making the City of Houston’s first LGBTQ HOUmanity Awards a success. While Edwards admits the invitation to lead the Board was a big decision for him, support from many Board members gave him the confidence to accept the role.
Edwards says he wants to use his new role to help ease the coming-out process for other people. He also believes that it is important to help the mayor keep his finger on the pulse of Houston’s LGBTQ community. “I want to be an agent of change,” he says, adding that he plans to conduct a listening tour of the community. “I have a really good feeling about what lies ahead. I have great faith in the other Board members.”
Born and raised in the Kingwood area, Edwards currently resides in the Heights with his husband, Matthew. After attending the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, he graduated from the University of Houston with majors in English and political science in 2010. He is now the associate director of development for the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Harrison Guy, a 43-year-old gay man who currently works at the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation as the director of arts and culture, was a founding member of Mayor Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Board and served as its first communications and events chair. In 2017, he co-chaired the Board with activist Melanie Pang. Guy became the Board’s chair in 2018.
In June of 2018, 32 members completed their two-year terms on the Board, and Guy personally interviewed every new member who would take their place. “My goal was to bring new voices to the Board and make it as diverse as possible,” he says, noting that he wanted to include teenagers and conservatives as new members. “I didn’t want it to be all Democrats.”
Guy is pleased that the new Board will represent a broad spectrum of LGBTQ individuals from across the entire city, in order to vet issues thoroughly. “Montrose is the heart of the LGBTQ community, but it is no longer the center of the community,” he notes. “I want to continue working on my goal of redefining what community means for us by constantly asking who is not at the table, and then doing the work to get them there.”
Board meetings had always been held at the Montrose Center or Legacy Community Health, but after becoming chair, Guy scheduled meetings at libraries and community centers in each part of the city. He then reached out to Houston’s other minority organizations to speak at the meetings.
Guy also expanded social events from local LGBTQ bars to other venues. Mayor Turner wanted the board to have an annual signature event, and last November the first Breakfast of Champions @Night was held. Local activists who have rarely been recognized for their work were awarded the first HOUmanity Awards. The event was very successful, and Guy says the mayor was pleased.
Last year, the Board held its first Pride Reception at City Hall on June 25, the anniversary of Houston’s seminal Town Meeting I event held at the Astro Arena in 1978. They also sponsored the first Safe Night Out, an event for people to “come out” in a safe space.
Under Guy’s leadership, the Board’s policy committee drafted five major recommendations for the City:
• LGBTQIA diversity training should be offered to all City employees,
• the City should create a permanent full-time salaried position within the Mayor’s Office as a community liaison,
• the City should support the implementation of employee resource groups,
• the City should add LGBT business enterprise certification through the Office of Business Opportunity, and
• an anti-discrimination ordinance should be passed that protects a broad range of Houstonians.
“The scope of the Board is to be a listening ear from the community for the mayor,” Guy says. The Board reached out to all current City Council offices, and each office responded positively. “They all represent LGBTQ individuals in their districts,” Guy notes.
Looking back on his leadership role, Guy says, “It’s been an opportunity I’m grateful for. The things I’ve learned about myself and the community are invaluable.”
For more information about Mayor Turner’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, visit lgbtqhouston.org.
This article appears in the June 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.