Houston’s LGBTQ community lost a committed and energetic activist on February 25, when LaTrina Denise Carter passed away from complications of COVID-19. Carter was a tireless champion for the Black, LGBTQ, and differently abled communities.
Kristopher Sharp first met Carter after he enrolled at the University of Houston Downtown (UHD) in 2013. Sharp remembers the school as being rather conservative, and queer students were experiencing discrimination. “LaTrina was instrumental in getting things changed,” he says. Carter had returned to school in her 40s to pursue a degree in business management. During this time, she also came out as a lesbian.
Carter organized town-hall events around the campus to listen to what LGBTQ students had to say. As a result of those meetings, she created the school’s first LGBTQ student organization, and served as its first president. She was also instrumental in establishing the Safe Zone, which was the school’s first LGBTQ resource center.
Carter also pushed for accessible accommodations for differently abled students, and convinced the school to establish gender-neutral bathrooms. Sharp remembers Carter as a mature person that other queer students could talk to when their families were not willing to listen. “She was an amazing person and an amazing friend,” Sharp says.
Ivan Sanchez, an ally of the LGBTQ community, met Carter when he successfully ran for Student Government president at UHD. He was aware of her LGBTQ advocacy work, and knew she was “an important and powerful constituent” who knew how to make her voice heard. “We had a common goal of doing impactful work, and I needed to surround myself with people who had strengths that I didn’t have,” he says.
Sanchez appointed Carter as his Student Government chief of staff, and in 2012 the two teamed up for a Walk to Vote project that resulted in 4,000 students registering to vote. President Obama was so impressed with this accomplishment that he sent Carter a personal note of congratulations.
Sanchez remembers how Carter would encourage his young student-government officers whenever they faced leadership challenges. “She helped create leaders who are still doing great things. We love her and miss her.”
Augie Cahee, the community engagement chair for Pride Houston, met Carter when she spoke at a 2017 town-hall event. Carter challenged both Pride Houston and METRO to make the annual Pride festival and parade accessible for the differently abled. Because of her advocacy, the festivals now have a designated drop-off and pickup spot for attendees in wheelchairs. A special area is also designated for wheelchairs at festival concerts, and Carter’s wish was that a similar area could be designated along the parade route.
Pride Houston also appointed a chairperson to work with the differently abled community to make in-person events fully accessible. Because of her work with METRO, Carter became the face of the differently abled who appeared on the ads seen on light-rail trains.
Carter was a member of Epsilon Xi Gamma, the LGBTQ Greek order. She was given the name “Gladiator” because of her tireless work advocating for LGBTQ equal rights, encouraging diversity, and battling the stigma of mental illness.
Carter was born on November 15, 1970. She attended the High School of Performing and Visual Arts as a music student, and later graduated from Jefferson Davis High School at the top of her class. In 2000, she married David H. Carter, and they had two children whom she deeply loved—Adrian J. Thompson Carter and Angel Ziya Carter.
She went on to earn an associate’s degree in business management at Houston Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business management at UHD.
Carter’s twin sister, LaTonya, says, “I wish you heaven, Trina. Rest in power. We will be together again.”