The Montrose Remembrance Garden, a memorial to Houston’s LGBTQ victims of violence, has finally found a permanent home at Avondale Promenade Park.
The park, which is located at 424 Westheimer Road, opened to the public in February. Local leaders will celebrate the new green space and the relocation of the 10-year-old LGBTQ memorial with brief remarks during a July 27 ceremony starting at 5:30 p.m.
“We wanted to have an event to let people in the community know that the Remembrance Garden existed, to talk about why it was installed, and to [remind] folks that the fight for our humanity isn’t over,” said trans activist Lou Weaver, who helped organize the event. Weaver currently leads the Queer Health Committee for the Doctors for Change organization.
In December 2010, 28-year-old Houstonian Aaron Scheerhoorn was stabbed to death outside of a Montrose bar. The victim’s friends formed the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change and planned to memorialize him by planting a tree nearby. They approached bar owner Charles Armstrong, who offered the landscaped corner of his parking lot at Grant and California.
The garden soon evolved into a memorial to all Houston LGBTQ victims of violence. In 2011, an engraved memorial marker was placed in the garden during a formal dedication ceremony. During the event, organizers listed the names of people who were murdered or died of suicide due to anti-LGBTQ bullying between 1991 (when gay Houstonian Paul Broussard was murdered) and 2010.
“There were about 60 names listed,” recalls Alan Everett, vice president of the Aaron Scheerhoorn Foundation for Change. “When we were looking at that number, we recognized that a significant portion of those victims were transgender.”
Everett reached out to trans Houston advocates Katy Stewart, who was the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, and Weaver, who was president of the Transgender Foundation of America, about creating a second marker to emphasize the deadly wave of violence against trans people.
On November 20, 2013, Stewart, Weaver, and other trans organizers added a new Transgender Day of Remembrance plaque in the garden to mark the annual observance that memorializes those who have been murdered due to transphobia.
In 2014, Armstrong sold his parking lot and moved the garden to a small plot on the corner of Converse and Hyde Park.
Activist Tim Bacon was among those who worked to establish a more permanent garden. At an initial Avondale Park meeting, he suggested that the proposed park should include a permanent home for the Montrose Remembrance Garden. The recommendation passed unanimously.
One year later, then Mayor ProTem Ellen Cohen announced plans to fund the Avondale Promenade Park on a parcel of land in Montrose. In a unanimous vote on November 19, 2019, Houston City Council approved the acceptance of a $960,000 grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and a $14,000 landscape-architecture contract funded by the City of Houston.
The $1.1 million park broke ground on February 10, 2020, and took one year to complete, according to Estella Espinosa, communications manager for the City of Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD).
Espinosa notes that several meetings with community groups were held to solicit input on the design of the park. In addition to the relocated Montrose Remembrance Garden plaques, the park includes “a pavilion, a dog run, a globe play element, an adult workout station, walkways, lighting, interpretive signage, planting, and irrigation.”
Everett and Weaver are both impressed with the park, and are thankful that the memorial to Houston’s LGBTQ victims of violence finally has a permanent home.
“It’s such a relief that we know where it’s always going to be,” Weaver admits. “It moved around twice, and for a while it wasn’t anywhere. Now that it’s [at the park], we know it’s not going away. [The plaques] are set in those bricks, and it’s lovely to see.”
The City of Houston hosted a small ribbon-cutting ceremony for Avondale Promenade Park on July 1. During that event, Everett and Weaver decided to host a celebration for the Montrose Remembrance Garden on the 10th anniversary of its establishment in 2011.
Among the speakers at the July 27 event will be the community activists who helped create the garden and find a home for it in the Avondale Promenade Park, including Everett, Stewart, Cohen. The ceremony will also feature remarks by local leaders who work to empower Houston’s LGBTQ community—Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin, former Harris County Democratic Party Chair Lane Lewis, trans activist Dee Dee Watters, and representatives from Casa Anandrea and the Houston Coalition Against Hate.
“We will wrap up the event with a call to action. Our community needs to remember that [anti-LGBTQ violence] is still happening,” Weaver emphasizes, adding that neither Houston nor Texas has a queer nondiscrimination ordinance in place. “For every step that we’ve come, some people still do not want us to have equality. We still have more to fight for.”
Everett hopes that a more visible Montrose Remembrance Garden helps remind LGBTQ people that they are valued, despite the oppression they still face.
“The garden is a symbol that says it is OK to be LGBTQ,” Everett says. “However you identify, you mean something, and you are loved.”
What: Montrose Remembrance Garden 10th Anniversary Ceremony
When: 5:30 p.m. on July 27
Where: Avondale Promenade Park, 424 Westheimer Road