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Raising Funds and Raising the Bar

Margarita Pérez Frinsco excels at building bridges among diverse communities.

Margarita Pérez Frinsco (Photo by Alex Rosa)

Margarita Pérez Frinsco lives on Houston’s Near Northside with her wife, Jessica Lindsey Frinsco, their son, Gedeón, and their two pets. Margarita is a lifetime inner-looper and is now leading the philanthropic efforts for the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston, where she is the senior director of advancement. Although she was both born and educated in Houston, her roots extend even deeper into the LGBTQ community and her Mexican heritage. She is a dynamic Houston leader who is able to leverage her intersectionality and talent to build bridges within the community—and also within her family.

“As the only Spanish-speaking 2023 Pride parade marshal, I had the opportunity to speak to the Spanish media and share
my story.”
—Margarita Pérez Frinsco

Margarita points to a meaningful bridge-building opportunity she had during this year’s Pride Month celebrations. “As Pride Houston’s Female Identifying Grand Marshal, and the only Spanish-speaking parade marshal, I had the exclusive opportunity to speak to the Spanish media, share my story, and talk about the importance of Pride. It was such a special moment because I was able to include two huge parts of my identity. I am the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants from small towns and traditional upbringings. I am so proud of our [family’s] journey together, and their loving, supportive stance that allowed us to have difficult (and sometimes hurtful) conversations to get to the place we are today. My parents now call Jessica my wife (we started with “amiga”), and they absolutely love our son.”

2023 Pride parade grand marshal Margarita Pérez Frinsco waving to onlookers. (Photo courtesy UH LGBTQ Alumni Association)

Margarita and her family enjoy spending time in Galveston, a place that holds special meaning for them. “We were married there in this beautiful historic church building, The Lyceum. As a young girl, my family would spend many summer days playing on the beaches, fishing, and even camping a few times,” she recalls. “We also have a tradition of spending a long Halloween weekend with a group of longtime friends, visiting some of our favorite shops along The Strand and attending what used to be called the Witches Ball, now the Misfits Ball.”

In Houston, Margarita typically goes for some famous Houston staples like Miller Outdoor Theatre or watching the Houston Dash team play at Shell Energy Stadium.

Before coming to UH, Margarita began her career organizing volunteer-led fundraisers, which allowed her to practice the fundamentals of fundraising. She earned her undergraduate degree in communication from the University of St. Thomas, and her MBA from UH’s Bauer College of Business. Margarita is also an alumni of the Excellence for Nonprofit Leadership program sponsored by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and funded by The George Foundation.

“I went to a Catholic university where, for four years, a group of students and I led efforts to ask that the institution add sexual orientation and gender expression to their nondiscrimination policy. We were never successful, but it helped us connect and develop friendships. I have always felt grateful to live in such a large city with so many LGBTQ+ organizations that cater to the various interests of our community members,” she says.

When Margarita began her career at UH, she initiated a coming-out-at-work conversation that many queer-identifying people feel obligated to have, especially in the current Texas political climate. She felt great relief over the support she received. “Before I accepted the position, I had coffee with the person who would be my supervisor and very seriously told him that I needed to share something. I heard myself say ‘I am a lesbian,’ and saw the concern on his face turn into relief and mild amusement. I had been out for a few years, and I wanted to be in an environment where I could continue to be out. His response provided assurance that the team, the institution, and he personally valued the experience and perspective I could provide. To put it simply, UH has provided an environment where I can be myself, engage fully in community, and excel professionally.”

Last month, UH officials announced that the Texas Legislature’s recently passed Senate Bill 17 requires them to reconfigure their campus Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs, including the resource center that supports LGBTQ students. Although it is yet to be determined what the future has in store, people like Margarita can continue to serve as proof that the University is still a welcoming place for queer students.

“I am so disappointed and saddened by how the new laws are impacting UH students,” she says. “I hope students harness their emotions into motivation to register to vote, and turn out on November 8 and let their voices be heard.”

Margarita now has her sights set on future leadership opportunities like the prestigious Leadership Houston program, as well as the League of Women Voters’ Rising Stars program. Both organizations would be lucky to count Margarita among their ranks.

Follow Margarita Pérez Frinsco at linkedin.com/in/margaritafrinsco

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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