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Harnessing Political Power

Activist Adri Pérez sees Texas shaping national politics.

Early in the new documentary TEXAS, USA, audiences hear Governor Greg Abbott say, “As goes Texas, so goes America, and as goes America, so goes the world.” Under the state’s current Republican leadership, this could easily cause one’s hair to stand on end. Yet viewing the film, it’s abundantly clear that the documentary and its left-leaning, progressive makers and its subjects deeply respect this sentiment while wanting to utilize it as a way to bring forward positive change within the state, nation, and world.

TEXAS, USA, written and directed by Andrew Morgan, showcases how progressives in Texas are fighting back against the state’s 30 years of conservative leadership to bring about a better Texas for all. The film follows then candidates Greg Casar, Beto O’Rourke, and Lina Hidalgo in the lead-up to the 2022 elections. Activists and organizers provide pertinent commentary throughout the film, including Dallas-based organizer Brianna Brown of the Texas Organizing Project; Austin-based advocate Adri Pérez, one of the most recognizable trans advocates in the state; and Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and is confronting Texas’ policy of over-incarceration.

“It’s a story of people who have spent their lives really fighting to make Texas better because we believe in what Texas can be and what Texas should be for the people who live in the state,” says Adri Pérez. “It is a story about the hope, resilience, and power that is there and that we can build when we all come together and continue to believe in the promise of this state and want to make it live up to the American dream.”

Pérez is an accomplished organizer, disruptor, and educator with over eight years of civic engagement, reproductive justice, LGBTQ community organizing, and policy justice experience in Texas. Their identity exists at the crossroads of being queer, transgender, nonbinary, and being a first-generation immigrant. This combination fuels their passion for creating positive change in Texas and makes them the perfect candidate to be profiled in the documentary.

“Getting asked to be in a documentary is a bizarre experience, but I do think that I share a lot of similar perspectives with the other people who are in the film,” explains Pérez. “Texas is a microcosm of the nation. And we cannot give up on Texas, despite how much everybody else in the country wants us to, despite how hard they are trying to intentionally make it to vote, to participate in democracy, to create that change, and to even exist.”

Adri Pérez speaking at the 2023 All In for Equality Advocacy Day in Austin. (Photo by Win O’Neal)

Throughout TEXAS, USA, audiences see first hand Pérez’s inspiring activism and advocacy for trans-identifying people and for immigrants and their motivations. “I love the state of Texas. I love the Capitol. I love legislative advocacy. And when you exist in those spaces, there’s not a lot of people who look like me,” Pérez shares. “I think something that we heard a lot in the last couple of years was many young trans people saying that they had never seen a trans person with white hair, or they had never seen an older trans person speaking at the legislature. A lot of my motivation to keep doing what I do is knowing that I am setting a precedent for the people who come after me, even if I may not do it directly.”

The film and its cast don’t mince words about the effects of the Republican control of Texas. Charting the work done by candidates, organizers, and activists alike, TEXAS, USA sheds a light on the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned and the ongoing introduction of new anti-LGBTQ legislation. “The attacks on trans people are being used to literally deteriorate democracy itself,” states Pérez. “You are not going to destroy democracy on my back, on my name, or on my identity, because being transgender and being an LGBTQ person is a beautiful expression of freedom and what it means to be an American.”

 

Exposing the harsh realities of Texas’ current political situation, TEXAS, USA is not a doom-and-gloom documentary. “The film does a good job at refilling our cups of hope with the will to continue fighting for a better Texas,” explains Pérez. It even inspires viewers to be active in democratic processes.

“I think the best way to get involved is to volunteer for a local campaign for the next election in your community,” says Pérez. “Everybody has their own unique gift in this world, something that they are passionate about doing or giving back, and tapping into that intersection of passion and creating change in the world for yourself is the best way that we can all contribute.”

For trans allies, Pérez’s advice is simple: “Educate yourself. It’s always about making sure that you have the correct information to be prepared if you want to be an active ally to somebody.” As Pérez sees it, it’s also important to note that this work requires awareness. “Try to think about being a trans person within the spaces that you are in,” they add. “Identify what the barriers might be, and try to use your privilege as a non-trans person to change spaces to be more accessible to somebody else, whether that is on the basis of class, race, or gender.”


TEXAS, USA is available on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Prime Video, and Google Play’s VOD platforms beginning October 6. For more information, visit TexasUSAFilm.com.

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David Clarke

David Clarke is a freelance writer contributing arts, entertainment, and culture stories to OutSmart.
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