Will the new U.S. president or City Council member fight for – or even respect – equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual/transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, or asexual people? Will they know what these terms, or others associated with the LGBTQIA* community, mean or know the challenges these humans face?
If we don’t speak up, said FOXXY Blue Orchid, then the answer is no.
“We all have to make sure that our voices are heard loud and that we stand up for what is right and what is important to us,” Orchid said during a panel discussion hosted at the Central Library in downtown San Antonio. “It’s a matter of life and death for some people that their voice be heard.”
The violent tendencies of discrimination are known all to well to minority groups including the LGBTQIA community and Pride Month, which kicked off on Wednesday, is a “celebration that came out of resistance,” said Orchid, who is the co-producer and emcee for the San Antonio Burlesque Festival and led the Wednesday panel.
The San Antonio Public Library, along with dozens of nonprofits, art galleries and community organizations, are hosting a series of events throughout the month in remembrance of the June 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, considered the catalyst for the LGBTQIA movement in the U.S.
This Saturday, the City will host it second annual San Antonio Pride Family Fair at Historic Market Square from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Wednesday’s panel, Come Out, featured stories from local members of the LGBTQIA community. Click here to view the Public Library’s event list on Facebook which includes:
- Work Out, Wednesday, June 8: Local business owners will share their experiences as LGBTI entrepreneurs at 6:30 p.m. at the Westfall Branch Library.
- Rock Out, Wednesday, June 8: Local musicians Chris Conde, Pink Leche and Saakred will rock out at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library.
- Speak Out – Wednesday June 15: HIV and AIDS educators will share information and statistics about HIV in San Antonio and about PrEP therapy for prevention at 6:30 p.m. at the Landa Branch Library.
- Far Out – Tuesday, June 21: Dr. Amy Stone will share the history of Cornyation and the LGBTI communities involvement in Fiesta at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library.
- Break Out – Wednesday June 22: This program will deal with the transgender “coming out” process and how other factors impact the experience at 6:30 p.m. at the Forest Hills Branch Library.
The Public Library will provide voter registration booths and the City’s Metropolitan Health District will provide free HIV/AIDS testing and education at every event.
“During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, as Americans wave their flags of pride high and march boldly forward in parades and demonstrations, let us celebrate how far we have come and reaffirm our steadfast belief in the equal dignity of all Americans,” outgoing President Barack Obama wrote in his Presidential Proclamation for LGBT Pride Month. The president also noted that there is much more work to be done, hinting at the recent Republican-led efforts to expand the so-called “bathroom laws” in North Carolina that require people to use bathrooms according to the biological sex they were born with.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said developing a “bathroom bill” for Texas is a priority for him during the next legislative session.
Bathroom bills were not discussed during the Wednesday panel, but there were no shortage of stories from panelists about discrimination in other daily interactions – especially when it comes to health care.
Panelists included Erick Macias, who leads a local support group for transgender men; Irene Galindo-Cantu, who advocates for marriage equality alongside her wife of 17 years; and Ashleigh Jillian Brown, Human Rights Campaign board members who has been in transition for 20 months but knew for 46 years that she is female.
Each shared their stories of despair and triumph as they recalled the moments they revealed their true identities to their loved ones, friends and, in Galindo-Cantu’s case, herself.
She had married and divorced a man before finally working up the courage to walk into a lesbian bar. She would sit in her car and smoke cigarettes, nervously staring at the door. When she finally did take those first steps inside, she said, she knew it was right. “It was the first time I didn’t feel so heavy in my chest that I wanted to kill myself.”
Galindo-Cantu was denied information about her wife’s medical prognosis after surgery. Macias was denied treatment for a chest infection at a local doctor because the doctor “didn’t know what to do with me.” Brown’s story of denial evoked a gasp from the audience.
She needed treatment at a local hospital. The doctor told Brown that if she came back dressed like a woman the hospital wouldn’t treat her. Then, she recalled his words, “You’re nothing but a pedophile.”
Fighting back tears she explained the deep pain she felt when hearing perhaps the most unfounded and cruel insult. She had a child of her own who died in a car accident last year. “I would never …” she said. And of course she wouldn’t.
“Think about the thousands and thousands of people this is happening to,” Orchid asked of the small group of about 15 people that came to the panel.
Orchid is probably taller than me even without shoes on, but Wednesday night Orchid was wearing platform heels covered in silver glitter. When the wig’s on, that’s FOXXY Blue Orchid. Some may know Orchid sans wig as author and poet Dino Foxx, an alter-ego. Either way, Orchid identifies as a queer Xicano – with or without the wig.
Events during Pride Month or any month that create a safe place for these conversations are vital, Orchid said. “For me the idea of education and documentation is something that is invaluable. The more that we feel empowered and are given platforms to tell our stories, the more people recognize their duty – the responsibility – that they have in shaping the future of our community.”
As an entertainer, Orchid likes to wrap messages of hope, defiance, and civic engagement in easy-to absorb humor.
In a way, demanding that the audience clap and cheer with more enthusiasm at the beginning of the panel because “I spent two hours on my make up,” is Orchid’s way of segueing into a conversation you didn’t expect to have about what it means to “be a woman” as opposed to “being female.”
The more awareness there is, the less stigma is attached and the more people can say, “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you this is who I am,” Macias said, recalling what he told his parents the day he came out. He encourages his children not to tell people that their father is transgender.
“Growing up is hard enough already,” he said.
There may be a time when it’s not an issue for kids. Now is not that time.
“There remains much work to do,” President Obama wrote,”to extend the promise of our country to every American, but because of the acts of courage of the millions who came out and spoke out to demand justice and of those who quietly toiled and pushed for progress, our Nation has made great strides in recognizing what these brave individuals long knew to be true in their hearts – that love is love and that no person should be judged by anything but the content of their character.”
Will the next president write proclamations like this every June?
*After the panel, I had a long conversation with Orchid. We nerded out, briefly about AP style and how the media talks about the LGBTQIA community. The Rivard Report’s style guide is to use LGBTQ and gender pronouns: he, his, she, her, Councilman/woman, etc. – exceptions are used in quotations or formal names of organizations or events and according to source/subject preference.
The panelists on Wednesday evening were comfortable using gender pronouns, so they have been used throughout this story. The San Antonio Public Library uses the acronym LGBTI in its promotional materials, but of course doesn’t exclude the “Q” (queer questioning) nor “A” (asexuals) from its programming or respect.
The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association calls for LGBTQ. Orchid and many other progressive media outlets use LGBTQIA. I have used that throughout this story because that was the acronym widely used throughout the night and in my conversation with Orchid.
“I don’t want anyone to be left out,” Orchid said. “It doesn’t inconvenience me to learn what a new letter (or identity) means. … (And) allowing someone to self identify I think is something that will allow for you to start that conversation with your readers.”
Good point. Consider it started. Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.
Please keep in mind that hate speech and name calling will disqualify you from participating in the conversation on this page and any page on the Rivard Report. Let’s keep it productive, in the spirit of Pride Month.
Top image: Moderator FOXXY Blue Orchid addresses the audience before starting the discussion. Photo by Scott Ball.