By Jennifer Falcon, lead organizer of GetEQUAL San Antonio Chapter
For the past few months GetEQUAL Texas has been educating the community about the upcoming non-discrimination ordinance and actively talking to people about the discrimination they have faced themselves based on gender identity and sexual orientation. At least twice a week we hit the small part of San Antonio often referred to as the “Gayborhood,” an area in District 1 filed with LGBTQ friendly shops, coffeehouses, bars and restaurants. We would hand out flyers letting people know about our anonymous discrimination hotline and invite them to come speak at the City Council’s Citizens to be Heard meetings.
I was shocked at how many people had never even heard of the ordinance being proposed or even knew who the City Council member was for District 1. But nearly every person we met had faced discrimination at some point or had a friend who had been discriminated against, especially in public accommodations. And for every person willing to tell their story beyond our private conversation there were four who refused, afraid of retaliation. Because while the proposed ordinance covers things like public accommodations and housing protection, after it passes people can still be fired from their jobs or denied a job based on being perceived as LGBTQ.
“My boyfriend and I don’t even go to ‘straight places’ we stay here in the Gayborhood because we know its okay to be ourselves.”
Over and over again people told me they don’t go to “straight places” because they know they will be mocked or asked to leave. If you want to know how welcoming San Antonio is just ask any transgender person. Even our local politicians lack the education needed to represent their transgender citizens accurately. At a recent San Antonio Gender Association education event held to educate our elected officials about transgender information not one council member showed up.
“I don’t even go anywhere else outside the ‘Gayborhood’ without calling to check their transgender policies first,” Kelli, a transgender woman, told me. “Because of the perceived and actual distaste that some people have for us, we often are very closeted. You won’t see a lot of trans out in San Antonio and there’s a reason for that. When we go to trans-friendly places we are accepted but when we go to what I call ‘straight places’ you are looking at being laughed at, pointed at or even asked to leave.”
When the non-discrimination ordinance passes here in San Antonio it will be the beginning of a new chapter for the LGBTQ allied community creating a foundation of hope that all people will be afforded equal access to and equal status under the law. It is with that hope that we can carry the torch forward and make it better for the generations yet to come.