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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Former Houston mayor speaks about GLBT activism in the political realms

Former+Houston+Mayor+Annise+Parker+gives+her+lecture%2C+The+Personal+is+Political%3A+45+Years+of+GLBT+Activism.
Photo by Photo by Kevin Chou

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker gives her lecture, “The Personal is Political: 45 Years of GLBT Activism”.

After receiving a warm welcome for her first time in Aggieland, former Houston mayor Annise Parker spoke to the crowd gathered in Evans Library about her 45 years of GLBT activism and how it played a role in the world of politics.

Possessing the title of the first openly GLBT elected official of a major American city, Parker broke the continued pattern of men leaders in politics by also being the 10th woman leader to do the same. She graduated with a triple major bachelor’s degree – anthropology, psychology, and sociology – from Rice University. Additionally, Parker served three terms as Houston mayor and now holds a position on the Rice University faculty teaching in a leadership capacity. In her lecture, Parker used these past experiences to discuss her political success amidst facing the pressing stigma of homosexuality in America.

David Carlson, dean of Texas A&M University Libraries, welcomed the audience by introducing Parker and affirming the unique atmosphere that A&M upholds.

“I am delighted to welcome you to the university libraries to hear from a renowned figure in Texas politics and a strong example and advocate for the LGBT community,” Carlson said. “All of you who join us tonight serve as a reminder that Texas A&M is a special place for reasons that are diverse, as is the campus…we are honored to host former mayor Annise Parker here tonight.”

Following Carlson, Program Coordinator for the GLBT Resource Center in the Offices of the Dean of Student Life at Texas A&M Chad Mandala also gave an introduction of the speaker. He told of Parker’s academic background, political history, and involvement in gay and lesbian advocacy organizations, including that she was a member of Houston’s first pride parade in 1979.

“Her successful campaign helped make Houston the largest U.S. city led by an LGBT mayor…Please join me in helping welcome Mayor Annise Parker, an individual who has not only opened the door to history, but is committed to ensuring that it remains open for generations to come.”

Taking the podium after a round of applause, Parker spoke about her experience as a member of the GLBT community in politics.

“I came out when I was 15 in Germany…I’m going to start by talking about a night in December of 2009 when I was elected mayor of Houston,” Parker said. “It was historic when I was elected…when I was elected, it made worldwide media coverage.”

Near the middle of her lecture, Parker recounted a time where she helped found a gay and lesbian student support group at her university and many students hid their faces behind paper bags in the group photo.

“In the fall of 1979, we formed the Rice University gay and lesbian student support group…I am one of the founding members of that organization and it is still in existence,” Parker said. “There are some pictures of us as we were organizing in 78 into 79…there is a picture of the gay students as we petitioned the student senate to allow us to be an official student group on the Rice campus. And it was about 20 students – everybody else had a paper bag over their head with eye holes but two of us, and you can recognize us in the photo.”

Parker fought to change her image in the eyes of the media, instead of merely being known for the “lesbian activist” during her political campaign for mayor.

“Every time I saw my name in print, it was ‘Annise Parker, lesbian activist’…but that was not my last name,” Parker said. “And I’m not going to change my name, so when I decided to run two years later…I had to get control of my image.”

Chad Cunov, business freshman, commented that he attended for one of his required lectures for his freshman business initiative class, not knowing what the topic would be about, but unexpectedly appreciated what he heard.

“I just walked in not knowing what I was expecting, but it was really interesting,” Cunov said. “It was interesting to see from someone who actually is part of the LGBT community with her experiences…I don’t know anyone who is transgender personally, and the fact that not many people know transgender people leads to discrimination. I thought that was a valuable lesson, that if you don’t know someone face to face it’s easier to discriminate against them so always be considerate of that.”

In her conclusion, Parker said subsequently to her years serving as mayor of Houston, she finally realized that there is an LGBTQ agenda, after being asked this question numerous times.
“I’ll tell you the secret that I have kept all these years…we want to be able to work at jobs we love and pay taxes,” Parker said. “We want to be able to serve in the U.S. military and honor our country. We want to be able to marry those we love and honor our relationships legally. We want to be able to adopt children and raise them with the support of the state. We want to be able to go to school without being bullied, and we want to be able to walk down any street in America without being assaulted. And finally, some of us just want to pee in peace.”

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