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Fighting Fear with Facts: Equality Texas Works with State Senator Chuy Hinojosa and Rio Grande Valley Youth Leaders Aqui Estamos to Make Sure Texans Have Accurate Information about LGBTQ Texans
Posted on August 11, 2016 at 12:35 pm

McAllen, Texas – August 11, 2016– Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Texans, joined with state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Rio Grande Valley leaders Aqui Estamos to launch an education campaign in Texas to fight LGBTQ discrimination.

The organizations are partnering to launch a public awareness campaign called the “TransVisible Project,” to introduce transgender Texans to communities all over the state of Texas and to educate Texans about discriminatory legislation that will be filed by some legislators in the upcoming legislative session and to urge everyone in the Rio Grande Valley and across the state to stand up for equality for all Texans and fight against discriminatory legislation. The theme of the campaign is discrimination is not a Texas Value.

At the Valley event, Jay Quiroz, a member of Aqui Estamos bravely told his story about being transgender and undocumented in Texas.

“As an undocumented transgender man in the Rio Grande Valley, I often felt isolated and did not know where to find help. It’s difficult being transgender. It’s also difficult to be undocumented. To be both can be very dangerous, especially when our state government continues to spread transphobia. But organizing with Aqui Estamos has helped me find a community and even apply for DACA. I now feel hopeful and empowered to fight for LGBTQ justice in the Rio Grande Valley, the place I call home.”

The educational series is especially needed now, as politicians across the country target the transgender community.  In May, President Obama issued guidance explaining that under Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law in education, schools receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. This followed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina for its extreme, discriminatory anti-LGBTQ bill. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in filing the lawsuit, “This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms.  This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us.”

In Texas, 67% of Texans favor a law protecting LGBT people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.  And 53% oppose letting a small business owner refuse to serve someone who is LGBT based on their personal religious beliefs.  We are making progress, and it is crucial that we not allow misinformation to become law.

“Transgender Texans, like all Texans, need to use public restrooms without fear for their safety or security.  Proposed laws in other states and what may be proposed in Texas during the next legislative session would roll back decades-old policies and laws that ensure that transgender people have access to restrooms appropriate to their gender. These proposed laws exploit that fear to attack a vulnerable community, subjecting transgender children and adults to harm.  The laws are unenforceable without massive police intrusion on privacy rights and create an expensive liability for businesses,” said Lou Weaver, the first statewide Transgender Programs Coordinator for Equality Texas.

“I am proud to partner with Equality Texas to educate our communities about the myths often used to mislead citizens and discriminate against our fellow Texans.  We support efforts to bring attention to LGBTQ residents in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas to ensure our constituents have accurate information. We must not tolerate discrimination for any reason. Every person should be treated with dignity and respect,” said State Sen. Hinojosa.

“It is the responsibility of all of us to educate ourselves so these false attacks can be exposed for what they are; a solution where there is no problem in order to perpetuate discrimination against LGBTQ Texans,” said Equality Texas Regional Field Coordinator Robert Salcido, Jr.  “Some Texas leaders are appealing to the worst chapters of our history, in which discrimination runs rampant and understanding and compassion are absent. Their proposals would cause Texas to put billions of dollars of federal school funding at risk and threaten the Texas economy.”

“The Rio Grande Valley continues to make strides in breaking barriers and serving as an inclusive community.  While some statewide politicians spend their time grand-standing, expressing fake outrage and misrepresenting the facts to try and manipulate Texans, we have leaders in in the Rio Grande Valley working to educate and advance our community who don’t take these attacks lightly.  Discrimination continues to plague the LGBTQ community, but more so for our transgender siblings.  Aqui Estamos is committed to continue fighting for justice for all queer and trans people in our borderland and across Texas,” said Dani Marrero Hi of Aqui Estamos, a youth-led, queer and trans people of color organization in the Rio Grande Valley.

Today’s news conference is part of a larger education effort by  Aqui Estamos and Equality Texas..  On Friday, August 12 and Saturday, August 13, Aqui Estamos will host the 2nd annual queer and trans people of color conference in the RGV.  Aqui Estamos 2016 will explore three different tracks that impact the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual community living in the Texas-Mexico borderland: Health & Wellness, Ending Racism, and Economic Justice.

Additionally, Equality Texas will host a training for local media outlets on using LGBTQ inclusive language when reporting on LGBTQ issues.

Recently, highly-publicized events have shown the need for such educational efforts. The trainings, planned by Aqui Estamos and Equality Texas, are meant to educate the public about issues facing the LGBTQ community.

Link to the American Values Atlas study on public opinion about LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws and religious exemptions: http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AVA-LGBT-Report-FINAL.pdf

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Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working solely to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.  The Equality Texas Foundation works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through education, community organizing, and collaboration.

Aquí Estamos is a youth-led, queer and trans people of color organization in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, a region along the U.S.-Mexico border.