Pride month is a time to commemorate the relentless struggle for LGBTQ rights and the triumphs achieved along the way. It is a powerful reminder that the fight for equality and acceptance is far from over.
The month takes on a special significance as it recognizes the contributions and resilience of Black LGBTQ advocates who have paved the way for progress.
This annual observation began in 1970 in New York in response to the 1969 Stonewall protests. Individuals fought against widespread discrimination, harassment and unlawful arrests due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
While Pride has become synonymous with rainbow flags, parties, and parades, its roots lie in the legacy of resistance, protest, and the unwavering demand for equal rights.
In Houston, there are Black LGBTQ advocates who continue to defy social expectations and proudly assert their right to exist authentically. The community is under attack from new anti-LGBTQ laws, limiting protections for transgender people, roadblocking gender-affirming care and censoring discussion of sexual orientations and gender identity in schools.
Here are a few of the city’s Black leaders, their advocacy work, and the issues that impact the Black LGBTQ community.
Ian Haddock is the founder and executive director of The Normal Anomaly Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to assist Black, Queer+ people overcome barriers and end stigma and problematic narratives.
Haddock faced the challenges of growing up in poverty. Despite the challenges, he excelled academically and was involved in church and community. However, everything changed when he came out as gay. His family presented him with an ultimatum: deny his sexuality, keep his home and family, or embrace his identity and face homelessness. Forced to make a choice, Haddock bravely embraced his truth, which led to his family disowning him. Instead of succumbing to despair, his refuge in Houston’s LGBTQ+ community inspired Haddock to help others.
“We live in a system that continues to take personal and bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices away,” Haddock said. “My passion is centered around freedom. None of us are free until we are all free.”
The state’s current political landscape is detrimental to the livelihoods of Black LGBTQ+ people.
“Many bills are being passed that are overly exaggerated in a way. For example, legislators are against drag entertainment and consider it a sexually oriented business,” he said. “How did we get here? It’s not the same, and that’s dangerous, especially for non-LGBTQ folks who are more conservative around social issues.”
The Normal Anomaly Initiative has several programs to protect and support LGBTQ+ people with its business directory, archiving a list of more than 100 LGBTQ-affirming companies and allies. They are working on expanding training for ally organizations to trans people and community outreach to high school graduates and college students.
Fran Watson is a Houston-based attorney. Not only does she identify as lesbian, but she represents LGBTQ clients through her firm F. Watson Law, PLLC. She publicly came out as a lesbian in her late 20s and has since dedicated her career to amplifying the voices of people with similar experiences.
Not only was she the first African-American woman to serve as the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, but she was also voted as the 2016 Female Pride Marshal, was part of a collaborative fight for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in 2014, one of the founding attorneys for the transgender legal aid clinic, and offer the services at her firm at 40% pro bono.
“This legislature has a very brutal session, and living in Texas is tough for LGBTQ folk, especially Black people,” she said. “So many communities need assistance. That’s why you see me helping out with homelessness or in the legal community. People need basic quality care.”
Watson says one issue that should be discussed is protecting trans people with preventative care.
“If you don’t have the right identification documentation, the safety to take care of yourself and navigate in your authentic self, it’s going to impact your quality of life,” she said. “HIV also needs to be discussed more in the Black community.”
Ashton Woods is a prominent LGBTQ activist and the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Houston. He has been a vocal advocate for racial justice, LGBTQ rights and social equality.
Woods has worked tirelessly to uplift the voices of marginalized communities and has been instrumental in organizing protests and campaigns for change.
Woods openly identifies as an HIV-positive, gay atheist who is unapologetically Black, highlighting the intersectionality and diversity of what it means to be Black.
“Our quality of life is an issue, our safety, he said. “Harris County is being taken over by a bunch of Republican and Christian fascists who are passing bills that police our bodies, police women’s wombs, especially females who transition to male.”
That is why he decided to run for the state representative seat for Texas House District 146 again. In 2019, he previously contested for the same seat but unfortunately lost. However, that never stopped his mission to amplify the voices of Black LGBTQ+ people.
“I’m tired. That’s why I’m running. I’ve worked very hard to maintain the ideology and the mentality that I’m of service to my community,” he said. “If we don’t take of us, who the hell gonna do it? Remember, Pride Month started as a riot. Y’all better be prepared to throw a rock, whether physically or metaphorically. Black people started this movement, and we’re going to finish it.”