TRANSCRIPT: Translash Podcast Ep 74, ‘What’s Going On in Texas?’

Imara Jones: Hey fam, it’s me, Imara. Welcome to the TransLash Podcast, a show where we tell trans stories to save trans lives. The 2023 Texas legislative session finally came to an end in May after a brutal few months for trans rights there with the passage of pivotal anti-trans laws. Texas became the largest state to ban gender-affirming care for minors with the passage of SB14 and SB15, which would ban trans athletes from competing on teams that match their gender identity has passed the state legislature and is awaiting the governor’s signature. These two are just part of the over 50 anti-trans bills introduced in Texas this year. Underscoring the fact that the state is a laboratory for the anti-trans hate machine. Given everything that’s happened there, I thought it was time to hear more about what’s going on and what it means for people on the ground. So today, I’m talking with two advocates who are courageously fighting back against this onslaught of attacks in their home state. First, I’ll speak with Texas organizer, Audrey Perez, about their herring experience at the Texas State Capitol.

Audrey Perez: What I have always been trying to do is not to speak necessarily to the legislators in those moments, but to speak to the people, the trans and the queer and the non-binary people who are not in the room.

Imara: Next, I’m joined by parent and advocate Rachel Gonzalez about her efforts to make Texas a safer place for her trans child.

Rachel Gonzalez: I mean, my kids are awesome and I want them to have the best life possible, and if I don’t fight for it, they’re gonna have to do it themselves.

Imara: And a heads up here that there’s a brief mention of suicide in my conversation with Rachel. So please do what you need to to take care of yourself. But first, let’s start out as always, with some trans joy. Today for Trans Joy, we’re celebrating a group of organizers doing critical work at Organizacion Latina Trans in Texas. OLTT is a 300-member organization in Houston dedicated to intersectional advocacy and well-being. They provide temporary housing, host empowerment groups, and help connect people with gender-affirming care in the area. In addition to finding injustices and providing critical resources, OLTT fosters Trans Latina Joy and celebration with pageants and festivals. Here is their program coordinator, Gia Pacheco to tell us more about their inaugural Latinx, Trans, and queer Festival.

Speaker 4: So it was very conscious choice to host the event in Public City Park, not only to show the community that we are here, but to give the trans community a sense of like, you do belong here. Like you can go to the park in the daytime. You don’t have to be scared, you don’t have to be ashamed. You’re there to be silly and play basketball, volleyball, or gossip. The key is to provide a safe space for people to truly be themselves. The founder of OLTT and Andrea Molina always says, you know, they beat us, break our bones. At the end of the day, they buried us, but they forget that we are seed and from that we will always grow.

Imara: Gia Pacheco, you and everyone at OLTT are trans joy. I’m so grateful for the chance to chat with Texas organizer, disruptor and educator Audrey Perez. Audrey has been making a difference in civic engagement, reproductive justice, immigration rights, and LGBTQ community organizing in Texas for a decade. They are the organizing director at the Texas Freedom Network, a nonpartisan grassroots organization of more than 150,000 religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties, and public education. Audrey co-founded West Fund, the first abortion fund in West Texas in 2013. They later went on to help found the Front EDx Fiance Fund, a grassroots organization that raises money to free detain asylum workers. Audrey also worked at the ACLU of Texas. Audrey’s passion and tireless advocacy has been recognized across the state of Texas. They were recognized as the first Texas Rising Organizer of the year as a college student and later received the Rising Star Award from the League of Women Voters of El Paso. Thank you so much for joining me.

Audrey: It’s an honor to be here with you today this morning, talking about a state and an issue that has mattered to me for so long.

Imara: Thank you. First of all, I just want to know how you’re doing. One of the things we’re going to talk about is what happened to you during the Texas legislative session, and you mentioned at the Trans Pro/Am where you spoke, where we both saw each other, that you had suffered a concussion. And I’m just wondering how you’re doing.

Audrey: I did. I- I tried to call it a brain bonk to try to lighten the mood on what had happened. But one of the things that I- I made a promise to myself throughout this process was to not try to lessen the harm on my person and my body and my spirit and my soul as to what has happened. It’s been six weeks since I was arrested at the Capitol. I haven’t gone back to the Capitol since that happened. And I think that that truly speaks volumes because I moved across the state of Texas from El Paso to be here in Austin to be able to be at the Capitol, to be able to watch the legislative proceedings because I love government, I love watching the representatives on the floor. I love how they vote. I love the little phrases that they use. And I am in this moment, terrified to go back to the Capitol, but physically, you know, a lot better than I was six weeks ago.

But I’m still not at 100%. And there is a lot of grief that comes with that. Knowing that you were operating at this like 110% level just to organize your people and your community to get these events going on a regular basis to show support for the LGBTQ and the trans community. And then you are bedridden essentially because you have a concussion, you need to recover. And every time that I tried to push myself a little bit too far, I end up setting myself several more steps back. And so this is, uh, been a practice in learning patience, practice in learning the importance of rest in this work and, um, probably the most peaceful pride month I’ve ever had in my life.

Imara: So let’s talk about what led you to be in the Texas State Capitol on the day where you received this injury. It was on a day where Texas was debating, uh, draconian anti-trans medical bill. Can you just set the scene for why you were there?

Audrey: I mean, so that was the day that the house was going to vote out the SB14, the trans healthcare ban for minors. So they ended up not voting it out for quite some time after that. We were actually able to delay it that day. But that was such a tough week. And I had been there from probably 7:00 in the morning [laughs] setting up because we were doing a singing outside of the house floor before the members walked onto the floor to vote and debate on this bill. And so we had organized over 150 people to be there that morning just to sing songs of resistance, of joy, of love, of hope. We sang if I were a fish with a guitar and faith and clergy leaders, they’re singing along with us, some trans kids and their parents. And it was the most beautiful, joyful, uplifting action that I could have ever been a part of.

I myself sang this joy that I have the world didn’t give it to me. And so we were there that day, I think, to create awareness of what was happening because we believed that they were about to pass the trans healthcare ban for minors in the state of Texas. And that would be officially the largest state to ban healthcare for transgender youth across the United States. And part of why, I mean, organizing is so important in these moments, right? As someone who used to do the policy side is what I know and what I have always known is that there are people all across the country and all across Texas watching what happens when these votes are taken and when these actions are made. And they are looking for the people who can provide a sense of hope, a sense of relief, a sense of community, so that they know that they are not alone. And so what I have always been trying to do is not to speak necessarily to the legislators in those moments, but to speak to the people, the trans and the queer and the non-binary people who are not in the room, because they are the people that need to know that there is somebody like them in that building fighting for them and fighting for our community as a whole.

Imara: So you were there protesting this bill and the speaker of the state Capitol in a moon that is unprecedented in terms of all of the reports ordered for the state capitol to be cleared of anyone who was protesting, anyone who wasn’t staffed, anyone who wasn’t a state legislator had to be ousted. When that order came down and the state Capitol police moved in, can you just tell us a little bit about what that scene was? What happened?

Audrey: You know, I think it’s important to note that all day there were more people there at the Capitol that were supportive of trans rights of LGBTQ people and of trans kids and their families, right? But the gallery itself was full of people who were largely against us that morning, and that was because they were metering who was allowed to go into the gallery all day. And so by the time that the speaker cleared the gallery, there was a line that went all the way through the House Gallery and around the rotunda of LGBTQ advocates waiting to get into the gallery that had empty seats in it to be able to watch the vote on this bill happen. This was at around 3:00 PM that day. And then almost immediately when I showed up, I saw this line and I- I walked to the front of it, I asked what was going on, and then they let a couple of people in because some people exited and I- I decided to go in to the gallery in that moment.

Immediately when they brought up the bill, there was one person from across the rotunda actually who started chanting trans rights are human rights. And then the speaker announced that if there were any more disruptions, the gallery would be cleared. And when they brought the bill back up again, there were a couple of people in the front who dropped some banners and then they ordered the gallery to be cleared. Honestly, it all happened so fast. I had barely been sitting there for a couple of minutes and I started recording what was happening because they were pulling people from their seats quite forcefully. Of course, they started clearing the folks who were LGBTQ rights advocates first, and they left all of the other folks in the red shirts in the gallery. They let them line up on the side and wait to be released. And when I went to go line up against the window with them to record what was happening and also to wait for my own safety [laughs] to leave the gallery, not in a stampede, they pulled me away from the line of folks that were standing by the window. And you can’t see any of this in the live stream. It’s like exactly the corner of the Texas House livestream that wasn’t recorded.

But before that happened, I mean, I became so overcome and afraid of the number of hands that were just on and around me that I ended up dropping to the floor right by the gallery doors. And then when I got up, I- I got pushed out of the gallery and I think at that point when I was standing outside of the gallery doors, there’s a recording of it. You can see me standing there with my hands, like in front of my body, like right above my belly button. I started exiting that space just like anybody else. And I felt like there was a presence behind me, which I later found out was that there was an actual hand on my backpack and I felt extremely claustrophobic and like I needed to- to run away, um, faster. And so in the moment that I tried to go around somebody to just get down the stairs faster, one of the DPS officers grabbed me. And that’s where you see, I think the beginning of the video that went pretty viral. And I mean, from that moment, everything is really kind of a blur. I felt jostled around and then very suddenly I was on the floor [laughs]. I remember trying to hold my stance and I remember my body becoming extremely tense.

And it was just this like feeling of, I don’t know what is about to happen, but if I brace myself for it, it can’t be that bad. My glasses got flung off of my face. And so I- I have pretty bad vision and I remember just like thinking that whatever was about to happen next, I needed my glasses, which felt like this very silly thing but it felt like this thing I could maybe control, have some control over in that moment. You know, the other thought that was running through my head was that they kept yelling at me to relax when I was, um, on the floor, there’s this man that like kneeled down and I don’t remember anything before this man kneeled down to tell me to relax. That’s kind of like when I came back into myself.

So I’m on the floor and he’s yelling at me to relax and I’m thinking, what happens if I don’t relax? Right? Like, how could you possibly be yelling at me to relax in this moment? Like I cannot physically relax when there are several people on top of me and I am extremely scared about what will happen if I don’t. Because what we have seen time and time again in the past is in these situations is an escalation of violence against people that do not and are not able to and do not intend to fight back. And suddenly, I found myself in that situation.

Imara: You were there protesting the bill, the house was gonna vote, and then there was this unprecedented order. And you’ve just described the personal impact of that on you. And when you said DPS, that’s the Department of Public Safety, it’s essentially the police.

Audrey: Yes.

Imara: On the…

Audrey: State police.

Imara: On state police so that everyone understands. I’m wondering for you if it feels like with that incident if it’s emblematic of the way in which the state is becoming far more aggressive beyond just these bills towards trans people, there’s a relationship between a changing tenor in the state in Texas and the introduction of these bills as you see from kind of an organizing lens.

Audrey: You know, I wanna say I wasn’t necessarily even there protesting that day. I mean, we did a protest in the morning, right? That was a singing, but in the Gallery in that moment, you know, I’m normally the loudest voice in the room. I’m normally the one that starts the chants. I’m normally the chant leader. I’m the one running up and down a rally with a megaphone trying to encourage other people to chant. In that moment, I was not the person that started chanting, nor was I one of the first people that started chanting because I- I was there to bear witness to what they were going to do. And then it turned into this very… I- I don’t know how to describe it. You know, we’ve been fighting back against these bills since 2020 and for about two years it felt so lonely and so isolated. And then in this moment, the Gallery was full of people that I knew, people that I didn’t know that were there and were ready and were loud and were angry and were fighting back. As he called for the Gallery to be cleared, I just kept thinking to myself like, what did you expect would happen when you consistently have attacked our community? And then I joined in on the chanting and I just… I wanted to support all of those people instead of the other way around. And it was just this like really beautiful moment. I think as an organizer when you try to like build a movement for something and then the movement is moving forward without you [laughter].

Imara: The Texas state legislature eventually passed this bill. It was signed into law. It’s become now the law of the state. As you say, it’s been a slew of anti-trans bills in the state since 2020. And from an organizing perspective, I’m wondering what atmosphere overall these bills are having on trans people in the State, on the organizing community, just this two-year war and this string of bills.

Audrey: It started in 2021, I think, with families and friends leaving the State to move to Portland, to move to California, to move to Colorado, to move to Virginia, Connecticut, so many other States. And it’s happening again now this summer where there is an exodus of trans people of all ages, not just trans kids and their families who are leaving the state of Texas. There’s a lack of comfort and safety I think that people feel in this State. And I think a lot of uncertainty and inability to plan for our futures here. There’s a lot of people who make plans to be here only for a certain amount of years, and then if things get worse, they will also leave. But even amongst that, I think what I found here in Austin, Texas, and part of the reason why I moved here was to be surrounded by such a beautiful and vibrant queer community one bigger than the one that I had in El Paso and I have found that they’re, you know, Texas organizers are just built different [laughter].

We care for each other in the hardest of circumstances. And the love that I have received from the community here in Austin and from across the state of Texas is really unparalleled to any love that I’ve ever seen in the world. It is- has expanded my heart infinitely to be softer than I thought it could be during this incredibly difficult time. And I’m- I’m grateful for that. But I think we all feel very scared in the spaces that we do not create ourselves.

Imara: The Texas state legislature should be out for a couple of years given the normal legislative calendar. But Governor Abbott, the Texas State Governor has said that he might call the legislature back for special sessions. I’m wondering when you’re looking out ahead, what else do you think that Texas can do with regards to trans people? What are the things, as an organizer you’re worried about? I mean, there’s already a sports ban, there’s already the medical healthcare ban, there’s already the targeting of parents through the executive order that we’ve spoken about here before on trans child separation, you know, a bunch of court cases as well. I’m just wondering, what do you think is left for them to do in terms of attacking trans people?

Audrey: Well, honestly I- I don’t know that it’s gonna happen from a legislative action, but what we have seen since I guess a little bit before the legislative session is hospitals already starting to cease care for trans youth in both Houston and Austin. Well, Texas Children’s Hospital and Dell Medical, I think about around the middle of May, um, hospitals either fired all of their adolescent medical staff or informed the patients that received gender-affirming care at their hospitals that they could no longer see them as patients. And so, I mean, this isn’t necessarily the next thing that they can do, but we know that for years now, Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott have been pressuring hospital executives to do something about restricting this care and they finally got their wish

Imara: More broadly. I mean, Texas is a state that you love and you’ve stayed and you’ve fought there. And I’m wondering for you how you balance the love and pain of a place that you call home.

Audrey: I’ve never felt quite as much anger, I think towards the State of Texas as I have these last six weeks. There’s been a lot of anger, but it’s never been so intense and it’s never been so closely tied to grief for me. You know, this is a beautiful state full of some of the most wonderful people that I have ever met. And as an organizer, I have had the privilege of talking to students of all ages and schools about their rights to community members from El Paso to Houston, to San Antonio, to the Valley. I’ve seen every corner of the State as a statewide organizer. And in it, even in the most red communities, there is always a really strong queer community that never loses hope and that never loses the passion for providing resources for the community, for providing education, for providing safe spaces, for continuing to build even in the face of so much harm and tragedy.

And I- I think we owe it to each other to not give up fighting for this state. And if at some point that needs to happen from another place, then we should consider that for our own safety. But there are people here who cannot leave. There are teenagers in high school right now who are trans, who are contemplating coming out to their parents and afraid of what might happen if they do. And those people, I guess, you know, I see myself reflected in all of those stories as someone who didn’t have super affirming parents when I came out as trans. And those people need somebody there that they can lean on and that they know is there fighting for their rights.

Imara: Well, I just wanna thank you for putting yourself on the line and the ways that you have for the state that you love, for the community that you love. We are fortunate to have your vision and leadership as a member of our community. And I know that everyone listening is sending you the best as you continue to navigate a very difficult situation.

Audrey: Ah, thank you.

Imara: That was Texas organizer Audrey Perez. I am so glad to be joined by Advocate and mom to trans youth, Rachel Gonzalez. Rachel is a passionate ally to her daughter and the many other trans kids and families fighting for their rights in Texas. From the bathroom bills of 2017 to the flood of anti-trans laws proposed this legislative session. Rachel has spent years testifying at the Capitol and making appearances on local and national media. She also serves on the human rights campaigns, Parents for Transgender Equality Council. Rachel currently lives in Dallas with her husband, Frank, three kids, and three dogs. Rachel, thank you so much for joining me. I don’t know how you can remain, you know, in your right mind [laughter] with three- three kids. It’s like a dog for each kid. I don’t know how that worked out.

Rachel: Well, let’s not get carried away and assume I’m in my right mind, um. [laughter]

Imara: Fair enough. I can relate.

Rachel: It’s such an honor to have been invited to participate. Thank you for having me.

Imara: No, thank you so much. You know, it’s easy for people to read the headlines of what’s happening in Texas and to see the protests, but you and your family live there. That’s a state where you call home, where you’ve raised your kids. And I’m wondering for you, as you move about your day, what is it like to be in a state which is increasingly by any measure, trying to erase your authority as parents, erase your kids, and just generally make any public space hostile to your very existence?

Rachel: Well, it’s really hard for people, I think outside of Texas to understand that the things that we’re experiencing in the legislature are- do not in any way align with our lived experience in our daily lives. And we were very, very naive when we stepped into advocacy when Libby was six years old and we just thought, oh, these people just don’t know what it means to be a raise a trans kid, so let’s just go to the Capitol and tell them and then everything will be okay. Because we had no idea the multimillion-dollar machine that was driving all of it. And it became very obvious in the 2017 legislative session that parents were a really, uh, great voice in moving legislators. Obviously, that’s changed, but we have been able to continue fighting anti-trans legislation because we have the support of our community around us, because we have teachers and school administrators that understand that there is an urgent need to support our family. We have dog sitters, babysitters, other parents of my kids’ friends that step up. It’s a gigantic community effort for my family to continue advocating to try to create safe spaces, especially because we know that there are so many trans kids in this state that don’t have the safety that Libby has in her daily life.

Imara: I’m wondering if for you, that sense of safety outside of advocacy that you’ve been able to create if you feel that that’s being eroded as the impact of Governor Abbott’s executive order rolls out across the state. The one that says that gender-affirming care can be labeled as child abuse and therefore allowing the state to transfer custody. I’m wondering if that has punctured kind of your reality at all.

Rachel: Yes, the short answer is yes. So the government is really, really trying to scare us and use families like mine as examples in their political theatrics. And sometimes it- it goes so far that it really, really sc- it becomes super scary. All of our kids have the direct line to our attorney that we’ve hired. They’ve all been prepared with what to say if the Department of Family Protective Services shows up at their schools, at our house. We live in a neighborhood that, especially because of the pandemic, all the kids play together. So there is definitely a level of safety that we have to keep in mind in like, you can’t just hang out outside unsupervised anymore like you could have before. And we’ve had to have really serious conversations with the educators of our kids, with their school administration. And if we do get to a point where we feel like there is a legitimate possibility that our kids will be removed from our house, that we will have to leave the State. But again, there are so many people who can’t leave the state and until we get to that point, I don’t really wanna disrupt the community in life that we have here, especially when we do have the ability to continue this fight and push for a more equitable state when so many people don’t have the ability to do that.

Imara: I’m wondering the degree to which you hear from parents who for whatever reason feel that they can’t be visible, but they’re still struggling for a way to support their kids. You know, to what degree are there parents and loved ones of trans kids in this case who, because of the changing atmosphere can’t speak up but are reaching out to you from support? Is that something that’s happening?

Rachel: Yes, I think there’s a lot of families that would show up more if they were in a position that they could, you know, our families in a unique position where our work schedules are very flexible. So we have the ability to shift things around and go to the Capitol in a way that a lot of people just simply cannot- cannot make that happen and continue to put food on the table. And there are a lot of parents who are also really overwhelmed by all that goes into figuring out how to navigate the Texas legislature because it’s very intentionally difficult and intimidating. We’ve been doing this for so many years, this isn’t something that I learned overnight. And we know who to go to, where to get information, how to show up in ways that may or may not be impactful. But you know, we choose to show up in ways that we think will be the most impactful.

And it’s a lot of accumulated knowledge over the years that is really intimidating for a lot of families. So they may not be able to show up in that way, but they’re going to work on their kid’s school, they’re going to work on the families around them, they’re going to do the advocacy. I mean all of the advocacy is needed. There’s no level here that isn’t necessary and important, but there are a lot of kids who want to be more involved and sometimes it just isn’t possible for their parents to be able to do that.

Imara: In addition, are there also parents though, who feel not only that they can’t speak up in a way that you’re discussing, showing up at hearings or at rallies, but are also parents that have to keep the fact that they have a kid that’s trans quiet or they don’t want people to really be able to focus on who their family is because of a changed atmosphere.

Rachel: Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, the thing is Texas is such a mixed bag. Like, you know, we can drive 10 minutes away from our house and have a vastly different political landscape than our neighborhood and especially when you get into small towns. But I will say I have come across in the last years of working in this space, families and school administrators in small-town Texas that are some of the most committed to creating safe spaces for trans kids in their communities than anywhere else. They know and love the kids in their community and they’re not going to let this now big governments because the party that seems to be proclaiming small government is trying to interfere in uh, deeply invasive ways in our lives. Um, I mean, I don’t have to explain this to you. We know that there is obviously this huge money drive that is infiltrating school boards and our legislature in a way that it really isn’t reflective of Texans or Texas as a whole.

I grew up in a Republican household. My family is horrified by what has happened to the Republican Party. The attack on our family’s personal private medical decisions is insane. And I don’t think that the majority of Texans actually want this. This is a frenzy that has been built up and in some towns it catches on because this has become, you know, this shiny political thing. So this is a really, really, really long answer to saying it really is case by case situations. I think there is a perception of safety in being stealth, having kids that aren’t out, that isn’t necessarily the safest option for everyone. I can say for my family, being public is a huge part of our safety that we don’t have to worry about somebody finding out. We don’t live in a state of fear that if one of Libby’s classmates finds out that she’s trans, then something could really go sideways. It’s such a difficult thing to navigate. I think given the invitation that our governor and the state legislature has given the general public to weigh in on our kids’ right to exist, we are definitely seeing a significant uptick in hate speech, bullying, things that we haven’t experienced really anywhere near this magnitude until now.

Imara: What are some of the conversations that you’re hearing from parents? This decision to, do I keep my child under wraps, keep them stealth? Do we leave the State? Do we become more visible? What are those conversations like? They seem to be from the outside really gut-wrenching decisions that a parent would have to make.

Rachel: Yeah, it’s really terrible. I think most parents that have been caught by surprise by the passage of this legislation feel very much that the only option is to leave the State and- and not just parents that were caught by surprise, but in general, like parents are like, I don’t- I don’t… like we’ve gotta get outta here. But you know, obviously, that isn’t the case for a lot of families. They’re not able to leave the state. And so there’s a lot of conversations around what is this going to look like? How are we going to move forward? How are we going to create spaces where our kids and all trans kids at some capacity can be seen and how are we going to get through this? Because there is so much rhetoric around suicidality, which isn’t an exaggeration, but we’re also at a point where we have to give kids the will to live. We can’t say, if you don’t get this, suicide’s the option. Like we- we have to be able to say like, we will get through this eventually. We have to get to a point where we can give kids opportunities to build community, to find joy in each other, and have the will to live until we can get through this

Imara: With the ban on healthcare for kids, with the ban on teaching or saying things about gender identity or LGBTQ rights or even history in school, with bands on participation in sports. I’m wondering if you feel like, okay, when it comes to kids that the State’s pretty much topped out. Like do you believe that this is kind of the high watermark for things to get worse? Of course, also layering in, you know, trans-child family separation. So when you look at it, do you say okay, well at least I feel like we’ve hit the worst of all of the things that can unfold in the state?

Rachel: Oh no [laughs]. I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that, unfortunately. I mean this was what we kept hearing from Republican legislators, is they were tired of talking about this and so they needed… like they were just gonna pass this and move on. And it’s ridiculous to think this is gonna go away. Opponents of equality, those who are attacking trans kids have made it clear that this is a winning issue for them. They’re not gonna walk away from it. And we already saw bills proposed and moved out of the Senate this legislative session that would ban healthcare access for all trans people, not just under 18. So it seems likely that that’s where we’re headed. I mean we had 140 anti-trans bills, anti-LGBTQ bills, but many of those, the majority of those were explicitly targeting the transgender community filed and seven passed.

So that’s uh, you know, 133 other bills that didn’t pass. And so they have a stockpile of bills to come back to in the next legislative session. The upside is that our legislative sessions are every other year, so hopefully we will have a little bit of breathing room. But that’s what we thought we were gonna get last year when the governor issued the directive for the Department of Family Protective Services to start investigating families like ours. So I feel like we live in a state of like who knows what they’re gonna pull next, but I think given the fact that those who are pushing this legislation have made it abundantly clear that this is a winning issue for them, they’re not going to back down. They’re going to pivot into something else and this isn’t going to be the end. So, you know, I think it’s up to us to redirect the narrative.

Imara: Yeah, and I think that we’ve heard from activist on the ground that, you know, the Governor, um, has the ability to be able to call the state legislature back into session and so it should be two years from now, but who knows.

Rachel: Mm-hmm. Exactly. That’s the fear, right? We had three special sessions in 2021 and that’s how we ended up with the sports band. So I think there is a likelihood that we will be back on the chopping block before the end of the year. But honestly, I- I shouldn’t say that. I have no idea if there’s a likelihood, I have no idea what the governor’s gonna pull, but we live in a state of who knows what’s next.

Imara: What do you want people who don’t live in Texas to understand about what’s happening there and why they should be concerned? You know, for people who are living in New York State or Illinois or Washington State, you know, there can easily be a… well, you know, Texas is always just that kind of state kind of thing. What would you say to them? No, no, no, no, this is different and this is why you ought to be engaged and pay attention.

Rachel: Well, I think that this is different in many ways because this isn’t just Texas. This all the states that you just mentioned. Well, New York, I know for sure every blue state that other families are like, oh you should move to this state. I personally know families who are dealing with ridiculous rhetoric issues in their kids’ schools, things that we don’t deal with on the daily. And I think in a lot of blue states there’s an assumption that everything is okay because there is good policy in place. But I think sometimes that assumption leads to complacency. And you know, here there is an obvious and urgent need for teachers, school administrators, people in the community who don’t believe in anti-trans legislation to educate themselves and get more involved. Whereas there is an assumption that it’s not needed in some of these blue states. And we’re watching major school board issues, issues in schools, issues with teachers, issues where there isn’t the same kind of pressure, I guess from the legislature where people are maintaining their gender bias.

They think that they’re progressive, but then the way that they’re treating trans kids is exponentially scarier than what we’re dealing with on the daily. So I think, you know, in addition to that, this is obviously fascism and deeply tied to repro rights and immigrant rights and all the antisemitism we’re seeing happen. Obviously, the attack on black and brown bodies, all of these things are deeply tied together. You know, we can’t separate one from the other. And people need to recognize that if the government is going to swoop in and take away healthcare access, there’s nothing to say that the next round isn’t going to target them. I mean, we’re pretty close to being a purple state. Like we’re not… uh, I mean it might be extreme to say that Texas is purple, but certainly in the urban spaces, all the major urban spaces are blue.

So this is not something that is the majority of Texas. We’re just a gigantic state that has a lot of people that don’t live in urban spaces. I mean we have, is it the second-largest trans population in the nation? So it’s not like we don’t have massive community here. We have a ton of community. My daughter fortunately is surrounded by trans adults, by people who she knows and loves who have been in this fight much longer than we have. And she has so many amazing examples of what it can look like to be a trans person in the South and thrive. And I don’t really wanna walk away from that. We have awesome community here.

Imara: I think the other thing that would be important in the conversation is that Texas is normally the laboratory for a lot of these laws.

Rachel: Right.

Imara: And the fact is that a reason to care is because it’s probably not going to be that long between when you see a law introduced and/or passed in Texas that you’ll see somewhere else. So for example, you know, Governor Abbott’s executive order on trans-child separation now is enshrined in law in Florida, started in Texas first. So I think that that’s another part of what the issue is here.

Rachel: That’s obviously what I’ve been told since the beginning of this is if they can pass it in Texas, they can pass it anywhere. And we’ve been really successful in stopping anti-trans legislation until the sports band passed at the end of 2021. And I think, you know, in that moment, I will never forget I was- I had taken my kids to the state fair because I was like, okay, I can’t just like listen to this floor debate all day. Of course I did. I had my earbud in walking around the state fair. But as soon as… I start crying talking about this, as soon as the bill passed, my middle daughter who was CIS was like, okay, so are we going to Austin tomorrow to stop it? Because my kids know that’s what we do. We show up and we stop into trans legislation and they know we have massive community here that shows up and fights for them. And it’s a really beautiful thing to have so many people in this fight together.

Imara: Lastly, I’m wondering if you can just tell us what keeps you going. You give us indications, but I mean, when you really just distill it down, what keeps you going? And the reason why I ask is because so many people who are outside of Texas or in other impacted states will just say, well, why don’t you just move? Or why don’t you just go figure something else out? Like as if people aren’t actually attached to where they live. What keeps you going and fighting, and why do you keep fighting in Texas?

Rachel: I realized years ago that there’s no way that I could live in this state, participate in this advocacy in a state of fear. I had to make a shift internally and recognize that every decision that we make as a family to participate in advocacy has to come from a place of love. And in order to do that, I have to be able to create some form of normalcy, create joy in the mundane for my children who deserve a normal childhood. They don’t have a normal childhood, but I try really hard to make sure that our day-to-day all the time is not consumed with advocacy. We do a ton of advocacy, but it’s also buffered with, you know, the birthday parties, hanging out with the friends, the pool parties, the having friends over for dinner. I mean, we have friends that visit from all over the country and they joke about how you never know who’s gonna walk in my front door because we have so many friends, so many neighbors that surround us and help us maintain a really beautiful community.

And there’s no way that I could continue this work without all of that support there. We have so many people, so many people who are not in the advocacy that we do actively, but they are holding us up and they are, you know, the nuts and bolts of all of this, making sure that we’re staying whole in one piece here. But, you know, there are moments where Libby will start to feel scared and she’ll say, you know, are you scared to go to the Capitol? Things did get really, really scary this year, and I tell her, and I wholeheartedly believe that we are operating from a place of love. Every single decision that we make is coming out of love. And in the end, we cannot lose. We are going to lose battles, obviously, but as long as we are sticking together as a family and as a community, and we are forged, we’re chosen family with so many incredible people in this fight with us.

Our lives are so much better because of this chosen family that we have built around us in advocacy and just in our daily lives. And I- I can’t even imagine our life without all of these people. And I mean, my kids are awesome and I want them to have the best life possible. And if I don’t fight for it, they’re gonna have to do it themselves. They’re not going to have the safety that they deserve when they’re grown. And I’m no longer here, so I have an obligation to them too. But, you know, we do the best we can with the resources we have available to us and try to stick together and make decisions that our- our entire family feels good about.

Imara: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about the situation in Texas and your family situation and just where things stand after a really, really tough legislative year and just sending you the best and your family the best. And you’ve given us words to live by and continuing to move with love. Thank you so much.

Rachel: Thank you so much, Imara.

Imara: Really appreciate it. That was Texas Parent and advocate, Rachel Gonzalez. Thank you for joining me on the TransLash Podcast. Now listen all the way through to the end of the show for something extra. First up though, special thanks to Lauren757 for giving us a five-star review on Apple Podcast. Lauren757 says Imara is trans joy. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all butterflies and sprinkles, but I come away from every episode with a greater sense of fortitude and resolve to make the world around me a better place. Lauren757, thank you so much for your kind words. Go out there and make that world a better place. And if you want to help support our show, go ahead and leave your own five-star review on Apple Podcast. You might just hear it on the show. The TransLlash podcast is produced by TransLash Media. The TransLash team includes Oliver-Ash Klein and Aubrey Calaway. Xander Adams is a contributing producer to the show and our sound engineer. Digital strategy is handled by Daniela Capistrano. The music you heard was composed by Ben Draghi and also courtesy of ZZK Records. The TransLash Podcast is made possible by the support of foundations and listeners like you.

So what am I looking forward to? I’m looking forward to a brief break, um, around the 4th of July holiday. I’m gonna have a couple of days where I actually just get to relax and cocoon in the midst of a very incredibly intense summer from Pride, which always is so much y’all. It’s so much for us, right? I mean, good Lord. It’s like the whole world tries to pack our entire experience and our lives into four weeks and then, you know, a really intense July as well. I mean, we’re just living in an intense time. Um, this is just the way it is. So I’ve just come to accept that and myself. But to carve out kind of these mini breaks. So I’m gonna take some time off and go be quiet for a couple of days around the 4th of July. I hope that you managed to find some quiet as well. If the world lets us, if there’s not a coup anywhere or God knows what.


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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.



TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.


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