Editor’s note: Spectrum South does not endorse any particular candidate. However, Spectrum South does endorse political participation and recognizes the need in this current political climate for our voices to be heard.
By Josh Watkins
On November 4, 2017, I sat in the ballroom of the Houston Marriott North, surrounded by some of the city’s most prominent, eclectic, and diverse transgender leaders. Together, we had gathered for the 25th annual Houston Transgender Unity Banquet, to share a safe space and celebrate the Gulf Coast’s ever-growing trans community. The speaker lineup was jam-packed, each one voicing words of empowerment and hope.
Then, Phyllis Frye, a trans woman, veteran, advocate, and the first openly transgender judge appointed in the U.S., got up to speak. Frye is a trailblazer, having come out as transgender in the 1970s. After being disowned by her family, Frye was also forced to resign from the military for “sexual deviation.” But Frye didn’t focus her speech on her own personal journey as a trans warrior and pioneer—instead, she used her platform as a call to action. She spoke to the devastating political happenings over the past year, starting with Trump’s election on November 8, 2016. She reviewed the failures, disappointments, and regressions the LGBTQ community had faced throughout 2017. Then, her speech took a hopeful turn. Frye recognized three LGBTQ individuals in the audience who are running for public office in 2018, applauding them for their commitment to changing our current political climate. These exemplary candidates received an overwhelming round of applause, followed by a standing ovation.
But Frye didn’t stop there. “If they can do it, why can’t you?” she asked the audience. “All our community does is complain about the way that we’re treated and how the current administration is rolling back our rights. So why aren’t you running, too?” This isn’t a new question. But for some reason, in this moment, as Frye spoke with such emotion and empowerment, it hit me like a brick wall. A spark inside of me was ignited.
As she continued speaking, I couldn’t help but reflect inward: Why am I not doing anything? Why aren’t any of us doing something bigger to fight back? Why do we settle for mediocre candidates instead of just running ourselves? Why are we not rallying, mobilizing, and helping to lead this pack of queers into an America that celebrates the rights of every individual? In that moment, I became consumed with doing more—more than just voting, but actually being involved.
Cut to three weeks later. After what seemed like an endless journey of research on political candidates and races within Houston, I find myself on the phone with Josh Levin, the wonderfully jubilant field director for the Laura Moser for Congress in TX-07 campaign. After an inspiring conversation on the need for action and involvement, Levin invited me to start working on the campaign as a college fellow. I leapt at the opportunity and hit the ground running with the campaign that very same week.
I was attracted to Moser’s campaign for numerous reasons. First and foremost, she’s a candidate for the people. As a true progressive and strong female candidate, Moser isn’t afraid to make her voice (and the voices of her constituents) heard in a state notoriously governed and gerrymandered in favor of Republicans.
I admit that I often avoid supporting candidates who are not LGBTQ because I greatly value having queer voices represented at every level of government. But Moser is different. Although Moser is not LGBTQ–identifying, she is the utter embodiment of what it means to be an ally. She is the founder of Daily Action and an activist turned candidate. She uplifts queer voices by giving us a place at the table within her campaign staff, intentionally being very queer-inclusive within her policy stances, and refusing to be silenced when it comes to speaking out against the injustices we face. Moser commits to representing all of her supporters. When Trump tries to strip us of our rights and freedoms, we need candidates we trust to fight back. I know that not if, but when, Moser is elected to Congress, she will fight tooth and nail for every LGBTQ individual, every person of color, every dreamer and immigrant, and every marginalized community. The resistance may have begun on November 8, 2016, but now, as the 2018 primaries quickly approach (Tuesday, March 6, 2018 is Election Day in Texas!), Moser is on the frontlines of this fight.
Now, it’s your turn. I call upon every young LGBTQ individual and ally to do something. Register to vote—and actually vote. Not just in presidential elections, either. Local races are just as crucial to changing our political climate. Find a candidate you identify with and volunteer for their campaign. Block walk, phone bank, show up to one of their fundraising events. Anything. It’s up to us to rebuild a progressive America and to take back a country that was built on celebrating our diversity and differences. Don’t just say you want change. Be the change.
The last day to register to vote in the Texas primaries is February 5, 2018. Early voting runs from February 20-March 2, 2018. Election Day is Tuesday, March 6, 2018. For Harris County early voting locations, click here. To find your Harris County Election Day polling location, click here.
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