Elected officials plan formation of LGBTQ Commission

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City Council member Jimmy Flannigan held a meeting Wednesday to present the creation of an LGBTQ Commission. 

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

City Council member Jimmy Flannigan of District 6, who is the first openly gay man elected to the Council, led Wednesday’s meeting to create an LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission to improve the community’s safety and representation in Austin.

At the Asian-American Resource Center, poster boards were marked with LGBTQ issues such as homeless transgender youth, lack of legal protection and potential
school policies.

“My hope, certainly with tonight’s meeting, is that we have conversation not just [from] what one white, cisgender guy thinks is important or are priorities for the community,” Flannigan said.

Senate Bill 242, proposed by state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, would require school districts to give parents any information regarding their physical, emotional or psychological health. 

“It’s ridiculous that we are asking professionals to ‘out’ children, basically,” said Awais Azher, UT alumnus at the event. “A lot of people are afraid of coming out to their family, not just for relationship reasons, but because they can actually end up being homeless.”

In October, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced the creation of an LGBTQ commission during a forum where the parents of an anti-gay hate crime victim asked Austin elected officials to protect LGBTQ individuals through policies and public safety.

In 2015, Austin enacted an ordinance requiring businesses with individual-use public restrooms that lock to have signage designating they are gender neutral.

UT graduate Jae Lin said he has complained to the city about businesses without the proper signage, but his complaints were ignored.

“I have done that for multiple businesses around town,” Lin said. “I have called in and also have used the 311 app to file the report … and those are dismissed immediately.”

Flannigan told Lin to call him if the complaints are ignored again.

“When you feel the city has failed you, make my call the second call you make,” Flannigan said.

UT graduate students Daniel Jimenez and Cassie Gianni, co-chairs of Pride Policy at UT’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, said queer cooperative housing on campus would make students more comfortable in their living spaces.

“One of [Graduate Student Assembly’s] issues was to make housing more available and more affordable,” Jimenez said. “So when I heard they were talking about the idea of a queer co-op for graduate housing … I feel like there’s a way to tackle that.”

Gianni said transgender students sometimes feel uncomfortable with assigned roommates based on the sex reflected on their birth certificate and said the single rooms they had to choose from were often expensive and hard to find.

“It’s very binary, very gendered with who you can room with,” Gianni said. “In my undergrad [year], oftentimes they were forced to be in the single rooms because that was the only place that they could temporarily live.”

In 2015, there were 22 hate crimes reported in Travis County, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Last year, the Austin Police Department joined LGBT advocacy organization Equality Texas to prevent hate crimes by training officers on how to respond to domestic violence in LGBT relationships.

In October, Austin, along with Dallas and Fort Worth, received a perfect score for LGBT-friendliness, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.