Just Happens to be LGBT: The NDO’s lasting impression 

click to enlarge DeeDee Belmares
  • DeeDee Belmares

LGBT San Antonians have much to be thankful for. With the San Antonio City Council’s non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) passed, we can rely on the knowledge that our city has our back when it comes to equal protection under the law. Aside from some religious exemptions, no one in the city can deny gay, lesbian or transgender people from access to a place of business or fair housing. The City has ensured—like the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies—equal employment opportunity. Although this column is more about community than about politics or policy, it’s worthwhile to continue digesting the NDO vote’s impact.

We’re here. We’re queer. Get over it. Let’s find a way to live together. If there’s anything the NDO process demonstrated, it’s that LGBT people don’t hide under rocks. Now, I’m not a fan of the “get over it” mentality because it automatically comes off as divisive. Instead, let’s find a way to understand one another better.

Granted, that’s difficult. There has been no real dialogue between the LGBT groups and allies who supported the ordinance and the religious entities that opposed it. This point was made on the day of the vote by Councilman Diego Bernal, who also bemoaned the fact that he had better discussions with outside groups than he did with some of his own colleagues on City Council.

If we can’t find ways to have open, honest, non-judgmental discussion on both sides, then the NDO vote is only a good thing, not yet a great thing. If you or someone you know is already working on bridging that divide, please email me. That’s tough work worth focusing on.

Transgender folks are also here. And here to stay. When the coalition group CAUSA started on the journey to add both gender identity and sexual orientation to the NDO, the decision was made from the beginning to leave no one behind. That decision was a proud day for many, because trans people have often been left out of the equality equation. Thank goodness for District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña’s friendly amendment to the NDO on September 5 that altered the less-than-desirable language about the possible prohibition of bathroom use by people of the opposite sex. Now, the language bars people from entering “any sex-segregated space for unlawful purpose.” (Stay tuned for my article in our October 30 issue, focusing on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.)

What you don’t know can hurt you. As we all know, ignorance of the law does not prevent us from being subject to it. But that doesn’t just mean that we may accidentally break laws we’re not aware of; it also means that we may be protected by laws that we don’t know of. Although the vast majority of people I know are quite aware that the NDO now protects them, I’ve encountered a small number of LGBT folks who don’t even know that it exists. (OK, so maybe some LGBT people DO live under rocks!) Spread the word about LGBT equality now being the legal expectation, not just a mere exception, in our city.

Don’t forget about tourism and workplace relocation. The NDO protects citizens, residents and visitors. Perhaps more than the average demographic, LGBT people like to travel. With SA being the tourist town it is, the City just sent a strong nationwide message that when you come visit here, you have the right to be treated equally. Additionally, LGBT employees, and employers who have LGBT-friendly practices, that may wish to relocate to the Alamo City now have guarantees they didn’t have before. It’s a fact that the NDO is good for business. NDO support from the Hispanic and Greater San Antonio Chambers of Commerce made that clear.

Ecumenical matters matter. “Ecumenical” is a term that refers to the wider body of churches working together in unity and cooperation. Never has ecumenical discussion been more important than now. Although many churches railed against the ordinance, there were also many mainline Protestant churches, Jewish congregations, and even Catholic organizations (like the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word) that vocalized their support of the measure. Unfortunately, much of the local mass media made it a point to show that “Christians” opposed the NDO. True, but Christians also supported it. No one has a monopoly on religious belief and scriptural interpretation, and it would be false to claim otherwise.

LGBT protections for public works, ISDs, higher ed, hospitals, and other public institutions. The City just blazed the trail by passing a fully inclusive NDO, and in a large way, made it easier for other entities to adopt the same measures, from independent school districts to healthcare agencies. Although some already possess protection for sexual orientation, it’s time to revisit the importance of transgender protection. And please don’t tell me about the “gay menace” infiltrating our schools and teaching our young people. Ridiculous! The Anita Bryant era is long-gone. Fear of gay teachers is so 40 years ago.

We “just happen to be LGBT.” Given this column’s title, the objective is often to show that LGBT people are not limited by our sexual orientation or gender identity. Those identifiers are just small parts of who we are, and when it comes to every other major element of our lives, many LGBT people would rather not be reduced to one way of describing ourselves. The NDO vote doesn’t further “ghettoize” us—instead, it opens the door for us to grow well beyond simplistic terms.

Each month we feature a reader’s personal “I am” statement that encompasses who they are. Send me your own “I am” statement in 100 words or less, and we’ll publish one statement each month. Contact us at currentlyrichard (at) gmail.com

DeeDee Belmares

I am a conservative small business owner working hard at running a busy company. Melissa and I have been together for almost 14 years and we are moms raising an awesome kid named Austin. I am an activist under construction. Above all, I am a grateful lesbian. It’s 10 p.m. and I am writing this, but after two weeks of non-stop work at the janitorial cleaning company I own, juggling the schedule of a busy 10 year-old son, and being very sick, I realize I am tired. As I settle into my recliner, Melissa and I still need to talk about our day, Austin’s grades and things that need to get done at home. This is when I know that I am blessed. And I just happen to be LGBT.




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