Last year at this time, I began writing this monthly column with the intent of showcasing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in San Antonio. The key was to spotlight the community and the culture, and not necessarily the politics. At least not exclusively.
When asked to think of a perspective from which to write the column, I came up with the name “Just Happens to be LGBT.” My rationale was that being LGBT is just one small, but important, part of who we are. We, along with the straight community, have to learn to see us beyond the badges of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We’re complex, multifaceted human beings with diverse backgrounds, demographics and interests.
During a special session on July 22, San Antonio City Council voted Ivy Taylor into office as interim mayor. This was a vote that many saw coming, and several prominent LGBT people and organizations voiced their dissatisfaction with such a result long before it became a reality. Their rationale, not necessarily without justification, was that the mayor should be willing to represent the entire city. Her “no” vote on the non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) last year seemed, to many, like a slap in the face against the idea of civil rights for all people as the expanded NDO language prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The predominant question on the minds of many was simple, if often unstated: How could an African-American woman not understand that all types of discrimination are, plainly, discrimination? How could she not vote for the ordinance?
I admit that I felt—and feel—the same way. I strongly disagreed with both her vote and her reasons for voting the way she did. In various forums and on the council dais the day of the NDO vote, she stated concerns both for religious liberty and free enterprise. Her tone seemed defiant and unchangeable.
How—how in the world—could anyone who is LGBT support a candidate who took such a strong stance against LGBT equality? Especially someone who is a minority and should “know better” what discrimination is all about.
Well, for one, there was Barack Obama in 2008. You know him: the pre-enlightened Obama, who in 2008 ran on a platform of traditional marriage, until he later “evolved” to support marriage equality, conveniently a few months before the 2012 election. If progressives and LGBT voters had not been willing to support the 2008 Obama, we never would have enjoyed the political reality that paved the path for 2012 Obama to appear.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe Mayor Taylor has given the public any indication whatsoever that she would change her mind on the NDO vote. But what she did provide were several promises to work on the NDO, create an enforcement mechanism for it, and appoint (as Mayor Castro had appointed) an LGBT liaison to the mayor’s office. In other words, she did what all good elected officials should do in a democracy—if they lose a vote, they recognize the loss, yet they still uphold their oath of office to follow majority rule. That is the hope of what a democracy is supposed to be.
I’m not an apologist for Taylor. One of the reasons I liked the idea of her as mayor is that she stated she would not run in 2015 and would serve only as interim. But I remain cautiously optimistic that she will do what she has promised. And I understand that political promises are only worth the amount of pressure that we the people place upon the incumbent to carry out their word. But I have no doubt that many will hold her to those remarks, as they must and should.
So how does all this connect to the idea of “Just Happens to Be LGBT”? To make that connection, we have to look to the only member of the LGBT community who spoke to council in Taylor’s favor on July 22—Ruby Krebs. Ruby, who is transgender, first met Taylor in 2009.
Later, she got to know Taylor better while working as a manager at the Antonian Hotel near Fort Sam Houston. Krebs worked with Taylor on something the new mayor is passionate about—economic development—by trying to improve the ability of businesses on the North New Braunfels corridor to connect to clientele from Fort Sam. Krebs, who has been active in politics for years, once ran for city council District 1, and was appointed in 2011 to the Citizen Advisory Action Board, which reviews evidence in all internal affairs cases that come before the SAPD.
In other words, Krebs has a relationship with Taylor and with city government that goes beyond her role as a transgender citizen. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the city in many capacities, and I’ve gotten to know Ivy Taylor by working with her on a variety of projects,” Krebs explains. “I feel that I know her better than many in the community.”
Krebs emphasizes that she did not endorse Taylor, per se, but simply asked others to consider the former District 2 councilwoman as a viable option for mayor. “Of course, when she voted against the NDO, I was disappointed, but I didn’t take it personally. I was shocked to see the negativity of the discussion against her on social media. You don’t build a relationship with someone and try and get things done by antagonizing them.”
Ultimately, Krebs sees her relationship with Taylor as a boon to continuing the work set out by community groups like Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) and others: to put some teeth on the NDO by creating a process for complaints to be dealt with. “No matter who you are, it helps to actively work on mainstream issues that affect everyone. It shows you’re a multifaceted person,” says Krebs. “We all need to embrace our roles as members of the larger city community. There is no ‘gay agenda.’ It’s just the same as every other agenda—work together to improve things for everyone. The NDO was important, and I’m glad it’s the law of the land. Now we need to learn to work with each other.”