June is pride month, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, often regarded as the tipping point in the modern gay rights movement. The Houston Press met with members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn more about their experiences as being part of this group. These are their stories.
Us southerners know one undisputable rule: There ain't no power on Earth like a determined woman. Helen Reddy embodied this rule with tribute to all things lady in "I Am Woman." Beyoncé reiterated this feeling with "Run The World (Girls)." Now, local gal Kendra Walker is next in line for the female face of being the change she wants to see in this world and empowering women to be proud of themselves - up to and including which gender they date.
"Pride to me is family, love and passion. It’s really about freedom. It’s the freedom to be yourself. I don’t associate it necessarily with sexuality, but it’s whatever you want it to be," she said.
As an openly out lesbian, Walker speaks honestly and having two families: the one people are born into and the one people choose to surround themselves with. To her, she didn't feel anything was awkward or different about her when she told her family about her love interest, who happened to be female. Her family, however, was not initially supportive.
"I am the daughter of a Second Baptist preacher. When I met my first girlfriend, that’s how [I came out to them]. I wasn’t shy about it," she said. "It didn’t go over very well. I think part of it was parents see kids as a reflection of themselves. They don’t prepare themselves for kids being individuals."
While Walker says her parents now are more supportive, there was a while where she felt like she didn't belong. So instead of feeling sorry for herself, she founded a group where she could find her second family...one that would be more understanding of something that felt so natural to her as both a woman and as African American. The group she created is named Lesbians of Color.
"It was brought about to provide safe places for women of color. I didn’t see myself at a lot places. Lesbians can be over-sexualized and denied. There aren’t a lot of positive images for young girls to look up to, so we showcase our talents, our lives, our education and our businesses," she said.
While women have made significant strides in terms of equality and respect, a look at the numbers can show some trends have yet to catch up. For example, Walker points to the number of places queer women identify as gathering spaces for like-minded individuals.
"There’s one lesbian bar in Houston. For queer women of color, there aren’t a lot of places to gather. That’s why we do a lot of events and provide a place to feel safe. We’re all inclusive," she said. "We have Caucasian, Latina, and black women who are all for the mission…to provide safer places. We’re changing that."
Change has been a constant with the group. The organization is holding the torch for leading the change they want to see in Houston's LGBTQ+ community. In the six years Lesbians of Color has been in existence, the organization has given more than $50,000 to charity, built a membership of more than 200 members and climbed to an average of hosting more than 52 events per year.
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"I want people to know that this includes everyone. The jump off for Pride came out of rebellion. It came from rebellion that we didn’t want to be what they wanted us to be. Pride got started out of pushing back against a system that was really oppressive," she said. "Any kind, compassionate human being can express pride. If you believe in the freedom of self expression, you believe in pride."
For now, though, Walker has created that safe space where all women are welcome to be comfortable in their own skin.
She said, "I wouldn’t want to live any other life than the one I have right now. I want to encourage girls that you can have a career, you can love the way you love, and you can be respected and successful. There’s a whole family waiting to embrace you. Stay in there, stay in the fight, and it gets better. I want young girls to see this group of women and know it's a place for them."