Saturday night at Fitzgerald’s
, nine local bands will come together to raise money for Gender Infinity
, a Houston-based charity organization working to provide support to the area’s transgender community. Each band will be playing a cover set of a more well-known act, with local favorites Another Run playing a Foo Fighters Set; Middlechild as the Pixies; Moji as Janet Jackson; thelastplaceyoulook as Taylor Swift; and so on. Each $10 entry fee will be matched by Pegstar in an attempt to try and raise $10,000 for the Houston-based organization.
The city of Houston is currently at a crucial point in history as it votes this November. Voters must decide whether to accept the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance originally passed by city council last year, but which the Texas Supreme Court ruled must be put to a citywide vote. The bill’s purpose is to protect an individual's race, age, military status, sexual orientation and gender identity against discrimination in employment and public places; as the country’s fourth-largest city, Houston’s decision will surely have ramifications for other areas in the region.
Even with expanded visibility in mainstream media due to high-profile figures like Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and the TLC series I Am Jazz
, the trans community in Houston and surrounding areas still needs of a lot of support. One organization helping to do that is Gender Infinity, a volunteer organization of licensed psychologists, doctors, doctoral students, social workers and activists who come together to offer counseling and services for transgender people in the area, focusing primarily on trans youth.
The group was founded in 2010 by Colt Keo-Meier, Becca Keo-Meier, Bob McLaughlin and Robbie Sharp to try and connect families with children who are transgender, transitioning, or exploring and questioning gender diversity with resources such as therapy and consultation services. After attending a training conference for providers in Seattle, Colt, who was studying psychology at the time, met with the other founders and decided to form a similar organization in conference in Houston.
“At that time, the Houston transgender resources we had were only available for people 13 and over,” Colt explains. “What I was learning in school is that gender identity formation starts when you’re born, when you’re one two or three years of age. So we have a lot of really little kids who are saying they’re transgender or being creative with gender in a way we haven’t been aware of or made space for as a society before.”
The group focused primarily on children and youth under 13, working with families and providers, such as schoolteachers, psychologists, social workers, and doctors to help provide education about how to help trans youth. “We really wanted to focus first on the youth because there were literally no other resources available,” Colt says.
While Gender Infinity offers counseling and consultation services year-round, its main offering is an annual conferen ce in the fall, of which this year’s is taking place on October 23 and 24. The conference is a two day event split into one day for providers and advocates and a second day for families to connect through teaching, small-group breakout sessions and building a community.
“We have programs specifically for parents to learn more to support their child, as well as options that are available and things to look out for,” Colt explains. “How do I talk to my kid about this, or if my child does want to make a gender transition, how do I talk to my 7-year-old about how it will affect fertility? These are conversations very, very few people are having around the area. They get to come together to share their successes and sorrows and build a community of support.”
While the goal is to reach families and spread awareness of transgender youth across the area, it’s a tricky situation because often the children who need the help most may come from families that are less receptive and understanding, and less willing to seek out support the first place. As one of the only major organizations of its kind in the south central U.S., Gender Infinity has developed in the years to work with families and schools that come from the “Bible Belt” and may be less receptive initially due to religious or personal beliefs. It’s a daunting task, but the group is optimistic.
“We really pride ourselves on operating from the idea that all parents want the best for their children,” Colt says. “I think we can really meet people there because even if they’re not supportive, usually the lack of support comes from fear that someone’s going to hurt their child or that something’s really wrong with their child, and that’s because they love and care about their child.”
“Our existence and connection with other community members and partners increases awareness about this as a normal part of human development, and promotes more dialogue,” Becca explains.
The conference has grown exponentially throughout the years, especially with increased media attention. They’ve outgrown a couple different sites in the past five years, and the goal of the upcoming fundraiser is to bring in enough money to be able to host the event at a hotel or conference center in years to come.
“One of the things parents are telling us is they want to stay in a place that has a hotel, so if they come from Oklahoma City, they can go to the conference and have a place to stay. We’re hoping to do that eventually, but a hotel or conference center costs are beyond the means of our shoe-string budget.”
The group is entirely run by volunteers, so any donation of time or money helps to provide valuable resources for the organization. “It’s definitely a lot of work, but it’s something that we’re all really passionate about,” Becca said. “In this regard, it’s very rewarding that we get to focus on an area we care about.”
The idea for the fundraiser at Fitzgerald’s came from a friend of Becca’s from the same program at UH, who asked Becca for ideas on charities to support LGBT youth in Houston and Fitzgerald’s ended up selecting Gender Infinity. Unfortunately and sadly unsurprisingly, not all of the responses have been positive. “When we were starting to get the word out for the benefit event, there has been a little bit of pushback from people who are not supportive on social media and commenting in ways that are pretty discriminatory,” Becca says.
While one might think the music and arts community would be more open-minded to a group like Gender Infinity, that’s not always the case.
“There are always going to be people who aren’t supportive and don’t understand no matter what group they’re a part of,” Colt says. “We’re just excited that these people, these musicians, have gotten behind the cause and are donating their time and their gift of music to these families and children.”
The benefit show is this Saturday night at Fitzgerald’s for $10
. Even if people can’t attend, Gender Infinity is still encouraging them to buy a ticket because each serves as a donation that, for this event only, will be matched by White Oak Music Hall, and Pegstar.