by Nimisha Jain
In 2022, transgender children and their families all over Texas were under attack. Governor Greg Abbot sent a letter to the Department of Family Protective Services to classify medical treatments for transgender youth, such as puberty blockers and hormone injections, as child abuse. Child Protective Services was ordered to investigate families whose children were receiving care, and the threat of having children or teenagers removed from their homes and placed in Texas’ broken foster care system was real. Several organizations stepped up to fight against this order and advocate for these children and families, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), and Equality Texas (EQTX).
For these reasons and more, I applied to work at Equality Texas through the LGBTQ Studies internship program at the University of Texas at Austin. Equality Texas works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration. It is a nonprofit organization, serving as the largest nonpartisan statewide political advocacy organization working for the elimination of discrimination targeting the LGTBQ+ community. It was first formed in 1978 when a group of queer individuals sought to have the LGBTQ+ community’s needs represented in legislation. Since then, Equality Texas has defeated 19 of the 20 anti-LGBTQ bills filed during the 2019 86th Legislative Session, efforts to deny funding for art with any homosexual content, proposed legislation to mandate HIV testing, the anti-gay marriage bills that would have prevented the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages and civil unions, and measures that would prevent gays and lesbians from serving as foster and adoptive parents.
Throughout my internship, I worked on tasks for Equality Texas and Texas Competes. Texas Competes is a coalition of businesses and pro-business organizations united by the recognition of the business case for equality in our state and our communities, and a desire to keep Texas competitive and economically vibrant. My role with Texas Competes was to check in on the businesses that had signed our pledge to workplaces and communities that are diverse and welcoming for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to promote business and industry. I helped write email templates based on the different tiers of businesses we partnered with, and worked to contact these businesses to confirm they still wanted to be involved and that we had the right information for contacting them.
For Equality Texas, my task list included a variety of projects such as organizing the office, researching specific bills, attending anti-racism trainings, studying issue briefs, and emailing businesses that stayed connected with Texas Competes, and more. In my first week, right as I started getting accustomed to my weekly tasks, the governor’s letter to DFPS was sent out. From that moment, I started viewing hearings and recording notes, gathering statements from medical, political, and religious organizations regarding the governor’s order, and gathering relevant social media posts. I soon found out about the Trans Visibility Rally happening at the capitol. My friends and I already planned to go to, and I saw that Equality Texas was a sponsor. I then reached out to my supervisor and asked if I could do anything more from the Equality Texas side of things, and my friend and I volunteered at the rally. I met the CEO of EQTX, Ricardo Martinez, there in person for the first time, and other staff I had been communicating with over Slack.
One of my favorite projects was working on political maps to visualize the different ties between bills, organizations, and legislators. This projected opened my eyes to the connections between people and organizations of power and how much control they have over bills since they are the ones funding it.
I continued to work for Equality Texas over the summer. I have grown so much from my time at Equality Texas and know I will take what I learn with me to all my communities. If you too are interested in our work and mission, below are some ways to get involved and learn more.
- E² is a comprehensive Equality Education program. It combines issue briefings, skill-based trainings, and other opportunities for advocates to learn about LGBTQ issues.
- You can also volunteer with Equality Texas by tabling at events, canvassing, organizing petitions, facilitating trainings, providing testimony at the capitol, lobbying, phone banking, writing op-eds, fundraising, entering data, and more.
- Take the pledge to become an Equality Texan! By signing up, you will get alerts when your help is needed.
Nimisha Jain (she/her/hers) is a psychology and women and gender studies major at UT Austin. She is passionate about LGBTQIA+ rights and facilitates a queer art-based community at the Gender and Sexuality Center through the Longhorn SHARE Project. She is also an officer in the Students Association for Gender Engagement (SAGE), where she plans and hosts various events related to social justice, activism, and feminism. She is also an intern at the Longhorn Wellness Center, assisting with different mental health campaigns and projects. In her free time, she likes crafting, reading and going to concerts.