*Updated: November 3, 2017
In November 2016, the ACPA Governing Board developed a new, bold strategic imperative on racial justice to center the lives of people of color. As we move toward this new imperative, we have decided to keep the 2018 Convention in Houston, Texas. With the Texas Senate approving SB6 on March 15, 2017, we understand the decision to remain in Houston is a tricky one. The potential passage of this bill into law will foster a dangerous and unsafe environment for trans* people.
Due to the selection of sites several years in advance, it becomes difficult to predict what the conditions will be as one gets closer to the convention time period. The moving of a convention site is not an easy decision due to the financial penalties involved as well as the challenges of finding a new location on short notice.
We realize that every host site location will come with both positive and negative aspects that will require that planning teams are open to recognizing and understanding these dynamics, some due to the history of the city, and others due to externals factors in the particular state, region and country.
When it comes to Houston, we understand that the location is problematic due to its local history around civil rights as well as being in the state of Texas. Currently, Texas policies have had negative impacts on undocumented communities, immigrants, voting rights, women’s right to choose, the rights of trans individuals and other marginalized communities.
In particular, we want to highlight the challenges with LGBTQ issues:
In November 2015 after the defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The ACPA Leadership engaged with local organizations in Houston to learn about the implications of the result and to work towards providing ongoing support. The local organizations were strong in their desire for ACPA to remain in Houston and not leave.
In January 2017, the Texas Lt. Governor submitted Senate Bill 6, the Texas Bathroom bill. The bill would require individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex on their birth certificate and would impose penalties on state/public entities that violated this policy. It would effectively bar colleges and universities from providing gender neutral or all-gender bathrooms on their campuses. It would be similar to the North Carolina Bathroom bill, with the exception that private businesses could designate their own policies.
Once news was revealed about SB6, ACPA started a fundraising effort in order to send a copy of Z Nicolazzo’s new book to every member of the Texas Legislature. The book is Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion (Stylus).
The ACPA18 Steering team met in Houston in January and decided that we would be committed to ongoing advocacy and education on this and other social justice issues. Rather that leave Houston, ACPA18 is committed to an experience that truly engages the community in Houston in bold and innovative ways.
In early March 2017, Cindi Love, the ACPA Executive Director, testified during the public hearing held by the Senate committee and will also be participating in the legislative day on March 20th.
On March 14th, SB6 passed the Senate in an initial vote.
At the ACPA17 Convention from 26 – 29 March, the ACPA18 team coordinated a postcard initiative, where attendees wrote and prepared post cards for members of the Texas House of Representatives and other Texas government officials. In addition, we provided opportunities for attendees to make phone calls through a phone calling campaign as well.
SB6 did not make come up for a vote in the House before the end of the Legislative session. A Special session was called by the Governor in July 2017 and ended without any formal passage of a bathroom bill.
While no bathroom bills passed, we did learn that the State of California had imposed a ban on state employees from using state funds to travel to Texas due to another law that had passed the Texas Legislature that was discriminatory toward members of the LGBTQ+ community. ACPA is working with the California ACPA Chapter on ways to provide opportunities for members from California that are unable to travel to Houston. As details get finalized, we will provide more information on the website.
We are committed to ongoing education and providing local and national resources for our Convention attendees. We will also continue to monitor the situation for other potential challenges for our attendees.