Non-Discrimination Protections Are for Everybody

Lou Weaver was born in California and grew up in Colorado, but for the last 13 years, he’s been living in Houston.

As the Transgender Programs Coordinator at Equality Texas, Lou works each and every day to increase understanding of who transgender Texans are – and push forward in the fight to win non-discrimination protections for all LGBT people. “All Texans should have the right to equality,” he said. “All Texans should have the right to live their life to the betterment of the community. When we’re all able to be who we are, we all win.”

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“I don’t feel like anybody should face discrimination, we should have the exact same rights. No matter who I am or whom I love, it should not dictate that my life should be different than anybody else’s. Whether it’s going to school, going to work, whatever the case may be, I should not be judged differently based on a label someone has attached to me. So I look at it as non-discrimination is for everybody.”

This issue hits close to home for Lou, who as a transgender male, knows all too well that in the state of Texas, you can still be fired, denied housing or refused service, just because you are gay or transgender.

I’ve had friends who lost their jobs because they were out as transgender, myself and several friends have faced discrimination in health care.– Lou Weaver

“It’s rough knowing that my friends could be fired or not hired or that they could be kicked out of their houses [because of their sexual orientation or gender identity]. It’s encouraging that every day that at least we’re having conversations whether businesses will open their minds to hiring trans people. I have a dream job, I am very privileged because I have a roof over my head and food in my refrigerator, and everything is pretty OK for me. But not everyone has that ability. And I want them to have that, too.”

The discrimination levied at gay and transgender Texans is no joke, Lou explains.

“I’ve had friends who lost their jobs because they were out as transgender, myself and several friends have faced discrimination in health care.”

In fact, Lou has multiple harrowing tales of discrimination, stories that he says would keep you up at night.

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“It’s rough when I see it face-to-face. And I tell people, these are not stories in a book. This is my life, I’ve watched these things happen. This is reality for me, my friends and my community. I live in the fourth largest city in the United States. I live next to one of the world’s largest medical centers and I watch people face discrimination and not receiving the healthcare they need. There’s something very wrong with that and our non-discrimination policies need to reflect that. When someone can’t get a job because they’re trans or because they love somebody that someone else doesn’t approve of, this isn’t fair.”

Lou goes into detail of two instances when friends of his were denied health care, because of their gender identity.

The first instance was a female friend who had just had heart surgery two weeks before. At the strong urging of doctors, Lou took his friend to the emergency room in order to receive critically necessary tests. But because Lou’s friend was transgender, they sat in an empty emergency waiting room for more than 5 hours, because the doctor on call did not want to treat her.

“A nurse snuck her into a room to get a test because a doctor refused to see her.”

But that wouldn’t be the only time Lou would see this sort of discrimination directed towards a transgender friend in the emergency room.

“A friend of mine went to a hospital in Houston a little over a year ago. When the doctor looked at him and realized he was a transgender man, the doctor said ‘I’m not going to see this’ and the doctor turned around and left the room. Only the nurse would come in and take care of my friend.”

“When you have emergency room visits where people are not given access to the care they need, the care they deserve… these are people who have take an oath to take care of someone else who are taking their personal preferences and putting it above everybody else. We need to be able to care for these people.  We need to say this is your job to care for these people.”

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Lou describes in further detail the crippling impact on the health and wellbeing of transgender people when they are not protected under the law.

“So many people in my community, they’re afraid… I know people who won’t get health care because they’re not sure that they’ll be treated well, so they just don’t go. That’s not a safe place to be when they need care.”

But despite the real dangers he and other hardworking transgender people in states with no explicit non-discrimination protections face, Lou is determined to stay in the Lone Star State and fight.

“The reason I would not leave my state is because if I stay and fight, it’s better than if I leave. I want to continue to add my voice to this.”

He continues, “It’s rough sometimes. I wonder am I going to be OK, am I going to be safe, am I going to have adequate health care? Instead of running away from it, we’re trying to find ways to make it better. We’re staying here to make sure we are afforded the basic freedoms and protections all people need.”

In fact, Lou argues, staying in Texas and fighting to stop discrimination is as American as apple pie.

“One of the most forefront American values is equality. This is the land of opportunity. We should be able to be who we are and accomplish things based on our ability to get things done, our ability to want to work, our ability to want to be involved. That’s what American values are, right? Baseball, apple pie, and Chevy.” Lou quips. “No I’m just kidding. But it’s all about the things we have—our families. What do our families mean to us? Not being denied access to our families in times of medical crisis and having our families around us. If we’re talking about gatherings, being able to go out and being seen as a valid part of our community. It’s really important that we’re seen as people. Not being ostracized. It’s really important that we’re all seen as people. And that’s what America is all about.”

That’s why, when Houston recently passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), Lou describes it as one of the best days of his life.

“May 28th was one of the best days of my life. Being in the room and hearing all the yes votes and the feeling of pride of those who fought for it, who sat through hours and hours of testimony. The City Council did the right thing and voted on the right side of history.”

“It said that all Houstonians—including transgender people—are a part of Houston. We’re not second-class citizens. Our lives matter, we’re valuable. It shows that Houston is the first-class city that it wants to be, that it is. That we are leading in so many areas of growth and business. It says to the world that we have to make sure that we’re taking care of everybody, not just a select few.”

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Lou knows that for many people, their unfamiliarity with the trans community is why discrimination is still so widespread in our state. But Lou is optimistic and believes that the more we learn about each other, the more we can grow to accept one another.

Once more and more transgender people come out and are able to have these conversations.. then other people will begin to understand that transgender people aren’t that much different than them. We fear the unknown. If we don’t know something or someone then it’s easier to be uncomfortable.– Lou Weaver

He explains, “Seventy-eight percent of the population knows an out gay or lesbian person but only 7 percent know a transgender person. That changes the narrative. When I was growing up, we didn’t know a gay or lesbian person so it was easy to be uncomfortable with them. But now there’s a gay or lesbian person in your life, whether it’s in your family or your place of work or your friend and it’s harder to support discrimination against someone when you have a face on that. Once more and more transgender people come out and are able to have these conversations.. then other people will begin to understand that transgender people aren’t that much different than them. We fear the unknown. If we don’t know something or someone then it’s easier to be uncomfortable.”

To those who may be unfamiliar with transgender people, Lou has one thing to say:

“Sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. Let’s have lunch and talk about this. What are we afraid of? We’re all God’s children, we’re all members of somebody’s family. I am somebody’s son, somebody’s brother. I am somebody’s friend. So are all my friends. Let’s not cut off our noses to spite our face. Who are we? And how can we be friends and contribute to each others’ lives?”

To fight for a state and a nation where we are all equal, where we can all live free from discrimination, to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—this is what continues to drive Lou. It’s why he loves his adopted hometown of Houston. It’s why he has remained committed to the fight.

Sit down and have a cup of coffee with me. Let’s have lunch and talk about this. What are we afraid of? We’re all God’s children, we’re all members of somebody’s family.– Lou Weaver

“In Texas, everything is bigger. Someone drew a line in the sand a long time ago and said are you with me or not? That’s what being a Texan is about. We stand here and we fight for our rights. We fight for our freedom and it’s important that when we fight for this we fight for everybody. That we’re all in this together.”


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