LGBT Profile: Houston Mayor Annise Parker

photo credit Eric Kayne via the Advocate

Advocate magazine gives us a profile piece on the woman who helped to write Houston’s successful anti-discrimination ordinance:

Parker’s résumé helps explain how she combines liberal social policies with fiscal conservatism. While gradually growing more prominent as a community activist, Parker spent 18 years working as a computer-savvy economic analyst for Mosbacher Energy, a Houston company controlled by a prominent Republican family. It was founded by Robert Mosbacher Sr., who was a close friend of President George H. W. Bush, served as U.S. secretary of commerce, and was a major GOP fundraiser.

After Mosbacher’s death in 2010, Parker told the Houston Chronicle that she admired

his leadership style. “He had a profound influence on me. He made it clear he knew something about me personally. He felt it important to make that connection to people. It was good for business and it made the office run more smoothly,” she said. “I also learned you never fall in love with a deal. The numbers always have to make sense. That is a value I absorbed there and have tried to take into government.” But government and elections are distinct matters.

“If people thought that conservatives would hold her sexuality against her, they’ve demonstrated that they haven’t,” says Mustafa Tameez, a Houston-based political strategist who worked with Parker on an ordinance to curb payday lending firms.

“It doesn’t mean that every conservative is OK with it, but enough [voted] to get her elected in a fairly good margin in parts of town that people would have said were not winnable for her. She’s done that because she has demonstrated that she can do the job and, at the end of the day, most people that are reasonable are judging others on their ability to get the job done, more so now than ever before,” Tameez says.

When she was first elected to the city council in 1997, after two unsuccessful runs, Parker was deliberately frank about her sexuality, turning it into an asset, or at least neutralizing it.

“You have to know who you are and be comfortable with who you are before you enter a political race,” Parker says. “I talk to potential GLBT candidates and they’ll say things like, ‘My sexual orientation is nobody’s business. My sexual orientation is not going to be a subject of the campaign, and I’m just not going to talk about it.’ I’m sorry, that’s not a good enough answer. The worst thing is for anybody to feel that you’re hiding something or there’s something that you’re ashamed of addressing in your past. “It’s an inoculation technique. Because I had been out, my assumption everywhere I went was everybody knows I’m a lesbian, because I was a public spokesperson for the GLBT community, past president of the gay and lesbian political caucus — I put that on every printed piece of literature we had as part of my political résumé,” she says.

“There was never an opportunity for someone to say, ‘Do you know she’s a lesbian?’ Well, duh.

Read the full article

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