Through television and testimony, Fran Watson’s front-line support of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is only one reason she’s part of an inspired pack of heroes hoping for your Grand Marshal vote.
By day, Watson (photos) works as a licensed attorney. At night and on weekends, her extensive community involvement with several organizations includes a term as Board President for LGBTQ-inclusive homeless youth agency Montrose Grace Place and volunteer coordinator for the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
With only three and a half weeks left to vote for your 2015 Houston Pride Grand Marshals before the April 1 deadline, Project Q goes beyond the nominee bios to chat with the nominees. First up, we caught up with Watson about her inspirations, her first Pride memory and why the Houston LGBTQ community is her HERO.
What prompted you to study law?
In college, I read a book on people, particularly black men, wrongfully convicted of rape, and it wasn’t until lawyers advocated for DNA testing that the wrongful convictions were overturned. At that moment, I knew I wanted to stand up for those who needed an advocate. Becoming a lawyer was the path I chose to become that advocate.
At what point did LGBT equality become important to you?
I think my LGBTQ advocacy started during my work in the church. I did not grow up hearing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from the pulpit, because I did not attend church regularly. However, when I worked in ministry, I encountered many people who were hurt and rejected by the church. That prompted me to want to do more … I believe my life is one of service and I will do my part, as small or large as it may be, to fight injustice, working alongside my friends and colleagues who believe in equality too.
What memories stand out most in your advocacy?
I was working in ministry at a church here in Houston, and I performed a night of poetry. Some of my pieces focused on how God loves us all because God is not exclusionary of Gay Christians. Following the performance, a woman came up to me who was dealing with many issues, and we had a dialogue on how she struggled with being gay and Christian, but my pieces spoke to her in a way that was encouraging and life-changing for her.
What stands out most about your experience advocating for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance?
Watching my community, the LGBTQ community, come together to talk about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. People poured out their hearts to City Hall officials as the nation watched. Even when those who opposed the ordinance would say hurtful and disheartening statements, our community kept going and the momentum and mood in City Hall was energizing. When the Mayor announced its passage on May 28, 2014, and the room erupted in celebration. It was a sight to see. As exhausted as we were, nobody could take that moment away.
Assuming a favorable SCOTUS decision, what would you earmark as the next issues the LGBT community should prioritize?
We need to put inclusive policies, procedures, and protections in place for LGBTQ people. By focusing on non-discrimination and other inclusive policy initiatives, we can find ways to change the harsh realities of LGBTQ poverty such as high unemployment rates for transgender people, particularly, trans* people of color.
Additionally, the lack of inclusive polices with respect to social services for LGBTQ people is a harsh reality. Unfortunately, some of the community’s most vulnerable people, like LGBTQ homeless youth, feel the brunt of this exclusion.
Why is Pride important?
Pride is LGBTQ Thanksgiving. It is a time when the family comes together to celebrate with each other – glitter, feathers, and all. We are thankful that we are able to celebrate, and we are excited to be celebrated.
What would Grand Marshal mean to you?
Being selected Houston Pride Grand Marshal for the fourth largest Pride celebration would give me an even greater reach. I can use this large platform to talk about issues that affect our community – a marginalized community that contains some very vulnerable sub-communities. Having the opportunity to do interviews such as this has already given me a platform to share information on great organizations such as Montrose Grace Place, Stonewall Law Association, and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
Looking back, do you have a favorite Houston Pride memory?
I was 18, working at the Wendy’s on Westheimer near Commonwealth, not even out to myself yet. I remember going on break and my co-workers asked me to go watch the Pride parade with them. It was a new and eye-opening experience. There was so much happening in the Montrose area that day. There were drag queens dancing on Mary’s roof and people in “special” chaps who forgot to sunscreen their “special” places. It was amazing, and I knew I belonged.
What is something very few people know about you they might find surprising?
First, for quite a few years, I played bass clarinet. I was in all-city band, and I won medals at solo and ensemble. Also, I smoked for over 10 years, and it took me five weeks to quit. It has been eight years since my last cigarette.
Finally, you are a born and raised Houstonian – what is Houston’s best-kept secret?
Bohemeo’s on Telephone Road. Their chai latte is delicious.
Also, when driving through Memorial Park, I see hundreds of people running on the three-mile loop, but I like the hidden hiking trails near the football field. They’re very quiet, only an occasional mountain biker, and a great place to think.
Meet all seven Houston Pride Grand Marshal nominees and vote for them through April 1.