Britt Kornmann isn’t only chairing April’s annual HRC Houston Gala for the second year, the Houston-born financial planner and LGBT advocate hopes you’ll invest your 2015 Grand Marshal vote with her.
In addition to holding local and national HRC responsibilities, Kornmann has led more than a dozen free financial planning seminars for Houston-based LGBT organizations. She also made community contributions to Houston’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, Transgender Unity Banquet and Out & Equal.
The only thing more decorated than Kornmann’s volunteer card might be her passport. She and wife Erin have visited five continents in the past four years.
With just over left to cast your vote, Project Q is talking to the grand marshal nominees to go beyond the nominee bios. We caught up with Kornmann to talk travel, HRC, and why quitting the Air Force Academy was the hardest decision she ever made.
When did your LGBT advocacy begin?
It started for me when I made the decision to leave the United States Air Force Academy mid-way through my freshman year. Becoming a pilot had been my dream and I thrived. But in the middle of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I was quickly coming to terms with who I was, and what military life would be like as a woman and gay.
Given the option to leave because of a sports-related injury, I decided to take it. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but all I could think of was that hopefully, another kid, smart as hell and wanting to serve their country, wouldn’t have to make the same decision I did.
As chair, what’s in store for this year’s HRC Houston Gala?
I’m very excited to be chairing HRC Houston’s 18th Annual Gala, held at the Westin Galleria on April 11. Dana Goldberg is our MC for the night, Ty Herndon is performing, and HRC President Chad Griffin will speak as well.
Celebrating the work that we’ve accomplished over the last year … there’s something to be said about spending an evening with 950 supporters of the LGBT community. It’s inspirational, emotional, and grounds you for the work ahead.
What would you say lies ahead for gay Houston?
Violence against the transgender community, bullying in schools, the resurgence of HIV/AIDS, underemployment/unemployment, the exportation of hate abroad, LGBT youth homelessness …
These issues are all too prevalent in our community. They remind me of how much work we still have to do to impact the lived experience of our LGBT brothers and sisters. We can’t leave any member of the community behind and our work does not stop with marriage.
Your volunteer card seems filled. Do you have any free time?
While free time may be limited, [my wife Erin and I] try to spend as much of it as possible with our puppy, Rogue. Outside of that, we both have a true love and appreciation for travel and try to do as much of it as possible.
We’ve been to 29 states and eight countries over five continents in the last four years and are already planning our next adventures to Morocco and Montreal this summer. I think travel is one of the biggest things that has shaped me and helped me grow. It teaches you to appreciate all people and cultures, to find joy outside of your comfort zone, and as you take in your surroundings you learn and grow every day.
Did you spend Thanksgiving in The Gambia in 2013?
Yes, my wife, Erin, lived in The Gambia for almost four years after college serving in the US Peace Corps. An incredibly important time in her life, one that shaped who she is and how she interacts with the world, she wanted to take me back to her village to meet her host family and gain first-hand experience as to how she spent her time there. I’m so thankful for it.
Unfortunately, the President of The Gambia, has enacted some extremely anti-gay legislation in the past few years and has started actively seeking out and prosecuting gay citizens. We would love to go back but are waiting for a leadership change so we can safely go visit.
You work with local organizations to provide financial planning services for LGBT people. Why?
In my professional life, I deal with the very real financial burdens and intricacies that LGBT couples face when denied the opportunity to get legally married. From account ownership to estate planning and adoption legalities, complexities surround every major financial decision a couple has to make and distract from the bigger decisions.
What moments in your advocacy stand out?
I was in DC the day that the oral arguments were heard for the Windsor and Perry cases. Erin and I were there, on the steps of the Supreme Court, with hundreds of people and it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. We were finally being heard.
Another has to be the day of the vote on the HERO trial. In DC for work, I’d been watching all of the emotional and incredible testimony remotely. When Councilmember Nguyen told the story of how his daughter told him to be brave, I just cried and celebrated as the vote came in and we won.
What would Grand Marshal mean to you?
Just being nominated for an award that Mayor Annise Parker, Marion Coleman and Phyllis Frye once won is truly an honor to me.
Looking back, do you have a favorite Pride memory?
Every year, Pride brings new memories and stories with friends. I think my favorite though was the first year I walked with HRC in the pride parade. To be there, and be in the parade…you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself and there’s and excitement and energy around it that’s contagious.