ACCENT Media’s Digital Editor, Foster Milburn, interviews Maxine LaQueene in efforts to advocate against anti-trans laws. Watch Foster and Maxine discuss topics on human rights, the reality of being trans in Texas, the disenfranchisement and abuse that has befallen the trans community, and what we can do at Austin Community College to remain level-headed in today’s highly polarized society.
The 88th legislative session started on January 10 and concludes on May 29, 2023. This term sparked a sense of fear amongst LGBTQ Texans as there are more anti-LGBTQ bills than in previous sessions.
by Foster Milburn
On March 20, 2023, Texans from across the state gathered near the south side of the capitol. The goal: to use the mere presence of the community to push back on bills that directly impact the lives of LGBTQ Texans.
National and regional equality groups organized the day in a routine schedule to train and create positive energy amongst attendees. Equality Texas, GLAAD, Texas Freedom Network, Transgender Education Network of Texas, and ACLU were the backbone of the event.
Allies are a crucial part of the LGBTQIA community. “This is a joint effort of the all-in for equality coalition – it’s great to come together with allies,” Communications Director at Equality Texas Jonathan Gooch said. In support of that, Equality Texas provided advocates transportation directly to the training site at the First United Methodist Church of Austin.
Around noon, advocates marched to the capitol building and stopped to gather on the south side. Ricardo Martinez, the CEO of Equality Texas, gave an energetic opening speech. Following his speech, he introduced Cynthia Lee Fontaine, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” television show contestant from season eight and a Texan themselves. Cynthia performed directly in front of the capitol building as a direct visual protest of SB 12, the bill that defunds public libraries holding drag story hours and outlaws any public display of drag.
The bill uses vague language directed at any cisgender person portraying the opposite gender publicly. This leaves out all of the cisgender women and non-binary people who perform drag as well. The language of the bill suggests that the law could be used to target transgender people.
When asked about some of the primary goals for the day, Gooch said, “I look forward to spending some time with community members, celebrating, sharing some queer joy, and showing Texas lawmakers that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re going to be around for a while.”
After several speeches from transgender college students, equality groups, and other advocates from the community, the crowd lined up to enter the capitol building. Five groups were assigned three different Texas representatives to discuss what bills were wrong and which ones they should support instead.
Josh Tutt, the President of the Pride Community Center in College Station, said, “I was not surprised that we only got to speak with staffers during our office visits and not directly with the elected officials. I was also not surprised that they were, for the most part, unwilling to commit to supporting the bills we were lobbying for.” Each staff member said the representatives were already on the house floor despite once the advocates entered the capitol building.
Another important event was the inspiring speech given by Jonathan Van Ness, a native Texan from the “Queer Eye” series, to Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas. As the legislative session unfolds, LGBTQIA Texans have shown that a whole group of marginalized people exists in Texas and are not going away.
On paper, it looks like the entirety of the legislative body is against the LGBTQ+ community; however, the high number of good bills is equal to the number of bad ones, which is crucial to acknowledge.
“We know Texans are generally becoming more supportive of LGBTQ equality,” Gooch said. Why these bills increase each legislative session continues to be questioned following marriage equality not even a decade ago. “As far as I can tell, this is a result of primaries – politicians playing to their primary voters – this tiny group of voters having an outside impact on what bills pass,” Gooch said.
There are Representatives in the legislative body that support bills that favor the LGBTQ population. They refer to bills that promote non-discrimination, mental health services for public education, and healthcare, such as prohibiting the coverage of conversion therapy on all healthcare plans.
The LGBTQ community is equally active in opposing anti-LGBT legislation as legislators who support it. Unfortunately, there is a wall that these bills have built up each legislative session, and the LGBTQ community in Texas is pushing back. This session represents the most visible display of a marginalized community claiming power against the harmful and incorrect stigma around not only queer expression, but the community’s very existence in this state.
Mental safety, as is dealing with trauma, is vital to creating a healthy workplace. Katharine Manning guides these topics for employees in the workforce.
by Foster Milburn
As students, we often question what to expect once we enter the workforce, particularly internships. The classes we take in undergrad help us contextualize topics in which we major, but extracurriculars can only prepare us so much for the workforce once we enter it. How can we know what we value in a workplace when we don’t know what it means to be part of a corporate environment?
You have probably seen some of her books regarding empathy in the workplace. She is an advocate for unheard voices, including those affected by the Pulse nightclub and South Carolina AME church shootings, and an attorney who guides the Justice Department through responding to trauma victims. She is Katharine Manning, and she is an author, professor, and attorney.
Through what she refers to as “The LASER Technique,” Manning offers a five-step process for a compassionate response to employees with trauma for managers and anyone overseeing a group of people in the workplace.
The first step is Listening, Manning advises, “don’t interrupt and don’t problem solve; just let [the employee] speak. Make room for that.”
The second step is Acknowledge – “it is straightforward: ‘I’m sorry,’ or, ‘that sounds difficult.’ It lets [the employee] know you heard them, and they are likely to listen to what you share next,” Manning said.
The third is Sharing information, “John F. Kennedy said in times of turbulence it is more accurate than ever that knowledge is power,” Manning said. “When we share, we get a little of that power back.”
Step four is Empower. This step is about recognizing that the person in trauma has their own journey to walk. She advises, “you must set boundaries for yourself, but within that, you can give [the employee] tools to take with them on that journey.”
For example, if the company offers mental health resources, share those with the cohort. Affirming boundaries while offering resources – such as 988– the U.S. new national hotline for suicide and mental health crises –creates a comfortable space for the individual while you guide them in the proper direction.
Step five – Return. By setting boundaries, you’re caring for your mental health while helping the individual facing trauma. It would help if you watched for yourself, and Manning’s advice for that is investing in self-care. “I do a little bit of yoga and meditation every morning. Just do something every day that gives back to yourself,” she said.
Affirming boundaries while offering resources – such as 988– the U.S. new national hotline for suicide and mental health crises –creates a comfortable space for the individual while you guide them in the proper direction.
This is how we respond, but next is making sure that the people that come to us in the first place are encouraged to do so. “People underestimate how valuable it is to check in on the people in our lives,” Manning said.
From highlighting common incidents such as workplace violence and employee safety, to recognizing needs and developing resources such as miscarriage leave, gender-affirming medical care, or domestic violence, sharing resources is vital. “Do you have these policies within your organization? If not, think about that,” Manning said.
This is the second pillar of trauma-informed workplaces. Manning advises, “make sure you’re getting input from those affected – don’t create a phenomenal gender-affirming care policy without first talking to transgender individuals.” The dormant items will not do anyone any good if they’re sitting on a shelf with no one discussing them.Her book, “The Empathetic Workplace,” describes other pillars in responding to trauma and distress amongst our coworkers and supervisors. Next month, she is launching a course diving deeper into making workplaces more empathetic, thus creating a healthier work environment for all employees. You can check out the website for more details.
The Texas Legislative session for 2023 began on Jan. 10 and runs through May 29, 2023. Republicans control both chambers. Some bills on the agenda threaten LGBTQ Texans and women’s reproductive rights.
by Foster Milburn
Every two years, Texas representatives meet for a consecutive 140-day period. The sessions include the discussion and passing of bills that affect all Texans. We, as Texans, vote for these representatives to represent us from all 150 Texas House districts across the state, but most people need to understand how these bills pass. Understanding this element is crucial as voting is more than just who is elected governor.
After a bill is passed in both the House and Senate, it is sent to the governor for signing. The last legislative session took place in 2021 and brought much attention to itself.
During this time, two bills passed directly affecting women and critical race theory, such as House Bill 1280 after the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the “critical race theory bill” that severely restricted the teaching of current and past events.
History won’t be erased, but we must learn and move forward from mistakes made and committed in the past. You can track these and more bills on the Equality Texas website, the official state LGBTQ advocacy organization.
This upcoming session will directly attack LGBTQ Texans with laws similar to the ones passed in 2021 that restrict transgender individuals and their access to essential healthcare such as hormone therapy.
In November 2022, Texas Representative Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) hired 22-year-old Jake Neidort as his office’s legislative director. Jake was a UNT student who advocated against transgender equality alongside his twin sister, who was seen in a TikTok video designing fliers, stating, “Criminalize Child Transitions.”
In 2021, videos emerged on social media showcasing the harassment of local drag queens in Dallas, Texas. One was of a man who was driven by a queen who had just left a family-friendly drag brunch held at Mr. Mister, located in Oaklawn. Protests and harassment followed suit. Protesters suggested that drag exposure to children is “abusive, pedophilic, and confuses children.” Dallas police showed up and helped those with children out of the area. A day to celebrate LGBTQ pride disrupted diversity with violence.
Now, in 2023, a bill on the agenda opens the discussion regarding children being in the presence of drag queens and LGBTQ culture in general. House Bill 643 states that any establishment, serving alcohol or not, would have to acquire a license that would require a registration fee and annual renewal. If a venue is found to violate this would be fined $4,000 and sentenced to a year in jail. In short, no more drag brunches for the inclusion of youth to be exposed to LGBTQ culture, even if family-friendly. This bill also brings up the fear of Pride festivals/parades becoming 21 years or older.
Pride parades are a time for all ages of the queer community and allies to celebrate diversity. It is a space where people come to feel safe to celebrate the queer community. This exposure is vital, especially for Texas youth, as being a minor can feel very isolating for younger queer people. I know this because that was me, as a native Texan.
Rain, a gay bar on 4th St., holds drag shows throughout the week. At Rain, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are 18 and up, according to Scott Percifull, a partner and general manager of Rain. “So there’s no opportunity for anyone under that age to get in,” he said, “it would be very challenging to enforce.”
The bill states that any business classified as a sexually oriented business would have to be a certain distance from any school or church in the area. When asked his thoughts, Percifull said, “It is restrictive. It is two steps shy of getting into private businesses and saying you can’t do that because we disagree with the culture.” Restrictions similar to HB 643, alongside other enforcements, foreshadow the hypocrisy as Texas is a state that dislikes rules concerning small businesses.
Parents assert that children should be able to make their own choices, yet when parents who do support the LGBTQ community want to expose their children to all things Pride, it’s wrong? Unfortunately, a brick wall divides the state of Texas into two sides. The side that wants to celebrate diversity and move to a more inclusive world, and the ones who want to bully the LGBTQ community out of the state.
The Health Sciences department at ACC has a profound reputation in Austin.
by Foster Milburn
Graphic by Claudia Hinojos
Health science students at Austin Community College are prepared for the fast-growing healthcare industry as the college offers a flexible education pathway, realistic hospital settings, and a high state pass rate.
A career as a registered nurse might be ideal for students who are driven to help others and are passionate about science.
Post COVID, the supply and demand for nurses has resulted in a shortage of nurses globally. With the high demand, the pay remains an appealing incentive for entering the work field.
According to Indeed, the average yearly salary for a registered nurse (RN) in Texas is $89,905; a well-paying salary in the field results from the long hours and the emotional pressure of being a nurse.
At ACC, students have a wide range of options in picking their major or starting a trade-specific program.
Professional nursing is different from other areas of study as it requires the student to apply and be accepted into the program, whereas other studies are open to students at any time. To be registered in this program, students are also expected to complete a series of prerequisites.
If a student is interested in nursing, they should go to the ACC website. Professor Abraham, an Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) level two professor, advises: “Definitely, the Health Sciences page is the best place to start.”
One thing to think about prior to considering nursing school is the complexity and dedication required. “What helps is having a realistic goal when starting nursing school,” Professor Abraham said.“Nursing school is a full-time job.”
That might raise the question of whether you can work outside the classroom to provide income for your living expenses beyond what you receive from loans. “Yes, you can. It will not be easy, but it is possible.” Christina Berger, a level II ADN Student at ACC and a mother of two, points out.
For many students, having a job while in school is necessary. An outside income is a requirement as some live independently or have children. Christina Knighton discussed working while being in the program. “I understand that it is reality, and we can’t not all work. Students have scaled back their hours to ensure they have more time for the program,” she said.
So, you might be wondering what other options are available. Knighton brings up the option of saving between semesters to have extra income during semesters. “This program is a full-time job,” she said.
With the disclaimers addressed, it would be best to meet with an advisor if a student is still interested in starting the program. It can be something other than Health Sciences, too.
Christina Knighton spoke about her personal experience with her advisor, “I started by speaking to my advisor, who gave me information about the prerequisites for the ADN program. She helped me stay on track and made sure I met the deadlines for application.”
The application process can be confusing for students navigating through the steps for the first time. It is much more information than other programs of study because it is specialized and more selective.
However, that does not mean there aren’t people to help you along the way. Because of having high standards going into the program, the resources continue beyond the application process.
“Once in the program, there are retention services available that can help with financial aid, study tips, and time management,” Knighton said.
Regarding the prerequisites, one might ask if they are beneficial to the courses they are required to take. For the professional nursing program, ADN, the associate degree plan requires four prerequisites. If taken subsequently, the classes can be completed in approximately three semesters.
“Pharmacology and Anatomy & Physiology give you the foundation for going into nursing school,” Knighton said. “When you have a deeper understanding of how the body works, it is easier to understand the disease processes you learn about once in the program.”
Secondly, the other requirement for applying for admission into the program is the HESI exam. The exam is a test that covers the material learned in the prerequisites where students are “tested on knowledge and how you would apply that knowledge in a clinical setting,” Knighton said.
The HESI Admission Assessment fee is currently at $62.00. The minimum passing score is 75 percent, and the test covers anatomy, physiology, math, reading, grammar, and critical thinking.
The HEXI exam varies in complexity. “Exposure to NCLEX style questions helps a lot when preparing for the HESI or nursing school exams in general,” Knighton said.
The NCLEX is the exam taken after completion of the program. “You can find them online, and there are many apps you can download for free,” Christina Berger said.
To conclude, it is best to speak directly with an advisor if one is considering the Nursing program or any other Health Sciences program. They can give you more personable advice while understanding your circumstances.
The nursing program here at ACC has an outstanding reputation within Texas and across the country. Austin American-Statesman presented the program with the 2020 Best of the Best Award on Jan. 11 of last year – an endowment worthy of what it offers.