SXSW Panelists Talk LGBTQ+ Activism and Power

left to right – Robin Maril, Charlotte Clymer, Ricardo Martinez, and moderator Imara Jones, CEO of nonprofit news organization TransLash (Photo by Naina Srivastava)

During the 2023 Texas legislative session’s peak, thousands showed up at the Capitol to “defend their humanity and the rights of LGBTQ people,” said Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, an organization that advocates for the state’s LGBTQ+ community.

In 2015, there were 12 anti-LGBTQ bills filed in Texas. By 2023, that number had jumped to 140. But, there’s hope, Martinez said. “I know that, especially for those of you that are not residents of Texas, it might not internalize that there are people here that are fighting constantly,” Martinez said at a SXSW panel. “Texas is counted out so frequently but the reality is there are thousands of people who are working to protect our democracy.”

Charlotte Clymer, founder of Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, worked at the Human Rights Campaign during the Trump Administration. She said the administration was more reserved about their goals in targeting the LGBTQ+ community at the time. “They weren’t so open about wanting to do what they did,” Clyner said. “The big difference now is they are very much saying the quiet part out loud. They are not being shy at all about what they want to do.”

Robin Maril, an assistant professor of law at Willamette University, said the Republican party is using fear and exploiting pre-existing hate to implement policy. She said one of the most radical actions individuals can do is to be themselves. “That is an action that we can take every day,” Maril said. “And for those folks like in my home state of Oklahoma where it is not safe to come out, I think part of it is still holding on to what makes you you”

Clyner said she personally believes the Supreme Court, which has become more conservative in recent years, will soon overturn LGBTQ+ people’s federal rights to marriage and employment protections. However, she believes the nation will achieve equality in time. “Time is on our side,” Clyner said. “It’s really bad right now but the fight we’re having is whether equality will be achieved 20 years from now, or if it’s going to be achieved 40 years from now, or 60 years from now. It’s inevitable. It’s coming. We’re just going to have to go through a lot of pain and struggle to get there.”

Defending Democracy: LGBTQ Activism and Power in 2024

Government and Civic Engagement Track

Saturday, March 9,11:30am, Hilton Austin Downtown, Salon A

Catch up with all of The Austin Chronicle‘s SXSW 2024 coverage.