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News | June 29, 2020

DLA Troop Support holds first virtual event to mark LGBTQ Pride Month

By Nancy Benecki Public Affairs

The Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support welcomed the first gay person to serve as mayor of a major American city for its first virtual observation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer Pride Month.

Annise Parker is the former mayor of Houston and serves as both the president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and Victory Institute. These organizations work to increase the number of LGBTQ people in public office and provides programming, services and other support to help them succeed.

“We work with anyone who is openly LBGTQ, has the ability to succeed in politics, and has a plan for success,” Parker said.

There are about 850 LGBTQ people currently serving as elected officials in the U.S, and the Victory Institute is supporting about 300 of those candidates.

Army Brig. Gen. Gavin Lawrence, Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support Commander, welcomed Parker as the keynote speaker for this year’s virtual observance.

“Despite working remotely, it is still vital for us to come together and observe important events that celebrate our history and diversity,” Lawrence said.

This is the 20th year June has been observed as a federally-recognized month of pride.

Parker made history when she was elected as mayor of Houston, Texas in 2009, and is the second woman to ever be elected mayor of the city.

“Being mayor of my hometown was the greatest job I could possibly have,” Parker said. “The ability to shape the future of the city that shaped me was indescribable. But it took training, it took preparation, it took learning how to really look hard at who I was and what I could offer and what I needed to fix.”

The night Parker was elected mayor made worldwide headlines, Parker said. However it wasn’t as big of a deal in Houston because she already served the city as a council member and controller for three two-year terms in each role.

“The people of Houston weren’t surprised,” she said. “They already knew me and voted for me.”

Getting to the point of being comfortable with campaigning and learning those skills took some time, self-reflection, and hard work, Parker said.

Parker received training from the Victory Fund and hired a team of people with the skills she needed to be successful. She also evaluated her strengths and weaknesses, as an introverted person who is “painfully shy,” she had to work at overcoming social anxiety, she said.

Parker initially got involved with LGBTQ politics while attending Rice University in the 1970s, where some older members of the gay community introduced her to activism and the changes going on in the country.

After college, she went to work in the oil industry in Houston for 20 years, which was 80 percent of the city’s economy during the 1970s, she said.

“I had the belief that I could be an activist and do all of my political work on nights and weekends, and then put my business suit on during the day and go to work at the oil company and completely separate the two halves of my life,” she said. “That’s what you did in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.”

After realizing her passions were with her political work, she decided to run for office. She lost her first campaign for the Houston City Council in 1991, and a few years later, she ran and lost again.

Before winning her first election, she decided to take control of her image in the media.

Parker noticed that when she was mentioned in a news story, she was identified as a “gay activist” first, while her opponents were identified by their job titles. To change that, she said she collected all the news coverage from her first two races and met with the editorial boards of local news outlets.

“If you talk about what [my opponents] do as volunteers, it’s great,” Parker said about her meetings with local media. “Talk about what I do as a volunteer. If you talk about what they do for a living, talk about what I do for a living. All I want is to be treated fairly. And the coverage changed.”

After winning this election, Parker said she went on to win her next nine consecutive races in Houston.

Parker’s anecdotes of her career and contributions resonated with Lawrence’s message to the workforce.

“Treating everybody with dignity and respect is a part of our core values, and we do our best to embody those values every day,” Lawrence said. “I am so proud to work with such a diverse and dynamic workforce.”