On Thursday, Oct. 11, the Montrose Center held its annual Out for Good Dinner in celebration of National Coming Out Day and the Center’s 40th anniversary. This year’s dinner was the largest in Center history, raising more than $225,000 with 550 guests in attendance. The funds will ensure that the Center continues providing vital services to Houston’s LGBTQ community, as it has since 1978 to more than 100,000 Houstonians.
The Center presented the 2018 LGBTQ Community Vision Award to District Attorney Kim K. Ogg for her advocacy, vision and tireless work on behalf of the LGBTQ community. Ogg represents more constituents than any other openly LGBTQ law enforcement official in the nation. Equal protection for the LGBTQ community in criminal law has been important to her since she witnessed, as a young lawyer in the special-crimes unit, the aftermath of the Montrose murder of Paul Broussard in 1991.
Houston has come a long way since the murder of Paul Broussard. However, in the last 18 months the tides have turned. The LGBTQ national group, GLAAD, reports for the first time in history, a drop in the rate of acceptance of LGBTQ people and a significant national increase in discrimination and hate crimes faced by people in the LGBTQ community. According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), Texas led the United States in hate-related homicides against LGBTQ people, which jumped nationally by 86 percent from 2016 to 2017. Eight LGBTQ Texans were murdered this year, including three in Houston.
This phenomenon has been building for years. Its first indication was Houston’s failure to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in 2015; the transphobic bathroom campaign that has been modeled nationally.
“Coming out is revolutionary in itself,” Ogg said in her speech. “That’s why I’m so proud to be here tonight among such a wonderful group of people. There’s something revolutionary about everyone in this room.”
The event was hosted by emcee Deborah Duncan and event chairs Linda Arnold and Lynn Schwartzenburg, Heath LaPray and Travis Torrence and David Ramirez. Speakers included board president Gretchen Myers, Judge Steven Kirkland, Rylie Jefferson with Save Our Sisters United, Inc. and hate crime survivor, Chris Bradford.
Also in attendance were Miss Conception, Ben Dillon, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Judge Phyllis Frye, Council Member Robert Gallegos, Mark Jacobs and Shae Keefe-Jacobs, Nicholas Nguyen, County Attorney Vince Ryan, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Nancy Sims and Nate Ward.
Established in 1978 as a safe and affirming place for lesbian and gay Houstonians to receive counseling, the Montrose Center has emerged as one of the nation’s leading full-service LGBTQ centers. Although counseling remains at the heart of what The Center does, services have expanded to meet the changing needs of a diverse community. These services include substance abuse treatment, support and advocacy for LGBTQ survivors of violent crimes, care and assistance for people with HIV/AIDS, free community wellness programs and activities, and programs for our community’s most vulnerable and isolated — youth and seniors. The Center sits at the center of the LGBTQ community and serves as a gathering place for LGBTQ organizations and groups.
The Montrose Center is a United Way Agency.