Yesterday I was privileged to watch two extraordinary leaders in action here in Mexico City at the 2022 LGBTQ+ Cumbre De La Unidad Conference organized by SA based Angeles Valenciano, leader of the National Diversity Counsel. Angeles Valenciano and her team organized a first class, substantive forum where Mexican Corporate leaders from companies like American Express discussed the challenges and opportunities that face the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace.
Bexar County Judge Rosie Gonzalez Speedlin delivered a thoughtful, scholarly, powerful, uplifting keynote address that brought chills and tears to those who witnessed it live … it resulted in a standing ovation that included the Hon. Maria Salas Mendoza, the Hon. Gina Benavidez & husband Sam, I am sure the several thousand attending virtually were just as struck.
Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez’s remarks revealed how her upraising by two extraordinary, loving parents at a US-Mexico border town gave her the solid core of principles and values upon which she courageously became the formidable, unflappable, lawyer, Judge and social justice advocate of today. Judge Gonzalez has become.. not only an LGBTQ+ advocate (although that would be good enough) but an advocate for criminal legal justice reform, human rights and the “equally for all” envisioned by the founders of the United States.
As I listened to her speak, I knew I was watching a leader of substance that is making a difference of historic proportions. I’m so blessed to have her as my friend and I look forward to continuing supporting her every move! I am including in this post the full text of her remarks and I hope to soon have the full video of her remarks which were delivered in impecable spanish. I will post that as well.
The following is the full text of her remarks.I invite you to read the remarks. Raise a glass and say, “Here’s to you Judge Gonzalez Speedlin … you make us proud!”
Last night and after the conference, I hosted a small reception at La Fonda Del Recuerdo (gracias to owner Leo) the Judge, her colleagues, Angeles, the Diversity Council team and some of my CDMX friends including Antonio Guerrero Barrón, Lourdes Almeida, Anthony Toffoli, Jr., Oscar Ache Cerón and Lupita (Gualu Gualu) and Santiago from USHCC!
2022 MEXICO PRIDE UNITES: CUMBRE de la UNIDAD
“Reavivar la alianza a traves de la unidad, la equidad y la inclusion”
Delivered by the Honorable Rosie Gonzalez Speedlin, June 16, 2022
The Marriott-Reforma, CDMX
“First and foremost, I need to thank the Global Diversity Council, the National Diversity Council and Angeles Valenciano for the opportunity given to me to address you and speak to you today.
In the words of one of my favorite Tejano singers, Selena Quintanilla, “estoy muy excited” to join you here today.
I come before you today as the daughter of a very proud and patriotic Mexican father, Raul Gonzalez Rios, of Linares, Nuevo Leon. I am also the daughter of a very proud and patriotic mother, Maria Alicia G. Gonzalez of El Calaboz, Texas (a small, farming community located near the banks of the Rio Grande River in South Texas. I want to make sure that you as my audience this morning know who I am and where I come from, my history and my roots. It is imperative that you understand where I come from and how far I have traveled in my life’s journey to be who I am before you today. It is also most important that you join me as we review where my LGBT brethren has been, where we find ourselves today and where we want to be in the years and decades to come.
My parents’ romance began in the 1950s in Brownsville, Texas. They met at the KRESS Five & Dime that was located near the International Bridge. My mother worked the Fountain Counter as a Soda Jerk, serving Drinks, Shakes, and other small, quick meals, and my father would cross over the bridge from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, where he worked as an Aduanal for the Mexican Customs Department & Government. As they told it, he would come over on a regular basis to order, “Un hodog y una Coca-Cola”, a hotdog and a Coke. They soon began to date and after 7 years of dating, yes 7 years, they married. I was their 2nd born. My older sister, Laura Alicia, was born in 1963 but died shortly after birth, succumbing to a congenital heart defect and complications of child birth, including a fractured skull sustained by the use of forceps by the attending physician. I came into the world in the middle of a cultural revolution. War was afoot, music was defining a new generation, protests in the streets and on college campuses demanded peace, civil rights, women’s rights and the fight for LGBT rights was taking hold. My parents were quintessential lounge lizards, readers of books, magazines and newspapers, watchers of color television. They devoured all things that were defining progress and change, yet seemed trapped by traditional expectations and definitions that lingered close by. Despite their conflicts, they raised me and my brother with an abundance of unconditional love and generosity. My Dad exposed us to every culinary dish he could cook or bring home and music from Pedro Infante y Los Cadetes de Linares to Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington. He was a proud Mexicano, a Mexicano hasta sus meras cachas. My Mom strongly identified as a post WW II American, not Mexican-American, but American. She liked Perry Como and Glen Campbell, and watched Bewitched and I Love Lucy. Mom pushed us to excel academically and in any area we showed an interest in. She pursued her college education once she reached her early 40s, and by the time I reached high school she earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master’s Degree in Education and Counseling. She would often say to people that she could not set high educational expectations of her children if did not set the example for us to see manifest in her. My childhood and adolescence are filled with memories of summer vacations, hanging at the pools at a local country club and the Elks Lodge, piano lessons, golf lessons, art lessons, playing a variety of sports, and staying busy with just about every activity my Mother could get us involved with. I remember eating Cabrito fritada and Barbacoa, and also hams and turkey on holidays. Watching Birutas y Capulina and La India Maria, but also watching Sonny and Cher and All in the Family. My Dad insisted on us speaking perfect Spanish, while Mom insisted I watch Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather on the evening news to learn perfect English because speaking English without an accent was the key to succeeding in America.
I don’t recall any conversations or discussions related to homosexuality, or gayness. Although there were some mentions of women in our orbit who were “companeras”.
My coming out process, because as any gay person will tell you, it is a process that began while I was in college.
Looking back it seems like the process is never ending. I am sure many of you would agree. I can tell you that by the time I returned to attend law school at the age of 33, it was still not safe to be “OUT” and not fear for your safety, fear ridicule, fear being ostracized, but by the time I graduated from law school in 2001, I was ready to get rid of all my skirts and dresses, and pumps, and replaced them with stylish pant suits and cowboy boots. My goal was to become the best in my profession, and my hope was that I would be so good that my LGBTQIA status would be irrelevant to those who sought me out to retain me as their lawyer. My practice developed into one in which I represented families, grandparents, children, children in foster care and individuals who needed a zealous advocate to represent them in their custody dispute, divorces, in mental health and drug courts and in the Child Protective Services system. In 2014, I became board certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist by the National Association of Counsel for Children, and was the only board certified Specialist in this category in Bexar County and all of South Texas. And in 2018, I was elected to sit as the Judge that presides over Bexar County Court at Law No. 13, a misdemeanor level Domestic Violence Court that sits in San Antonio, Texas. I want to be clear that I was not the 1st gay judge to sit on the bench in my jurisdiction, but I was the 1st, and remain the only OUT, LGBTQIA Judge to be elected as an out and proud candidate, and I did it by standing on the shoulders of my predecessor brethren who served but could not serve as their authentic selves for fear of harm & fear of attempts to shame them and fear of being attacked, not for their work but for who they were. My victory ion 2018 opened the door for future LGBTQIA candidates to run for office the fears once held by our predecessors. This year, during our primary elections, you could find 8 LGBTQIA candidates running for public office. Many prevailed, but not all came away victorious, including one that I drew as my opponent. To him I say, ‘Quien te manda?” But today, I am proud to report that San Antonio and Bexar County is home to a gay councilman, Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez who represents City Council District 2, myself and a handful of LGBTQIA candidates that will be on the ballot running for public office in November.
I can tell you that I believe that we cannot move forward in the LGBTQIA arena without understanding our past.
Our past includes being called names such as Faggot and Queer.
Our past includes a belief that being LGBTQIA was and is a voluntary choice.
Our past includes attempts to shame us and guilt us into conforming to what others wanted of us.
Our past included laws that criminalized our identities and the choice to love who we desired to love.
Our past includes an onslaught of religious groups judging us as immoral and sinners.
Our past includes a legal system that would require our arrest if found to engage in illegal LGBTQIA behavior because we were deemed deviants who required punishment.
Our past includes employment practices that led to us being fired from our jobs and becoming unemployed if it was discovered we were LGBTQIA.
Our past includes practices by doctors and therapists who diagnosed us as sexual deviants with mental disorders and subjected us to electro-shock therapy, hormonal shock therapy, genital mutilation, Aversion and Conversion therapy,
Our past includes daily experiences of being called Joto, Maricon, Manflora y Marimacha.
Our past includes the knowledge that being caught living as a LGBTQIA person meant joblessness, homelessness, ostracization, oppression and even suicide.
Today we live in a different world. But maybe not so different. On June 15, 2020 in the United States our Us Supreme Court ordered federal protections against discrimination based on Gender and Sexuality. Regardless, we still live in a Twilight Zone that pushes the boundaries toward progress but is still rooted in outdated perceptions about the LGBTQIA community with the same consequences of our predecessors. And, although we have come a long way on our journey to affirmation, equality and the right to live authentically, we still have a long way to go to our desired destination.
Despite progress made there still exist misconceptions about LGBTQIA community at present. A recent survey completed by LGBTQIA leaders that asked what the biggest misconceptions were about our community were the following answers we submitted:
We are drama magnets
We have a defect in
character and mind
We are unreliable
We are morally corrupt
We are lesser than
and don’t measure up
We are dishonest
We are promiscuous
We are troublemakers
We are a Monolithic group
We only need support from family, friends and allies during PRIDE month, not year round
And although I cannot say none of this is true, what I can tell you is that it is no truer for the LGBTQIA community than for any other community
We are no more disturbed than heterosexuals.
We are no more immoral than
We are no more depressed and anxious than heterosexuals.
We are just as poor and as wealthy.
We are just as intelligent and successful.
And if I am honest with you today, I believe we are better looking and better dressed.
So by now you may be asking, “What can we do to improve the quality of life for our LGBTQIA community?”
Our future together must include an effort to move from individualized and independent acceptance to an overall, societal inclusion without fear.
We must plant that seed of unconditional inclusion and love within yourself, your families, within your network of friends and among professional colleagues.
Do not treat is us as different, rather treat us as equals and see us as worthy of everything you are worthy of.
Employers must commit to systemic change, and move forward from solely offering lip service
Employers can no longer see our LGBTQIA community as a checkbox and not a demographic to invest in, but see us as a true asset that makes the fabric of our diverse communities that much stronger.
We must eliminate this discussion from political arenas, and limit such views to religious sources where those views are engrained and tied to religious views of sinfulness, a moral view.
Mexico has long been a visionary and leader on all levels and arenas in the history of civilization. While people in northern Africa were nomads sustaining themselves as hunters and gatherers, the Aztec, Olmec, Mayan and other Mesoamerican cultures were perfecting their hieroglyphic writings, creating calendars, calculating complex mathematical formulas and tracking the movement of our planet, stars and galaxies as advanced civilizations. Our ancestors were designing aquaducts, canals, bridges and roads and using sophisticated hydroponic agriculture to feed their masses before the Romans even lifted a spear.
Continuing in these traditions, same-sex relations were decriminalized in this part of the world as early as the 1870s. As a country, Mexico deemed same-sex unions unconstitutional and prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
You have welcomed equality movements, advocacy groups, conferences seeking equitable treatment of our people since the 1970s, even hosting the first PRIDE parade here in Mexico City in 1979.
Mexico and the United States must continue to work together to advance the humanitarian treatment of all our LGBTQIA brethren.
And, my brothers and sisters, if we can do that today, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year, and we do it consistently, then we will leave this world a much better place for our children than what was left for us.
Last, I will close with my favorite quote by Harvey Milk who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he was elected to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 — a milestone victory that made headlines around the world. His unapologetic proclamation of his identity gave new hope to LGBTQIA people, who faced severe discrimination:”
“It’s not my victory — it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.”