The Hero blog post - by Daniel L. O'Neil

by News Editor
in Blog
on 16 November 2015
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How did I come to be a spokesman for Houston Unites Yes on Prop 1 to defend the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (“HERO”) leading up to the vote on November 3, 2015? 

Youtube Commercial Clip - Houston Equal Rights Ordinance



My parents raised me to use my education and experience to help people, rather than hurt them. That is one of my important values as a person that lives in this community. As one example of this: I use my law degrees and bar card to provide pro bono legal assistance for eligible clients. I also volunteer my time in other ways to support local causes I believe in. Which is where this story begins: I serve as an advisory board member of the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit (“TTNS”).


TTNS is a Texas nonprofit that fosters conversations in academia about adopting inclusive policies regarding gender identity and expression. One of my fellow board members, a trans* man, was approached by the Houston Unites campaign to appear on camera for filmed commercials and print media. He needed a cisgender male to appear alongside him. At our board meeting he asked me if I would be willing to appear on camera and in print alongside him – of course I agreed because I was a visible and unwavering supporter of HERO.


In 2014 I had spent extensive time trying to educate Houstonians the first time the HERO conversation rolled around and it was dubbed “the bathroom ordinance” by the detractors that had a clearly obvious bias and advertising money to fund their aggressive agenda. My brother had spent much of his own time at City Council meetings and advocating for HERO in the community as well. By the time I was approached in 2015 about the commercials I was still attempting to educate people in the community about the 15 enumerated classes and dispel the “bathroom ordinance” rumors that were clearly (and only) based on animus, not on facts or any form of sensible logic.


We filmed for an entire afternoon over at Legacy Community Health’s shiny and impressive new office building over on California near Catbirds. We had what I considered to be great footage based on a warm rapport between local businessmen. We also had over an hour of still photographs taken both inside and outside. None of this actually got used though. The entirety of our involvement in commercials and print media (as far as I know) was edited down to the brief half-second of our stern looking glances in this one commercial.


We lost the vote on November 3 which was a huge setback for civil rights and tolerance in the year 2015, coming only shortly after the watershed event we witnessed in Obergefell v. Hodges. However, our fight is not over in Houston. And while some of the anti-HERO advertisements were extremely ugly and flatly wrong, it did give the rest of the community an opportunity to speak up and demonstrate that the trans* community has numerous friends and allies of all backgrounds.


One friend and ally for the GLBTI community that you can always count on is Frye, Oaks, and Benavidez PLLC.