Queer Voices

January 17th 2024 Queer Voices

January 17, 2024 Queer Voices
Queer Voices
January 17th 2024 Queer Voices
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Embark on a journey through the remarkable life of Fran Watson, a beacon of hope and an emblem of resilience, who has risen from personal adversity to become an out-candidate for a probate court judge. Her candid conversation with us illuminates the path from a GED to the heights of legal practice, showcasing the power of determination and compassion in her quest to serve Harris County. Fran's touching narrative about aiding a daughter to secure her father's guardianship is a testament to her dedication to justice, aiming to make a tangible difference from the bench.

Strap on your pointe shoes, as we pirouette into the whimsical realm of Felix Molinaro from the world-famous Le Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Laugh along as we uncover the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of mastering ballet drag, where the blend of humor and classical dance is an art form in its own right. With Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo en route to Houston, Felix gives us a twirl around the company's evolution and the unexpected ways pop culture gems like RuPaul's Drag Race have expanded their fanfare. 
Finally, we join Maria Elena Sandovici, the multilingual maestro whose tapestry of life experiences weaves together the worlds of art and literature. From the scholarly halls of political science to the creative sanctuary of Houston, Maria shares the evolution of her artistry and the intimate tales behind her book, "Magic Lessons for Margo".Surprises abound, including unexpected character developments and a sneak peek into her upcoming works. While celebrating strides in LGBTQ rights globally, we navigate through her stories and the profound impact of embracing one's true self.
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Speaker 1:

Hello everybody, this is Queer Voices, a home-produced podcast that has grown out of a radio show that's been on the air in Houston, texas, for several decades. This week, brian Levenka talks with Fran Watson, an out-candidate for probate court judge with an unusual background.

Speaker 2:

I lost my mother to substance abuse at age 14 and I ended up becoming the primary caretaker for my family, and because of this, I ended up missing many days of school and when I was 16, I was expelled from high school.

Speaker 1:

Brett Cullum talks with Felix Molinaro, a member of the all-male ballet troupe called Le Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo. The company is coming to Houston on January 23 as part of their 50th anniversary tour. Deborah Moncrief Bell has a conversation with Elena Sandović, who is a Houston resident and gallery owner, about her new book Magic Lessons for Margo.

Speaker 3:

No, my first book, I think, was in 2012. That's Dogs of Bagels. That's the New York City novel. Published several books ever since, but I think I really just became good at publishing and promoting and doing all that during the pandemic, really, so that was 2020. That was Storms of Malhado. It was my first Galveston novel.

Speaker 1:

And we have news wrap from this Way Out Queer Voices starts now.

Speaker 4:

This is Brian Levinca, and today, on Queer Voices, I have the honor of interviewing Fran Watson. Welcome to the show, fran.

Speaker 2:

Hello, how are y'all doing?

Speaker 4:

We're great. Now, fran, for people that may not know you, can you tell us your story, and what are you all about?

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. I'm Judge Fran Watson and I am a lawyer. I've been practicing law for 14 years. I've also been a judge for four years as an associate judge at the municipal court. My story getting to the legal profession is pretty nontraditional. I lost my mother to substance abuse at age 14 and I ended up becoming the primary caretaker for my family, and because of this I ended up missing many days of school. And when I was 16, I was expelled from high school. I was told that the state of Texas was no longer responsible for me. So it took me a long time to start moving forward. I worked fast food jobs, sometimes two jobs, and one day a manager kept telling me you have so much potential, you have so much potential and they told me you should become a manager. But I was living with so much shame because I didn't have a high school diploma. I didn't think I could be any more than this drive through cashier that I'd been doing for years. And then one day the manager confided in me and told me that I could get a GED and if I get a GED, then I could become a manager. So I studied late nights, I worked the night shift and then I'd get home and I would study for the GED. I ended up passing the GED and when I went to get my scores funny, I took the test at University of Houston downtown because, one, it was on the bus line and two, I did not think I'd ever be in college, so I thought it was a great way to be in college. And when I went to get my scores, the testing agent I'll never forget this the testing agent said your scores will qualify you for a scholarship. I didn't even know what she was talking about and she walked me over to the registration desk at University of Houston downtown and I was enrolled in college three months later and I ended up graduating from UHD with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with honors. I ended up going to law school and now I've been practicing today.

Speaker 4:

Why are you now running for this position of probate court? Five.

Speaker 2:

For me this would be professionally and as well as my role in public service. This is a seamless transition for me. I've been practicing law for 14 years. 11 years of that has been focused on probate and guardianship. I have earned the trust of the court, the probate court. I served as guardian and liatham. I've served as attorney and liatham. I've served as a mediator. I have been a special commissioner that has presided over condemnation cases and the work that I have done throughout this is just. I believe I can serve the people of Harris County in this position. Probating guardianship, knowledge of the Texas Estates Code, my judicial experience make me ready to serve the people of Harris County on day one and now I'm working as a staff attorney for the Honorable Judge in Probate Court two. So I already have this inside knowledge and I'm peering into how the courts run in the probate and guardianship arena area. And with this new court, thankfully Judge Stone has stepped in and has gotten the court up and running. But now we would need a presiding judge who would have that judicial experience, that knowledge of Texas Estates Code, probating guardianship law, and just ready to serve the community, and I believe that person is me.

Speaker 4:

What is the accomplishment that you're most proud of?

Speaker 2:

The accomplishment I'm most proud of is I had a guardianship case that a person came to me. They had talked to 12 attorneys and they were just trying to protect their father. Their father was being drained of all of their funds. He had undiagnosed mental health situations and she had went to so many different attorneys and she said every attorney told her that nothing could be done. They could not be done. It could not be done and I found a way. I used my knowledge of guardianship law and I was able to obtain temporary guardianship for this person's father, because all she wanted to do was protect her dad and I obtained the help to get a temporary guardianship. She was able to get her father into care. When she was able to get her father into care, we found that there were all these physical and mental health situations going on with him and all these diagnoses and he needed a guardian and his daughter just wanted to step in to do that. We were able to obtain permanent guardianship for him and because of this she was able to recover so much money. People had scammed him out of property, out of funds they had beaded as property. The people that it shouldn't have been done and so now we were able to reverse all of that, and now today she has moved to a different county and yet she has asked me to continue to serve as her attorney because I was there for her. One new other attorney that she spoke to would help her, and so for me that is an accomplishment, because the thing about it is, when we are doing probate and guardianship work, we are speaking for folks that are going through trauma, we're speaking for folks that cannot speak for themselves, and so if you have guidance and someone that will listen to you and use within the confines of the law to obtain that support and that help and that assistance needed, that to me is an accomplishment.

Speaker 4:

Talk about your community work and community involvement.

Speaker 2:

My community involvement runs deep and so proud. When I was coming, I didn't really come out as a lesbian publicly until I was probably 28 years old. I worked in some places where I was very conservative and I was so fearful of being outed. And there came a point, and that was during 2013,. It was during the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. The community had come together to seek fully realized equality here in Houston for the residents of Houston and in that moment I had started talking about the discrimination that I had faced. I had started talking about who I am and who I love. I've been already been with my wife for many years. At that point and in that moment I felt liberated and I started working on the Equal Rights Campaign and from there I just continued to work and my belief is that as a progressive movement, as a movement in general, we're talking about access, because my value lines and making sure that people have access. Then, from there, I would like I tell people I will build a strategic plan or I will sharpen a pencil. So I started. I started with working on hero. I was the vice president of our Stonewall Law Association in Greater Houston. I was a co founding attorney of the Trans Legal Aid Clinic. I was a member board member of the Houston LGBTQ plus political caucus. I ended up being the first black woman president of that organization. I was the president of Montrose Grace Police, which is an organization that focuses on providing space, safe space, for LGBTQ youth. I have done so much work and it's just for me it's just so satisfying to even see how the community continues to rally together. But I was pride grand marshal twice and I was Beaumont grand marshal at the Beaumont process. I'm just so excited about what I've done in this community and being able to work along side so many people that just seek fully realized, equal.

Speaker 4:

That makes me tired listening to all the stuff you've done. That's what Kim said let's talk about Kim. How did you meet Kim?

Speaker 2:

I met Kim at UACD. We worked on a federal education grant and the grant sought to help with retention of first year first generation college students. I was a peer mentor and she was the coordinator. One of my jobs is that I would go out to Galena Park and I would speak to high schoolers and tell them my story, how I got to college. The goal we want to ensure that what the studies were showing is that first year first generation college students did not attend past the first semester. Our goal was to show how this could happen and so we would be a mentor folks and answer any questions and things like that. Well, bea, we would go out to lunch and it was probably about 10 of us would go. Kim walked up to me and she said hey, my friends and I are going to lunch. Would you like to go to lunch with us? I was like no, because I'm clueless, I don't know somebody flirting with me and I'm not getting in the car with a stranger. That passed. Then one day we were in the coffee room and we just started talking and then the train had just started running downtown. We would ride the train together and we would just hang out for dinner at a bar at different places and just really got to know one another and it just butted into this relationship and finally she said we're going on a date. She took me to see Monster and she was like, do you want to go see a movie about Lesbians? And then I said sure. So then we went on a date and we've been together ever since we got together in 2004, and so we just celebrated our 19 year anniversary.

Speaker 4:

That's amazing, you know, and I love Kim, so shout out, you know she's amazing, thank you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, Ryan.

Speaker 4:

Where can people find out more information about Fran Watson and your campaign?

Speaker 2:

My campaign, the Fran for Probe Court Five. You can find me on my website, wwwfranwatsonforjudgecom. I am also on Facebook, fran Watson for Probe Court Five. I'm on Instagram at Fran J Watson, also Twitter at Fran J Watson, and then you can find information about my campaign. We have a huge fundraiser that's coming up on January, the 21st, on one at three. Dr Darrell Shorter and Cal Pierce are hosting it, so we're super excited and would love to see people out there. You can, when you go on the website, you can sign up to volunteer. This is I'm in a. I am in a race. I have two primary opponents. This is a new court, so I I expect you know that this will be a very tight race and all help and information is there on the website and all help is welcome, and so I really appreciate it.

Speaker 4:

I'll make a note that KPFT does not endorse the races, and this is not an endorsement but merely an informational interview with Fran Watson.

Speaker 2:

Fran, thank you for coming on. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate y'all's time and just thank you for the work y'all continue to do.

Speaker 1:

Still to come. On Queer Voices, brett Cullum talks with an all-male dragged ballet troupe that will be performing in Houston later this month, and Debra Montcreefe Bell has a conversation with local author Elena Sandovići about her new book Magic Lessons for Margo.

Speaker 5:

I am Brett Cullum. Today I am joined by Felix Molinero of La Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo. They are an all-male dragged ballet company that parodies conventional dance and gender roles. The troupe has been around since 1974, so they are celebrating 50 years. They are coming to Houston on January 23 to perform at Jones Hall. Performing Arts Houston is sponsoring this tour stop and tickets are available on their website. So welcome to Queer Voices Felix.

Speaker 6:

Thank you so much for having me and inviting me here.

Speaker 5:

Felix, I'm a longtime Troc fan girl, but I would love for you to describe the company to people who may not know what it is. So what are the? La Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo.

Speaker 6:

Well, as you mentioned before, it's an all-male drag ballet comedy company where we take these big classical ballets like Swan Lake, les Silphies, the Nacracqueur, paquitao, these big ballets, and we give them a little bit of a home where you will see, as we mentioned before, men doing the female roles and the male roles and on these roles we will be wearing wigs, crazy makeup, crazy long eyelashes, big red lipsticks and, of course, point shoes and on top of that we will not reproduce those ballets as a technique you know, technically wise. We will give the best that we can because we are professional dancers. We have been training for that.

Speaker 5:

Oh, I was going to ask you, Felix, how did you become a member of this company? Because you said you were a trained dancer, right?

Speaker 6:

Yeah, I trained. I started at the conservatory when I was nine years old and from then on I moved from Spain to Frankfurt. I studied three years at the University of Music and Performing Arts there and when I was finishing, the company was traveling to Leipzig because I see there is a couple of hours in Frankfurt, in Germany. I enrolled them in LA. I got invited for an audition. I was expecting to stay one day and at the end of the day, five days they took me.

Speaker 5:

Oh wow, so the home base for the trucks is New York City. Is that correct? Yeah, that's correct, okay, and you guys rehearsed there and kind of that's your home operation. It looks like you have some dancers that have been with the company a long time and some that are new. How long have you been with this troop?

Speaker 6:

Well, I joined back in August 2019, so this is my sixth season. I think I'm kind of proud. Wow, I feel my sixth season. So, yeah, I've been here for a while. But there's people that have. For example, robert Carter has been here. I think this is his 27th season, yeah. I saw he has been here for a very long time.

Speaker 5:

I saw somebody's been there since 1995.

Speaker 6:

Yeah, Robert has been here. He's the star of the company. Of course. He has been here forever.

Speaker 5:

And currently you guys have 15 members, right, yeah, that's correct. Okay, you notice that each of you have like drag names and you have both a drag name for your female persona and your male persona. Who comes up with those drag names?

Speaker 6:

Do you guys do it, or do you just get assigned a name, or no, it's actually very funny because I thought it was you, that it was ourselves who were choosing, or drag ballerina or main male names, but in this case it's not like that. So once you join the company, the director, tori Dorin, he likes to see how do you interact with each other, how do you put yourself inside of the group, and from then on you will decide how your personality shows a little bit, and from then on he will decide what is going to be your name.

Speaker 5:

I'm talking to Felix Molnero of Le Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo. I wanted to ask you as a professional dancer I've always heard that in ballet the female parts are really the toughest, and dancing a woman's part in that art form is tough as a guy, because you're not built like a woman does and so your sense of gravity and everything is totally different. How do you compensate for that, being a man dancing a woman's part?

Speaker 6:

Of course. The first point is like going shoes are not made for male feats. It's already hard to find shoes in our size because that point shoes to find, you are on the top of your toes. So, in order to find your balance, it's not the same to be I don't know like 45 kilos and be like five, four, than being I don't know like 80 kilos and be six, five. It's a completely different world, like your gravity, your balance. So you practice. That's where I can say practice, practice until you find your right shoes and you're able to develop your techniques.

Speaker 5:

So you guys have to be super strong because you have to, like, lift each other sometimes and do all of these different things and, like you said, the weight difference is a lot compared to the females, Of course, and in this company, sometimes on the side that we are partnering male with male, sometimes story likes to the director likes to put a small guy partnering a big guy.

Speaker 6:

So if it's already a big difference, imagine on point shoes even a bigger distance. But that's funny, that's part of the show and that's actually gives you is that challenge for the dancer to be able to partner in somebody that is like three times bigger than you. But it's very funny and it could be very hilarious to see a very petite guy partnering somebody that is three times bigger than them.

Speaker 5:

One of the things that I think is so amazing about this company, the LaBallet Chocodero, the Monte Carlo, is your injection of humor into ballet. Usually we take ballet so seriously and we just think of it as this pristine art form, so you guys really have fun with it. But do you find yourself trying to find the comedy? I mean, how do you do that as a performer? Do you actually think about that and think, oh, this would be funny, or does it just kind of happen naturally?

Speaker 6:

Well, actually that was, in my opinion, is I think that we do like double job because you need to be concentrated not only the choreography, on the steps. You need to have this side of being like funny. But you know, in the moment that you take the comedy seriously is when it works. Because if you know that a joke is coming and you're trying to look silly, it looks silly, so it's not funny anymore. But the point of doing a joke is like doing as serious as you can in order that the audience understand and they see you like he's really trying, but he's looking like so silly but he's really trying. So that's the side part. So it's like a double job. But once you get used to it's very comfortable and very you know it comes natural.

Speaker 5:

Felix Molinaro drag has become a political hot point for conservatives in this country in the US. Have you noticed more attention to your troop as you tour America, some of it a little bit more negative lately, or is it more positive? Are you guys feeling the effects of that?

Speaker 6:

Well, normally, like we have great people welcomes us and I'm very gracious and very like humble in general. It's true that we have been in places where I do remember, like not so long ago I don't remember actually where we were because we traveled around. So we were in one city and they told us that at the end of the show there was going to be some protestants outside of the theater. It never happened at the end, but you know it was, it was believed and it was a little bit crazy because we didn't know what the hell was going on. We were like what is happening? Why is why is police here? Like we weren't actually scared, that it was like you know something like bigger because but no, I don't know. It's sad. You know that to hear on the news or the papers that you know drag is taking down some states and people is not able to upset. You know we are, we are moving forward, like we are not 50 years ago when the company was created. Things have been changed a lot. So I think people, we need to get an adapt to the new world and how it is and we should accept each person how it is.

Speaker 5:

When I look at the company, it seems like some people have gone on to do other things. Obviously Can you think of any of the famous trucks Like I heard that RuPaul Drag Race contestant Brooklyn Heights at one point was actually a part of the company. Is that true or no?

Speaker 6:

Yeah, that's true, and he actually led the company like a couple of years before I joined, but, if I remember well enough, in 2019, we went to Canada, because that's where he's right now, and he joined us in Montreal I don't know if it was in Toronto, montreal. He came to the Duggan's to have two shows and I had the chance to to me and wow it was. I was very shocked because I knew who was brought by the Noga. He was actually RuPaul's. He was a runner up in that season. But you know, at the beginning I was like very like afraid and very like wow. My respect to you. But you know, he's so natural, he's so funny, he's so down to earth, like very, very nice guy.

Speaker 5:

Well, I think it's interesting because Brooklyn really introduced ballet into RuPaul's Drag Race. He really showcased that a lot his ballet skills and things like that. So I think that you guys are at the right time to get a wider fan base from that exposure and people will be excited to see you. I know you guys are coming to the Houston performance on January 23rd. What can we expect? I mean, is there a set repertoire?

Speaker 6:

Yeah, we actually, for this 15th anniversary, we are bringing three different programs at a US tour. If I say I think we're like we are bringing to Houston, like there's some surprise, I cannot say everything that we're going to do because you will see, there will be some surprise. What I can say is, like we're going to do song, like act two is like one of my home favorite, like everybody loves song, like everybody almost knows the history of song, like I mean, I think as well we are bringing theater, like remember well enough, that is like for me it's like the job of the company is actually my favorite ballet to perform because it has the history from Spain, because I'm actually from Spain, so actually the background of the history comes from Spain and it's such a royalty, a beauty to fall. The music is so elegant. It's yeah, I mean it's one of my old times favorite ballads and my favorite ballads to perform here in the company. And yeah, I think the people is going to be very excited to see what we are going to show and present to them. So I really like invite everybody that to get a ticket to see what we are going to do, because what we do they will not see it that often in other company, because we are the only ones here.

Speaker 5:

Labele Trocadero. Damana Carlo, they tour, or you guys tour globally. Is there a favorite country that you have to tour in? Is there a country where you feel like you get a big response?

Speaker 6:

Yeah, actually we are traveling at the end of the day, made to Japan. That was my big surprise. Actually, when I joined the company back on the day, that was my first tour. We went first to a couple of days to Bangkok. From then we moved to Japan and I was a little bit like hesitating because, you know, I was like, oh, we're Asia. I'm a little bit dedicated with food. I was like, how same sports in Japan? Because in my mind, japan was like three times above the rest of the world, which is actually it is. But I was a little bit scared. I was like I don't know if I'm going to like it. Wow, it was a dream come true. How people treat us, how the audience respond. We have fans or fan base there. It's incredible. They get crazy because they are so well educated, very respectful people. You will not see like you're screaming during the middle of the show, even to laugh about the jokes. They will be very like, very dedicated. But you know the curtain comes up at the end of the show, they will come to the top of the stage and try to give us flowers and give us presents. I was mesmerizing and you know the culture stuff that they have, how I respect, how I don't know I got, so I got in love and I actually recommend to everyone plays once in your life you should travel to Japan and see how this works there.

Speaker 5:

When you guys travel, how do you stay in shape? You've mentioned food. Do you guys have like a catering service or do you just go out and eat locally? And how do you keep yourself in shape for these shows?

Speaker 6:

Well, actually, in a lot of the theaters they welcome us with cup of sandwiches, fruit, and before the show starts they bring us hot meals that we can prepare for if we want to have a little bit like small you know, let's call it like small lunch before the show, or we're going to grab some food for after the show. So it's actually that we appreciate it a lot because they give us the option of a lot of barriques of different kind of food we had. They give us beans, vegetarian, fish, meat, pasta, like soups. It's very like impressive and we actually something that we really are thankful.

Speaker 5:

Okay, good, so I don't have to worry about you. I don't have to bring food or anything. All right. Once again, thank you, felix Melanero. Thank you for being on Queer Voices it's such a privilege and thank you for being part of the world's best drag ballet company. I think you're the only one, but you're definitely the best. It means so much for the LGBTQIA plus community to have queer art. That is funny, that is athletic, that is amazing, and I will be in the front row for Houston. I already got my tickets. Anybody that needs a ticket. January 23rd it is going to be at Jones Hall and the performing arts Houston is bringing you guys. So once again, felix, thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

That was Brett Cullum talking with Felix Melanero about the all male drag ballet troop, le Ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo, which will be performing in Houston on January 23rd. Look for them online as trocaderoorg.

Speaker 9:

Maria Elena Sandović is an artist and a writer working in Houston, texas. I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with her through our mutual friend, january Fox, and January said, oh, she's an artist, and so we had a conversation about that, and then it was, and she has a Boston Terrier, because January knew that I loved Boston Terriers. So we kind of bonded there. But it wasn't until a few weeks later when January gifted me a book that was about a Boston Terrier. And tell me a little bit about Holly and how that book came to be. Was that your first book?

Speaker 3:

No, it wasn't. My first book was a novel, dogs with Bagels, which is something I wrote and published about 11 years ago and it's about a very young woman's struggles in New York City. It's kind of I don't know. I guess it was something that I was into at the time. But my life has evolved. The book about Holly, about the Boston Terrier, happened after I got my Boston Terrier, and the Boston Terrier was kind of a mistake but it was a good mistake. I was living in Beaumont at the time. I was very, very bored and I was at this charity event and they were auctioning off a Boston Terrier and I drank a lot. Like I drank more than I thought I did because they had these welcome wagon drinks and I didn't realize they were alcoholic. But then I also had wine at the table and then they auctioned off the Boston Terrier and I ended up buying her and I don't think people should do that. I don't think they should auction off dogs. But I bought the dog, I went home with the dog, I fell in love with the dog. Like I said, it was a good mistake. I've had her for 13 years. I really love her. So the book about her was kind of my attempt to understand her and understand what's important to her. And obviously, since she's a dog, what's important to her is sense, so it's about how the world smells.

Speaker 9:

Her name is Holly Goh Lightly, which is a wonderful kind of tribute to Breckless at Tiffany's. But it wasn't until I received that book that I realized that you were in fact not only a wonderful visual artist Working mainly in watercolor and acrylics on wood, but that you were an author. And so I started reading your books and I was enchanted, because oh thank you. Well, because this is the thing that I can say about it. You're a wonderfully descriptive writer and you have an international background. Born in Romania, you speak six languages, and then you also. I don't know You're a mystery to me how you came to end up with. Is it a doctorate in political science?

Speaker 3:

Yes, I can solve that mystery very easily. When you do a doctorate, they pay you to go to school, so that's how I came to have a doctorate. I did not want to pursue a doctorate. I hated every minute of it, which is not to say that it didn't do good things for me. I learned some good things that apply to life in general in the doctoral program, but I was, in my early 20s, not very passionate about what I was doing. But it was a really nice way for a very young person who couldn't figure out what they wanted to do or where they belonged, to basically get paid. So I did it for the money, which is a really odd reason to do a doctorate. But that's what happened. It was just me being lost.

Speaker 9:

So you end up in, of all places, beaumont, texas and you're in academia. But one day you decided enough of this, I'm going to pursue my passion. So what exactly took place for you to leave that world and start your life as an artist?

Speaker 3:

It wasn't really all that sudden. But I got my doctorate, I went to school in Upstate New York and then I kind of had this vision I did want to move to the south and part of that was because Upstate New York is very cold and miserable in that way. But also my best friend in grad school was from Texas and she talked about Texas a lot and the kinds of things she told me I was really into when it was time for me to apply for jobs. I only applied for jobs in the south. I kind of wanted a certain kind of job. I wanted a job that very heavily focused on teaching, even though we were taught in the PhD program to aspire to research jobs. But I really like teaching. I like my students. Beaumont was not the place where I thought I would end up, but when you apply for academic jobs you kind of cast a really wide net. When they flew me in for my interview in Beaumont, I really thought that I didn't want to be there. I mean it. Just, you know I was very young, I was 26,. But even at 26, I was like I don't think this Beaumont place is gonna work out. But there were several things that happened during the interview. That really charmed me so I decided I would give it a go. Professionally it was the perfect fit for me if I had wanted to stay in that career because it was very focused on teaching. Our students were quite remarkable young people. They were mostly first generation college students from that area. They were cool young people working while going through school, really trying to make something out of their lives, and they were interesting, intelligent, funny. I really loved the students. But the problem was I was happy on a regular weekday when I was just teaching and doing my thing, but then I got to go home and there was nothing to do and there was nothing to do on weekends and I don't really like small towns. Small towns don't like me. Beaumont is a very strange kind of small town in that it has a very strong sense of place, which is nice, but it also has kind of an in-group and all of that, and those are things that don't agree with me. At some point during my life in Beaumont I ended up owning a big house and I had the cute little dog to go with it, but I just didn't want to go places anymore in the town, so I ended up making art in my garage, mainly to entertain myself. And I ended up writing to entertain myself, which I highly recommend. I mean, if you're bored and lonely, writing is such a wonderful thing to do, it's free, you can entertain yourself for hours and hours and hours. And then at some point I had some flexibility in my schedule at the university so I decided that I would rent a weekend place in Galveston so that I wouldn't have to spend weekends in Beaumont anymore. I mean, I had a lot of fun there. I met cool people there. It was interesting. I made more and more art. I kind of wanted the art to go someplace. So I got a little more ambitious. I decided that the weekend place should be Houston, not Galveston, and Houston totally surprised me. I didn't expect Houston to be what it is when I was living in Beaumont and Galveston. Houston was just this place. You went if you wanted a nicer restaurant or if you wanted to buy stuff and go to nicer stores. But once you really get here and you spend time here, well you know, I mean, there's so much here. It's international, it's diverse, it's interesting. There's so many different groups of people, there's so much cultural stuff going on. The food scene is amazing. So I just ended up having a good time in Houston. I also found more and more clients for my art and then at some point it just became such a chore to drive back to Beaumont to teach even though I loved my students, but I just didn't want to be there. And at some point I realized that I could stretch that forever and there was always one more student to help or one more nice thing to do. But if I really wanted to take charge of my life, I should just at some point let go. And it was hard because I had tenure. So I had a very safe position. I had my little house, I was making good money, blah, blah, blah. So I sold the house and I invested all proceeds from it into starting my own art business, my own little gallery space here in Houston, and I've been doing that ever since. So that's been like five years ago.

Speaker 9:

You kind of have a love affair with Galveston though.

Speaker 3:

I do, I really. I mean, it's interesting, it's mysterious, it's beautiful, but then it's not always beautiful. It's kind of a place of more complexity, more depth. There's the salt air, but then there's the, you know, there's the golf that sometimes looks really pretty and sometimes not. It's just like it's this very, very interesting place to me.

Speaker 9:

It has an interesting history and you've delved into some of that history in your books, and I was surprised to learn that you really haven't been publishing books for all that long. What, what? 2020 was when you first no?

Speaker 3:

No, my first book, I think, was in 2012. That's Dogs with Bagels. That's the New York City novel. I've published several books ever since, but I think I really just became good at publishing and promoting and doing all that during the pandemic, really. So that was 2020. That was Storms of Malhado. It was my first Galveston novel. I also feel that my books got better in time. You know, the more I wrote, I just grew as a writer. So my early books are out there. People can read them. That's fine. I'm not going to take them down or anything like that, but if you read the early books and then you read the later books, you clearly see an evolution. I mean, yeah, you could say that something changed for me as an author in 2020. But I had I had been doing that. I think I started in. I don't know if it's 2012 or 2013.

Speaker 9:

Speaking of books, your latest book, Magic Lessons for Margo, is going to be released on December 21. And it is the second in a series of books that you're doing, the Adventures of Miss Blue Play. It means Fox. One of the things about Magic Lessons for Margo is Houston plays a central part. How did you come about putting this young woman on this journey in this book?

Speaker 3:

First of all, I just want to say thank you again for being one of the beta readers, because that is tremendous help, and also thank you for having me on the show. That's really exciting for me and I always want to talk to people about my books. The way these things happen for me it's more, it's just kind of an intuitive process, and I think I started writing the book a few years ago and then at some point I abandoned it because I was like, well, I don't know, I don't know, it was maybe two years ago that I dug up the draft as it was, which was just, it was really early stages in the story. But I read it and I was like, oh, this is not really that bad, maybe I should write this book, maybe I should continue. But when I set out to write a story, I usually really don't know what will happen and I just kind of use intuition as I write and things just happen. So I didn't know at the beginning that Margot would go on a journey. I didn't know that she would end up in Houston, among other places. I didn't know that the story would give me an opportunity to portray Houston. Though there was a Houston. There is a Houston connection in the first book because one of the characters, two of the characters, actually are from Houston and they play a role in the story and they talk about Houston. But Houston the way those characters see it and Houston the way the girls experience it in magic lessons for Margot is very different. And that's also kind of part of the beauty of Houston and one of the reasons why it is a place I love so much is that your experience can be very different here depending on what you seek. You can look for different things in Houston and find those things and, yeah, the girls have a wonderful time and they experience it as this cosmopolitan, foodie city. They also experience beauty that people often are not aware is here. It's like sometimes I feel like, especially when I talk to friends from all over the world and especially friends from New York, I feel like Houston is like this well-kept secret, like they don't get it. They would never expect that the things we find here are really here. I don't know, it just happened, but obviously it also happened because it's important to me, it's a place I know, it's a place I love, so in the end they ended up going here.

Speaker 9:

When you started the book, did you know what was gonna happen with Margot as far as embracing her lesbian identity?

Speaker 3:

I didn't know it at the very beginning. And Margot first shows up. She shows up in the first book, the Adventures of Miss Wolpe. She shows up towards the very end and she is just this really nice but kind of shy person. That's not really. She's not fully comfortable being herself in all kinds of ways in her person. And then when I started writing her story, I don't know, it came to me fairly early on that she would like girls and I was just like I think I was just going around describing her daily life and then she had a friend, a kind of another student that she goes to school with, and at some point I was like, wait, she has a crush on her. The moment I realized that Margot likes that girl, I kind of figured that Margot would like girls in general. It also figured for her that this is something she hasn't explored, because she hasn't really explored herself at all. And I knew the moment that I decided those things for her. Of course I knew that towards the end of the story she needs to figure herself out and she needs to embrace this and she needs to come out to her family and so on and so forth. The moment I made that decision. I knew that part of her evolution will be about that.

Speaker 9:

Do you have a title for the next book I have?

Speaker 3:

a working title. I might change it. It's called Anna Martinez has no Shame, but I don't know if that's going to be it or not.

Speaker 9:

In the third book you've returned to her, Anna being mainly the lead character.

Speaker 3:

Yes, but Margot plays a role too. I would say that it's about maybe 60% Anna and 40% Margot. I mean, there is a lot of the story that is all about Margot. The first lesson for Margot is a first person account and everything is filtered through Margot, except for the flashbacks that are about their mother. The third book it's going to be a third person narration but it goes back and forth and there is maybe a little bit more Anna, but there's a lot of Margot in there.

Speaker 9:

I've enjoyed so many of your books. Now the Storms of Mahaldo, which I didn't know was a term that was used for Galveston before, and I had to look up about it because it kind of meant the doomed place?

Speaker 3:

Yes, it's the unfortunate island. The fun thing is we don't even know for sure that that was Galveston, so historians disagree. But when Spanish explorers started exploring the barrier islands of Texas, of what would later become Texas, they happened upon an island that they called the unfortunate island. The island had rattlesnakes, among other things that the explorers were afraid of, and historians don't really know for sure that it is Galveston, but there are historians that argue that it is, so it's kind of like I like that. Even that is not really that certain.

Speaker 9:

The theme of that book has to do with some of the major hurricanes that have hit the island and it also has this theme of I guess reincarnation would be the best way to describe it and how each this woman who was in the 1900s store the famous Great Storm of 1900, and then you bring it into modern day and it kind of everything resolves itself. The thing is that when I read your work I feel like I'm there, I can see it, I can hear it, I can taste it. It's just really a special spark. So, Alina Sendovalici, you wonderful Romanian international artist and author, Thank you for being with us on Queer Voices. Her latest work, Magic Lessons for Margot, is available as of December 21st through Amazon and maybe a few other places.

Speaker 3:

Maybe I'm going to work on getting it into some. I usually like to get my books into a few brick and mortar stores in Galveston, so I will work on that and of course I'll have copies here at my little gallery space in the Heights.

Speaker 9:

Oh, speaking of the gallery space in the Heights, you have started writing for the leader and you've been telling some stories about things in the Heights, so that's been another wonderful addition to your canon of work.

Speaker 3:

Yes, I have done that for a little bit. I don't know to what extent I'm going to be able to continue that, because it's a lot of fun, I really like it and, of course, we love the written word. So we love newspapers and want to support newspapers, so it's been super fun to be a part of that. It is sometimes hard to balance that with everything else that I do. It's good. I like being busy. I mean that's why I'm saying writing is such a wonderful thing, because you can spend hours and hours and hours and you're just like entertaining yourself in your imagination.

Speaker 9:

And you have your wonderful assistant Holly.

Speaker 3:

Yes, and you know, I think she really, like she helped improve my writing because, if you think about it and I have to say thank you for this because that's my favorite compliment I love it when people say that they like my writing because they can taste and smell things and, you know, really picture themselves there. I mean, if you think about it, I think my dog made me a better writer because I had to write a whole book about how she smells things.

Speaker 9:

Well, again, thank you, you're listening to Queer Voices.

Speaker 10:

I am Alaina Botkin-Levy.

Speaker 11:

And I'm Michael LeBeau.

Speaker 10:

With News Wrap, a summary of some of the news in or affecting LGBTQ communities around the world for the week ending January 13th 2024. Gabriel Atal is now France's first openly gay prime minister. President Emmanuel Macron promoted his 34 year old Jewish Tunisian education minister to become the youngest person to ever hold that office. Indeed, he's the youngest government leader on the planet. Macron named Stéphane Sejeunet as his new foreign minister a few days later. Sejeunet has led the left-leaning Renew Europe group in the European Parliament. He has also chaired Macron's Renaissance Party. 38 year old foreign minister Sejeunet is Prime Minister Atal's ex. The pair had a civil union in 2019, before the advent of marriage equality in the country. However, atal staff told the Daily Newspaper LaFigaro some time ago that he and Sejeunet may have not been a couple for two years now. Macron's cabinet reshuffle is seen as an effort to bolster his flagging public approval ratings. 2023 was an especially challenging year for him, fueled by urban riots, massive street protests and sharp divides within his own administration. The president came under fire from some progressive members of his cabinet last year for compromising on an immigration bill. All right conservatives called it an ideological victory.

Speaker 11:

The January 13 election of Li Qingte as president reinforces Taiwan's liberal reputation on LGBTQ issues. As vice president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, li was instrumental in getting marriage equality legislation through parliament in 2019, a first for Asia. He took his presidential campaign to Taipei's LGBTQ Pride Parade last October another first. The incoming vice president, shobhi Kim, has a long history of supporting queer rights. She filed the first marriage equality bill in 2006. Her strong support for marriage equality plunged her into a recall campaign in 2018, which she survived. Li's and Shoe's support for LGBTQ rights was not a presidential campaign issue, although Shoe proudly touted her pro-queer track record to younger voters 13 years after her first attempt. She's known for calling on other Christian-identified legislators during the 2019 marriage equality debate to care about the weakest people, like God asks us to do. Li's two opponents for the presidency favored building closer ties with the People's Republic of China. In his victory speech, li placed Taiwan's independence at the heart of the global struggle for democracy.

Speaker 8:

We are telling the international community that, between democracy and authoritarianism, we will stand on the side of democracy. The Republic of China, taiwan, will continue to walk side by side with democracies from around the world.

Speaker 11:

Li and Shoe will be inaugurated on May 20th.

Speaker 10:

Marriage equality is finally coming to the birthplace of democracy. Greece's center-right New Democracy Party, prime Minister Kiryakos Mitsotakis, announced on January 10th his administration's endorsement of a bill to open the civil institution to gay and lesbian couples. The politically powerful Greek Orthodox Church registered its strenuous opposition, but Mitsotakis told the nation's public broadcaster ERT it is the state that legislates. It doesn't co-legislate with the church. The New Democracy Party holds a controlling 158 seat majority in parliament. About a dozen of its farthest right MPs staunchly oppose the legislation, but in the Prime Minister's view, they do not stand to lose anything. Stefanos Kozalakis is the out gay leader of the left-leaning opposition Ceresa Party. He announced that all 38 of his members would support the proposal, even though he says it doesn't go far enough. While the bill allows married queer couples to adopt children, it denies them access to surrogacy services. Greece has had civil unions for same-gender couples since 2015. Full marriage equality was a campaign promise of Mitsotakis on the way to a landslide re-election victory last year. Parliament will take weeks to approve the marriage equality legislation, according to the advocate.

Speaker 11:

The Vietnamese woman's national football team member, chan Thi Tho, rang in the new year by marrying her girlfriend Nguyen Thi Thuan. The history-making public wedding ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City was attended by many of the 33-year-old defender's teammates. However, the ceremony was only symbolic. Vietnam's National Assembly repealed a specific ban on marriage equality in 2015, so queer couples are allowed to celebrate their unions without penalty and without legal recognition. Tran wrote on her Facebook page. I would like to send my sincere thanks to relatives on both sides of the family, friends near and far and colleagues who took some time to come celebrate and give congratulations. Best wishes to us. The wedding was a great success. Vietnam seems to be inching toward expanding queer rights. The health ministry declared in 2022 that being LGBTQ is not an illness and that sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be cured nor need to be cured. It also formally banned so-called conversion therapy the same year.

Speaker 10:

Alabama's ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth is going forward. The US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing a law to take effect that forbids medical providers from offering transgender treatment to patients under the age of 18, including reversible puberty blockers and hormone therapies. Pediatric gender-affirming surgery is also prohibited, although it's virtually never a treatment option. The Atlanta, georgia-based 11th Circuit is one of the country's more conservative appeals courts. It granted the request by Republican Alabama Attorney General, steve Marshall, to start enforcing the law, even as its constitutionality is being challenged in a lower court. Us District Judge Lyles Burke had temporarily blocked its enforcement pending the outcome of the case. Lawyers representing the plaintiff's parents of transgender adolescents told a news conference Alabama's transgender healthcare ban will harm thousands of transgender adolescents across the state and will put parents in the excruciating position of not being able to get the medical care their children need to thrive. The district court issued its preliminary order blocking the ban after hearing days of testimony from parents, doctors and medical experts about the devastating impact of this ban and the lack of any medical justification for it. We will continue to challenge this unlawful ban and to support parents and their kids in pushing back against the dangerous reality of being denied access to necessary best-practice medical care. A full trial on the constitutionality of the ban is scheduled for August.

Speaker 11:

Finally, a school district in Rhonda Sanctus, florida, has taken the Republican governor's book ban law to an absurd conclusion. The Pensacola area Ascambia County's school district has yanked the American Heritage Children's Dictionary, webster's Dictionary for Students and Merriam-Webster's Elementary Dictionary from its school's shelves. Dictionaries, of course, contain descriptions of sexual conduct and the law bans such filth from school classrooms and libraries. Dozens of books, ranging from the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's Believe it or Not, to biographies of Beyoncé, lady Gaga, oprah Winfrey, nicki Minaj and Thurgood Marshall are under scrutiny, and Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, act of the Christie's Death on the Nile and two books by right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly are also on the chopping block. Plain tips in a lawsuit filed last year challenging the constitutionality of the book ban include mega-publisher Penguin, random House, five banned-booked authors, two parents of Ascambia County's students and the writer's advocacy group Penn America. Their arguments are based on First Amendment, free speech grounds. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody submitted a brief on behalf of the DeSantis administration. It offers the odd argument that a school board can ban any book for any reason because public school libraries are intended to convey the government's message. It essentially claims that boards can ban speech that the government disapproves. There are other well-known books that clearly contain what could be described as sexual content, but demands in a couple of Florida school districts to ban the Bible and the Koran have thus far been unsuccessful, that's.

Speaker 10:

News Wrap global queer news with attitude For the week ending January 13th 2024, follow the news in your area and around the world. An informed community is a strong community.

Speaker 11:

Thank you.

Speaker 10:

Help keep us in ears around the world at ThisWayOutorg, where you can also read the text of this newscast and much more. For this Way Out, I'm Elena Botkin-Levy. Stay healthy.

Speaker 11:

And I'm Michael LeBeau. Stay safe.

Speaker 1:

This has been Queer Voices, which is now a home-produced podcast and available from several podcasting sources. Check our webpage QueerVoicesorg. For more information. Queer Voices executive producer is Brian Levinca. Andrew Edmanson and Deborah Moncrief-Bell are frequent contributors. The News Wrap segment is part of another podcast called this Way Out, which is produced in Los Angeles.

Speaker 7:

Some of the material in this program has been edited to improve clarity and runtime. This program does not endorse any political views or animal species. Views, opinions and endorsements are those of the participants and the organizations they represent. In case of death, please discontinue use and discard remaining products.

Speaker 1:

For Queer Voices. I'm Glenn Holt.

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