Queer Voices

June 19th, 2024 QUEER VOICES - Podcast BONUS EPISDOE: Captain Iris Rodriguez Interview!

June 19, 2024 Queer Voices
June 19th, 2024 QUEER VOICES - Podcast BONUS EPISDOE: Captain Iris Rodriguez Interview!
Queer Voices
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Queer Voices
June 19th, 2024 QUEER VOICES - Podcast BONUS EPISDOE: Captain Iris Rodriguez Interview!
Jun 19, 2024
Queer Voices

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Meet the Female-Identifying Grand Marshal for NEW FACES OF PRIDE, a parade and festival being held in Houston on June 22nd! 

What challenges do you face as a trailblazer in your field? Captain Iris Rodriguez knows all too well the hurdles and triumphs that come with breaking barriers. Join us as we share her extraordinary journey from becoming the first Hispanic female firefighter in Houston to her service in the United States Army. You'll hear Captain Rodriguez's heartfelt stories about her teenage coming-out experience, the rejection and embrace from her family, her multidisciplinary career spanning the oil industry, and the iconic bar Kindred Spirits.

As we celebrate Pride 2024, the conversation shifts to Pride's powerful role in today's divisive culture. This episode talks about the critical need for unity and understanding amidst political attacks on rights, especially those targeting the transgender community. Rising rates of suicides and assaults highlight the urgency of showing solidarity and building inclusive communities. We can bridge gaps and support each other by embracing diversity and fostering connections across differences. 

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Meet the Female-Identifying Grand Marshal for NEW FACES OF PRIDE, a parade and festival being held in Houston on June 22nd! 

What challenges do you face as a trailblazer in your field? Captain Iris Rodriguez knows all too well the hurdles and triumphs that come with breaking barriers. Join us as we share her extraordinary journey from becoming the first Hispanic female firefighter in Houston to her service in the United States Army. You'll hear Captain Rodriguez's heartfelt stories about her teenage coming-out experience, the rejection and embrace from her family, her multidisciplinary career spanning the oil industry, and the iconic bar Kindred Spirits.

As we celebrate Pride 2024, the conversation shifts to Pride's powerful role in today's divisive culture. This episode talks about the critical need for unity and understanding amidst political attacks on rights, especially those targeting the transgender community. Rising rates of suicides and assaults highlight the urgency of showing solidarity and building inclusive communities. We can bridge gaps and support each other by embracing diversity and fostering connections across differences. 

Queer Voices airs in Houston Texas on 90.1FM KPFT and is heard as a podcast here. Queer Voices hopes to entertain as well as illuminate LGBTQ issues in Houston and beyond. Check out our socials at:

https://www.facebook.com/QueerVoicesKPFT/ and
https://www.instagram.com/queervoices90.1kpft/

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Queer Voices podcast. Now, this segment is going to first appear online, so if you're a podcast listener, thank you so much. You're going to hear this a little bit early than our KPFT listeners and I wanted to say happy pride to you. I am Brett Cullum and I am joined by Captain Iris Rodriguez, who is the female identifying grand marshal for the first inaugural New Faces of Pride festival and parade. Now the New Faces Pride festival starts at noon in and around City Hall on June 22nd and the parade kicks off downtown that same day at about 7 30. There is also going to be an after party at Post Houston called Planet Pink. So, captain Iris, tell, tell me this first how long have you been with the Houston Fire Department?

Speaker 2:

Thank you, and thank you for having me, and it's been wonderful to be received so openly by our community. So, to answer your question, how long have I been in the Houston Fire Department?

Speaker 1:

31 years and approximately six months 31 years and six months, six months that's a long time.

Speaker 2:

I work with men who weren't even born when I joined the fire department and I lead them in the fires.

Speaker 2:

It was real interesting to work with this young man. He thought I was a little more timid and relaxed. We were working through ems calls, medical calls, until we got a fire call and my whole demeanor changed and he said, captain, you just changed. You became like this warrior who wouldn't stop. He just kept focusing on change. He said it was direct. You had so much authority and you weren't letting down until you got to where you needed to be and knocked that fire out. But he saw the change and accepted me as who I was, didn't even question it.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for being a first responder. That's an incredible career, and I believe that you were in the armed services before. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

That's right. Actually, I joined the armed services before I became a Houston firefighter. So I enrolled in a community college three times and each time they canceled the class. And the third time they did that to me. I was so upset and I told my partner at the time if this happens, I'm just going to go to the military and see if they can allow me to be a firefighter in the military. So they did that. They failed me. I went the very next day. I applied with military. Two weeks later they called me and they said raise your right hand, you're going to become a firefighter in the United States Army.

Speaker 2:

When I came back, it turns out they told me that they didn't accept that certification. This man who saw me older gentleman pulled me aside, really kind. He said look, we may not, but you can challenge the state test and I know you can do it. He goes, apply, pay the money and take their test. A month later, austin texas paid the money, sat down, passed the test I don't know, it was like 95 percentile and they gave me one paper with a seal on it with one paragraph that said I may now be a firefighter in Texas. I came back, applied, got hired.

Speaker 1:

Well, and you were the first Hispanic female ever in our Houston fire department. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

Yes, that is right, the first Hispanic female firefighter. I didn't know that at the time, until I graduated. As they announced my name, my mother was there pinning my badge and we were hugging and then just an array of flashlights and lights, and lights, and just it was like the lights on a baseball field turned on and it was just overwhelming. And she said what's happening? I said I don't know, but just look at me. The media just bombarded me and that's when I found out.

Speaker 1:

Well, that's just an incredible story in and of itself, but tell me a little bit about how you became a part of the LGBTQIA plus community as well, like, how did you come out?

Speaker 2:

I was 15, 14, somewhere in there, about to turn 15. I think I was in high school 1978, 79, somewhere in there. I was already out, coming out and my sisters knew it. And, as you may know that I come from a large family of eight, I have five sisters and two brothers. My sisters were not very kind at the time and they threw me underneath the bus. So I had to come out to my mother and she was not pleased. So I was one of those teenage kids that was kicked out of the house because I was a lesbian. Teenage kids that was kicked out of the house because I was a lesbian. My mother didn't accept three things in our home, and that was an alcoholic, a drug addict and a homosexual. But my older sisters, who are much older than I am one of them said you're not gonna be in the streets. She opened her door and she accepted me in her house.

Speaker 2:

I was able to continue my education and work, and it wasn't easy. I couldn't have done that without my family and friends, that's for sure. I had a degree to go to the Art Institute of Houston. I had a full ride and I lost that degree because of lesbian drama. Somebody was jealous and thought I was, I don't know, trying to come honor her girlfriend in my art class. And that was not the case. She was too bitch for me and I said no, that's not happening. She was real upset. There was an altercation. Long story short, we both were suspended and I lost my degree. My art teacher said no, we're not going to let that happen to you. You're one of our best. I'm going to contact you with a gentleman who wants to hire a draftsman for geological drafting and they will train you.

Speaker 1:

I also know that you worked at the Bar Kindred Spirits.

Speaker 2:

I worked in the oil industry for about because I lost my job when the bottom fell out. I was going down Westheimer and going to the bars. You know numbers you went to Twins, you went to the Silver Phoenix and there was a lady in a car who looked over at me. She goes where are you going? I'm like I'm just drilling the street. She goes follow me, I'll take you somewhere. You'll really like I was like what so?

Speaker 2:

here I am in this car with T-tops. I followed her and she led me to Kindred Spirits and I walked in I felt like I was in heaven.

Speaker 2:

I walked into Kindred Spirits. It was a beautiful bar, it was classy, it was three levels and I thought I found home. I kept returning and I patronized that bar until Marion approached me, who used to own the bar, and said will you do some work for me? I'm, like sure, started out helping her out one day when she was really busy. She needed some people to bus for her. So the whole softball team did this for her and she asked me. She said I would really like for you to work at Kindred Spirits. And that's how I started working at Kindred Spirits and we became really good friends and she was the coach of our softball team.

Speaker 2:

I met so many people at Kindred Spirits, like Claire Steinem, kathy Whitmire. I met a lot of state representatives, debra Danberg, I mean Larry Bineris, who was the first pride person who actually started it in Houston, and I attended that parade. Before I worked at Kindred Spirits, aids epidemic came in. Kindred Spirits held the first blood drive, so I attended that parade. Before I worked at Kindred Spirits, aids epidemic came in. Kindred Spirits held the first blood drive, so I witnessed that. I was a part of the caucus being established and having all the meetings at Kindred Spirits. I feel very fortunate to be able to witness all that and be a part of history.

Speaker 1:

The news. They talk a lot about the death of our gay bars, and here in Houston there really aren't many lesbian bars, except for maybe Pearl. So why do you think the community no longer goes to these places? It's generational.

Speaker 2:

First I believe it was economic, financial, economic hardship on lesbians because women make less money than men do, and that's the way it still is. The newer generation has now accepted themselves as part of the heterosexual community and now they have infused themselves in different straight bars. So I think the need for other bars and establishments have lessened, which is a change, I think, in a positive direction. People see it negatively. I don't. I think, well, now they're having gay night here, now they're having meetings at this establishment. That's primarily heterosexual. For think, well, now they're having gay night here, now they're having meetings at this establishment. That's primarily heterosexual.

Speaker 2:

For me, I see that as change. It's transformative. Through these last 20 years, I believe that's what's happening now More people go into a very blended kind of environment than they do stay into isolated areas. I still think that we need safe places for those people who are coming out and don't understand what's happening in our culture right now, and those places are important. Actually, they're vital to help those who are struggling and no matter what the situation is, from their mental health, their physical health, their environment. Pearl is phenomenal. I love Julie Her and I go way back when she first came into Houston. Her goal was to have a bar of her own, and she made that happen.

Speaker 1:

I really feel at home inside Pearl. I think she has done an amazing job.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, she welcomes everyone and she has never said no to anyone. She allows everyone to come in and actually just be exactly who they are or support any organization that's helping the community.

Speaker 1:

You've also stayed kind of active in the community. You've been a part of Kindred Spirits, basically the annual dance party, correct?

Speaker 2:

They did that for a while and that was an actual organization where we did that every year and we gave back to the community. We picked different organizations when our money was raised we gave back Although that ended and they actually merged that into the count the Montrose Counseling Center well, montrose Center now and I'm glad they picked that up, because now it's a bigger venue and it's and people. They can keep that under that umbrella and the history stays alive, the message stays alive and new people are actually attending and even people have never been to Kindred Spirits. I still stayed very active in the community. I've worked on LHI as vice president. I've started a women's camp for the Houston Fire Department for women adjoining. I've done training for females and men. I've taught at a college for an all-women's fire class.

Speaker 1:

It's a perfect segue to talk about new faces of pride. It's a new pride festival, a new parade, a new perspective, a little bit of a different spin. How did you find out that you were the female identifying Grand Marshal?

Speaker 2:

You know, I received a message and I didn't pay attention to it because I'm on social media. I'm not on Messenger. Often it's rare that I get on Messenger because there's just so much. I get inundated with a lot of things there and advertisements and imposters and all kinds, so I've just turned that thing off. Well, someone did that and I said it was Felicia actually, and she said we've selected you as the Grand Marshal.

Speaker 2:

I was confused at first and I thought I wasn't nominated for this. I had no idea, I was clueless. And she said no, we have selected you for the New Faces of Pride. I was like what? That's how I found out. And then Brian reached out to me and said yes, we would like you to be the female. And I said wow, I just never saw that coming. I never in my life. I just didn't see that coming. So I was honored. That's how I found out. I asked what their mission was and they told me what they were doing and I said that's perfect no-transcript than giving back to our community so we can help each other. Just lift each other up. I'm on board. I didn't even hesitate after he told me his mission. So that was awesome.

Speaker 1:

Iris Rodriguez, you have done so many things and you've blazed this trail. You've been a part of this community for many years. You go back to Kindred Spirits. You were the first Hispanic female firefighter here in Houston and I mean you've got a long legacy and it's a great honor and they should be honored to have you as their inaugural grand marshal, because you bring a lot to the table.

Speaker 2:

That's really kind of you and those are really kind words. But I'm just going to say this with my heart I don't look at it that way. I don't see it that way. I think it's a gift that I'm allowed to be here. The community has accepted me. They've always supported what I've done and I believe that that is the gift that we give each other. I don't look at it as a legacy. I'm terrible at tooting my horn. I'm the very worst. I don't do that well. I do that better for others than myself. I don't see myself that way, because I just show up every day, unapologetically, with my truth and I said here I am, I'm not leaving, and we may struggle and we'll have some good times and we'll have some bad times, but I'm a part of this whole community. I tap danced until I realized that it wasn't necessary to do it anymore.

Speaker 1:

Why do you think pride is so important here in 2024? Why do you?

Speaker 2:

think pride is so important here in 2024? Pride is more than just having a party. You are the person that's representing one person at a time, individually, how we all are connected, no matter what our differences are and our resilience under this culture we have right now that, unfortunately, is divisive and it can be harsh. With this, political attacks on our rights. More important than any other time right now, because we've taken many steps backwards from losing many of our rights and the attack on transgender people, you can't say that it's not or why you don't need pride.

Speaker 2:

We need now, more than any other time, because we're losing more people through suicide, through attacks, and to show the world that we have allies, that we're building communities, that we're in every part of the fabric in the United States and show that they are loving, caring, understanding human beings, no different than your family, than your aunts, your uncles, your friends. It's vital that we do this and that we all just show a little humility and understanding for each other. Hey, it's okay that you're different. I like you. I live in a sea of people who are all Republicans, and how do I fish in that ocean? It's simple I accept their differences. I accept their differences and I let them know that my only concern is your safety, your sustainability for your family, and I care about you as an individual. I think that's why we need pride, because people are able to see this.

Speaker 1:

And I appreciate you taking the time and discuss all of this with me.

Speaker 2:

Iris Rodriguez, Thank you, you're sweet, you know you've made this really easy just to have this conversation. You know we all say inclusivity, we all say diversity. We all say we all have those. You know those zingers. And when's the last time gay people just started connecting to heterosexuals that are Republicans and identify with them and just say, hey, it's OK that we're different, it's OK that you know. You know we can help each other out.

Speaker 2:

There's no wrong or right way to do this other than just connecting, building bridges and understanding each other. Having social media, having podcasts, having people having this conversation, having another heterosexual right beside me saying I've worked with this individual I didn't like her when I first started. Those types of conversations are needed. We don't have enough of them. We just have the you're singing to the choir, and I chose not to just sit in a room where there's I'm singing to the choir. I want to meet my opposing person and say listen, I'm right here, I'm different, I get it and I'm not going anywhere. I think that's important. That's why we need pride more now than we ever have.

Speaker 1:

Well, we have pride and we have the new faces of pride, and you are going to be at the very head of the parade, so let's go.

Speaker 2:

I really want to see what young people do, so that's why I'm really proud to be a part of Houston New Faces of Pride. It's just it's going to be a wonderful time.

Queer Voices
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