Speaking to an empty chair


When it comes to the LGBTQIA community, there are many allies out of the 16 council members who serve the city of Houston.

There are those who stand with the LGBTQIA community at every turn. There are those who do so when it’s politically convenient (shout out to Council Members Stardig and Kubosh for voting against non-discrimination for the LGBT community during the HERO vote then having the guts to read the names of those brutally murdered at Pulse in Orlando!) And then, well, then there are those who attend anti-Trans protests of Target, hang around people who fought HERO and make every effort they can to ensure LGBTQIA Houstonians won’t ever be protected in the Bayou City, and hire staffers who make inflammatory comments about the entire Islamic faith. 

If you fall into the latter category, your name is probably Mike Knox. If you are Mike Knox, you make a veiled attempt at placating the Muslim community by preparing a hollow, laughable response when they show up to public session to have their voices heard. If you are also Mike Knox, you show up to work, say the pledge, participate in the daily prayer, then peace out before any citizen is given the chance to speak.

I should probably point out that Mike Knox is an At-Large Council Member - so, yeah, he “represents” all Houstonians. He represents Trans Houstonians. He represents Muslim Houstonians. He represents Houstonians who understand that love, respect, and compassion will take you much further in life than hanging around individuals who spew hatred at the LGBTQIA and Muslim communities (which, by the way, intersect! Imagine that!). 

At least fifteen individuals showed up to speak with CM Knox about his staffer’s Islamophobia and his own intolerance toward the Trans community. Unfortunately, Councilman Knox left at 2:24, just minutes before citizens were given the opportunity to speak. Was he scared? Was he rattled after eloquent, pointed words were spoken to him the week before by the Muslim community? Can he not handle being called out on his own intolerance and the bigotry of those he surrounds himself with? We don’t know; he left and never came back. 

Since I wasn’t able to speak to anything but an empty chair once Mike Knox left and never returned to public session, I have a few quick questions for him:

Dear Councilman Knox,

I teach middle school in Sunnyside, District D, and always tell my students that the company you keep says a lot about who you are as an individual. I’m proud to say that I keep the company of those Muslim, Trans, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual individuals who your “company” continues to spew hatred toward.

So, I have to ask Councilman Knox - are you proud of who you surround yourself with and what does it say about you and your level of compassion and understanding for the Houstonians you represent when you choose to surround yourself with bigotry and hatred? 

Councilman Knox said, in his prepared response to the Muslim community, "The best way to combat intolerance is with logic, reason, fact and respect.”

You’re right, Mr. Knox. Unfortunately, when you left only an empty seat for your constituents to speak to you missed out on the logic, reason, fact, and respect that we had to offer regarding your personal intolerance toward the LGBTQIA community. 

What was so important, Councilman Knox, that you couldn’t listen to your constituents’ concerns?

Did you have another anti-Trans protest against Target to attend?

Yours truly,

A constituent who votes

Caroline Giese is a political activist passionate about progressive causes, including LGBTQIA equality, women's rights, and abortion access. She is also an educator currently teaching sixth grade in Houston's Sunnyside neighborhood.

    commented on Speaking to an empty chair 2016-06-16 18:01:43 -0700
    Well stated Caroline Giese! Elected officials who forget who they work for by disrespecting them in leaving a public forum should not be re-elected!