Annise Parker says local LGBTQ+ candidates have the power to take down Donald Trump

Years before Annise Parker was elected Houston’s mayor in 2010, she encountered a 17-year-old unsheltered youth. Much like most urban areas across the country, the city was amid a homeless crisis, and she was putting together early efforts to get people off the streets and into housing.

Rather than see him as just another number, Parker got to know the young man, Jack, and his story. “His mother was dead, his dad’s in jail, and he’s being raised by grandparents who were trying to beat the gay out of him. But he was tough — he’d run away, so I’d seen him on the streets over the last few years. He wasn’t doing drugs; he was doing survival sex.”

She could see the young man’s potential. “During the Pride parade, I ran into him again. He had this little duffel bag in his hand, and he had a street name. And I said, ‘Jack, are you on the street again?’ He wanted to enjoy Pride, but he was sleeping on the street again. His grandparents had kicked him out. He was just angry at the world. So I reached in my pocket, gave him my house key, wrote my address, and told him to put his stuff down and get cleaned up and enjoy Pride.”

There was only one problem. Parker had yet to alert her partner, Kathy Hubbard. “Then I went to find my wife and tell her what I’d done,” Parker recounted with a laugh in an interview with LGBTQ Nation from her colorful home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. “The thing is, we couldn’t find a place for him to stay because the only overnight place to stay was Covenant House, and it didn’t take kids. And we spent two weeks trying to find him someplace to go so he didn’t have to sleep on the street, and there was just nothing. And so he just never left. It’s like the stray cat you eventually adopt. We just loved him.”

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker
Former Houston mayor and LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker accompanied by her wife Kathy Hubbard. Photo by Marie D. De Jesus / Houston Chronicle via Getty Images.

Today, Jack is 47 and a successful businessman who credits his adopted moms with saving his life.

The experience taught Parker a profound lesson in dealing with housing insecurity — not just personally, but in politics and policy: Humanize the unsheltered, give them a roof over their heads, show them love, and they will thrive. 

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That lesson remains relevant to this day when far-right attacks and legislation drive queer youth to the streets. According to the Trevor Project, 28 percent of queer youth experience homelessness. Those who experience unsheltered existence have at least double the odds of reporting depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

As GLSEN executive director Melanie Willingham-Jaggers told LGBTQ Nation, “These legislators [would] rather have a dead kid than a queer adult.”

Under Parker’s leadership, Houston quickly earned a reputation for creating affordable housing and sheltering people better and faster than just about any metropolis, especially compared with more progressive cities like San Francisco that have struggled to increase the pace of affordable housing development and shelter beds.

How to overcome the ‘existential threat to our democracy’

LGBTQ+ Victory Fund volunteers at Pride parade.
LGBTQ+ Victory Fund volunteers promote the organization’s call to action: “Don’t get mad, get elected.”

Today, nearly a decade after leaving the mayor’s office, Parker faces another challenge, this time on a national scale. As executive director of LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, she is tasked with electing queer candidates across the country — not to mention President Joe Biden — while fending off the threat to equality and democracy posed by former President Donald Trump.

In her view, re-electing President Biden and electing queer candidates go hand in hand.

“This cycle we could get close to 600 LGBTQ+ candidates we will work with,” Parker said. “And I will tell you that I would happily lose every one of those races if we could keep Donald Trump from the presidency. I mean this because I believe he is an existential threat to our democracy.”

“Are you planning on sitting home on the couch or going to the polls? You say you want better choices, but what changes if you stay home?”LGBTQ+ Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker


Fortunately, she does not face this Hobson’s choice because these queer candidates — many running at the state and local level — are critical to generating the grassroots turnout that will ultimately keep Biden, a queer equality stalwart, in the White House. 

Parker mentions several candidates who will inspire turnout, including Virginia state Sen. Danica Roem and Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride.

Six years ago, LGBTQ+ Victory worked this strategy deliberately in Sharice David’s race for Kansas’s Third Congressional District. “Of course, we supported Sharice, but we [also] targeted two state representative races that were within her congressional district,” she notes, referring to Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard. “Turnout in those races helped put Sharice over the top and into the House. If we’d just focused on Sharice, those two might not have gotten elected. By focusing on the bottom, all three of them won the election.”


“I’m going to do this work to the absolute best of my ability because I believe that these candidates that we have run across the country are part of what will keep Donald Trump away from the presidency by energizing voters at the local level because we do the down-ballot races,” Parker adds. “This is what will push back against this MAGA insanity.”

Parker dismisses concerns about the lack of voter enthusiasm for Biden. (In national polls, the incumbent is running neck and neck or slightly behind Trump despite 91 felony indictments filed against the former president.)

“I hear this a lot,” she says. “And the answer is, I don’t care whether you’re in love with Joe Biden. What I care about is this: Are you planning on sitting home on the couch or going to the polls? You say you want better choices, but what changes if you stay home? And, by the way, if you stay home, look at these great local candidates who are also going to lose.”


The pivotal November presidential election will mark the end of Parker’s six years at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, an end date she chose intentionally. “I’m at a different stage of my life after 18 years in public office and six here. I don’t love the travel as much as I used to.”

Parker’s departure, of course, would be made far sweeter with the achievement of a queer wave within an even larger blue wave. “Then maybe I can do a victory lap at our annual conference in December,” she says with a smile. “That’s the plan, at least. So we’ll see.”

In that scenario, there may be more opportunities for public service in Parker’s future. Asked whether she’d consider an appointment to a Cabinet-level position in a second Biden term — in particular, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, where she could pick up her crusade to end homelessness in America — Parker contemplates her future and that of the country.

“Well, I do want to stay closer to home here in Texas,” she says. “But yeah, of course. That would be something to consider. I do want to run something. I’m not ready to retire and will be looking for what comes next. It would be an honor to serve the President.”