There would be no Pride Parades without the brave pioneers of the Stonewall Riots—queer and trans people of color. It seems fitting for Houston to reaffirm its status as the most diverse city in the country by designating the first honorary Pride title for those whose existence breaks the mold of the gender binary. And the people have spoken—tireless local organizer and activist, Mike Webb, is our official mold-breaker, designated the first ever Gender Non-binary Pride Parade Grand Marshal.
“I mean let’s be real for one second. The community just voted a queer, black, HIV positive activist as their first Gender Non-binary Grand Pride Marshal—this would not have happened even a couple of years ago,” they said. "Frankly, I wrote myself out of celebrations like this, assuming my gender would never fully be recognized by our community. Houston Pride was brave and I’m unbelievably thankful they are embracing even more of our communities that exist within the beautifully diverse LGBTQ+ community.” That community love isn’t one-sided, though. Mike spends many of their hours on the noblest of pursuits—helping the Houston GLBT Political Caucus elect the most pro-equality and progressive local officials in upcoming municipal elections, with an emphasis on non-discrimination ordinances.
Once upon a time, Houston native Mike flew off to Portland right after high school graduation in a desperate attempt to find a community that would be accepting of their queerness. After an 8-year journey through Oregon and eventually Washington, DC, Mike finally made the trek home to Houston when they accepted a position at the Mayor’s Office of Education Initiatives under Mayor Annise Parker in 2012. By that time, the hard work of community empowerment by local organizers had transformed Houston into a very different place, indeed. “Obviously, our community has improved a lot over the last 20 years, and we still have some significant ways to go. Now we just have to do the work to make sure we are also the most inclusive city, so the next young queer person won’t have to fly all the way to Oregon in order to find acceptance and love.” With people as dedicated to inclusion and empowerment as Mike, we’re even closer to that goal.
Mike (who celebrates pride every day by, “just being completely open about my identity with absolutely no shame”) began the delicate dance of falling back in love with their roots, re-discovering all the new things Houston had to offer. In that time, their favorite Houston haunts came to be The Contemporary Arts Museum, Reggae Hut, and Turkey Leg Hut. “Sometimes I sneak off to Guava Lamp or Grand Prize when I need a healthy beverage,” they add cheekily. Nowadays, Mike’s perfect Houston itinerary would include a workout at Hermann Park (“that’s mandatory!”) followed by a cool-down through Rice University’s beautiful campus. Then a brief shopping break at The Galleria, followed by their must-have dinner at Kulture.
Mike will continue their yearly Pride tradition of walking in the parade with Fran Watson and Constable Alan Rosen but expects to start a few new traditions as well. “I’m excited to change it up this year and really celebrate all of who we are as queer people in a fun yet creative way. I love the direction Houston Pride is going in, especially under its new leadership. I think they are really setting a healthy example of what it means to be a large and intentionally inclusive LGBTQ+ organization.”