Once is hard enough, Lou Weaver has had to do it twice. “I came out as a lesbian six weeks shy of my nineteenth birthday,” he says of his first time asserting his identity, as he sips a Negro Modelo with lime on a muggy fall afternoon at the West Alabama Ice House.
It was the late ’80s, a lonely period of Weaver’s life. For one thing, he was still living in Denver, where there wasn’t much of a visible gay community. For another, during those days he couldn’t hop on the computer and connect with others he now knows were out there somewhere, others who’d also grown up wanting to play with a sibling’s toys, who’d experienced puberty with a kind of horror, and who’d grown up asking themselves: Why do I feel so different?
The word “transgender” wouldn’t become a part of Weaver’s vocabulary for another decade, entering his lexicon right around the time he saw the movie Boys Don’t Cry. “And that’s not something I walked out of going, Wow, I can do this!” he recalls. “I walked out going, Is this my reality? I mean, I was almost in tears. The whole story was so horrible, and the guy was so alone and betrayed. And I could feel that.”
In hindsight, Weaver says his next coming-out—as a transgender man—was inevitable. He moved to Houston in 2001, at first living in the suburbs and coaching softball—“typical lesbian stuff, I suppose.” But not long after that, he managed to find the city’s transgender community. “There was finally a place for me to go, and it was amazing,” he says. “I knew I was home. I didn’t have to explain myself.”
Weaver transitioned socially in 2007 and physically in 2008. “Switching pronouns for me—going from being somebody’s girlfriend to being somebody’s boyfriend—was a whole new concept,” he remembers. “That was something that felt very odd in the beginning.” But it also felt right.
Today, at 45, Weaver is pursuing a communications degree from UH and runs a business called Lou Weaver Consulting, which focuses on transgender education. “I will speak to anybody and everybody who will listen,” he says: big oil firms, hospitals, even law enforcement. “You can ask me all the weird questions, because I don’t care about answering them.”
Weaver also has a consulting contract with Equality Texas, and in that capacity—as well as a volunteer one—he worked tirelessly in support of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In fact, he was there in person in May 2014 when City Council passed it. “Annise Parker counted all the votes and said yes, 11 to 6, this wins. She had to pound her gavel several times because we were yelling and screaming and grabbing our friends,” he remembers. “But we knew it was going to be short-lived, and sure enough the next morning somebody’s filing a lawsuit, and they’re signing a petition.” Over the next year and a half, of course, the Texas Supreme Court suspended the ordinance, it was put to voters, and it failed miserably.
Weaver freely admits that the opposition’s campaign to discredit HERO—to call it the Bathroom Bill and stoke fears of perverted men invading women’s restrooms—was effective. “Kudos, they ran a great campaign,” he says. For him, however, the experience “sucked.”
“Exactly what are they doing when they tell me I have to use the women’s restroom?” Weaver asks of those who say he should use the bathroom that corresponds to his sex at birth. “They’re putting a man in there. Do I look like I belong in a women’s restroom?” He pauses a moment to let the irony sink in. “Testosterone’s a powerful drug. I have a deep voice. I have scruff on my face. I have male pattern baldness.”
At an election-night party on November 3 at Jackson Street BBQ, when Parker conceded that Proposition 1 had failed, Weaver heard the mayor’s voice crack and lost it. The morning after that, he didn’t want to get out of bed, suffering from “the most horrible emotional hangover that I’ve ever had in my entire life.” But a few days later, it was time to get back to work.
Weaver is quick to point out all the good that came out of the fight for HERO. “One of the amazing things about this campaign was the coalition that was built,” he says. “We had the ACLU, Equality Texas, the Human Rights Campaign, the Greater Houston Partnership, the NAACP, and the Hispanic Chamber sitting together talking about equality for everybody. That hasn’t been done before. … We might not have won this election, but we’ve won a lot. And we’re going to go forward.”
For Weaver, and for many more Houstonians, this fight is far from over.