A 24-year-old activist who does sex education outreach at YWCA, Adri Perez prefers the gender pronoun “they” and “them.” They identify as gender queer and what indigenous cultures call a two spirit, someone who crosses gender roles and embodies both male and female essences.
Perez is also a member of Danza Azteca Omecoatl, a group that does traditional Aztec dances for various ceremonies, celebrations and rallies throughout the city. They said being in the group helped give them confidence in claiming their gender identity.
Earlier this March, Perez was in Austin on behalf of the reproductive rights non-profit Fund Texas Choice.
They also happened to be in the state Capitol during the legislative session when Senate Bill 6, dubbed the “bathroom bill,” was put on the table. On a whim, they decided to give their testimony against the bill. The bill recently made it to the Texas House, and if enacted, it will regulate bathroom use in public schools and government spaces. This would mean transgender individuals would have to use the restroom that aligns with their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
Such controversial sociopolitical movements inspired Perez to consider going back to college to earn a degree in political science. Perez earned a bachelor’s in biology from the University of Texas at El Paso, but they intend to get more involved in politics nowadays.
Perez took the time to answer What’s Up’s questions about their gender identity and their experience during the legislative session.
Q. How did you come to use the words “two spirit” to describe yourself and “they” as a pronoun?
When I first started transitioning, I decided that I wanted to be on testosterone. As I grew to look more masculine, I felt this responsibility to own that and just use male pronouns. And then after two years of doing that, I decided that I didn’t have to do that and it was silly for me to feel pressured.
I joined Danza a year into my medical and hormonal transition. When I came out as trans, the traditions of gender were explained to me, and how gender works in our indigenous culture.
It was through Danza and through our elders that identifying as two spirit was explained to me. It kind of made more sense to me.
It’s basically like being gender queer, and I do feel like I am floating through gender roles and expectations, and I don’t necessarily fit in one or the other.
I really think that using “they, them” pronouns is a really good practice for people to normalize within themselves because it makes it much easier to not assume anyone else’s gender. It creates a more respectful practice.
Q. Did anyone have trouble respecting your preferred pronoun?
When I first came out as trans, people had trouble respecting my pronouns and they would say that it was hard for them because they knew me for a long time or they’re just not used to it or that I was “expecting too much from people.”
But these people already made a conscious decision every day of their lives with every interaction they have how to address somebody. If they were addressing anybody else and that person corrected them, it wouldn’t be a problem.
I mean, even every day that I walk my dog, somebody asks me if my dog is a boy or a girl, and I can tell them that my dog is a girl and they will immediately correct their pronouns to be “she” and “her” for my dog. So something as simple as that can clearly illustrate that it’s not about expecting too much from people and that it’s not about being politically correct. It’s just about basic human respect. It’s something that people are capable of doing.
Q. What transgender issues do you especially think need to be addressed locally?
I think there’s a lot of fear in the community about coming out with a strong stance supporting any marginalized communities for fear of backlash. I think there does need to be work done to get more people to be strong advocates for issues.
I think especially regarding SB6, which I call an anti-trans bill, not just a bathroom bill, there’s this false guise that it protects women.
Q. What do you think is the future of SB6?
It definitely was gonna pass the first stage. There was a democrat on the state affairs committee who changed his mind at the very last minute and decided to vote for it.
There were only two democrats in the state affairs committee. There’s nine total. So either way, the seven Republicans were going to vote for it. It was going to pass regardless of that one democrat changing his mind or not.
Q. Why did he change his mind?
I believe it was fueled by religion, and while I was sitting there, he did give us a lecture about how he believes that God’s creation should not be altered.
Q. Do you think the bill will eventually get enacted?
I think the strongest argument against that bill is how it would affect businesses. The economic impact seems to be what most people are going to care about, unfortunately.
I tweeted the final numbers of people who gave oral testimony and the number of people who registered their stance in regards to the bill. There were 44 oral testimonies for it and almost 300 against it, and 200 registered for it and over 1,000 registered against it.
The number of people who showed up to the Capitol to say how they felt about it was overwhelmingly against it. There was a line out the door for the rest of the day for most of the hearing of people who registered to testify. The testimonies went on until 5 in the morning.
Q. What was the overall experience like testifying against SB6?
It’s an incredibly intimidating experience and I think it requires a lot of courage from people, specifically trans people, to be able to sit there in this really formal room, in this formal setting, to tell these legislators what their experiences are and were and how they feel about this bill.
I’m grateful that I was able to be there. I’m grateful that after I gave my testimony, so many trans youth came up to me to say “thank you” and to tell me what I said really reflected their experiences and their own feelings. And that really was the best part of it all. I was scared, and it took a lot of courage for me to be able to do that and to not cry.
But there were little trans children, children who were 5 years old, 14-year-old children who were testifying – and that’s beautiful and incredible. I respect and admire the children who testified so much.
Q. You said you’re interested in running for office one day, right?
Within the group that I was called up with to testify, there was a trans woman on that panel, and that trans woman served in her very small city’s city council and was eventually nominated to become mayor. In the process of that nomination, she started her transition. I thought that was really inspiring. It was really great to know that this person had a supportive community behind her.
Being in that building and walking through the hallways, it really motivated me to want to have a representative government of what the community and the state look like.
There’s this very blatant contrast between the people who were filling the hallways of that building and who was representing them. It seems like the good people are always too good to run for government. That needs to change, and I think I got a little bit inspired and motivated to want to do that.