“I’m the former mayor of Houston. I’ve been a lesbian activist for more than 40 years. I was blessed to have a mother and a grandmother who were both college graduates, and the expectation was that I would educate and support myself and that education was a power no one could take away from me.
“My wife and I were married almost 6 years ago on our 23rd anniversary, so that’s nearly 23 years of living in sin and 6 years of having a relationship honored by the state. We have 4 children. Our eldest was 16 when he came to live with us — on the streets because he was gay. That is a sin and a crime, and it gave me a passion for working with homelessness.
“I am old enough to have experienced what life was like before Stonewall, and was 13 when it happened. It was a very different time and place; I was a vulnerable and frightened kid. It was scary and frustrating, but sooner than later I realized we have no other choice but to get involved to try to make change. Everybody needs a hero, and what I understand today is that we can each be our own superhero.
“Every one of us has a gift, even if it’s just the gift of kindness. We can keep our gift inside or we can share it with the world. It doesn’t have to be something that is the bright shiny thing that everybody pays attention to. Mine is being very quietly persistent. I don’t have to be out front, but I don’t want to be the last one in the door. I don’t have to knock the door down, but I will keep knocking. Doesn’t open? I’ll find another one.”
–Mayor Annise Parker, photographed for Nate Gowdy’s The American Superhero project in which he portrays contemporary leaders “whose stories of resilience and tenderness exemplify life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”