Ex-council member educates on LGBTQ issues

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Randi Shade discusses her experience as Austin’s first openly gay city council member after a screening of the 1984 documentary, “The Times of Harvey Milk,” Wednesday night. The film was screened in the LBJ Library by the Harvey Milk Society & the Gender and Sexuality Center.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

UT alumna and former Student Government president Randi Shade served on the Austin city council from 2008 to 2011 and worked under three different governors, in addition to serving on several committees and holding membership in numerous local and national organizations.

No longer serving on city council, Shade now serves as mother to two young children and lives in central Austin with her partner, Kayla Shell.

Shade said she was open about her sexuality while running for city council but does not promote gay issues as her main agenda. Shade said she is proud she ran openly because she stayed true to herself and said she is a better person for it.

“My son is only 5 and doesn’t understand this now, but I don’t want him to think I was ever embarrassed of who I am,” she said.

Shade said she was surprised when she heard there had not been a gay council member in Austin, calling the city “a blueberry in red tomato soup”, meaning the only area with Democrats surrounded by a large area of Republicans.

“Unlike most cities in America, really the world, Austin does not have a gay ghetto,” Shade said. “In Austin, the liberals fight the liberals. The fact that I was a businesswoman actually hurt me more than that I was gay.”

Members of the Harvey Milk Society, an LGBTQ student group within the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and the Gender and Sexuality Center invited Shade to speak Wednesday.

Shade said she respects the work of the openly gay 1978 San Francisco city councilman Harvey Milk because he led the way for others to be accepted and run for political offices no matter what their sexuality.

“Harvey Milk’s main identity was being a gay activist,” Shade said. “Being gay is not my main identity. You can’t only focus on your agenda where this is a much larger contingency to represent.”

Asha Dane’el, Harvey Milk Society lead coordinator and textile and merchandise graduate student, said she was excited to hear from Shade.

“Harvey Milk is our mascot, of sorts, because he was a gay politician, and as part of the school of affairs, we try to stick to that area,” Dane’el said.

Dane’el said members are really trying to reach out to students across campus and not only within the LBJ school.

“This is my first year at UT, and I identify as queer, so I wanted to be part of that community,” said Alice Bufkin, public affairs graduate student and member of the Harvey Milk Society.