Harris Health makes history with 1st transgender person on board

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Thursday, June 22, 2023
History made as 1st transgender person chosen for Harris Health board
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For the first time, Harris County's largest medical system will have an openly transgender and non-binary person, Dr. Cody Miller Pyke, on its board.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- For the first time, Harris County's largest medical system will have an openly transgender and non-binary person on its board of trustees. It's a historic appointment for Harris Health, but it also comes at a time when transgender rights are under attack in our state legislature.

To learn more, ABC13 invited Lou Weaver and Ethan Michelle Ganz to our studio.

"They're not listening," Ethan Michelle Ganz, who is transgender and non-binary, said. "They're actively not listening to the folks whose lives this directly impacts."

SEE ALSO: Texas Children's to stop transgender care in coming months, CEO email says

"Basically, the conversation that they're having in subtle words is, 'We don't want you here.' Because if you can't have access to a restroom, if your kids can't play sports, if your kids can't have access to medicine, they can't be here," added Lou Weaver, who is queer and transgender.

This year, the Texas legislature has passed bills banning certain drag performances and putting restrictions on transgender athletes joining college sports teams.

And, on Sept. 1, transgender kids in our state will lose access to puberty blockers and hormone therapies.

Ganz started taking hormones as an adult.

"We talk about gender dysphoria all the time, but we really need to start talking about our gender euphoria," Ganz said. "Once I started the transition, things started happening, like euphoria that I never even imagined that I could feel happened."

Nearly 93,000, or .43% percent of Texans identify as transgender, according to LGBTQ+ research institute, The Williams Institute.

SEE RELATED STORY: More than a trans person: A UH student's passion for advocacy, music and photography for Pride Month

But, when it comes to who makes the laws, there has been almost no transgender representation.

"I honestly had imposter syndrome the whole time. I'm like, 'It's not going to be me. My name got thrown in there, and they're doing their due diligence interviewing me.' I never thought I would get picked. It's super exciting because it feels like the culmination of everything I've been spending the last decade working on," Dr. Cody Miller Pyke said.

Dr. Pyke is both a doctor and a lawyer.

She has a Masters degree in bio-ethics, and she's a professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine. She's also transgender and non-binary.

"I think a lot of people don't know a trans person, and if you don't know or understand something, it's really scary," she said. "I wish more people would take time to get to know people like me so that we can come to a common understanding and address any fears or questions."

Dr. Pyke's appointment to the board of Harris Health was unanimous - a yes vote from all four Democrats and one Republican on commissioners court.

"It matters how we are spending our dollars, which are taxpayer dollars, how are we serving the most vulnerable population in Harris County, who are the individuals who avail themselves of Harris Health Services," Commissioner Lesley Briones, who appointed Dr. Pyke, said. "Perspective matters, not just for symbolic value, but more importantly for the perspective and the analysis that will be brought to the decisions being made."

Harris Health is a $2.3 billion healthcare system that includes community health centers and both Ben Taub and LBJ Hospitals. Medical residents from all over the country come to Houston to train at Harris Health's Baylor College of Medicine and UTHealth programs.

Dr. Pyke will now be one of nine board members in charge.

"Okay, so here's the sandbox that we have been defined, that we're allowed to be in," she explained. "How can we do the most for this community within the confines of the regulatory and legal frame work?"

Harris Health is bound by state law, but board members can choose the way certain taxpayer dollars are allocated.

"I just remind myself why I'm here, why I'm doing this work," Dr. Pyke said. "And it's because there are thousands of people like me who don't have the privilege of speaking, whose voices are silenced and who I want to be their advocate."

"When she is there in these people's lives every day, they cannot ignore the existence of us," Weaver added. "That's what we want -- to have the same equality and equity as anybody else around here, to be treated as full-fledged Texans. I wasn't born here, but I have been taught to say I got here as fast as I could, but then you treat me like I don't belong here. There's a disconnect in those two statements. I want it to be that I can be proud to live here. Now they're trying to kick me out because I don't fit into their thoughts of what a Texan is."

SEE RELATED STORY: 18-year-old trailblazing transgender student helps community through youth-led Gender Cool program

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