Dallas LGBTQ Bar Association President Callie Butcher uses her skills to help her community
JAMES RUSSELL | Contributing Writer
Callie Butcher is a wife, a mother, an attorney, a patent law nerd, an LGBTQ advocate, president of the Dallas LGBT Bar Association — and a meme.
On March 16, Butcher testified against Senate Bill 14, a bill that bans gender-affirming care for transgender people under age 18 and that now awaits the governor’s signature, having passed the Legislature. Like the other witnesses, she was given two minutes to state her position. Unlike other witnesses, Butcher and another witness –– three random witnesses would share the long desk in the Senate chamber –– were paired with Dr. Steve Hotze.
Hotze is a prominent hard-right Houston Republican activist and physician best known for his opposition to LGBTQ rights who was also indicted last year for funding a voter fraud investigation where the investigator pointed a gun at an innocent air conditioning repairman. (The repairman is also suing him.)
Hotze, in two minutes, summed up the LGBTQ community this way: as “pedophile proponents [who] sexualize children in order to groom them.” Butcher, sitting to his right, shook her head, rolled her eyes and, at some points, appeared utterly dumbfounded. She expressed what a lot of other LGBTQ activists felt.
To her, Hotze was simply saying what quieter opponents wanted to say out loud. “It’s what legislators want to say,” she said.
Still, Butcher was hurt. “He’s talking about me and saying the choices I made with my body make me a deviant,” she said. “I disagree.”
Butcher, who has an engineer’s matter-of-fact attitude and an activist’s seriousness and jubilance, estimates she was at the Capitol about 20 times during the 2023 regular session, which ended May 29th.
She has been politically involved for a while. But this session was different. She started her own firm last year, giving her the freedom to go to the Capitol when necessary.
“Working with the Legislature has been nice, even when things were going bad. The outpouring of public support from the community was good,” she recalled. Still, she added, “Even if we can fight to limit the damage [of anti-LGBTQ measures debated and passed], and even if lawsuits prevail, we will see lasting damage on the queer and trans communities.”
Butcher, like many in the LGBTQ community, knows queer trauma. Before becoming a prominent local LGBTQ advocate, transwoman and lawyer, she started in a Plano closet.
She first came out of the closet at age 14. Then she went back into that closet, remaining through high school and throughout her time at the University of Texas at Austin for undergraduate and law school.
But slowly, she became aware of and confident in her identity. She even found the love of her life and married her in 2014.
But other than to her spouse of nine years and a very few others, Butcher was not out.
Then she privately underwent hormone therapy in 2018 while working for Sidley Austin’s Dallas office. She was set to make her big debut presenting as Callie on March 16, 2020.
But on March 12, she got the email many remember: Offices would be closed, and everyone would work remotely until the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.
Now, three years later, Butcher operates her own firm, where she still gets to geek out on patent law while at the same time helping the LGBTQ community. And, of course, she is a vocal activist.
And that activism includes joining the bar association.
Butcher joined the LGBTQ Bar Association in 2020, only a few months before her planned coming out at work. Now, she’s president of that organization, having taken the office in July 2022. That gives her yet another avenue for helping the community.
“I was looking for people in a similar situation” to her own, Butcher said. “The trans community is small, and it’s difficult to find someone who is a trans attorney and who understands the pressures of the jobs. I found an open and excepting community and enjoy being a part of it,” she said.
But that’s not the only group she’s joining. She also volunteers with Lambda Legal and Black Tie Dinner, with more on the horizon.
What’s her next adventure? She isn’t giving away information just yet, but, she said, watch for an announcement coming soon — perhaps as soon as this month.