Andee Rodriguez spent their youth in constant conflict with their father, religion and themselves.
Rodriguez is non-binary with a lean towards femininity. Rodriguez’s father, guided by the values of a religious Hispanic household, saw the blooming queer identity in young Rodriguez as something that needed to be corrected.
The first time Rodriguez’s identity got them kicked out of their home, they were only 14 years old.
“He would try to reprimand and discipline me to ‘get the gay out,’” Rodriguez said. “When little mishaps would happen – little slip-ups – where my true identity would show … if it wasn’t a physical or emotional reprimand, he would kick me out of the house. There were a lot of times I’d end up on the streets and sleeping on people’s floors, like friends.”
Today, Rodriguez works in the financial aid office on TCC NE Campus. Born and raised in El Paso, Rodriguez had no contacts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when they moved to accept the job offer.
The move came with the hope that Rodriguez would be able to express themselves openly and freely, without the judgment of family. Shani Dellimore Barrax, who was in charge of the diversity office at the time, offered Rodriguez an opportunity to be a part of the district Safe Space program, which aims to educate and inform others about the LGBTQ community and provide resources to those in need.
“Through the diversity trainings I learned more about who I am, not who I needed to be to appease my parents,” Rodriguez said. “ It took me going 600 miles to start exploring who I am. And then little by little, I started being able to express who I am and not feel a sting of pain like I’m doing something wrong.”
In the years before the move, Rodriguez would try to repress their identity in an effort to fit the mold society laid out for them.
“I would go to bed and I’d pray, and I’d be like, “‘God, just when I wake up in the morning, I know I’m going to be straight and I’m no longer to have these feelings.’” Rodriguez said. “And I remember I would wake up and still feel the same way and I would just cry.”
As Rodriguez grew older they enrolled in college and started working part-time jobs while continuing to manage the difficult emotions that came from the friction between themselves and their family.
“I mean, I worked cleaning restrooms in a church for a year. I did a lot of odd jobs here and there just to survive.” Rodriguez said.
Fast forward, Rodriguez can be seen working on campus sporting oversized square glasses, a fresh manicure and gauges in their ears. Their office glows purple, an American flag featuring rapper Ice Spice hanging from the door.
Princess Brown, an enrollment coach at TCC, has known Rodriguez for over 10 years.
“They are very lovable.” said Brown. “They have a heart for people, They love to serve people.”
Jane Mahoney, a sociology student on TCC NE Campus, has known Rodriguez for over two years. She originally met Rodriguez through the LGBTQ+ club on campus. When she later applied to work at the financial aid office, she met Rodrgiuez again as an adviser. Mahoney has been working as a student mentor at the office for 18 months.
“As a friend, Andy is very supportive and loyal.” Mahoney said. “And I would say very playful. We tease each other. It’s very fun.”
Rodriguez started volunteering for LGBTQ+ clubs on campus as an adviser, aiming to establish support networks for queer youth, many of whom have been kicked out of their homes.
“The age population that we serve here tends to be right out of high school, and parents were doing the same thing [as my dad] of kicking the kids out of the home and they’d be homeless.” said Rodriguez. “For me, this is unacceptable. I don’t understand how a parent can do that to a child. I don’t have a child,. But I still just don’t understand how you can put conditions on unconditional love. So that’s when I started saying, ‘OK, let’s find homeless shelters. Let’s let’s do the work of where I can refer you to to help give you the tools and resources you need. To survive.’”
“They are very lovable. They have a heart for people, They love to serve people.”
– Princess brown
Many homeless shelters in this area do not accept those in the LGTBQ+ community. So, Rodriguez created a queer resource guide to direct those in need to safe places.
“Because it’s like, what other services did I need? That I wish I had, that I know are available now that are safe, and so that’s why I started building that and [trying to help] not just the TCC community, but the surrounding community in Tarrant County, Dallas County, and anywhere that I go that is my circle of influence,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez aims to influence those around them in a way that instills hope. They use their life experiences to fuel their commitment to making sure students feel welcome and safe.
“What got me through a lot was my will to survive,” said Rodriguez. “And hope. I always just had hope that things would get better. That’s what kept me going through all those situations. So being out here and hearing that and seeing that people were going through what I went through and how our commonality was that pain. I want to switch that and make our commonality hope instead.”