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Kati Lois Houts is a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of El Paso and an LGBTQ+ activist within the Borderland. Kati, who identifies as a lesbian, has been able to bring a unique perspective to El Paso through her experiences as a female pastor who is part of the LGBTQ+ community herself. Kati has made a significant impact on the local LGBTQ+ movement through her work in the church, activism, and the efforts and contributions she’s made in organizations which seek to uplift the LGBTQ+ community on a local level.
Kati Houts was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and lived there with her family until moving to Dallas, Texas at the age of four. Kati attended most of her schooling from elementary through high school in Dallas and its surrounding areas. Growing up in the “bible belt”, Kati was raised with semi-traditional values and was a part of the Presbyterian church. Though Kati always knew she believed in God, religion didn’t necessarily resonate or connect with her until her early twenties. After finishing high school Kati pursued an extensive college education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Education from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, a Master of Arts for Rehabilitation for the Adult Blind from Western Michigan University, and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from St. Thomas University in Florida.
Following the roles of what many would consider a traditional lifestyle, Kati was married to a man by the age of twenty. Not long after getting married, Kati began to realize that she felt out of place with the life she was living and had succumbed to societal pressures of what a woman should be. In an interview with Borderland Rainbow Center’s director, Brenda Risch, Kati said: “…I kept trying to do things that I hoped would turn me into, I don’t know, more of a wifey-type in the south. I was taught that a woman, a female, gets married and she has children, and she runs the home and raises the children, and her husband comes first in her life and her children come next”. It wasn’t until attending a summer camp for the adult blind at the age of 27 did Kati come to terms with her identity and sexuality. Kati began getting close to a coworker of hers who identified as a lesbian (though Kati did not know this at the time). One day, the two of them kissed, which resulted in Kati’s “a-ha” moment of realization that she was not that straight woman she thought she was. Since then, Kati has always embraced her sexuality, never feeling ashamed of the fact that she identifies as a lesbian. After coming out, Kati and her husband filed for divorce, allowing her to explore who she was as an individual.
In 2007, Kati became a pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of El Paso, or MCC. Not long after becoming a pastor did Kati begin to get involved with the community. During this time, someone who was working for the former El Paso Planned Parenthood reached out to Kati, initiating her involvement in more community-related organizations. Kati took a class giving her the certifications to speak with individuals suffering with AIDS, allowing her to be a source of support and resources. Kati Houts also became a member of the education committee for Rio Grande Adelante, a local LGBTQ+ non-profit organization aimed at educating and empowering the LGBTQ+ communities of West Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Northern Chihuahua. The purpose of the education committee is to be responsible for all educational initiatives concerning the LGBTQ+ community, such as: working with area high school GSAs, collaborating with PFLAG El Paso on education initiatives, overseeing scholarships, and coordinating annual events/workshops. Kati believes that another factor of her importance as a member of Rio Grande Adelante lies in her ability to bring more female representation to the organization. Kati also became involved with the group Border Interfaith in which she helped organize services for Pride, PFLAG El Paso where she represented the church, as well as contributing to the Frontera Pride Film Festival in 2009 and 2010 where El Pasoans gathered together to see films by, about, and for the LGBTQ+ community.
In terms of activism, Kati has been outspoken in her beliefs concerning issues that would impact the LGBTQ+ community within the Borderland. Around 2009, city officials began talks of extending health insurance benefits to unmarried heterosexual and gay partners of municipal employees. These plans sparked controversy within the local community, with much of the public and few religious groups condemning the idea due to their narrow-minded beliefs about what marriage should be. Kati Houts attended city council meetings as this plan was in discussion, representing the church as well as the LGBTQ+ community. In the El Paso Times newspaper Kati spoke out on the issue: “Since the beginning of time, people have had to fight to be treated equally. This gives a group of people access to health benefits. We all know in today’s economy that’s really important to have… It’s a civil liberty type of issue; it’s not about sexual orientation” (El Paso Times, 2009).
As the pastor of MCC as well as identifying as a member of LGBTQ+ community herself, Kati represents the church as a form of progressive Christianity, being inclusive to the LGBTQ+ movement and community here in El Paso. In 2015 after gay marriage was officially legal in Texas, Kati was among one of the first El Paso pastors to announce their readiness to marry gay couples. MCC has hosted and been in attendance of several community engaging LGBTQ+ events and rallies over the years, such as El Paso’s Pridefest (2015-17), a Trans Lives Matter Rally in response to Trump’s military ban on transgender individuals (2017), and UTEP’s Queer Student Alliance Queer Prom (2018). Currently, now under the leadership of Brian Sieve, MCC hosts online Queer Bible Studies weekly through Zoom.
The work Kati hasdoneo is significant in terms of not only community-based inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ movement, but religious-based inclusivity as well. Her work as a pastor, involvement in city council, contributions to LGBTQ+ centered organizations, and speaking out in local newspapers, have all made significant impacts on the religious attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people and women here in the Borderland. Kati Houts is now retired for a well-earned rest from public life.
“Your rights as a human being cease when they begin to interfere on the rights of others” -Kati Houts
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