2022 Volunteer of the Year - Stephen Miranda
Stephen M. Miranda (he/him)
Senior Vice President, Private Client Advisor – Bank of America Private Bank
Making things happen sums up Stephen Miranda! He is a leader in Houston's LGBTQ+ community and gives back in many ways, including to the Chamber.
Stephen was recognized as the Chamber 2022 Volunteer of the Year for his work to advocate for the Chamber both through his role at Bank of America, one of the Chamber's Corporate Partners, and on a personal level. He has facilitated important community conversations, identified grant opportunities, engaged new members and Corporate Partners, represented the Chamber in the community and much more.
Stephen has done all of this and much more without a title or recognition because he deeply cares about the mission of the Chamber and moving the LGBTQ+ community forward in terms of economic inclusion. Thank you, Stephen, for your leadership and dedication to the Chamber and LGBTQ+ community!
Take a few minutes to read more about Stephen including what this recognition means to him, his “why” and the other ways he gives back to the community.
Tell us more about yourself.
I am a 6th generation Texan of Latino heritage, born and raised in Houston, an Eagle Scout, and a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma. My husband, Blake Mudd, and I live in the East End with our 9 lb. Chiweenie - Diego, and our 20 lb. Russian Blue (mean) cat – Mr. Business. In our fleeting pockets of spare time, we travel as much as possible, and try to get to Portland, Maine, where we would love to have a second home, as often as we can.
Congratulations on being recognized as the 2022 Chamber Volunteer of the Year! What does this recognition mean for you?
I am humbled and honored, to say the least. Being a part of this work doesn’t feel optional. I work in an industry that is primarily white, male, straight, and conservative. Every day I must prove not only that I belong, but that hiring a young, gay, Latino is a good bet for the firm. My success is mandatory, because my failure would impact and inhibit all of us.
And as the first and only openly gay person in my market (which covers four states, and some of the largest cities in the country), it is vital to show my team that I don’t have to hide to be successful. I am out, I am proud, I am involved – and that is what drives my results.
Why did you get involved in the Chamber?
I was first introduced to the Chamber by Gary Wood and attended an event at Jumper Maybach’s studio several years ago. I was impressed with the diverse business representation of the members present. I saw then the unique place that this organization fits within the broader community, and the unique opportunity it creates for business owners seeking professional development and advancement.
As an underserved, minority community consumed by political and legal battles for equality, often our business needs are understandably overshadowed. But, what is missed is the necessity for economic power to support our efforts to advocate for resources and rights. This organization closes that loop and gives us the tools to leverage our economic advancement for better representation and solidify our seat at the table.
You’ve dedicated a tremendous amount of time, especially behind the scenes, advocating for the Chamber. Why is supporting the Chamber important for you?
The Chamber is a powerful resource for our community, and if this work is successful, we will all benefit. A Chamber of Commerce is only as strong as the people and organizations that comprise it – and you can’t just pay the annual fee and say you’ve really contributed. This organization needs activity and connectivity to thrive, which is what I strive to offer.
In my profession, I am often at the intersection of many institutions and resources, and it is important to me to draw those into our community. And there is no better place to foster those relationships than through the Chamber. Further, I believe in the connective power Chambers of Commerce, and bringing their resources directly to people who can take them into their own companies and careers.
The Chamber provides the ecosystem for this type of synergy, which is why I was so proud to connect the legacy of LAMBDA NextGen with Chamber to build on the success of their work, using the full coalition and resources of the Chamber to breathe new life into the group. This will be a monumental benefit to our community, as we create a dedicated space for Young Professionals to seek advancement. We all have a wealth of contacts and ideas that this Chamber needs to continue to expand its impact – and that is the quiet work that growth requires.
You give so much to the LGBTQ+ community and the broader community in Houston including the Chamber. Can you share more about the other ways you give back with your time and talent?
I currently serve on the Houston Advisory Board for Shelters to Shutters - a national organization that transitions individuals and families out of homelessness to economic self-sufficiency by providing full time employment, housing, and career training, the Board of Directors of the JD Doyle Archives, and the Bank of America Community Volunteers Board, representing the Private Bank.
I am an active member of Bank of America’s PRIDE Employee Resource Group, the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and recently rolled off the Board of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, the oldest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in the South, where I have been an active member since I moved back to Houston in 2016.
What is one thing that other members would be surprised to learn about you?
I was born and raised in this community, and the struggle for our equality. I have lesbian mothers (Sally and Mona), who were at the forefront of gay parenthood, and was named after Mona’s best friend who died of AIDS. When I was a child, there were no Domestic Partnership benefits. My parents couldn’t own a home together, be on the same health care plan, or even the same auto insurance policy.
Our existence as a family was illegal, as this predated Lawrence vs. Texas – a ruling that is currently in jeopardy. When I was born, I only had one legally recognized parent (my biological mother), and the State of Texas would not allow my other mother, the primary breadwinner, to adopt me. This made us financially vulnerable.
When I was 17 years old, a judge was elected in Bexar County, and became the first judge in the state who would grant a single parent adoption – which we quickly jumped on. Judicial elections matter. I learned at a very young age what discrimination feels like and knew that my life would be spent fighting for the equality and respect we deserve – fighting for my family. I learned the importance of advocacy, and the power we have by coming out, and demanding our elected officials truly represent us – and voting out those who won’t.
And I learned the power of community. My parents were very involved with Resurrection MCC and GLHU (Gay and Lesbians Hispanics Unidos), and Sally used to compete in their Miss Baile Competitions (Mona made a scrapbook of the 1990 competition, which is included in the JD Doyle Archives: www.houstonlgbthistory.org/misc-hispanic3.html). They fought to overcome bigotry so that I would have an easier life. They marched in Pride Parades, facing down the KKK wearing full regalia on the sidelines, they marched after Paul Broussard was murdered, and they raised me to carry their torch for the battles left to come. This work is very personal to me, and I will never stop fighting for change.
As a member with one of the Chamber’s Corporate Partners, what are you most proud of in terms of the Chamber’s accomplishments over the past seven plus years?
Tammi Wallace is one of the most fearless and effective leaders I know. The success of this Chamber rests largely on her courage in entering unfamiliar and potentially unfriendly rooms and demanding a seat at the table (and a large check and an MOU before she walks out the door). This isn’t easy – believe me, I know.
Many times, I’ve been the only gay person sitting in a conference room at a conservative company with C-suite teams and owners, wondering when they’re going to find out, and when they’re going to throw me out. But, this often unseen and unsung work is what pushes us forward fastest. When you can sit across the desk from powerful people, change their hearts and bring them into our movement – that’s where the real progress begins.
Often, activism can feel like either shouting into a void or proselytizing on friendly ears, but the work of this Chamber is tangible and only possible when pursued outside of the safety of our community and our allies. Texas is a tough place for us to do business. Full stop.
To break through, and solidify our place in the broader economic ecosystem, you can’t simply strive to burn it all down. This work requires cunning, grace, skill, finesse, and most of all, guts. Advocating for LGBT business interests is relatively uncharted territory, and this organization has the results to prove that this work is effective, and that the change we seek is possible. We should all be proud of Tammi Wallace, and grateful to have her holding the line and leading the charge.
When you think about the opportunities ahead for the Chamber, what energizes you most about what the organization can do in the next 3-5 years? Beyond?
I am amazed at how much the Chamber has accomplished with a lean budget and staff these past 7 years – extraordinarily impressive. I am excited as I consider all the possibilities that now present themselves as a result of the extensive, and growing, coalition the Chamber has developed, additional financial resources, and outstanding team. It still feels like the Chamber is at the cusp of it’s potential, and I am eager to see, and committed to helping, the organization fructify.
How does the work and mission of the Chamber align with your personal values?
Economic freedom is the pathway to progress. Once someone can support themselves and their family, they can begin to focus on the larger issues facing their community. They can only rise to action once they have the capacity to act.
I have been very fortunate in my life to be able to help connect dots for members of our community to advance professionally – I am passionate about helping our folks enter positions of professional leadership and take strides toward financial freedom and wealth creation. Better to offer a hand up, than a handout. That is the core mission of the Chamber, which is why I have found concord with the membership and have felt driven to be a part of this work.
We know you’re a strong advocate for the Chamber. Thank you! When you’re talking to other business owners or Corporate Partners about the Chamber, what do you share to encourage them to get involved? Why should businesses and professionals get involved in the Chamber?
It is hard to be a part of a civil rights or equality focused movement without diving into politics. To be fair, we aren’t responsible for our existence being fraught with political controversy – that happened TO us, but I get it when people shy away from participating in the movement to avoid the noise.
The Chamber provides an avenue for us all to come together – community members, allies, and soon to be allies – around a common goal: economic advancement. Our purpose is to create and support good business, and good business is good for all of us. I can’t think of a reason NOT to be involved.
Now for some fun…rapid fire!
What's your favorite thing to do in HTX when you're not working?
See a show! You can often find me at the Houston Symphony, The Alley, Houston Grand Opera, or any of the smaller, excellent, local theatre companies in town. We have a lot of talent to be proud of in Houston.
Reading & Knitting
Barbeque or Mexican, and where do you go for it?
Mexican – Laredo Taqueria on Cavalcade for breakfast, Los Cucos on HW290 for lunch, Xochi for dinner.
Native Houstonian or got here as fast as you could and from where?
How old were you when you came out?
First app checked in the morning?
Most used app?
Person you FaceTime most often?
My sister, Lauren
Most listened-to track?
Distance – Emily King
Anything else you want to share about yourself, this recognition, the Chamber or otherwise?
I just want to thank Tammi Wallace and the Chamber Team and Board, again, for this honor. I believe in what you do and will support you in every way that I can.