NCLR's Minter begins cleaning up after tornado hits Texas home

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Tuesday March 7, 2023
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Before and after: The room NCLR legal director Shannon Minter was in when a tornado struck March 2; by March 6, he had been able to clean up his desk area, in spite of the severely damaged ceiling. Photos: Shannon Minter
Before and after: The room NCLR legal director Shannon Minter was in when a tornado struck March 2; by March 6, he had been able to clean up his desk area, in spite of the severely damaged ceiling. Photos: Shannon Minter

National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter and his family have begun the arduous process of cleaning up after a tornado ripped through their rural Texas home last week.

Minter, a trans man who has been involved in some of the country's major cases for LGBTQ equality, including same-sex marriage and trans rights, has been the legal director at San Francisco-based NCLR for more than two decades.

The tornado tore through Minter's home on March 2, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. He wrote on Twitter that he was just about to take his dogs out when the twister hit. His wife, Robin Minter, was in California at the time but returned home the next day.

In a phone call with the Bay Area Reporter March 6, Minter said that he and his wife are "nothing but grateful" for the support people have shown through donating to two GoFundMe campaigns that friends have established, as well as hundreds of messages on social media.

"It's making everything so much less stressful," Minter said.

Friends quickly rallied to help the Minters, who care for four dogs and 10 cats — most of them Minter has found abandoned near his home — by setting up a GoFundMe within hours of Minter posting about the disaster. They spread the word on Twitter, where Minter documents the lives of the pets on his popular feed, as the B.A.R. has previously reported. LGBTQ media outlets such as the Advocate and Los Angeles Blade also picked up the story, and those, along with the B.A.R.'s article, were shared widely.

A friend known on Twitter as Cee Eyes ("Dr. Strange PhD Cat Lackey") started the online fundraiser for tornado relief. It quickly surpassed the initial $10,000 goal, which Cee Eyes has since raised to $75,000. As of March 7, just over $62,000 had been raised. A separate GoFundMe had previously been started last fall by friend Laura McNamara to help the Minters care for their many pets. It remains active and has raised $25,900 as of March 7. Cee Eyes noted that people can donate to either fund, and the money will go to Minter.

"Shannon Minter and his wife Robin have given a loving home to so many stray kitties and pups. Many of us know Shannon for his big heart, kind words, and boundless devotion," Cee Eyes wrote for the fundraiser. "Sadly, a tornado ripped apart the Minter home on March 2, 2023. Shannon and Robin have done so much for others — bringing light and joy to those who follow their Twitter adventures. Now it's time for us to do whatever we can as they begin to rebuild a safe home for the Minter Babies!"

Shannon Minter's dog Albert has adjusted to temporarily staying with Minter's friend. Photo: Shannon Minter  

Dogs, cats adjusting
In his initial post, Minter told his followers that he and the dogs and cats were all OK.

By March 3, the dogs — Onyx, Gaia, Albert, and Sister — had been relocated to a friend's nearby home, along with Beulah, one of the older cats. And Minter spent part of last weekend working with his cousin to reinforce his friend's backyard fence so that the dogs can be outside, he posted.

The other cats have remained at the Minter home, which was severely damaged and not habitable, as he previously wrote. One silver lining, he wrote on Twitter, is that a cat porch that Minter recently had constructed at one end of the house was not hit by the tornado so the "porch kitties" (Loretta, Sweetie, Hayley Mills, and William) have remained in that area.

"The new kitty room was not damaged, so it's been a godsend," he wrote, adding that Robin has found it to be "her new happy place."

"She's a trooper," he told the B.A.R.

Two of the other cats, mother and daughter Meow Meow and Pip Squeak, always had their own room away from the clan and continue to stay there. "A huge window was broken," Minter said, but he and others were able to clean it up and barricade the area to prevent the cats from escaping.

Shannon Minter's cats Squeaky and Furby are still a little anxious but have each other. Photo: Shannon Minter  

Piper, Squeaky, and Furby remain in the parts of the house with Minter and his wife.

"It's like camping out here," Minter said. "We have electricity in some parts of the house and water — not hot water. It's kind of like the movie 'Fight Club.'" In that 1999 film, characters played by stars Edward Norton and Brad Pitt take up residence in a dilapidated home in an industrial area.

In the short term, Minter said that their insurance company would pay for an RV for temporary housing so that he and his wife can remain on the property. "I'd rather be here anyway," Minter said, after acknowledging that a hotel isn't really an option with all the animals.

The couple has yet to figure out next steps in terms of permanent housing, Minter said. The home that was destroyed once belonged to Minter's grandparents, and was built around 1937, he added.

Tornadoes have become more frequent in Texas, according to a study released in February by TradingPedia. In 2022, there were 160 tornadoes in the Lone Star State, causing an estimated $27.8 million in damages. Texas was second to Mississippi, which had 184 twisters that caused an estimated $7.76 million in damages last year. USA Today reported March 2 that the country is off to its third most active start for tornadoes in 2023, with 220 reported across the country in January and February.

Minter has shared photos of his damaged home, noting the room that he and the dogs were in when the tornado struck. That photo shows a ripped off ceiling and other destruction. Minter said this week he's been able to clean up that room, which contains his desk, and has been working in addition to all the cleanup and other things to do to recover from the twister.

Minter reiterated his gratitude to all who have donated and sent support.

"It's been wonderful," he said. "We're going to be OK."

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