Neighbor Cece Cox is CEO of the Resource Center, one of the primary LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS service organizations in the U.S. The center serves more than 60,000 people each year through programs for families and communities in areas such as health, wellness, education, advocacy and policy. Cox manages a budget of $10 million, as well as more than 60 staff and 1,200 volunteers. She’s worked there for 11 years, including eight as CEO. She is the mother of a 20-year-old son.
Tell me about your job.
I’m mostly responsible for making sure the agency is fiscally sound. I’m the chief looking-ahead person. For example, changes in health care would have a huge impact on our clients. We just started a feasibility study to see if we could develop a housing development for LGBTQ seniors. I also maintain relationships that we have, whether those are political or with funders.
What inspired you to take that role?
I was working at a law firm here. It just wasn’t as satisfactory. I was an older new associate. The politics of firms are messy. I just wasn’t feeling great, and I was missing my community. I decided I wanted to find something that would feel good to me in the LGBTQ community in which I had worked before and been a volunteer for many years.
Tell me about your childhood.
I’m the youngest of three and the only girl. My dad was the president of Phillips Petroleum, a multinational oil company headquartered in Bartlesville, Okla. I got to grow up in a small town, which had a lot of benefits, not that I necessarily appreciated it at the time. The same people who were always watching you and reporting back to your mom were the very same people that you could count on if you needed something. My coming out and then adopting my son, Mateo, was really hard. Not everybody in my family was OK with it at first. But at a point I asked, “Mom, can we have a baby shower for us?” And she did. My parents had no desire to keep that secret. They weren’t ashamed of us. That took courage for my mom, which is a real testament to how my parents are. They wanted to understand. The first thing my dad said was, “You’re our daughter, and we love you,” which is what every kid wants to hear.
What attracted you to East Dallas?
I intentionally came back to this area after a relationship ended. I was attracted to the lake. I enjoy cycling. I’ve lived in Dallas for 34 years, and I’ve almost always lived in East Dallas. The politics suit me better. I remember the first day I moved back. I was newly single, in an apartment and finding my footing, healing. On the first day, I walked at the lake, and I ran into somebody I knew. I think it was someone I had gone to church with, but I also started seeing people from St. John’s Episcopal School. It just felt good.
Besides work, what are you most proud of?
My family. (Former partner) Lisa is a good parent, and I think we have been good parents. Navigating a path for our son as gay parents, we were always in sync. We never wanted any discrimination directed at him. When we were looking at schools, even pre-K, we said, “This is our family. We’re two lesbian moms. This is our son. Do you have any other gay families? Do you have an issue with us?” We wanted to be in communication with teachers. We were not going to live in the closet.
Was that difficult? He went to religious schools, St. John’s Episcopal and Jesuit College Preparatory.
We had an interesting moment with Jesuit when we were applying. Lisa went online to fill out the application forms, and the language was mother/father, and there was no other option. She called me crying. We decided to write a one-page letter and ask that it be put in Mateo’s file. We said, “This is our family. We’ve always been open. We do not want anything to be hidden or you to feel like you’re being surprised. Your application doesn’t have language for our family, and we’re applying. Here’s supplemental information basically.”
How would you like to be remembered?
Well, my friendships and my family are the main things. Even though I think about my work nonstop, and I’m passionate about my work, I want to be remembered as a good daughter, sister, mom and friend. I want to be remembered as somebody who did positive things for other people.
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