Texas drag brunch defended by armed counter-protesters

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By Steven Monacelli | VINE, Tx. – The parking lot was packed Monday night when I arrived at the administrative headquarters of the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCID), from which I graduated more than a decade ago.

Four pop-up tents had been set up in the parking lot by groups of conservative activists who threw a party ahead of the meeting. Among the hookers was Julie McCarty, the founder of the True Texas Project, a right-wing group from the NE Tarrant Tea Party that has been designated as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We threw a big party in the parking lot to celebrate our wins and enjoy great community spirit,” wrote Julie McCarty, CEO of True Texas Project. on Twitter. “Thank you @GCISD and thanks to the homies @TrueTXProject who supported!”

Just in front of the entrance to the building, a handful of neighborhood students held protest signs. “Our existence is not a controversy,” read one sign. “Let trans kids live, we are not threats,” said another.

What drew both groups to the suburban school district meeting in Tarrant County was a 36-page document of proposed district policies that was only released 72 hours earlier. The proposals were championed by the school board’s four-member conservative majority, recently elected with the help of a black money stream, part of a national trend in which crusading reactionaries have turned school boards into perches from which to wage war on literature, gay children, and non-existent curriculum. More controversially, GCISD policies include a complete ban on employees engaging in any discussion of what the district defines as “gender fluidity.”

“I AM PART OF THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY, LIKE MANY OF MY FRIENDS WHO STAY AT GCISD SCHOOLS. THE POLICIES YOU PROPOSE PUT THEM IN DANGER.

“For the purposes of this policy, ‘Gender Fluidity’ means any theory or ideology that (1) espouses the idea that biological sex is simply a social construct, (2) espouses the idea that it is possible for a person to being of any gender or none (i.e. non-binary) based solely on that person’s feelings or preferences, or (3) espouses the view that a person’s biological sex individual should be changed to ‘match’ an assumed gender different from the person’s biological sex,” the measure reads.

Other policies include a districtwide ban on “fairness audits” and draconian rules about what books are allowed in libraries and classrooms. The language around “inappropriate material” in libraries is particularly vague, defining it in part as “demonstrably offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole regarding what is appropriate for minors”.

The policies are described by proponents as designed to ensure the district complies with state and federal laws, such as laws passed by the Texas Legislature explicitly banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in classrooms. . Critics, like the ACLU of Texas, deride the policies as blatantly anti-LGTBQ+ and note that parts of the policies actually go beyond what is required by state law.

Nearly two hundred people had registered to speak during the public comment period, a record number according to council member Jorge Rodríguez. The testimony lasted nearly four hours. Students, parents, alumni and outside activists each had only sixty seconds to voice their opinion on the proposed policies before the final vote. Most said they were neighborhood residents. A few were activists from far-right groups like True Texas Project, Protect Texas Kids, and even the John Birch Society.

“MANY ALREADY FEEL THEY NEED TO SUPPRESS THEIR GENDER EXPRESSION IN PUBLIC AND FEAR DISCRIMINATION.”

In terms of “prevailing norms in the adult community as a whole,” the room was clearly divided. Simple thanks to the board, heartfelt pleas to reconsider policies, and deranged chest banging were all on display. One man, Scott Western, shocked some in the room when he delivered a deeply homophobic pro-political rant.

“Fight like hell, hold your ground against the LGBT mafia and their dang pedo fans. Keep winning. You know what, keep the win, they can keep the monkey pox,” western said. “Court! Take some. Thank you.”

Western received no condemnation from the board, but a man was warned and eventually expelled by the chairman of the council to applaud after speeches opposed to policies.

Some of the most compelling speeches came from students and alumni of the district who urged the district to reconsider the proposed measures. “Many already feel like they have to repress their gender expression in public and fear discrimination,” said one high school student. “Schools everywhere and in GCISD are supposed to make everyone feel included and safe.”

Another student’s speech personalized this concern in a particularly dramatic way.

“I transferred to another district this year because of the culture of fear you keep creating,” the student said. “I am part of the LGBTQ+ community, as are many of my friends who stay in GCISD schools. The policies you are proposing put them at risk. So what are we afraid of? No, let me rephrase. What are you afraid of?”

“THESE BOARD MEETINGS HAVE JUST BECOME HEADQUARTERS FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON WHAT WE ARE HERE TO DO, WHICH IS HELPING STUDENTS SUCCEED.

After the public comment period ended, the four Tory members, in keeping with their apparent disdain for free speech, voted to limit administrators’ comments to three minutes each. An opposing member, Rodríguez, tore up the proposal.

“We now have a war on librarians, a war on LGTBQ+ students and teachers, and that’s why I’m voting against these policies,” Rodríguez said. “We’ve heard from many citizens who are concerned about these policies, and in recent years we don’t get to that point because we go out into the community and ask for input and feedback. … I think it’s all political. These board meetings have become the seat of political campaigns instead of focusing on what we are here to do, which is to help students succeed.

Conservative MP Tammy Nakamura has defended the policies as a justified response to what she sees as the politicization of education and “the overt and harmful infiltration of social and cultural propaganda into the curriculum, nothing more harmful to young people minds and bodies as the madness of self-called ideology of gender fluidity.

“Simply put, with the adoption of these policies, we have neutralized our classrooms,” Nakamura said. “They will no longer be used as weapons against free-market capitalism, against national pride and unity, against traditional American values, and against the biological and social identity of our children.”

By the end of the directors’ statements, with less than five hours of public debate, the proposed policies were all passed by the same 4-to-3 margin that limited discussion about them.

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Steven Monacelli is an investigative reporter in Dallas. His reports have been published in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, The Real News, Dallas Observer, Dallas Weekly, and more. He is also the publisher of Protean Magazine, a non-profit literary publication. Follow him on Twitter @stevanzetti.

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The previous article was previously published by The Texas Observer, a non-profit investigative media outlet and is republished with permission.

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