COMMENTARY: GAY GAG

Words By Josue Ramirez

PRIDE is here, and collectively the Queers and Gays of Texas are gagged. However, it is not by a fierce look, take, or read. We are being literally gagged by the state legislature, which is actively passing more policies that discriminate, negatively impact, and erase queer Texans. These types of state laws further encourage acts of violence aimed at the LGBTQIA+ Community, which have become more prevalent and visible.

Illustration of a tlacuache humanoid wearing a purple striped shirt and jeans adorned with rainbows representing the LGBTQIA+. They are jumping in the air with a finger pointing in their mouth, like gagging, and a bright red exclamation and question mark over his head.
Illustration courtesy of Tumi Garcia.

SINE DIE

The 88th Texas Legislative Session came to a close on May 29th, ending what Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, calls “the toughest legislative session LGBTQI+ Texas have ever faced.” This year, lawmakers passed legislation including anti-Drag laws, bans on puberty blockers and hormone replacement for children, and restrictions on college sports for trans athletes.

In a last-minute attempt against Queer Texans and the education system, an amended House Bill 890 limiting elementary to high school teachers’ discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity was passed on to the Senate.

While the Texan “Don’t Say Gay” bill ultimately did not make it to the Governor’s Desk, the intent and tenacity conservative lawmakers have to attack and silence the Queer community are evident in their concerted attempts. Obsessed much?

While they are joke-worthy, the consequences of these queerphobic politicians’ actions are not. Millions of Texans will be adversely impacted. Trans and nonbinary children’s lives and well-being are at stake as well as those of young adults who excel in sports and gender expression. Our legacy of queer creativity and storytelling through the art of Drag is being restricted and banned in public.

THE EFFECTS

PRIDE is meant to be a celebration of visibility, but what these laws promote is the opposite. They continue to vilify queer communities and are dog whistles for political extremists who seek to actively hurt and diminish any Queer presence.

 

For example, after repeated threats and acts of violence against employees, Target stores decided to pull some of their PRIDE collection from the shelves. Some saw this as an example of rainbow washing and performative allyship as Target’s actions seemed to give into the queerphobic demands. 

A message from JDZ’s Instagram that informs shoppers about updates to their clothing line at Target.
Photo courtesy of JDZ’s Instagram.

Jennifer Serrano and Veronica Vasquez, wives and entrepreneurs, founded JZD, a Brownsville, Texas-based lifestyle brand that “builds community and celebrates cultura every day.” Their designs were selected as a Target Capsule Collection in 2022 to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month. 

 

This year they were selected for the PRIDE collection. The wife duo was excited to share the result of over a year of work creating custom pieces for the retailer’s national campaign. They were joined in their celebration by other queer creators around the country, but a targeted and violent backlash grew after the launch. 

 

Two weeks ago, JZD announced that two of their products would be available online only and that one style was removed from the Target store and website. Other artists in the collection faced similar or worse cases of censorship. Vero and Jen reminded their queer base that “we deserve equality, respect, safety, allyship, and love.” The JZD PRIDE collection can be found on their website

Illustration courtesy of Tumi Garcia.

BRICK BY BRICK

Fighting queerphobia and transphobia is what PRIDE has always been about. While our presence is enough for celebration, we should communally rejoice in the significant systemic victories for equity gained. As a community, we need to reiterate that these victories were not given but taken and fought for with the lives of our queer ancestors.

 

We should also continue their tradition and clap back, fight back, and support one another in the face of adversity. We are currently seeing some of the most extreme climate against our LGBTQIA+ community in the streets and halls of capitols. 

 

We should take a lesson from icons like Marsha P. Johnson and remember that rainbows are temporary and only come after the storm. Bricks, however, can shatter glass ceilings and also build a home.

 

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