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North Texas superintendent orders books removed from schools, targeting titles about transgender people

The Granbury superintendent’s comments, made on a leaked recording, raise constitutional concerns, legal experts said.

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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

This article is co-published with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. The story was also produced in partnership with NBC News.

In early January, a day before students returned from winter break, Jeremy Glenn, the superintendent of the Granbury Independent School District in North Texas, told a group of librarians he’d summoned to a district meeting room that he needed to speak from his heart.

“I want to talk about our community,” Glenn said, according to a recording of the Jan. 10 meeting obtained and verified by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. Glenn explained that Granbury, the largest city in a county where 81% of residents voted for then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, is “very, very conservative.”

He noted that members of Granbury’s school board — his bosses — were also very conservative. And to any school employees who might have different political beliefs, Glenn said, “You better hide it,” adding, “Here in this community, we’re going to be conservative.”

That’s why, he said, he needed to talk to them about some of the books available in the school district’s libraries.

For months, conservative parents and politicians across Texas had been pressuring districts to remove from school libraries any books that contain explicit descriptions of sex, labeling several young adult novels as “pornography.” Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, called for criminal investigations into school employees who make such content available to students.

Many of the titles targeted statewide have featured queer characters and storylines, but those calling for the books’ removal have repeatedly said they are concerned only with sex and vulgarity, not with suppressing the views of LGBTQ students and authors.

Glenn made a similar argument during his closed-door meeting with librarians in Granbury, which is about an hour’s drive southwest of Dallas.

“I don’t want a kid picking up a book, whether it’s about homosexuality or heterosexuality, and reading about how to hook up sexually in our libraries,” Glenn said.

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He also made it clear that his concerns specifically included books with LGBTQ themes, even if they do not describe sex. Those comments, according to legal experts, raise concerns about possible violations of the First Amendment and federal civil rights laws that protect students from discrimination based on their gender and sexuality.

“And I’m going to take it a step further with you,” he said, according to the recording. “There are two genders. There’s male, and there’s female. And I acknowledge that there are men that think they’re women. And there are women that think they’re men. And again, I don’t have any issues with what people want to believe, but there’s no place for it in our libraries.”

Minutes later, after someone asked whether titles on racism were acceptable, Glenn said books on different cultures “are great.”

“Specifically, what we’re getting at, let’s call it what it is, and I’m cutting to the chase on a lot of this,” Glenn said. “It’s the transgender, LGBTQ and the sex — sexuality — in books. That’s what the governor has said that he will prosecute people for, and that’s what we’re pulling out.”

Over the next two weeks, the school district embarked on one of the largest book removals in the country, pulling about 130 titles from library shelves for review. Nearly three-quarters of the removed books featured LGBTQ characters or themes, according to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis. Others dealt with racism, sex ed, abortion and women’s rights.

Two months later, a volunteer review committee voted to permanently ban three of the books and return the others to shelves. But that may not be the end of the process.

In his recorded comments to librarians, Glenn described the review of 130 titles as the first step in a broader appraisal of library content, and a new policy approved by the school board later in January grants him and other administrators broad authority to unilaterally remove additional titles they deem inappropriate, with no formal review and no way for the public to easily find out what has been pulled from shelves.

Legal, education and First Amendment experts contacted by ProPublica, NBC News and the Tribune said the audio of the superintendent, combined with the decision to abruptly remove books from circulation, even temporarily, raises constitutional concerns.

Glenn’s comments also call into question the district’s commitment to fostering a safe and inclusive school environment for LGBTQ students and could be grounds for a complaint to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, the experts said.

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“This audio is very much evidence of anti-LGBTQ and particularly anti-trans discrimination,” said Kate Huddleston, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, who reviewed the recording at the request of NBC News, ProPublica and the Tribune. “It is very much saying the quiet part out loud in a way that provides very significant evidence that book removals in the district are occurring because of anti-LGBTQ bias.”

In a written statement, Glenn said the district was committed to supporting students of all backgrounds. And although he said the district’s primary focus is educating students, “the values of our community will always be reflected in our schools.”

“In Granbury and across Texas we are seeing parents push back and demand elected officials put safeguards in place to protect their children from materials that serve no academic purpose, but rather push a political narrative,” Glenn said in the statement. “As a result, classrooms and libraries have turned schools into battle grounds for partisan politics.”

Granbury ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy K. Glenn listens as trustees discuss agenda items at a GISD school board meeting in G…
Glenn, second from left, listens as trustees discuss agenda items at a Granbury ISD school board meeting. (Shelby Tauber for ProPublica/The Texas Tribune/NBC News)

None of Granbury’s school board trustees responded to messages requesting comment. District spokesperson Jeff Meador sent a statement emphasizing that all of the books permanently removed from shelves in Granbury are “sexually explicit and not age-appropriate” and noting that district libraries “continue to house a socially and culturally diverse collection of books for students to read, including books which analyze and explore LGBTQ+ issues.”

The three books the committee voted to remove were “This Book Is Gay,” a coming out guide for LGBTQ teens by transgender author Juno Dawson that includes detailed descriptions of sex; “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Pérez, a young adult novel about a romance between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy that includes a rape scene and other mature content; and “We Are the Ants,” by Shaun David Hutchinson, a coming-of-age novel about a gay teenager that includes explicit sexual language.

At least one member of the volunteer review committee was dissatisfied that only three books have been permanently removed so far, and she has started calling for a second review of the ones that have been returned.

“There are people who want to tear down values and force theirs and then also force acceptance,” Monica Brown, the committee member, said in a Facebook video following the decision. Brown did not respond to a request for comment.

One of the Granbury ISD employees in attendance at the Jan. 10 meeting with librarians said that regardless of which books are pulled from shelves or returned, Glenn’s comments left her afraid to display or purchase LGBTQ books going forward — a chilling effect that she said could limit the diversity of Granbury library catalogs for years to come. The staff member, who was not the source of the audio, spoke on the condition that she not be named, because she feared retaliation from the district.

“He literally said books on trans issues have no place in a school,” she said. “It was alarming.”

The superintendent’s comments reflect a broader national debate. Conservative state legislatures across the country have been considering bills to restrict the ways educators teach about gender and sexuality in schools. This month, the Florida Legislature passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by its critics, which restricts or bans discussion of LGBTQ issues in the classroom.

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Conservative activists and politicians pushing these changes nationally say the goal is to prevent teachers from having sensitive conversations with students unless the parents give their consent. Some have at times conflated sex and sexual orientation, accusing educators of attempting to “groom” young children because the teachers had discussed the existence of transgender people and same-sex relationships. Opponents contend that the measures discriminate against LGBTQ students and educators and violate federal laws meant to prevent discrimination in schools.

These changes coincide with attempts in several conservative states to limit the rights of transgender minors to participate in school sports and to access gender-affirming medical care. Last month, Abbott issued a directive — temporarily halted by a Texas judge — ordering the state’s child welfare agency to open abuse investigations into any reported instances of minors receiving such medical care, including the prescription of puberty blockers or hormones.

As superintendent of a district that’s home to more than 7,400 students, Glenn is responsible for implementing and enforcing policies that ensure that children are not discriminated against based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.

After listening to the recording of Glenn’s remarks, Lou Whiting, a nonbinary junior at Granbury High School, said they were outraged. Whiting and another student who’s part of the LGBTQ community said classmates at Granbury have harassed them at school, but they’ve avoided reporting the harassment because they worried administrators wouldn’t take their complaints seriously.

Glenn’s comments validated those fears, Whiting said.

“I don’t feel incredibly safe or welcomed by a large majority of the students at my school,” Whiting said. “I’ve been called slurs. I’ve been verbally attacked. I’ve been physically attacked. But it kind of feels worse when the attacks are coming from adults, from the people who are supposed to keep us safe.”

Lou Whiting in their home in Granbury, TX on March 21, 2022. “I’ve had my fair share of active hate against me, and my frien…
Lou Whiting, a nonbinary student at Granbury High School, said, “I’ve had my fair share of active hate against me, and my friends, and my community. I’ve always kind of been ‘that queer person.’ … I’ve always put myself in that danger because I’m more comfortable being myself.” (Shelby Tauber for ProPublica/The Texas Tribune/NBC News)

“A Very Conservative Board”

The meeting with librarians wasn’t the first time Glenn had publicly embraced socially conservative values in schools.

In 2014, when he was superintendent at another district, he and a pair of education professors wrote a book called “Daily Devotionals for Superintendents,” which lamented the legalization of same-sex marriage and the passage of state laws “making it a crime to counsel gay young people about changing their sexual orientation.”

In another section of the book, Glenn and his co-authors said those pushing for broader acceptance of “alternative lifestyles” and other cultural changes are doing so through the indoctrination of children in schools, as “was done by Hitler when he took over Germany.” They warned that school superintendents will face pressure to “recognize the demands of alternative life-style adults,” adding, “As a superintendent, you will have to be strong and courageous to stand against the onslaught of the enemy. Your country and your children’s future are at stake.”

Glenn, who arrived at Granbury ISD in 2018 following stints leading two other Texas districts, said he couldn’t recall if he wrote those specific passages, but he acknowledged co-authoring the book, adding, “It’s fair to say I am aware of its content.”

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In November, voters in Granbury elected a pair of school board members who, while campaigning, also raised concerns about the spread of LGBTQ-affirming curricula in schools. Melanie Graft rose to local prominence after leading a conservative movement in 2015 to remove a pair of LGBTQ-themed picture books from the children’s section at Granbury’s public library. She ran alongside Courtney Gore, the co-host of a local far-right internet talk show.

As candidates, the women promised to stop the “indoctrination” of students and rid the district of educational materials they said promote LGBTQ ideology or what they referred to as critical race theory, a university-level academic framework based on the idea that racism is embedded in U.S. legal and other structures.

In the weeks after Graft’s and Gore’s election victories, Glenn began asking district administrators about several books, including “This Book Is Gay,” that an unnamed school board member had found on the district’s online card catalog, according to text messages obtained by a parent through an open records request and shared with the news organizations.

The text messages included screenshots of eight titles, all of which deal with LGBTQ topics, with the keyword search terms “gay,” “trans” and “gender” highlighted in some of the book descriptions.

In a December text message, Glenn asked an administrator in charge of overseeing district libraries if any of the books were physically on shelves and available to students. Librarians needed to have a sense of urgency in responding to community complaints about books, Glenn wrote, “otherwise this will consume us in the spring.”

The list comprised titles that were aimed at helping transgender and LGBTQ teens navigate life and that told teen love stories through an LGBTQ lens, as well as an LGBTQ-themed fairy tale. Although some of the books included descriptions of sex, others did not.

Glenn referred to concerns from a board member during his Jan. 10 meeting with librarians.

“We do have a very conservative board,” Glenn said, according to the recording. “They are elected, and recently more conservative. And so that’s what our community is. That’s what our job is.”

NBC News, ProPublica and the Tribune spoke to three Granbury teachers who were not present at the Jan. 10 meeting but who have listened to the recording and said they were troubled by Glenn’s remarks. The teachers said they’ve seen additional library books being pulled from district shelves — mostly young adult books containing talk of sex — that haven’t been subject to a formal review, raising concerns among staff members that content is being eliminated with no oversight from the public.

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The teachers said they feared retribution and spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing Glenn’s comments advising educators against sharing opinions that don’t align with the conservative views of district leaders.

“I was disturbed that our superintendent would say those things,” one of the teachers said, referring to Glenn’s comments about there being no place for transgender and LGBTQ content in school libraries.

Lou Whiting has their own copy of “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, but it is one of the many books that the Granbury ISD s…
Whiting holds their copy of “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson. “I’ve read this book however many times I questioned my identity,” said Whiting. The book was one of three that a review committee marked for permanent removal from the school district’s libraries. (Shelby Tauber for ProPublica/The Texas Tribune/NBC News)

Schools have wide latitude to remove library books that are deemed age-inappropriate or “pervasively vulgar.” But free speech advocates say Republican politicians and school districts have applied an overly broad definition to the phrase in recent months, mislabeling coming-of-age stories and sex-ed books as pornography.

“The most striking feature of the current crop of book challenges is this effort to mischaracterize literature and sexual education resources, which clearly have educational value, and stigmatizing them by claiming that they violate obscenity statutes,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Under a 40-year-old U.S. Supreme Court legal decision, Island Trees School District v. Pico, a public school system can’t remove a book because school board members or administrators disagree with its viewpoints or ideas, including its discussion of LGBTQ identities.

The 1982 case dealt with the removal of books deemed “anti-American” and “anti-Christian” by a school district in Levittown, New York. At the time, a school board member testified that he believed it was his duty to make decisions for the school district that reflected the community’s conservative values. Those comments were echoed decades later in the Granbury superintendent’s directive to librarians.

“If the evidence shows that the motivation for a book removal is to keep these ideas from getting to children, then the courts are very skeptical,” said North Carolina attorney Neal Ramee, who advises school districts on constitutional issues. “That could potentially lead to a finding of a violation of the First Amendment.”

Justin Driver, a Yale Law School professor, former clerk for two Supreme Court justices and author of “The Schoolhouse Gate,” which analyzes legal battles over education, said the similarities between the Pico case and the Granbury situation are “striking and overwhelming.” As a result, he said, Glenn’s statements to librarians “would seem to place the school district in an unenviable litigating position.”

Yet because the Pico case was a divided opinion, some legal scholars said the issue is ripe for another appearance in front of the Supreme Court.

LGBTQ Students Push Back

On Jan. 11, a day after Glenn’s meeting with librarians, Kennedy Tackett, a 17-year-old senior at Granbury High School, was working in a student-run store on campus when one of her friends approached, looking upset.

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The friend had been volunteering in the school library and noticed several boxes filled with books that had been taken off of shelves.

“She said, ‘Kennedy, a lot of them look like they’re LGBTQ,’” said Tackett, who is bisexual. “And so I immediately texted my parents, and I was like, ‘Hey, have y’all heard about this?’”

In the days that followed, Tackett and her father, a former school board trustee who has criticized the school district’s conservative shift, used public records requests to unearth what the district hadn’t shared publicly: the list of more than 130 books that librarians had been directed to immediately remove from shelves. (The records also included the December text messages about the eight LGBTQ books.)

Some of the 130 books had no sexual content whatsoever, including “George” by Alex Gino, a book meant for children in elementary school that tells the story of a transgender child who’s coming to terms with her gender identity.

Most of the books appeared to come from a larger list of 850 titles dealing with racism, sex and LGBTQ themes that had been compiled by state Rep. Matt Krause. The Republican lawmaker said in a letter sent to districts across Texas that the books might violate a new state law that restricts the ways teachers can talk about “currently controversial” issues, including racism and sexuality. Krause did not respond to a request for comment.

Tackett created an online petition calling on the district to return the books to shelves, quickly drawing more than 600 signatures. A couple of weeks later, on Jan. 24, she and several other LGBTQ students showed up at a meeting of the Granbury ISD board of trustees and called on the district to reverse course.

Lou Whiting, a junior at Granbury High School, speaks against the removal of books from schools at a GISD school board meeti…
Whiting speaks against the removal of books from school libraries at a Granbury ISD school board meeting. (Shelby Tauber for ProPublica/The Texas Tribune/NBC News)

Instead, the board voted to amend a district policy that required contested books to remain on shelves while a committee reviewed them, giving administrators more discretion to remove titles that they deem to lack “educational suitability.”

“The job of the superintendent and the school board is not only to protect the students in this district, but to make them feel like they have a place in this community,” Tackett told the board during public comments prior to the vote. “But I gotta tell you, from what I’ve seen so far, you are failing at your job.”

The comments, which would later go viral and be broadcast on national news reports, drew a rebuke from Glenn during the meeting. Glenn announced that the district had previously removed five books unrelated to LGBTQ themes that were written by Abbi Glines, an author known for including explicit sex scenes that push the boundaries of young adult fiction.

“​​Let’s not misrepresent things. We’re not taking Shakespeare or Hemingway off the shelves,” Glenn said, at one point referring to those who frequently speak out at school board meetings as “radicals” and emphasizing that the district was focused on sexually explicit content. “We’re not going and grabbing every socially, culturally or religiously diverse book and pulling them. That’s absurd. And the people that are saying that are gaslighters, and it’s designed to incite division.”

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Those comments gave Whiting, the nonbinary Granbury junior, an idea: Using Granbury’s G logo, Whiting designed a T-shirt with the words “Radical Gaslighter” and created a page where students could buy them. They ended up selling nearly 250 to people all over the country, raising more than $2,000 for the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Foundation.

By early February, word began to spread through Granbury that someone had recorded Glenn’s comments to librarians. The employee who’d made the recording did not post it publicly or share it with reporters, but soon a copy of it was circulating among a small group of educators and community activists.

Lou Whiting, a junior at Granbury High School, gets emotional once returning to their chair next to their father, David, aft…
After speaking at the March 21 school board meeting, Whiting rejoined their father, David Whiting, in the audience. (Shelby Tauber for ProPublica/The Texas Tribune/NBC News)

That month, the ACLU of Texas sent a letter to Granbury calling on the district to apologize for the book removals and to release a statement affirming its commitment to “LGBTQ+ and racial inclusivity.” That was before Huddleston, the ACLU lawyer, reviewed the recording at the request of reporters.

Huddleston said the recorded comments also raise serious questions about what else has been said behind closed doors, not just in Granbury, but also in other districts where books are being banned.

“This is very strong evidence of what is happening in the background,” she said. “But it also raises a host of questions about all the other districts in Texas where this is happening and we don’t have audio.”

Tackett, the Granbury senior, cried after listening to the recording of Glenn’s remarks. She thought of his public comments accusing critics of trying to deceive the public about the district’s motivations for removing and reviewing books. If anyone was gaslighting the community, Tackett said, it was him.

“It’s unsettling,” she said. “You can’t just turn your back on the students you’re supposed to be protecting.”

Disclosure: The ACLU of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Jeremy Schwartz has been an investigative reporter in Texas for nearly a decade, covering issues including voting rights and border security for the Austin American-Statesman and USA Today Network. His work has resulted in the overhaul of Texas' inspection process for farmworker housing, sparked Congressional investigations of a failed Department of Veterans Affairs research program and uncovered misleading border arrest and drug seizure statistics maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Schwartz won the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Latino Issues award for his 2017 investigation into the political underrepresentation of Latinos in Texas cities and counties, and the Headliners Foundation of Texas Reporter of the Year award, among other honors. He previously served as Cox Newspapers' Latin America correspondent in Mexico City from 2005 to 2009, and before that, he covered the U.S. Border Patrol and immigration at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Austin

Austin Pride Rescheduled

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The Austin Pride Foundation announced that this year’s Austin Pride celebration, originally scheduled for Saturday, August 13, 2022, has been rescheduled for the following weekend. This year’s Austin Pride Festival and Parade will now be held on Saturday, August 20, 2022.

According the a post on Facebook, the change was made at the request of the City of Austin:

We will celebrate Austin Pride No! Matter! What! At the request of the City of Austin, our new date for Austin Pride is Saturday, August 20, 2022. One more week also gives us a chance to go Beyond the Rainbow for the Pride we deserve after two long years. This year the rainbow shines no matter what! See you there.

This will be the first pride celebration in Austin since 2019, after all events in 2020 were canceled as a result of the pandemic and canceled again in 2021 due to a surge of infections caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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Dallas

Dallas Southern Pride Announces the 2022 Juneteenth Unity Weekend

More than 20,000 people expected to attend the star-studded event featuring A-List celebrities including Moneybagg Yo, The City Girls, Saucy Santana, and Dallas’ own, Yella Beezy and Erica Banks

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DALLAS — Dallas Southern Pride will host its Juneteenth Unity Weekend celebration, June 16-19, 2022. This year’s celebration will include a myriad of events, including health and wellness screenings, COVID-19 vaccinations, concerts, their annual Juneteenth Unity Festival and Pool Party, various local club events, parties and The Emancipation Ball. Some of the biggest stars in hip-hop and entertainment are confirmed for this unforgettable four-day weekend of festivities, including the City Girls, Saucy Santana, and Moneybagg Yo, who will perform at the Juneteenth Unity Festival and Pool Party on Saturday, June 18 from 5 PM – 9 PM at Samuell-Grand Aquatic Center, 3201 Samuell Blvd., Dallas, Texas; and Dallas’ own superstars Erica Banks and Yella Beezy, who will perform at the Mega Party that Saturday at 10 PM at Amplified, 10262 Technology Blvd E, Dallas, Texas. The weekend of events will conclude with a signature brunch on Sunday, June 19, hosted by Kirk Myers-Hill, president of Dallas Southern Pride.

More than 20,000 people from across the United States and internationally are slated to attend this year’s Juneteenth Unity Weekend celebration, which was created to celebrate the brilliance and culture of Black people. An idea birthed by community leader, businessperson and activist, Kirk Myers-Hill, the Juneteenth Unity Weekend is the official annual celebration for Black Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ+) people to come together and celebrate their contributions to both American and Black culture, liberation and community.

“Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a celebration and representation of the many intersections and beautiful mosaics within the Black community,” said Kirk Myers-Hill, president of Dallas Southern Pride. “The Black community is only as strong as its Black Gay brothers and sisters. Juneteenth is an opportunity to showcase unity and display the belief that we are all stronger together.”

Juneteenth became a federally recognized national holiday in 2021. However, long before the nation started celebrating this holiday, Black people in Texas were celebrating this day, as it originated in Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to slaves, was signed 1863. However, it wasn’t until two years later on June 19, 1865, that slaves in Texas first learned of their freedom. Union troops entered Galveston, TX, announcing that all slaves were free. This marked the beginning of Juneteenth as it is known and recognized today. Since 2017, the Governor of Texas has submitted a proclamation recognizing the Juneteenth Unity Weekend. Additionally, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson continues to show her support by issuing welcome letters for the past five years. The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a family-oriented celebration with events and programming for the entire community and is excited to bring the celebration of Juneteenth back home to Texas. June is also Pride Month and the Juneteenth Unity Weekend has been a staple event in the city of Dallas during Pride month for many years.

“VisitDallas is excited to support the 2022 Juneteenth Unity Weekend hosted by Dallas Southern Pride and Abounding Prosperity, Inc. Events like this continue to make Dallas a better place to live and visit,” said Craig T. Davis, president and CEO of VisitDallas.

Since its inception in 2008, the Juneteenth Unity Weekend continues to make a positive impact in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex by unifying the community, celebrating freedom, providing a safe space for community gathering, and infusing millions of dollars into the local economy. The 2021 Juneteenth Unity Weekend brought thousands of visitors to the Metroplex, and sold-out all its host hotels. The event generated more than $2.2 million dollars for local business hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic and created hundreds of jobs for “gig” workers. The event and leadership team also created other historic moments for the city of Dallas. As a result, the HIV positivity rate dropped below 10 percent for the first time in the event’s history among more than 200 attendees tested; the Dallas Police Department held a recruitment drive targeting LGBTQ+ applicants; the Dallas skyline was lighted in the Juneteenth and Black Pride colors for the first time and The Dallas Southern Pride Official Pride flag was debuted and flown for the first time at the Sheraton Market Center.

The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a collaborative celebration made possible by the support of the many companies and organizations that share the collective vision for this impactful event that advances the entire Black family and social justice movements and celebrates unity and peace. The 2022 presenting sponsors thus far are Gilead Sciences and Abounding Prosperity, Inc., along with Black Entertainment Television (BET) and ViiV Healthcare as diamond sponsors. Other key sponsors include the Dallas Mavericks, Radio One Dallas, Dallas TPID, AHF, Yale School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, HVTN, SBPAN, AIDS United, VisitDallas, Hilton, Center for Black Equity, United Black Ellument, Crawford Jewelry, and Don Morphy.

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Juneteenth Unity Weekend will be used to support the free health, and wellness activities of its partner agencies, which offsets the cost of essential services to Black and Brown communities, with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ communities and their families in the DFW metroplex.

The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is still open for additional sponsors and vendors, particularly those in the arts, entertainment, health and wellness, skincare, clothing, beauty, food and beverage including food trucks, and lifestyle brands.

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For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.dallassouthernpride.com.

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Austin

UT Austin will allow students to live together on campus regardless of gender or sexual identity

The two-year pilot program comes after at least 15 years of students asking for the change. It will allow UT-Austin students to live together in certain residence halls with students of any gender or sexual identity.

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UT-Austin is launching a two-year pilot project that allows students in certain residence halls to live with any other student, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

The University of Texas at Austin is starting a two-year pilot program next fall that will allow students to live together in certain campus residence halls regardless of their gender or sexual identity.

Called the “Family and Friend Expanded Roommate Option,” any UT-Austin student can select any other UT-Austin as a roommate.

Student advocates have been pushing the university to create a gender-inclusive housing option since at least 2006, according to Adrienne Hunter, a senior and transgender woman who has advocated for the change over the past few years.

“This is the result of so many students working on this issue,” she said. “It’s something in my opinion that is tangibly going to lead to so many students, trans students, feel[ing] included.”

According to a housing page on the university’s website, the university said it is allowing for this option to build better community engagement.

“This helps enhance our residents’ sense of belonging and improve our competitiveness with the Austin market and other institutions,” the university said on its website. “It also allows us to be more responsive to student needs.”

Traditionally, dorms, even co-ed ones, have been designed to separate by sex students sharing a room. The new pilot policy applies to dorms where students have private bathrooms either shared among roommates or suitemates.

Hunter said that UT housing would handle requests for more gender-inclusive housing situations on a case-by-case basis, but she said it sometimes posed problems for students who have yet to discuss their sexual identity to their parents and did not want to email about their situation for fear their parents might accidentally find out.

“To have the burden on the student to do this outreach instead of having this system was something a lot of students didn’t feel comfortable with,” she said.

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Earlier this year, the Queer Student Alliance at UT-Austin issued its first report on the state of LGBTQIA+ students since 2006. They surveyed more than 2,000 students on campus. It found while the vast majority of students who identify as cisgender felt comfortable expressing their gender identity on and off campus, transgender students in particular felt much less comfortable expressing their gender identity in on-campus housing than off-campus housing.

The report recommended instituting gender-inclusive housing with a web page that uses clear language and definitions of gender-inclusive housing policies.

Hunter said she and others used this data to make a case to UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell. The university eventually created a working group of students, faculty and staff, which provided feedback to the university as it developed a policy.

The decision to begin this pilot project comes at a politically fraught time for transgender rights in the state. In February, Gov. Greg Abbott instructed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate families who provide gender-affirming health care to their transgender children, for child abuse.

A spokesperson for UT-Austin did not immediately respond to questions about why the university started this pilot program now or why the university did not identify the new policy as “gender inclusive housing,” as other universities across the state and country have done.

In Texas, a handful of other universities across the state already have gender-inclusive housing, including the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The University of Houston has a “living learning community” that is gender-inclusive in two of its residence halls.

In fall 2020, Texas Tech University in Lubbock created a housing option that went into effect in 2021 that allows students in the West Village residence hall to allow eligible students to live together in the same apartment on-campus regardless of gender.

Disclosure: Texas Tech University, University of Texas – Dallas, University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Houston have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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