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LUBBOCK — Dressed in solid, vibrant colors, members of Lubbock's LGBTQ+ community seated themselves in a way that created a rainbow in the city council chambers Tuesday. They were silent, but their message for the council was loud and clear: they want to feel seen by city officials.
And right now, they feel invisible to their elected leaders. For weeks, local activists reached out to officials asking for a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month in Lubbock, which could have been read before or during the annual Pride event.
Those requests went unanswered by most of the council — in communications shared by LubbockPRIDE, councilperson Christy Martinez-Garcia responded in the days following the event on June 10, saying she was unavailable when they reached out but asked how she could help secure the proclamation. Councilperson Mark McBrayer, who said citizens will have disagreements over “sexual politics,” said it would be improper to issue a proclamation.
“We want to be acknowledged,” said Nick Harpster, the public relations and advocacy coordinator for LubbockPRIDE. “Whether they agree with us or not, whether they want to make a proclamation or not, we’re still here and want to be represented.”
After several tense years of political rhetoric that has brewed a distressing social climate for LGBTQ+ Texans and a legislative session where lawmakers pushed bills that threatened to upend their rights and lives, the support of local officials is crucial for the community fighting to stay out of the closet, its members said.
“It’s important to acknowledge this community and they feel safe and heard,” said Cannon Roberts, a local activist who joined the sit-in. “Lubbock has a long history of [racial] discrimination that started in our charter when areas were redlined, this council can choose to combat that. They could have been different, and they chose not to.”
For years, the LGBTQ+ community in Lubbock has fought to be seen and has successfully held Lubbock Pride events for 11 years. Harpster said Lubbock, a mostly conservative city, is full of allies, but they have seen more pushback in recent years.
The community has also seen heartbreak — Cypress Ramos, a 21-year-old trans woman, was murdered last year. Her body was later found in a burning storage unit, and Lubbock police arrested her murderer soon after. Police later said there was no indication that Ramos’ murder was a hate crime, her murderer claims a song told him and Ramos to kill one another.
At a vigil held in Ramos’ memory, Harpster said people expressed disbelief over LPD’s statement.
“They felt afraid,” Harpster recalled. “They felt that, whether it was a hate crime or not, that this was an act against the trans community. They did not feel safe here.”
The council chambers were nearly full, mostly with people joining the rainbow sit-in. The meeting stayed close to the agenda, with council members talking about zoning cases and road repairs — addressing nearly everything but the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters in front of them.
Participants knew this would happen, since nothing regarding the LGBTQ+ community was on the agenda.
“I did think the city council or the mayor would have said ‘Thank you for coming,’” Roberts said. “We didn’t interrupt their business. We didn’t shout out, we didn’t speak up. So it’s a failure in leadership.”
Following the meeting, McBrayer spoke with protestors in the lobby of Citizens Tower. He was talking about some of the Pride video celebrations he’s seen, and Adam Hernandez, a local activist, explained to McBrayer that he should talk to more of Lubbock’s LGBTQ+ citizens to learn for himself.
“A lot of folks are operating from a base of ignorance and misinformation on this topic,” Hernandez told McBrayer. “When you operate from that place, what you start with is what you get out of it.”
Bethany Luna, a business owner who is also a lesbian, said she has been harassed by people in the community in recent years. She gets threats and protesters nearly every time she hosts an event relating to LGBTQ+. Her young daughter hears from kids at school that her family is going to hell. At the Pride event, she said protestors were yelling at them and had guns holstered, which made many at the event uncomfortable.
“People are scared for their emotional and physical well being,” Luna said. “We have to ask ourselves questions that none of the council members have to ask themselves. Our mayor, Tray Payne, doesn’t have to ask ‘Is someone going to shoot up my house today? Is someone going to look at me funny just for walking outside with my wife and kids?’
As of press time, neither the city council nor Mayor Payne has released statements on the issue.
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