This has been a progressive and productive year for the LGBTQ+ movement in the Rio Grande Valley. Since marriage equality took place in the summer, the resilience of our community has shown that there is still much work to do to create an equal and safe society for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans, and queer people in our region. Through solidarity and community organizing, strides have been made in 2015 to create a just society for LGBTQ people, and our local organizations deserve the utmost support in years to come to continue making these changes possible.
From groundbreaking activism, to record-setting community events, and new groups and organizations sparking change, here is the list of 14 memorable moments in 2015 that have made the RGV a safer place for all.
1. 2015 Southwest Latino HIV and Hepatitis C Conference
The Southwest Latino HIV and hepatitis C Conference took place in June at South Padre Island. It is the first conference in the U.S. focusing exclusively on how HIV and Hepatitis C are impacting the Latino community.
2.Largest Pride March in RGV History
Stonewall Democrats hosted the largest recorded RGV Pride March in June in McAllen. Hundreds of families, allies, and others marched from Cine El Rey to Archer Park in support of the LGBTQ community in the RGV.
3. 1st same-sex couples get married in the RGV
Following the Supreme Court granting all same-sex couples in the U.S. the right to marriage in June, RGV same-sex couples no longer had to live in the shadows and excitedly rushed to the local courts to receive their marriage certificates.
4. 1st action to raise awareness on LGBTQ+ immigrants in RGV
The RGV is home to thousands of undocumented immigrants, and McAllen is home to one of the immigrant detention centers that holds undocumented immigrants in unsafe conditions, especially from trans immigrants. Aquí Estamos held a protest in front of the detention center in McAllen to raise awareness on that issue.
5. Equality Ball at UTRGV
The Student Equality Alliance and UTRGV held an LGBTQ prom at the Edinburg Campus in April. The event was sponsored by Studio 69, Asa Brooks, DJ Erik of Mix Masters, The Valley Aids Council, The Texas Freedom Network, The South Texas Equality Project, PFLAG Harlingen, The RGV Stonewall Democrats, DM Lauren Catering, The University Program Board, UTPA Intercultural and Diversity, and the UTPA Student Union,
6. BISD removes policy that prohibits boys from “wearing female attire”
Rudy Hinojosa, an RGV community member, started a petition that asked Brownsville ISD to remove their ban on “crossdressing” from their policies, a rule that prohibited male students from “wearing female attire.” The petition gained enough support to catch the school board’s attention to remove the policy. Hinojosa posted this message following the victory:
“The district is removing their ban on males wearing ‘female attire.’ No longer can transgender students be punished for dressing as their gender. Thank you to the 500+ others who signed the petition and anyone who otherwise fought this fight with me. El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!!!”
7. 1st queer people of color conference in the RGV
Aquí Estamos held the RGV’s first queer people of color conference in August. The conference drew national attention from organizations such as GLAAD, National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health, NARAL Pro-Choice, and more. The conference will be held again in 2016.
8. Largest LGBTQ+ community event in RGV history – Pride in the Park
What started out as a small gathering in a park in Harlingen has now turned into the largest LGBTQ community event in the RGV. The 3rd annual Pride in the Park, organized organized by South Texas Equality Project (STEP), held in November drew in thousands of supporters at the McAllen Convention Center.
9. United Nations highlights discrimination against LBTQ women after visit to RGV
A United Nations working group dedicated to the discrimination of women in law and practice visited the RGV in December as part of its 10 day tour of the U.S. After meeting with various activist organizations in the RGV, including Aquí Estamos, their report on the conditions of women in the U.S. included the discrimination of LGBTQ women and trans women in immigrant detention centers.
10. STC’s first LGBTQ club – Open, Equal, and Free
South Texas College Pecan Campus launches its first LGBTQ student club, Free, Open, and Equal, to end homophobia on campus.
11. Parents and families of LGBTQ march in Harlingen Christmas Parade
PFLAG Harlingen Marched in the annual Harlingen Christmas parade, creating visibility and solidarity between families and parents of LGBTQ and the community.
12. McAllen High School gets an LGBTQ club
McAllen High School launches its first LGBTQ student club, “Spectrum,” one of the pioneering student clubs in high schools in the RGV working to end LGBTQ discrimination.
13. RGV Trans Support Group launches
RGV Trans Support Group is an online forum in which trans, gender non-conforming, and others can find support form the community as well as share community events and gatherings. You can join by clicking here.
14. Pride Home, emergency housing for LGBTQ youth, takes its first steps
The Pride Home is an effort to create emergency housing for LGBTQ youth who need to leave their homes due to unsafe environments or are kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation. It is the first effort of its kind in the RGV to provide this service for the LGBTQ community.
MORE GREAT MOMENTS:
“Marriage Equality, Now What?”
Thee Town Hall meetings were held in the upper and lower RGV, with over 250 people in attendance to discuss the impending supreme court decision on marriage equality, & the legal rights of those seeking to marry. Town Hall meetings provided a safe space for forum style presentations and discussion of immigration reform, actions to stop transgender violence, international LGBTQ rights, youth suicide, and HIV prevention & care with local supporting LGBTQ coalition and organizations on-site to provide resources. Sponsored by STEP, the ACLU, Texas Freedom Network, and Equality Texas.
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