Multiple groups and individuals demonstrated at an event hosted this weekend by Texas LGBT group Temple Pride and sponsored by H-E-B, one of Texas’ largest grocery store chains, over the inclusion of a kids’ zone alongside adult entertainment such as drag performances.
“We’re here because of the activism in the community with regard to LGBTQ, but we want to counteract that,” Temple resident Keith Gilbertson told The Dallas Express at the event. “We want to show that there are people, God-fearing people, that want to put His perspective, His ideas on how to live, out there.”
“There’s no doubt that God loves everybody. God loves His people, His creation, that’s part of what we want to share,” Gilbertson continued.
“But this lifestyle is something that is an abomination to our creator. … I mean, there’s sin, and then there’s in-God’s-face sin. I have to believe that He doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like that sin at all.”
Drag shows such as those featured at the Temple Pride block party have recently been a subject of controversy over concerns that they embrace sexist tropes and objectify women. In March, West Texas A&M University canceled a scheduled student drag show amid concerns that the activity “denigrates” women, as The Dallas Express reported at the time.
“Drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood,” wrote university president Walter Wendler in an email to teachers, students, and staff. “Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent.”
Kevin Nixon, a “Cultural Anthropologist, Gender and Sexuality Researcher, [and] Neophyte Queer Theorist,” has argued against this common feminist opposition to drag and in favor of “a more holistic perspective on female impersonation.”
At one point during the Temple Pride event, a man stood on top of a cylinder block and began to shout and preach through a loudspeaker while another group of protesters farther away prayed loudly and used an air horn to gain the attention of attendees.
The Dallas Express witnessed multiple protestors walking, mingling, and praying with members of the LGBTQ community.
Interactions remained peaceful, and police did not have to separate the groups at any point in the day.
The Dallas Express also spoke with Benjamin Clodfelter, a veteran and advocate for the LGBTQ community involved with the group Veterans for Equality.
“It makes me nervous because all it takes is someone who’s passionate or feels really hurt or affected by something to start mouthing off, and things could start to escalate,” said Clodfelter. “That’s primarily what Veterans for Equality is trying to avoid.”
“And so it makes me nervous to have just everybody walking in and amongst each other. It has remained peaceful; I’m grateful for that. I hope it stays that way, and as long as it does, awesome,” he continued.
“I’ve seen a lot of love and a lot of community out here today. That’s mostly what I thrive off of and what I’m loving about being at these different events,” Clodfelter said.
When asked what he thinks about H-E-B sponsoring a kid-friendly Pride event, including a drag show, Clodfelter characterized the sponsorship as an expression of “freedom of speech.”
“They’re allowed to use their money [and] their business to support the communities or the movements that they want to,” he argued. “That was decided by the Supreme Court all the way back in the Hobby Lobby case.”
H-E-B and its chair, Charles Butt, have drawn controversy in recent years over involvement in political and social causes.
The company reportedly funds OutYouth, a Texas organization that allegedly provides LGBTQ+ counseling to children as young as 5 years old. In January, organizers for an event featuring Kyle Rittenhouse claimed that the venue they arranged backed out following pressure from H-E-B, as The Dallas Express reported at the time.
“I would like for businesses to just stay out of political issues, but anything can become politicized,” Clodfelter suggested. “We’ve already breached that as a country that businesses can use their free speech.”
He told The Dallas Express that he wants people to recognize that they are part of a community and that finding a safe space with like-minded individuals is important for all sides.
Elena Voytko, who grew up in Temple and is a part of Christians for Central Texas, spoke to The Dallas Express about the Pride event.
“Often, the LGBTQ community has said that we were unkind or we’re hateful,” said Voytko.
Her group set up its own block party with a bounce house, food, and beverages within walking distance of the Temple Pride block party.
“We just are asking anyone if they’d like a hug and prayer. So that’s what we do. We are here to show the love, but we are also here because we have drawn a line when it comes to children being indoctrinated and taught sexual orientation,” Voytko said.
“Children are not thinking about sex, but this gay Pride for children block party is even more damaging to these children that wake up every day confused on who they are and what they are and it’s only causing more harm,” she continued.
“And we want to say, you know what, that is not what the LGBTQ community is about. They have hijacked the gay community, and radical predators have now taken over the community. … We’re here for the children and also to pray for anyone that wants prayer,” Voytko concluded.
Senate Bill 12, which would prohibit adult entertainment such as drag performances in the presence of minors, was passed by the Texas Legislature Monday, just two days after the Temple Pride event. SB 12 now awaits Governor Greg Abbott’s signature, after which it will become Texas law.