Anika Kotaru
Mercury Staff
Amina Hussain
Mercury Staff

This month, members of various LGBTQ organizations at UTD participated in the Dallas Pride parade for a third consecutive year. 

UTD’s participation in the June 2 event was organized by the Galerstein Gender Center and represented by QuTD, the university’s LGBTQ employee resource group. Matt Winser-Johns, the assistant director of LGBTQ programs, helped organize UTD’s walking group.

“We were one of the groups that did not have a particular vehicle or float, so we all marched along with a UTD banner,” he said. “There were about twenty of us: students, faculty, and staff. It was very encouraging that we (were) all there together.”

QuTD’s website states that their mission is to increase visibility and encourage involvement of LGBTQ and allied staff within the campus community. The Dallas Pride website also highlights the importance of Pride and its recognition around the Dallas community. Winser-Johns said Pride Month was a time to talk about the history surrounding LGBTQ rights as well as the movement’s future. 

“I think Pride Month is a moment to reflect on the progress that we have made for LGBTQ people, but also it is a moment to realize that progress still needs to happen,” he said. “It is a celebratory moment, but it also serves as a need for our community for inclusivity in the country and the rest of the world.”

On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states in the US. Because of this, June was officially declared as Pride Month, where LGBTQ members and allies celebrate different sexual orientations and gender identities. These celebrations often take place in an annual pride parade that occurs across the nation. The first pride parade occurred in Dallas in 1972 after the Stonewall Riots, and involved up to 300 people marching in downtown Dallas to promote LGBTQ rights. Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, Winser-Johns said there’s still progress to be made.

“Right now, especially here in Dallas, there is so much discrimination and violence against our transgender communities of color. As a white, gay, cisgender male, it is my responsibility to highlight the needs specifically for our communities of color and our trans communities,” he said. “I am one of many identities that were reflected in the parade on Sunday. That’s why I think the parade was so important.” 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Muhlaysia Booker, a Dallas-area transgender woman who was shot and killed in May was one of ten black transgender women killed this year.

A 2019 report from the International Lesbian, Gay, Trans and Intersex Association found that consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults was still criminalized in 68 United Nations member states around the world. A May 2019 NBC News report highlighted Alabama representatives who were forced to create new legislature allowing couples to obtain marriage documents without the approval of a judge after several conservative probate judges refused to issue licenses to same-sex couples. Winser-Johns said the protection of LGBTQ rights is especially important in the South.

“We are not always in a spot that feels inclusive to all identities. It’s important to highlight that LGBTQ people are your friends, your families, your coworkers, and your acquaintances, and it’s possible you might not know who identifies as LGBTQ.” He said. “It’s important to be careful who you hate, because it could be someone you love.”