As far-right extremists nationwide target LGBTQ-inclusive events, particularly those that feature drag queens at brunch or reading to kids as part of Drag Queen Story Hour, many in the LGBTQ+ community are standing up to defend themselves. In Texas, Veterans for Equality protects members of the community.
During Friday’s Transgender Day of Visibility, the group stood guard so activists and supporters could safely commemorate the day.
San Antonio had its first “March for Us” event, featuring a rally at the Bexar County Courthouse and a march ending at the city’s rainbow pride crosswalk.
Event planners explained that “the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming Texans are under attack. The Texas legislature is attempting to eradicate transgender people from the state and force them to go back to the closet. Enough is Enough. This Trans Visibility Day, we are taking to the streets and celebrating our trans joy for all to see. We will not live in fear. We will be visible!” Texas Public Radio reports.
Veterans for Equality was formed about a year ago to address several social issues. The group has, however, narrowed its focus due to current circumstances.
“We try to stay in the middle and de-escalate any types of situations,” said Gen Peña, the Austin-based group’s founder, San Antonio CBS affiliate KENS reports.
“Because of everything that’s going on with all the threats – the hate, the bigotry – we’ve had to adjust fire and really focus on the LGBT community,” Peña said.
As they traverse Texas with a focus on de-escalation and protecting LGBTQ+ events, they’ve encountered neo-Nazis, they said.
"What happened at Club Q, Pulse, those types (of) situations... unfortunately, there were horrible, horrible, horrible tragedies that happened,” Peña told the station. “And because of that, our community is very scared. They're very on edge and very anxious with everything that's going on."
Peña said they are organizing courses for self-defense and firearms training.
"Nobody wants to go out and carry. Nobody wants to go out and learn basic firearms for the safety of themselves,” they said. “We want to just be able to be free, be who we are without having to worry."
Across the country, LGBTQ+ people are taking measures to protect themselves from the far right, and some have started carrying guns out of concern for their safety. In New Hampshire, in light of a rising chorus of threats targeting LGBTQ+ people, including those from hate groups, a group called Rainbow Reload provides a controlled environment for queer gun enthusiasts and experts to practice firearms skills.
Recent years have seen an increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people. According to FBI data, nearly 20 percent of hate crimes in 2022 involved sexual orientation or gender identity.