Sherry Sylvester

9th Street And Congress

Looking Behind the Screaming Headlines

The Texas Tribune began its coverage of the 88th Session this year with a news report screaming that “LGBTQ Texans Ready for Legislative Session as GOP lawmakers target them in dozens of bills.”

The Tribune warns that many LGBTQ people say they are leaving Texas because of the GOP “assault” on their rights.

If LGBTQ people are leaving Texas, they are the only ones. Every data source from the Census Bureau to U-Haul repeatedly shows that Texas is the state most people around the country are moving to, not from.

Newsweek reports that Texas has the second highest LGBTQ population in America, although other sources have radically different numbers. But no source shows an exodus of gay people from the state.

There’s also not much evidence of LGBTQ targeting in bills filed so far in the legislature session—at least no L, G and B. Several legislators have written bills that would prohibit the parents of children suffering from gender dysphoria from allowing their children to have irreversible surgeries including castrations and mastectomies or giving them puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. Those children might grow up to be “T” people, although the data indicates the most of them won’t.

The division between the LG&B and the so-called “trans” agenda (T) has long been debated in the gay rights movement—and is starting to gain traction. Many believe that the two groups have conflicting missions. Gay people want to be accepted for the men and women that they are. Trans advocates don’t believe that sex is binary and are demanding acknowledgement for being someone other than who they are.

This poses a huge problem for a group like Equality Texas, the source of the alarm in the Texas Tribune’s “LGBTQ attack” story. Equality Texas says it is the largest advocacy group for LGBTQ in Texas and it must rally its troops, but if you look at its bill tracker, their agenda is all about the “T.”

Looking at the bills they are fighting, here’s what we must assume that they support:

  • No restrictions on sex change surgery for children, which they call “lifesaving” and a “best [medical] practice.” No restrictions on cross-sex hormones and puberty blocking drugs.
  • All health care providers should be forced to provide sex change surgery to children whether they believe in them or not.
  • Insurance companies should be required to pay for sex change operations for children.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • There should be no restrictions on classroom instruction using nudity and descriptions of sex.
  • Men should be allowed to play in women’s sports in Texas colleges and universities.

Equality Texas describes commonsense policies on these issues as a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

The use of the term “lifesaving” to describe sex change operations and puberty blockers is deceptive. Researchers have known for some time that gender dysphoria does not put teens at greater risk of suicide than teens suffering from many other mental health risk factors including depression and anorexia. We also know that cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers don’t save lives but actually adversely affects mental health, which can increase suicide risk. So does sex change therapy, which has been repeatedly shown to not be as effective as psychotherapy in treating gender dysphoria in children and adolescents.

The bottom line is that the Equality Texas’ bill tracker makes it clear that it opposes all efforts to affirm the right of parents to raise their children. Several Texas legislators have put forward a constitutional amendment to “enshrine the right to direct the upbringing of their child, including the right to direct the care, custody, control, education, moral and religious training and the medical care of the child.”

Equality Texas opposes the constitutional amendment proposal as another “threat” to the LGBTQ community. Their bill tracker also shows their opposition to legislation that:

  • Allows doctors to refuse to do sex change surgeries.
  • Requires parents to be informed about all activities and materials used in their child’s classroom.
  • Requires teachers to notify parents of changes in a student’s physical, mental or emotional health.
  • Requires book publishers that provide books to schools to label them with a content rating, like movies do.
  • Requires parents to provide consent for all non-textbook instruction involving violence, nudity, profanity, illegal substance use or sexual content.
  • Requires “drag shows,” where men dress up like women and dance provocatively, to be defined as “sexually oriented” businesses.

Their opposition to school materials and library books is telling. Anyone who doubts whether parents should be monitoring them more closely in our public schools should take a look at the bestselling “Gender Queer,” which has been found in dozens of Texas school libraries. It’s clearly inappropriate for kids.

As for men playing women’s sports, broad majorities of Texans and Americans continue to oppose it. Women sports advocates won that battle in Texas in the last legislative session for high schools and legislation to protect women’s sports in colleges and universities has been proposed this session.

Finally, defining “drag shows” as “sexually oriented” businesses would hopefully make it clear that they do not belong in public schools or public libraries, regardless of what a couple of City Council members in Dallas think.

Large majorities of Americans believe that parents should be able to direct their children’s lives—particularly when it comes to sensitive topics like sexuality—without being overridden by public schools. Equality Texas disagrees and it is trying to convince Texans that to think otherwise is somehow a “threat” to the LGBTQ community.

Some Texans have religious convictions regarding gay people, which was reflected in the recent Republican State Convention platform plank, but in this heavily libertarian state most Texans are “live and let live.” The majority support gay marriage. But no thinking Texan supports allowing a child to determine whether they get a sex change operation or take puberty blockers, whether pornography and drag shows should be allowed in public schools and whether men and boys should be allowed to play in women and girls sports.

To overcome that broad consensus of common sense, Equality Texas and other LGBTQ advocates must convince the LG&B community that they are under attack even though they are not. That’s why we can expect more screaming headlines this session.


TPPF Commends NAS Report Spotlighting Critical Race Theory at the University of Texas -Austin

Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation congratulates the National Association of Scholars (NAS) on the release of its report, “Comprehensive Restructuring: Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of Texas.” The report finds that the UT-Austin’s DEI initiatives push a clear ideological agenda rooted in controversial claims about race, gender, oppression, and white privilege.

“In this report, NAS chronicles how UT-Austin gave in to student demands in 2016, when they called for a complete overhaul of the university to address dubious social justice concerns. The university created a massive and bloated bureaucracy of so-called ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ programs that now permeate every aspect of university life, dividing students based on phony critical race and gender theories,” said Sherry Sylvester, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at TPPF.

The report found UT-Austin routinely trains students and faculty using the writings of Ibram X. Kendi, author of “The Anti-Racist Baby” and other books and Robin DiAngelo, a professor in “whiteness studies” and author of “White Fragility.” The UT-Austin curriculum is riddled with their ideas and critical race theory, which actually discriminates against individuals based on their race.

TPPF is advocating a number of higher education reforms in the current legislative session including examining the ways Texas’ colleges and universities are held accountable to ensure parents and students have reliable and transparent information about college quality.  TPPF also supports legislation that will ensure that equality, freedom of speech and open intellectual inquiry are top priorities at all Texas academic institutions going forward.


What Would Gavin Newsom Do? It’s Time to Stop DEI on Campus

It has been observed that if California Gov. Gavin Newsom learned that the University of California system included professors and staff who persistently engaged in pushing free-market, merit-based achievement, and pro-capitalism messages, he would shut them down immediately. If he found out that the administrations of state colleges and universities were almost exclusively made up of individuals whose only job is to promulgate theories of American exceptionalism, he would not hesitate to fire them all.

So how is it that state universities in Republican states like Texas persist in allowing taxpayer-funded universities and colleges to continue their war against the principles and ideals of entrepreneurialism and traditional values that have made our country great and Texas prosper? Left-wing thinking and crazy “woke” notions on race and gender are now the norm on virtually every Texas university campus. Students who have a different opinion are censored and, consequently, are too often afraid to speak up. Conservative professors are in constant fear of being identified and exiled.

At the University of Texas and most other Texas institutions, every teaching or administrative job applicant must provide what is known as a “diversity statement” explaining what they have done personally to further “diversity” in their professional career.

Diversity, along with equity and inclusion, are deeply rooted American values that embody our founding belief that all people are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, in the woke world of college campuses, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have been twisted into code for an anti-American mindset based on the belief that racism and inequality dominate every aspect of American life including our commerce and culture and certainly the university.

Job applicants on Texas campuses must explain what steps they have taken and will take to make the university “anti-racist.” Job killing climate change policies and wealth redistribution are included under this required anti-racist, anti-American rubric. Guides on writing “diversity statements” warn applicants that saying “I treat all students equally” will be counted against them.

Requiring “diversity statements” means that every applicant must sign a statement affirming their commitment to left-wing Marxist ideology in order to get a job at a Texas college or university.

At Texas A&M University, fully 46 administrators, including deans with six-figure salaries, have the words DEI in their title. The University of Texas and Texas Tech have roughly the same number of DEI administrators. Their job is to ensure that DEI is the framework for all curriculum and programming, keeping campus culture and environment firmly ensconced on the far left fringe. Leadership, merit, personal achievement and discipline are de-emphasized and discredited.

Students learn about identity politics and multi-culturalism with no freedom to challenge the concepts. They are taught to believe that all inequities in America are part of the legacy of slavery and cannot be overcome with on-going efforts to ensure equal access to opportunity. The DEI regime rejects historic civil rights laws and Title IX designed to protect everyone from discrimination, insisting instead on exclusionary efforts in hiring and student recruitment that ignore achievement in favor of preferences based exclusively on factors like race, ethnicity and gender.

When you wonder how the environment on Texas campuses got so far off track, DEI and other left-wing ideologies on college campuses are the answer—and they continue to do it all with funding from Texas taxpayers.

Even more importantly, these colleges and universities also train public school teachers, which is how these distorted ideas, including critical race theory, made it into public school curriculums.

Wokeism has existed for decades on college campuses, but it has now become ubiquitous in every aspect of American life. The root source of wokeism is academia. It must be shut down and to do so will require a comprehensive strategy on several fronts. The accreditation cabal, which insulates campuses against public feedback and change must be drastically reformed. All DEI offices on the campuses of state colleges and universities must be closed and the use of left-wing litmus tests like diversity statements must be stopped. DEI training must also be strictly prohibited.

Instead, our universities must aim to be truly inclusive ensuring that every Texas student can pursue their dreams. Discrimination against any faculty member or student based on their point of view must end. University boards must challenge faculty councils and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom and open inquiry. Legislators (and taxpayers) must hold them accountable when they fail.

While a number of leaders of Texas colleges and universities support these reforms, the woke infrastructure anchored in faculty governance will fight back at every turn. In 2016, the Tennessee Legislature ended DEI at the University of Tennessee—the reforms lasted for about a year. The academic leadership rolled over the new state laws as if they hadn’t passed.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick affirmed earlier this week that he is committed to challenging the forces at Texas academic institutions who suppress freedom of speech and intellectual diversity. It’s time for every Texas legislator to stand up to entrenched DEI and wokeism on Texas college and university campuses. When it comes to higher education, Texas lawmakers need to ask themselves, if the situation were reversed at California colleges, “what would Gavin Newsom do?”