I live with my family in Wimberley, Texas. And there’s a lot that I love about this place. But 2 of my kids identify as different parts of the LGBTQ community and have dealt with a lot of bullying and hate. So is Wimberley Texas tolerant?
Here’s my experience:
Wimberley Texas is not always tolerant of those who are different. From white school kids regularly using the “n-word”, frequent bullying of LGBTQ students, hateful protestors at Pride parades, to the school district spending $100,000 to fight a T-shirt with a rainbow on it, there is a lot of intolerance in the town.
But Wimberley has always been a delicate mix of both hippie-artists, retirees, ranchers and farmers, and those on the conservative side. And often, all these groups live together in harmony.
But as you’re about to read, that isn’t always the case.
And my late father, who was gay, lived here 30+ years ago. So as part of this story, I also interviewed his husband to get his take on whether Wimberley has always been a balancing act between the hippie/artist community and the extremism we’ve started to see.
Let’s explore further.
Please “spread the word” that #Wimberley school board candidate, Andrea Justus is a small-minded bigot who would only bring down the WISD community with the pure hatefulness that spews from her mouth. pic.twitter.com/bLQa2nMnmD
— LBCC (@LivingBlueComal) September 20, 2021
Is Wimberley Texas safe for the LGBTQ community?
Wimberley LGBTQ residents are likely physically safe, but no doubt that they are likely to be harassed or bullied for participating in Pride parades or being open about their orientation, particularly in middle school, but also high school.
And recently, there were 3 uber-conservatives elected to the school board, at least 1 of which, Andrea Justus, is reported to have made a number of derogatory statements about the LGBTQ community (which I explore below).
Now I’m not bashing conservatives.
I’m a Libertarian and have been for decades, so while I vehemently support freedom for everyone, I also have a number of conservative values too. And while I wasn’t a big Trump supporter, in all honesty, I’d much rather have him than Biden.
So I say that to point out that I’m hardly on the extreme left.
But I’m also of the opinion that a true conservative fights for freedom for everyone including people with ideas I may not agree with.
After all, the U.S. Declaration of Independence didn’t say “some” people were created equal.
We are all created equal.
And while I get that minorities and those in the LGBTQ community were viewed differently at the time of the Declaration’s writing, there’s no doubt that the intent was to create an equal society for people from all walks of life that was far from what our founders left behind in England.
Baby’s first #Pride parade, and Wimberley’s, too! Love is Love & Be You! pic.twitter.com/EHjFCAlALV
— Chris Perri (@ChrisPerriTX) September 22, 2019
Wimberley’s Controversial local school board elections
Local resident, and self-proclaimed “Photographer, traveler, eater, occasional activist, thinker, democrat, gay man, lover, drinker, and Spice Girls maniac.” David N. Martin noted the following about recently elected school board member Andrea Justus during her campaign:
“Andrea Justus says that (school board member) Lori Olson was “Spreading LGBTQ in our schools.” How do you spread LGBTQ in schools? Is it like a seasoning or some sort of carpet freshener? Do you buy it in aerosol cans? Is it put in the water?”
Justus also stated in regard to the Wimberley Pride Parade that it involved “transvestites marched through the town”.
And he goes on to claim that “Andrea Justus has dinner parties with Q-Anon sympathizers and White Supremacists.”
That last comment is, of course, uncorroborated, and I don’t know Martin’s sources.
You can see his whole post (privacy settings aside) here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/wimberleysoapbox/posts/1672427519620313/
And I will also point out that Martin does seem just as hardline on the left as Justus is on the right, and often appears to be wanting a soapbox more than solutions.
But I also understand that it’s easy to be offended and outraged by some of what goes on here.
However, what we really need are people who are willing to come together in the middle and talk and agree that it’s OK to not agree on everything but look for some common ground.
But it certainly is well known in town that Justus, and likely her 2 friends that were also elected, Rob Campbell and Nathan Cross, are deeply conservative and extremely religious.
And those often (but not always) go hand in hand with being anti-LGBTQ.
Justus has also come out against using social-emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom, something kids sorely need these days.
With the high levels of bullying and high use of the “n-word” at the schools it’s obvious that at least for some kids, the level of emotional intelligence is non-existent.
Now to his credit, Nathan Cross, while vague, did issue the following statement presumably with regards to things that Martin and others like him had claimed:
“There have been some very nasty, and very untrue statements being tossed around several local groups about the conservative candidates recently. I want to ensure everyone that none of what you are hearing is true.”
Has Wimberley always been like this?
I asked my late father’s husband (Tom) about what living in Wimberley was like in the late 1980s through the late 1990s.
My father passed away in 2014, and we had a bit of a complicated relationship. You can read our story as father and son in a recent article on my website.
My Dad’s husband Tom said:
I do not recall any ridicule regarding being gay. Wimberley High had a large lesbian population when we lived there. But I do recall seeing a cross-dresser at a grocery store who received a lot of negative comments”.
So it sounded like, from Tom, that Wimberley’s anti-LGBTQ crowd was a little more discrete a few decades back.
And it could be, as many in the media stated over the past few years, that Trump having been in office recently emboldened bigots to be more open about their views.
However, I will also point out that the first openly gay person to ever be appointed to a Presidential cabinet position, Richard Grenell (Director of National Intelligence), was, in fact, put in that position by Trump. (source)
And using the word “bigot” which I recognize gets thrown around way too much by people on the left, let me offer the official definition:
“a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.”
But at the end of the day, it’s not Trump’s fault.
People are accountable for their own actions, statements, and inactions. And while I believe the majority of people in Wimberley are good, caring, loving, and compassionate people, there are for sure some who believe that their rights are superior to others.
Thank you Ambassador @RichardGrenell for paving the way for gay republicans. So blessed to be able to do amazing work with you! pic.twitter.com/LachAqe0nz
— TJ (@GetItDoneTJ) November 7, 2021
The excessive harassment my 13-year-old has been subjected to
In my middle child’s case, they have been harassed consistently for the past 15 months; almost exclusively by middle school boys.
And while that has sometimes been at school, it’s also happened in local restaurants and even just a few blocks from our house. One kid even pulled a switchblade out while bullying my kid and a friend group.
To put it into context, my kid now identifies and dresses like a boy but was born my daughter.
Here are just a handful of the things my kid has been called or asked:
- “What’s between your legs?”
- “What’s your sexual orientation?”
- “Are you a boy or are you a girl?”
And my kid has had to hear this on almost a daily basis.
There was some reprieve in 2020 when school went online. But it came back with a vengeance in the fall semester of 2021.
Now I get middle school boys are dumb. I know. I was one.
And I get my kid deciding to identify as a boy in middle school is egging these boys’ ignorance on. And it’s not a choice I encourage.
But my job as a parent is to help guide, educate, but ultimately encourage my kids to be themselves. My job is also to love them unconditionally.
But how far will the bullying go? What lengths will these bullies go to?
Luckily, my oldest kid hasn’t had to face the same things, but they did say this with regards to bullying:
“I’ve personally never been bullied but I know that my friends have been bullied for their weight, name, sexuality, pronouns, etc.”
BHS and BMS watching @nickvujicic live from Wimberley ISD. Nick is presenting a one hour keynote message focused on curbing bullying in our schools. #antibullying #stopbullying #lifechanging pic.twitter.com/brZgQGQJT2
— Blanco ISD (@blanco_isd) October 1, 2019
How do the schools address bullying in Wimberley?
The school approach to bullying in Wimberley is basically to hang posters and talk about it very generally. But very little disciplinary action takes place unless something physical happens on school grounds and is witnessed by a teacher.
Here’s what my 14-year-old noted with regards to Wimberley High School:
“I attended an anti-bullying seminar that my school provided and during that seminar, no minority groups were mentioned all types of bullying were just clumped together. They told us if we get bullied to not fight back to the bully and to just tell a friend/teacher”
I, in turn, have taught my kids to never throw the first punch, but to definitely throw the last one.
Violence isn’t the answer to anything. But we have every right to defend ourselves physically if attacked, so to suggest that isn’t OK is dead wrong.
My kid went on to note the following regarding the social club called the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA):
“One day the GSA club handed out Pride shirts to many allies and people of the community and they all wore the shirt and got called the “f-slur” and got harrassed”
So basically, unless the situation is REALLY BAD (and by that I mean physical), parents of students in Wimberley ISD should not expect much to happen to the perpetrators of bullying.
The sad reality though is that verbal and emotional bullying turns physical 30% of the time. (source)
So the schools aren’t likely to really do anything until AFTER that happens. AND, bullied teens commit suicide 50% more often than kids who aren’t bullied. (source)
The CDC goes on to note that the risk of suicide increases exponentially for “our most vulnerable youth (e.g. youth with disabilities, youth with learning differences, LGBTQ youth)”.
And even if physical bullying or suicide doesn’t happen, bullying victims are 18% more likely to self-harm in some way such as cutting.
Luckily for my older 2 kids, bullying peaks in middle school and should improve in high school. (source)
Got my public records request back showing Wimberley ISD spent nearly $100,000 in taxpayer money for the fight over this altered logo made by parents for the city’s first ever LGBTQ+ Pride parade in September. pic.twitter.com/aoPFHNax7h
— Christian Flores (@CFloresNews) June 8, 2020
The conservative backlash against the 2019 Pride Parade and the logo
So Wimberley’s very first Pride Parade was in 2019.
And it was a beautiful event with families and people from all walks of life just walking to celebrate a spirit of inclusion. It didn’t happen in 2020 due to the lockdowns. But did resurface again in 2021.
But in the middle of the 2019 parade was a HUGE controversy over the fact that someone took the high school’s logo and placed a rainbow flag behind it.
You might think that was just a nice show of support for students and parents of students who attend Wimberley High who are part of the LGBTQ community.
And that’s how it should have been taken. But no.
Specifically, the controversy was over school board member Lori Olson posting a picture of herself wearing the shirt (I myself wore the same shirt in 2021’s Pride Parade).
WISD Superintendent Dwain York issued a statement condemning the logo and unofficial use of it and its modification, much to the dismay of many in the community.
But as the Pride committee pointed out:
“This is the first time that WISD has issued a public admonishment of the use of their logo in this fashion. No district-wide admonishment has been issued before over the use of this logo, even though this logo is regularly seen altered, modified, and rebranded in personal sporting announcements, apparel sold in local gift shops, used in religious decorations, in secular use, and other environments.”
Ending with “Only in the cases when the logo was used with an LGBTQ association has there been a public admonishment.” (source)
And it’s also worth pointing out that the school district spent $100,000 of TAXPAYER MONEY to fight the parent who made the shirt. (source)
Really, so-called conservatives? Is that a good use of taxpayer money???
You can’t criticize Democrat spending and taxation and then get behind spending like that. That’s ridiculous and hypocritical.
So it certainly seems like the school district is, at the very least, inconsistent with its views, and at worst, bigoted and hypocritical.
And with the recent school board elections, that’s not likely to improve.
2020 Election Results (Hays County):
Biden Votes: 33117
Trump Votes: 33730
Link: https://t.co/gJlQPFhiBS #Wimberley #Texas pic.twitter.com/dGLfSqXiji
— new town every hour (@TownsUsa) January 19, 2021
Is Wimberley Texas conservative or liberal?
Wimberley Texas is split 50/50 between conservatives and liberals but is more conservative than nearby sister city Austin, famous for being the most liberal city in Texas. In Hays County in the 2020 elections, 54.28% voted for Joe Biden compared to 43.47% voting for Donald Trump.
But election results that are city-specific are hard to find. So those are county-wide figures, and I’m not sure of the source in the Tweet image I used above.
On a local election basis, it certainly seems that Wimberley is more conservative than liberal. The recent controversial school board elections showed between 51% and 53% of voters voting for the uber-conservative religious candidates and between 46% and 48% voting for the liberal candidates.
Now I’m not bashing religion.
My late grandfather was a Baptist preacher. However, recently elected school board member Andrea Justus, in particular, is one of those religious people that seems to use religion to make herself feel superior to others.
As an example, when met with criticism or asked about her positions on issues involving the LGBTQ community, she often simply responds with this quote from the bible:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers”
So she’s clearly implying that the LGBTQ community is “wicked” and “sinners” and that she won’t have anything to do with them, despite now being charged with supporting ALL students in the district.
But as I mentioned above, Wimberley has always had a delicate balance of empty-nesters, hippie-artists, young families, and farmers and ranchers.
And on the surface, much of the time, all those groups peacefully exist.
But as an example, when speaking to someone in authority in the school district about the repeated bullying, we were told that basically, the parents of these bullies were just as bad as the kids.
And that’s not a surprise.
Bullying is a learned behavior. Either because these kids see or hear their parents belittling others or because the parents bully their own kids, and they’re just paying it forward out of their own fear and insecurity.
Make no mistake. Only a coward travels in numbers and picks on others to try and feel better about themselves.
Isiah Carey speaks with Kevin Burrell who says his family packed up and left 7A Ranch in Wimberly, Tx after a racist sign was left on their porch. https://t.co/3QjHopjQLG pic.twitter.com/Axbbt3qQqi
— FOX26Houston (@FOX26Houston) June 24, 2020
How safe is Wimberley TX for minorities?
Overall Wimberley Texas is a very safe community with low crime. However, there was an incident in 2020 when the Burrell family (a black family) came to Wimberley to vacation and received a harassing, racist sign on the door to their rental cabin.
You can see the sign in the image above.
The incident did prompt outrage and many businesses around town posted signs saying “we love you Burrell family”. But the family did cut their vacation short, likely never to return.
Now I will also say that most likely The Burrell family was being way too loud way too late. After all, it was around 5 am when the sign was put on their door and the Burrell dad himself claims to have just gone to bed.
So clearly the Burrells were being inconsiderate with their noise levels given what time of night it was.
BUT, the issue people had should have been solely focused on the volume and time of day, and not their skin color. Their response WAS racist and wrong, even if the Burrells were being bad neighbors.
So was that an isolated incident?
I’ll just say this. Every day at school, my middle (middle school) and oldest (high school) children hear the “N-word”.
Now Wimberley is 95.79% white. (source)
So while there are black children who attend school with them, they are in the vast minority.
Now to be fair, my kids have heard white kids, Latino kids, and black kids say this to others. And generally, they have only heard boys use the term.
But in my life, it’s actually been decades since I’ve heard the “N-word” other than in rap songs or watching Dave Chappell.
And yet my kids hear the N-word every day.
Interesting, it doesn’t sound like it’s used to belittle or demean anyone. But I think there’s a real danger in getting to a place where white kids especially feel comfortable calling others by that word and not realizing the true implications of it.
Jacobs well, Wimberley Texas pic.twitter.com/1Gs72Ch7r0
— Facts About Texas (@FactsAboutTexas) July 19, 2020
What is it like to live in Wimberley TX?
Living in Wimberley, residents enjoy dark skies due to the lack of street lights, lots of wildlife, beautiful hills, and friendly people. Being a tourist destination, it gets crowded on the weekends but it also shuts down early most nights.
Wimberley is 45 minutes outside of Austin nestled in the scenic hill country. It features many restaurants, swimming holes, and outdoor parks and recreation areas.
I realize I’ve made a lot of critical comments about Wimberley in this article. And it hurts me to write this as there is so much that I love about Wimberley.
So here are just a few of the things and places I love about Wimberley:
- The wildlife (large numbers of deer and foxes in particular)
- The hills, trees, and swimming holes
- Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well in particular (the 2 best-known swimming holes)
- Blanco Brew and Cactus Coffee (my 2 favorites of the 4 coffee shops)
- Community Pizza
- Wimberley Cafe
- Creekhouse Kitchen & Bar
- The Wooden Spoon (a great self-serve frozen yogurt shop)
- Longleaf Craft Kitchen + Bar
- The Trail of Lights (an annual Christmas outdoor walk-thru extravaganza)
- Project Art (an art-based non-profit focused on teaching art to kids using local artists)
But there are issues in the community that aren’t going away that need to be addressed in a thoughtful, compassionate, and open-minded way.
And there are those on both the extreme right and the extreme left that need to be willing to compromise to make real progress.
And thus far, I haven’t seen that happen.
In short, as we type, my family is strongly considering leaving Wimberley because of the bigotry and harassment my kids have had to face and hear on almost a daily basis.
In many ways I LOVE Wimberley. And when my Dad lived here 30 years ago, I used to dream of living here.
And there IS a lot to love about this town and there are so many cool places and people. So it’s a tough decision, not one to make lightly, and not one we’ve even made yet.
But I have reached the end of my patience for what my kid has had to ensure.
And we’ve had a number of conversations with school officials and the police to try and put a stop to it. But we’re at the point where it feels like we either have to leave, live with it, or look into taking legal action for the pain and mental anguish my kids have had to endure.
And I’m just not certain what the right path is yet.
Image by bigtent67 from Pixabay
Other images which require attribution:
Aryan Guard in Kensington 2 by Robert Thivierge and capital pride: protest selfie by Pabak Sarkar are licensed under CC2.0 and were cropped, edited, merged, overlayed on another image and had a text overlay added.