Big D comes out of closet

Posted on 23 Oct 2006 at 12:25am
By Leslie Robinson General Gayety

Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau courting LGBT tourists, showing that attitudes are a-changing

The city of Dallas has been outed.

Thanks to an Associated Press story, people around the country now know that the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to lure gay tourists.

That’s right we’re being recruited.

It seems that Dallas tourism officials launched a promotion two years ago to lasso some of those gay tourist dollars. I’d guess they saw other cities doing the same, and were inspired.

But Dallas? Home of big hair and big prejudices? Has something been slipped into the Dr. Pepper supply?

“It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about being economically correct,” said Phillip Jones, president of the tourism bureau.

Aha. It’s about big dollars for Big D. Those big bucks trump the big hurt this promotion puts on the area’s big anti-gay church.

But let’s also allow for the possibility that the mood in Dallas has actually changed. That’s the claim on the Web site the tourism bureau put up this year.

Under the headlines “Our Secret is Out” and “Dallas Smashes All the Stereotypes In a Big Way!” the site asserts, “Dallas shoulders a diverse and welcoming atmosphere that seamlessly mixes business, pride and play unlike any place on earth.”

The site also declares that Dallas “has left behind stereotypes of big-haired women and rowdy cowboys that is, unless you count sassy drag queens and strapping gay rodeo champs.”

The first time I read that my jaw hit the floor and my eyeballs followed.

This is not Jock Ewing’s Dallas. On a more contemporary note, it surely wasn’t a speechwriter for George Bush who crafted those words.

Jones, the bureau’s president, said gay travelers cough up an average of $100 more per day than other tourists, and embark on four to six trips a year. This raises two points:

The first is, I sure wasn’t part of that study. The second is, it’s easy to understand Jones’s sentiment that, “We’d be foolish not to position Dallas as a destination for this market, which spends a lot of money on travel.”

Cathie Adams, leader of the Dallas-based Texas Eagle Forum, has a different take on commerce:

“To promote same-sex activities that would be offensive to the majority of families is not profitable, economically or socially,” she told the AP. “If you are wanting families to move into the city of Dallas, are you going to show them such a promotion? I doubt it.”

I doubt she grasps that quite a number of families especially those with gay members would be pleased to see the city courting us. And there’s that little matter of the families we head up, but maybe she can’t bear to think of those poor kids surrounded by debauchery 24/7.

Interestingly, the tourism bureau’s biggest GLBT coup so far was the Family Pride Coalition’s national conference in October. The bureau made a presentation in the D.C. office of the gay family advocacy group, and it must’ve been a doozy, as Family Pride chose Dallas over Minneapolis and Chicago.

Mind you, at first some members were skittish about convening in Texas, where not long ago a same-sex marriage ban passed with jalapeno-like robustness.

Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of Family Pride, captured the old and new Dallas when she said, “There’s a very large and vibrant gay parenting community in Dallas . . . coupled with the fact that Texas is a place where there is still a lot of work to be done to educate people about gays and lesbians.”

She said, “It really made Dallas the right choice at the right time.”

So if you’re a GLBT traveler interested in checking out a storied city and the gap between perception and reality the Dallas tourism bureau wants you!

Leslie Robinson’s columns can be read online at www.GeneralGayety.com.

E-mail LesRobinson@aol.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.

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