Dallas has a lot to be proud of

Posted on 07 Jun 2012 at 10:30pm

City’s recognition of Pride Month represents major progress for the LGBT community — and it’s about time we had a celebration in June

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PROCLAIMING PRIDE | LGBT Task Force members pose with city officials during Wednesday’s Pride Month Kickoff at City Hall. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

Pan-GerberWho woulda thunk?” That’s what my mom would have said if she heard about the month of activities developed and hosted by a Dallas City Council member and her LGBT Task Force in recognition of gay Pride.

Who woulda thunk that in Dallas, Texas, LGBT Pride Month would commence in the Flag Room of City Hall with a signed proclamation, as well as comments from elected officials and community leaders?

I certainly didn’t think that would be the case when about a year ago I attended a Dallas City Council/mayoral candidate forum where there were about 15 “hopefuls” in attendance. It was the usual format where each candidate had an opportunity to share their vision for the city, and then the floor was open for questions from the public.

Sitting there with memories of the progressive political culture that my partner, Suzanne Slonim, and I left in Northern California 21 years ago, I skeptically approached the microphone and asked: “In honor of LGBT Pride month in June, would you be willing to raise the Pride flag at City Hall?”

And to my surprise, not a single candidate missed a beat when declaring their support. And some even suggested that the city do more than just go through the gesture of raising a flag — they expressed interest in building an educational process so that Dallas residents would understand the “why” behind Pride month, using education to break down the barriers of one of the last bastions of accepted bigotry in our country.

Well it’s now a year later, and thanks to the leadership of District 1 City Councilwoman Delia Jasso and her LGBT Task Force, the idea discussed during that election cycle has become a reality, and this June we will have a series of events to “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” LGBT Pride month.

Each Wednesday, guest speakers will discuss issues ranging from what it’s like to be an “out” elected official to how the LGBT community contributes to the city of Dallas.
Sure, there are some of us who think that this should have happened a long time ago. But the good news is,  it happened.

And we all know that this progress didn’t occur overnight. Dallas’ LGBT community has seen courageous leadership from people like Bill Nelson, Craig McDaniel, Craig Holcomb, Ed Oakley, John Loza and Lupe Valdez — as well as organizations including Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Arms, Stonewall Democrats, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Lambda Legal — who have fought to ensure that the policies of our city would land on the right side of history.

I am thankful for all that they did to make Suzanne’s and my life that much more rewarding since our move here.

Since our arrival, Suzanne and I have witnessed the unparalleled spirit of our community come alive every September when thousands of people have filled Cedar Springs during the annual Pride parade. And we have thoroughly enjoyed getting swept up in the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd, especially since it always takes place right around my birthday!

It’s funny, though, as I never really understood why this annual ritual was happening here in September while revelers in other states were driving floats and tossing beads to onlookers in June. I’ve heard several reasons — from September being a cooler time of year to timing it with the anniversary of the Judge Jerry Buchmeyer’s historic 1982 decision in Baker v. Wade, to it being a more strategic business proposition. And I’m sure that any one of those reasons is totally legitimate.

But I think there is something to be said for marching to the beat of the same drummer, and in this case both literally and figuratively, by celebrating along with the rest of the nation. And I am delighted that Councilwoman Jasso, Mayor Mike Rawlings and other elected, public service, community and business leaders joined together to raise the rainbow flag on Wednesday, June 6, to kick off Pride month in synch with others across the country.

There are scores of people and companies that deserve the credit for making our community such an incredible place to live and work, and every one of them has made an irreversible impact over the years to make this historic series of events possible this month.

Clearly, we have a lot to be proud of in Dallas.

Who woulda thunk?

Pam Gerber is a member of Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force. She can be reached at Pam.Gerber@Yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 8, 2012.

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