Corrections to parade history
May I correct you on a couple of points in your otherwise excellent summary of the history of the gay Pride parades in Dallas (2009 Dallas Pride Guide, Sept. 4, distributed with Dallas Voice).
The first gay Pride parade in Texas was organized by a wonderful lesbian named Rob Shivers, not by a man. We marched down Main Street in downtown Dallas, from the Kennedy Memorial Square to City Hall, and were illegally followed by KKK leader Dixie Leber ("Rebel" spelled backwards). She carried a sign that read, "God’s Law Demands Legal Execution of Homosexuals."
It is true that Dallas City Councilman Doug Fain had tried to rescind our parade permit, and when that didn’t work he promised that if the city allowed a gay Pride parade in 1973, there would be a topless parade in 1974, and that by 1975, God would rain destruction from the heavens and Dallas would lie in ruins.
But we did march down Main Street in 1973, and what do you know, there has never been a topless parade and Dallas still stands.
Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that in those pioneer days, all the work was done by the tiny Circle of Friends, Texas’ first gay organization. We never numbered more than 12 members and most, fearing a riot and even death, suddenly discovered they had to be out of town that very weekend of the first parade.
But as we marched down Main Street, a miracle occurred. Gays who had feared violence suddenly found their guts and stepped off the curbs to join the few. At the end we numbered more than 100 marchers.
Granted those first parades were dinky compared to today’s extravaganzas. The 1972 parade float budget was $10. So what! Our pitiful float was a brave first, and the black drag queens who road on it were also brave.
Going on: I wish you have mentioned that the first gay Pride parade down Cedar Springs — in 1980 — was led by the magnificent and hastily assembled Oak Lawn Band. Many hearts swelled with pride and eyes welled up with tears of joy when our band marched by, trumpets blaring, drums beating and banners flying. (Last year, for the first time, our band didn’t march. What a shame!)
Also of historical importance was the Cheer Dallas cheerleaders’ premiere performance leading the 1993 gay Pride parade. They revved up the crowd with their stunning red, white and blue uniforms, their trim waistlines and firm butts and their athletic performances. Not surprisingly, our cheerleaders were the stars of the 1994 Gay Games in Manhattan. New Yorkers, usually blasÃ©, clambered for impromptu performances in Central Park and on the sidewalks of Broadway.
Yes, our gay Pride parade history is vibrant and important. I speak for the community in thanking the Dallas Voice for the review. Now, once again, let’s all turn out and celebrate!
Phil Johnson, gay historian
A letter to Vonciel Hill
Dear Councilwoman Hill:
I am sending you this letter in regards to an article I read in the Dallas Voice ("Hill lone council holdout for Pride," Sept. 4).
I was appalled to learn you would not be participating in the Pride parade because of your "present beliefs," nor would you in the future. By "present beliefs," do you mean your beliefs somehow change from time to time? I don’t understand the word "present." It insinuates that in 2011 you could have different beliefs. Is that a Methodist thing?
I’m Church of Christ, and we believe what we believe all the time, not just for the "present." I don’t understand your kind of religion.
I feel that was a very poor choice of words to use on your part. I thought you were one of the educated black leaders in the Southern Sector.
You have a civic duty to support your city and it’s people. The gays in your District pay your salary, just like the non-gays. Not everyone believes in your Bible and your so-called God. You are to keep your personal beliefs separate from your civic duty to serve and support your citizens.
It’s apparent to me that you and I don’t serve the same God. But that gives you no right as a city leader to shun others that don’t believe the way you do. You do not just represent the Methodists. You are to represent all citizens.
Your ignorance and closed-minded views do not belong in city government, and you are an embarrassment to your people and to the city of Dallas and the state of Texas and to this county that was founded on diversity and freedom.
The only act that my God would not bless is your act of discrimination and your failure to follow God’s law to "love thy neighbor" "judge not less ye be judged."
You are not a very good example of a "Christian."
Michael Clark Smotherman
History versus nostalgia
As I read over several letters in Sept. 4 issue of Dallas Voice, I was struck by those wishing a return to the "old Oak Lawn" they once knew as the epicenter of GLBT culture and activity in Dallas.
One letter I found particularly humorous given the fact the writer admittedly moved from Oak Lawn, yet was missing the "good ol’ days." Well, unfortunately, that’s what happened in many cases.
As many gays and lesbians moved out (with their consumer dollars), others moved in with new dollars and new developments. Surprise!
I understand the "nostalgic" nature of many, but this must not be confused with what is "historic."
We as a society often preserve that which is historic, but eventually that which is simply nostalgic gives way to progress.
I doubt that many store owners, restaurants or even clubs are very upset for the influx of new development and new business in the area.
As I visit Oak Lawn myself, I see more and more straight singles and couples doing business in the area, in the daytimes and evenings.
Those struggling businesses down on the strip appreciate those consumer dollars no matter "who" they come from, I’m sure.
Who can blame them, especially in a downward economy?
Personally, I am happy they are getting a second chance for success with combined consumer dollars from both communities.
I always see a "gay-friendly" Oak Lawn area, but will it continue as the GLBT epicenter of Dallas? I guess that answer is relative. I do believe it will be the continued and preferred destination point for the GLBT community, but with growing patronage from the larger Dallas community.
It’s that old cliche of "Be careful what you ask for" being applied here. When you seek acceptance, prepare also for assimilation.
I do appreciate those sentimental souls who wish to hold on to the (good) memories of the past regarding the area — I do, too. But remember, there is a difference between historic and nostalgic.
Progress and evolution typically only show deference to one.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2009.