The gay community has begun finding its voice in the college town of Denton
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Something must be in the water in Denton. The town known mostly for its live music and colleges has been exploding in a rainbow of colors, as three groups work toward giving Denton’s LGBT community a voice and an identity.
A while back, the University of North Texas’ LGBT group, GLAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of Denton), fizzled out as interest waned for whatever reasons, its lone remnant an outdated website stuck in Internet limbo.
A revitalized group kept the name Glad, but got ride of the acronym; now it’s just Glad: UNT’s Queer Alliance Group.
“We have a very good program,” says Jake Richert, who until recently served as PR officer. “We’re bringing more opportunities for UNT to provide a voice for the community and also provide information. And I think a lot more can be done with Glad.”
As public relations officer, Richert’s goal was to demonstrate Glad is more than just a group of friends; it’s a serious resource for students coming out, new students in the university and for providing awareness to the larger community.
Diedrick Brackens feels some pressure on him to see it succeed. As the current president, this senior wants his tenure to make a difference. The group was a safe place when he began college and he comes full circle in doing the same for others while also getting the group to a stable foundation — along with the school getting major attention last fall: In November 2009, UNT students voted against allowing same-sex couples to run for homecoming court. Despite the outcome, Brackens defends UNT as a welcoming and diverse place.
“It’s an inviting place and we have many straight allies,” he says. “We encourage members to get involved with student government and campus life. Being involved, and not just with Glad, is important to us. As LGBT students, it’s our campus too.”
But Brackens has led the group to be proactive in areas beyond their duty.
“We’ve helped a lot of gay and trans people find safe places to go on campus and dorms to live in. These are things staff would be doing.”
With a small gay-centric atmosphere in Denton, Glad hosts a prom for LGBT students, camping trips and a drag show at Mable Peabody’s, the city’s signature gay club. These have been successful events, but Brackens knows he has to think beyond the now and to the future if Glad is to thrive.
Brackens does double duty in the community, also serving as director of programs at the newly formed LGBT Center of Denton, whose mission is “to provide the LGBTQA community in the Greater Denton area with education, social services, recreational programming and advocacy in a supportive, safe space.” Currently it’s just a virtual resource — there is no building yet. But getting one is on the agenda.
Right now, support is done mostly through social networks, aggregating events and news and posting them to its Facebook page. But it has taken steps to corral the community. Each month, it sponsor Real Queer, a film series at the Art Six Coffee House. According to Brackens, local businesses have been very supportive.
And they should, not only do they stimulate the Denton economy, businesses welcoming the community can be the temporary spot for the center. Clearly, a win-win situation.
When Glad vice president Brady Mayfield isn’t busy tending to his school group, he’s working with the Denton arm of Queer LiberAction. Sparked by the homecoming issue, Queer LiberAction formed last fall.
“It was a response to the bill’s failure in the Student Government Association and we are currently still working on changing the rules to make homecoming more inclusive,” Mayfield says. “But we’ve also been working in groups like Get Equal to fight for LGBT rights in our area.”
In addition to Glad, the center and Queer LiberAction, smaller groups have also popped up. By the Bi started out as a sub-group of Glad but its growing membership allowed it to spin off. Keith Magee made an attempt with Denton Pride last August; like the center, it would have provided vital info to the community in Denton and Denton County.
Brackens figures the queer voice in Denton is only going to get bigger. The development signifies a voice almost demanding to be heard. And he’s just fine being a part of that.
“We’ve never had any issues and we try to say to businesses, ‘Hey, we’re the LGBT community, you should love us,” he laughs.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.