Thanksgiving weekend at Cedar Creek Lake

I know there are a lot of LGBT folks in the Metroplex who have weekend/vacation homes down south on Cedar Creek Lake, and I am sure there are others who plan on spending their long holiday weekend in that area with friends and family. And that’s not even counting all the LGBTs who live on the lake full time.

So if you will be spending Thanksgiving and the weekend on the lake and are looking for something fun to do once all the turkey is gone, checkout Friends, one of two LGBT bars in Gun Barrel City.

Friends, 410 S. Gun Barrel Lane, opens early on Thanksgiving Day, with football playing on the big screens and a big Thanksgiving Dinner served at 6 p.m. Leo and the gang will supply the turkey and all the trimmings, but those coming to share the meal are welcome to bring their own side dishes, too.

Friends also continues its food drive through the holiday weekend, in support the American Legion Post 310′s annual Christmas basket program for families in need. So if you have some extra canned goods or dry goods in your pantry, or if you want to pick up some extra when you go shopping, be sure to take them over and drop them off at the bar.

Then you can wind up the weekend Saturday night with Friends’ annual Mr./Ms./Miss Cedar Creek Lake Pageant starting at 9 p.m.

The other LGBT club in town is called Garlow’s, so you might want to check them out, too, while you’re in town. Garlow’s is located at 309 E. Main St. in Gun Barrel City.

—  admin

COVER STORY: a DIFFERENT kind of CAMP

SADDLE UP | Mitch, right, one of the co-owners of Circle J Ranch, and a camper take the horses out for a ride around the ranch. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Gays defy stereotypes by communing with nature, cowboy style, at Circle J

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES
Life+Style editor

jones@dallasvoice.com

It’s Mike’s 50th birthday, and so the usual Saturday night dinner bash at the Circle J Ranch is more of a celebration than usual. Not just because of the milestone birthday, either.

Mike, one of the four co-owners of this gay campground, had been in the hospital until earlier that week after a bad turn following chemo treatments, and it was touch-and-go for a while. Today, though, Mike appears to be the picture of health.

It’s hard to say how much of the promise of the outdoors contributed to his recovery, but you won’t find anyone here who doesn’t find something therapeutic about being out in the fresh Texas air.

Don’t expect log cabins and Conestoga wagons, though. Dinner here isn’t served out of a chuck wagon by a toothless cowpoke named Cookie slinging hash. The “farmhouse” (if you wanna call it that) is a rambling ’70s ranch-style with an enclosed porch, swimming pool and air-conditioning; across a field, a spacious but spartanly serviceable bunkhouse holds a dozen or so beds for campers who have neither RVs nor tents.

If it looks less like camping than you recall from John Wayne westerns, it’s still something different from what you expect of the gay community.

Horses are available to rent, and you can see some longhorns grazing in the pasture (though one of the owners says they are “more for ambience”). There are hiking trails, and at night, without light pollution from neighboring cities, the darkness of the primeval, with the starry sky ablaze with twinkling lights is beautiful.

There’s an undeniable connection to the land, a camaraderie borne in the dry winds and piney landscape of East Texas.

This weekend they expect about 40 guests (that’s average, though it’s hard to predict), but on a holiday weekend like Memorial Day, attendance shoots up to 200 or more. It doesn’t feel too busy, though; plenty of folks stake their camp out in the woods, away from the farmhouse, for some commune-with-nature time.

None of the guys who prefer to linger around the bunkhouse seems to mind; it’s not like anyone judges anyone else.

“It’s a different kind of experience within the gay community,” says Randy, another one of the owners. “People come here from the city, escaping stress and work. It really brings the stress level down being out here; you can see it an hour after they arrive.”

Randy is one of six children — the only gay one, but also the only one of his siblings to produce a grandchild for his parents (a daughter, co-raised with a lesbian couple) and the only one to go into the family business of ranching (albeit with a detour as a mortgage banker for a spell).

Circle J is a working ranch of 101 acres in Van Zandt County, about an hour’s drive southeast of downtown Dallas. Gun Barrel City, which for a rural area boasts an astonishing two gay bars (including Friends, deemed one of the friendliest gay joints in the nation by a national gay publication), is the nearest town of note, though about a mile from the ranch is where Ozarka bottles its water from the local aquifer. (The locals all agree that Ozarka is clean, fresh water — but they get it from their taps, and don’t much appreciate the company taking it from them.)

There’s a definite Texas sensibility here, even if almost everyone at the Circle J is gay. Walk by the cars parked outside, you’ll see pickup trucks with “McCain/Palin ’08” bumper stickers alongside rainbow flags and HRC “=” decals.

The men here tend not to fit into the metrosexual stereotype of a gay man; they seem more like the stereotype of a Texas cowboy: Resistol hats, tight-fitting blue jeans, handlebar moustaches and western shirts with mother-of-pearl snap buttons. Except, of course, they are gay.

Which means they don’t fit any stereotype at all.

“We get people from all over. And we are conservative,” says Randy, who fits exactly the physical description of a cowboy. “And by conservative, I mean Sarah-Palin-Tea-Party-supporter conservative. Lots of gay people live rural lives and come from rural roots.”

But that hardly matters. Politics aren’t the main topic of conversation around the campfire.

The campfire, in fact, is one of the highpoints of a weekend here. Located on the upside of a hill just across a pond from the ranch house, it’s nuzzled in a clearing surrounded by a natural outcropping of rocks — a kind of organic henge around which guests commune over beer.

The men — and it’s all men; the Rainbow Ranch a few hours away is co-ed and family-friendly — come from all walks. Gary, the straight brother of one of the owners, is visiting from Chicago; he seems unfazed by what he jokingly refers to as the “overt homosexuality” of the guests.

Although the average age of guests skews toward the 40s, this weekend there are several men in their 20s here as well, out to enjoy what Circle J has to offer.

IMG_0094
GOOD EATS | Circle J co-owner Paul, right, pours out pounds of mudbugs for the ranch’s Saturday crawfish boil. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

“We come here a lot,” says one guest, who lives in Allen with his longtime partner. “Being from Kentucky, I like being outdoors. We started with tent camping, then got a pop-up [camper]. Now we have a 34-foot RV,” with all the perks of home (a/c, a kitchen, roomy accommodations).

They go to Rainbow Ranch, too (there are about a half-dozen gay campgrounds throughout Texas, all of which are supportive of each other), but what brings them back to Circle J time and again is the people.

Circle J, which has been around for about seven years, was clothing-optional until last year. That’s when a disgruntled former guest complained to the local authorities and the sheriff came out, telling them they would have to register as a “sexually-oriented business” if they wanted to keep the policy. They decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and canceled it (although, when you’re out in the woods, who’s to know?) The result has actually been an uptick in business.

“Those who had been intimidated by nudity decided to check it out,” says Mitch, one of the co-owners. (It is not a cruisy place, really, though certainly that happens.)

Mitch himself was new to camping — and to gay life — until relatively recently. Originally from Milwaukee, he was in the military and married to a woman for much of his life. He came out with a vengeance in 1996, leaving the service, divorcing his wife and moving to New Orleans; within a year, he was competing as Mr. Louisiana Leather at IML.

That’s where he met Randy; they opened a gay bed and breakfast in NOLA before buying the Circle J eight years ago.

Mitch bristles at the use of the term “resort” to describe the Circle J, almost to the point of taking offense. He doesn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea.

“This is rustic camping,” he corrects. The best place to pee, newcomers are informed, is the nearest tree.

But there are some trappings of civilization. Cocktail hour is a nightly ritual, and guys play bocce ball to entertain themselves.

For Mike’s birthday bash, he and his partner Paul drove about 45 miles to pick up 20 pounds of crawfish for an old-fashioned mudbug boil. While Mike cooks — and everyone acknowledges, Mike has a way with Cajun food — many of the others chip in, taping down butcher paper and newsprint over picnic tables, drinking beer out of the complimentary tap.

All the while, the jukebox plays — everything from AC/DC to classical music to Madonna.

Hey, even in the country, gay men still like some Madonna. Some things just don’t change, no matter where you are.

—  John Wright

So If Winona Ryder Has Black Friends Who Say ‘Nigger,’ She’d Use That Word Too?

It's just crazy because I'm very sensitive to that issue and if I thought something was offensive I wouldn't want to be part of it. … Plus all my gay friends use that word all the time so (protesters will) have to go and give them a hard time too. The line has, however, been pulled from the movie's trailer following complaints.

—Winona Ryder not understanding what all the fuss was about the "so gay" line in The Dilemma, which she stars in, because after all she would never "be part" of a movie she thought was so "offensive" (though I'm pretty sure S1m0ne offended me to my core). Ah yes, the but my gay friends excuse! I haven't seen that one in a long time. [via]


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—  admin

As We Remember Our Fallen Transgender Friends, Let’s Also Remember How Far We’ve Come

Today is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we take a moment to remember the lives of our fallen trans brothers and sisters, including folks like Angie Zapata and Nanny Boo and Victoria Carmen White (pictured). Bullying and phobia and intolerance are something The Gays know well, but The Ts often live in this hell everyday. But that's not true for everybody: Transgender Americans are making strides worldwide, whether on the basketball court or the sorority house or the workplace, and that's because of increased visibility and the queer community supporting members of our own. I both hate and cherish days like this, because while they are reminders that insufferable bigotry is still very much alive and well — so much so that it claims lives — it's also a chance to lift our heads up to note how far we've actually come.

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Man Kills 80-Year-Old Who Wanted To Be More Than Friends, Surrenders, Sets Off Bomb Scare

Robert L. Johnson, 40, confessed to killing an unidentified 80-year-old friend, who Johnson says had been pestering him for nearly a year to engage in a sexual relationship, with his father's 9mm gun. But the admission only came after Johnson stuffed the body in the trunk on Thursday, went off for a day of casino gambling with his mother, and then turned himself into police on Saturday because of an unrelated failure-to-appear warrant.

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Video: NOM affiliate vid looks to mid-’90s, rejects ‘Friends’ from NBC (Non-Biased Congress)

“One Man, One Woman,” the splinter group that runs the National Organization For Marriage’s official Facebook page, has created a new campaign video targeting senators for casting one single vote fourteen years ago:

So wait, voters are supposed to knock out Boxer and Feingold solely because they opposed a measure that courts are increasingly seeing as unconstitutional, that numerous onetime supporters (including the president who signed it) have since come out against, and that serves no purpose other than to divide a nation that is in crucial need of coming together to fight common societal ills? Only in the contrived “protect marriage” world could a principled stand against unwarranted bias be seen as a liability!

***

**Oh, and this NOM affiliate has posted the above video to the same YouTube page where, in another video, they claim that gays are seeking “polygamy, pedophilia, and prostitution”:

(1:18 mark)




Good As You

—  John Wright

Glenn Beck Invited a Few Friends Over to See D.C.’s Sights

THE SHOT — A shot from today's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C., where folks like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin will rail against all of America's problems (caused by the Democrats!), while also raising money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a charity that sends cash to military families when they die in the wars George W. Bush launched.

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—  John Wright