Small-town gay life

GAY MICROCOSM | With fewer than 50,000 residents, San Luis de la Paz doesn’t even have a gay bar, but that hasn’t stopped queer Dallasites from calling it home. (Photos by Jesus Chairez)

JESUS CHAIREZ  | Special Contributor
chairezstudio@gmail.com

SAN LUIS DE LA PAZ, Guanajuato, México — No rainbow flags, no gay bars, no Pride parade, but for ex-Dallasites Ron Austin and Lamar Strickland, this small Mexican town has plenty of gay life in it.

Austin and Strickland sold most everything and packed up what they could, moving to San Luis de La Paz four years ago. Austin says that he first discovered San Luis years ago when accompanied his best friend Manolo Arrendondo, also from Dallas, back home to visit his family for Christmas one year. When Arrendondo moved back to México to care for his ailing mother, Austin and Strickland soon followed.

Austin used to work for AIDS Arms for many years before retiring from the Baylor Geriatric Center. Strickland still works but telecommutes to his job in the U.S.

Though most people think that it is not safe — and even dangerous — for LGBT people to vacation much less live in México, Austin says that he and his partner feel safe.

“In general I have not found much homophobia here and for most people it seems like a non-issue. But yes, there are homophobic people in San Luis and Mexico. We get called names now and then, but then we sometimes got called names in Dallas, too.”

RURAL DRAG | Clockwise from above: Karla aka Carlos and ‘La?Mosca’ aka Adry staged a successful drag pageant this month in the new hometown of Dallas transplants Lamar Strickland and Ron Austin.

Things have changed in San Luis, says the couple, who have spoken to their trans friends Carlos, now known as Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, known by his nickname, la Mosca (“the Fly”) about the changes: Harassment is basically verbal today and not physical like in the past.

Though there are no gay bars in San Luis, a town of about 49,000, gay people do go out and dance. It is sort of a don’t ask, don’t tell situation where gays blend into the crowd; two men dancing together is something gay men just don’t do.

Though Austin and Strickland say they don’t feel much homophobia in San Luis, “Only the drag queens get by with gay behavior, like dancing together or displays of affection,” says Austin.

Though there are no official gay events in San Luis, five years ago Karla and Adry Pardo Garcia, leaders in the trans and drag queen community, and several of their friends got together to have a Ms. San Luis de la Paz annual pageant called Nuestra Belleza Gay (Our Gay Beauty). Carlos and Garcia say their pageant does give pride to San Luis’ growing LGBT community.

In the U.S., drag queens and transsexuals are often at the forefront of the LGBT movement; it is no different here in México, especially in San Luis. For example, earlier this month the girls got into a Blazer and put loud speakers on the roof of the automobile that blared out announcements for their Ms. San Luis Gay 2011 event held at Bar One, a club almost in the center of town.

As the Blazer drove down San Luis’ narrow streets, the girls — in full makeup and outfits — handed out flyers as they approached anyone on the street. Everyone seemed to be fine with all the glitter and glamour. The Nuestra Belleza Gay marketing worked; it was a sold-out crowd at Bar One. Austin was a judge for this year’s event, as he was last year.

Even before the pageant started there was enthusiasm: As the sun was setting all Nuestra Belleza Gay participants, along with their supporters, gathered at the main bus station where the contestants sat on the hood of a car and everyone caravanned through town with a police escort — basically a very small Pride parade. Small clusters of people did wait along the route that went through the center of town to wave and enjoy the beauty.

Though there may not be gay bars or a gayborhood to speak of, Austin and Strickland, along with their two dogs, Osa and Hoppy and a cat named Miche, are enjoying their new life in  México.

Jesús Chairez is an activist and freelance writer; former producer and host of U.S.’s first LGBT Latino show Sin Fronteras (Without Borders) on KNON 89.3 FM. He resides between Dallas and México City.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 29, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Hate is not an Aggie value

Members of GLBT Aggies were targeted with anti-gay epithets during Midnight Yell earlier this month, and they say it wasn’t an isolated incident.

By Camden Breeding, Vice President, GLBT Aggies

A recognized student organization since 1985, GLBT Aggies are part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie family, too.

This was the statement we made by attending the Nov. 19 Midnight Yell. As an organization, we proudly displayed rainbow flags and “Hate is Not an Aggie Value” buttons as we joined in the chorus “BTHO Nebraska.” Unfortunately, that chorus was interrupted by the voice of hate as members of GLBT Aggies were harassed for expressing who they are.

“Put the rainbow flags away, faggots,” one Midnight Yell participant shouted across hundreds of people down an exit ramp toward members of GLBT Aggies. Shortly thereafter he continued the harassment by yelling “faggots” multiple times into the same group.

This is not an isolated incident, nor is it even uncommon at Texas A&M. Earlier this semester, in the College of Engineering, I was branded “fudgepacker,” while “fag” bounced across classrooms in the Zachry Building like a game of pong.

Karla Gonzalez, president of GLBT Aggies, experienced similar harassment in the College of Construction Science her freshman year, where she says the first words spoken to her in the college were “fag” and “dyke.”

The reality is, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students feel unsafe and unwelcome at Texas A&M. Some might contend that by wearing GLBT related T-shirts and carrying rainbow flags, we brings the harassment upon ourselves. I would argue that I see people on campus, every day, expressing important parts of their identity by wearing shirts that convey their religious beliefs or affiliations, their cultural identities, and that promote organizations on campus and political ideas. I cannot agree to expect harassment on the campus that I love because I want to express an important part of who I am. I expect more from the Aggie family, and I know your fellow GLBT Aggies deserve more from the Aggie family.

Your fellow Aggies deserve more than the constant threat of verbal and physical harassment. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to be targeted by bullies on a daily basis. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to feel unsafe and unwelcome walking across campus. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to think that suicide is the only option because they are afraid to come out in a hostile environment.

Your fellow Aggies deserve more than your indifference.

The time is NOW to speak up and stand up for the dignity of your Aggie brothers and sisters. Speak out against hate speech on campus, visit the GLBT Resource Center in Cain Hall C-118, become an Aggie Ally by registering for a free workshop at allies.tamu.edu. Speak up, Aggies. Never let them say you weren’t at Texas A&M, never let them say you weren’t there for your family, never let them say hate is an Aggie Value, and remember the Aggie Honor Code:

An Aggie does not lie about who they are, cheat someone out of a positive experience, or steal someone else’s dignity.

—  admin