QueerBomb Dallas' Radical Vision For A Better Queer Community

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Scott Mitchell

As Texas cities go, ours is relatively gay-friendly. Dallas is one of only five cities in the state to have anti-discrimination ordinances in place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and Mayor Mike Rawlings has openly endorsed same-sex marriage. And, of course, the thriving "gayborhood" in the Oak Lawn area is usually packed full of people who feel safe enough to express their sexual and gender identities.

For Meg Hargis and Daniel Villareal, two of the activists behind Queerbomb Dallas, a few gay bars and a statue at the intersection of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs aren't enough to represent the diverse and vibrant queer community that makes its home here. Queerbomb Dallas is relatively new to the Dallas gay community, but in the short time they've been here, they've made us all take a hard look at the aspects of our culture that seem to be leaving some Dallas queers behind.

In terms of gay culture in Dallas, on face, it looks like we have a lot. Ask anyone where the "gayborhood" in Dallas is, and they'll point you toward the intersection of Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn, where "The Strip" is located. Here, you'll find almost all of the city's sprawling, multi-level gay bars and clubs, alongside LGBT-oriented businesses. Mostly, though, you'll just find bars, and a lot of people drinking in them.

"At first, being there is great. There's drinks and you're all liberated and stuff, but after a while, I just thought that this place was really goddamn boring," says Villareal, an activist and journalist based in Dallas. "If you don't want to eat pasta, buy underwear, or get wasted, there's nothing for you on The Strip." Hargis points out that the entanglement of gay culture and alcohol is especially problematic when you consider that queer people are disproportionately susceptible to issues with substance abuse.

Even at the city's largest celebration of gay culture, the focus is largely on alcohol. "Now it's all about beer," says Hargis. "The Heineken logo on the banners for this year's Pride is almost as big as the name of the parade." Held every year in September, the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, sponsored by the Dallas Tavern Guild, is is always packed to the gills with thousands of people and consistently lauded as one of the best pride celebrations in the south.

But it isn't the kind of pride parade that much space for activism, as Queerbomb Dallas charges. The Tavern Guild, as you may have guessed, is a group of gay bar owners that Queerbomb Dallas charges as being far too focused on profit. "The first half of the parade is basically a commercial for car insurance companies, banks, and beer," laments Hargis. "The queer groups don't even start marching until the parade is halfway over," adds Villareal. As a result, the identities of queer people who don't fit a mold that is acceptable to corporate sponsors and money-driven bar owners are often erased.

As the slapdash group of loud and proud queers made their procession through Deep Ellum in the inaugural Queerbomb Dallas alternative pride parade this summer, they may have also been permanently changing the face of the Dallas gay community. "The way the queer community is presented in Dallas is very specific," explains Hargis. "There's such a focus on being "a good queer," and a good queer is thin, white, specifically homosexual, and not poor." "If the image that you see in media of the gay community is a muscular white man in a Human Rights Campaign speedo with Absolut Vodka dripping down his body, the Queerbomb image is a transgender person of color," says Villareal.

Queerbomb believes that the presence of transgender, people of color, bisexual, and nonbinary people has been woefully underplayed in the Dallas community, and they hope to begin organizing in a way that is inclusive of voices that have been traditionally ignored in the local queer community. More than that, they want to help those voices build a space for positive activism.

Unlike Queerbomb Austin, which only hosts its pride parade in the summer and a few satellite events, Queerbomb Dallas hopes to keep organizing their community year-round. The group has already started hosting weekly reading groups at the Cafe Brazil on Cedar Springs, where they discuss queer literature, and they host monthly organizing meetings.

"Queer people are doing interesting things in Dallas," says Villareal, "but none of them get the press that Pride does. The volume is turned down so low that their voices are barely audible." Queerbomb is fervently organizing events for the rest of the year, including a picnic for people to attend instead of the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, and a top-secret event they'll be hosting in October.

In the meantime, they're working on developing food assistance programs for people in need, and hosting town halls to gather input from the community on what their next steps should be. Beyond that, they hope to build a supportive community that doesn't need alcohol to be empowered and endures long after the beads are thrown, the crowds have cleared, and the parade is over.

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3 comments
ShugAveryPee
ShugAveryPee

First of all, how can you call someone a journalist (Daniel Villareal) when they haven't written for a recognized publication in years? Is anyone -- including a clerk at a Lasik center -- a "journalist" just because they have a college education, a Facebook account and WiFi? Perhaps "former journalist" or "aspiring journalist" would be more appropriate. 

Anyone who's worked in a newsroom for more than five minutes will tell you there's no shortage of people who earned degrees in journalism only to end up working in public relations or watching from the sidelines of publishing. (Or serving lattes at Starbucks.) I can't tell you how many "journalism" professors I've come across who've never had a byline in a publication or a full-time career in the business. 

Point two: How can Villareal lob accusations at the bar industry when his ambitions include working for a website (gaytravel.com), whose only interest in the gay community is on a corporate level? 

Point three: Shut up about how lame Dallas Pride has become. Has anyone west of Arlington ever been to the Pride celebration in Fort Worth, just 40 miles west? It's not a parade; it's a picnic. People can take their kids without the fear of running into some leather-clad troll in a thong using the event as an opportunity to find sexual opportunities. There's a barbecue fundraiser, a roster of LGBT entertainers, and a beautiful venue that's not exclusive to the gay community. You don't need boas and glitter to champion for gay rights. The gays in Tarrant County know this already.

There's no need to reinvent the gay community. 

"Queer people are doing interesting things in Dallas," says Villareal, "but none of them get the press that Pride does. The volume is turned down so low that their voices are barely audible."

That's because "interesting" isn't tantamount to "compelling." A march featuring "activists" dressed like Lady Gaga? A screening of "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert" at Texas Theatre? It's no wonder some of the gay community feels slighted by the local press. The new wave of “activists” such as Queerbomb, know how to complain and do things with more fanfare, but is it better?

Everything that comes out of this duo's mouths is sanctimonious and hackneyed. This story gives no insight into how Queerbomb will galvanize an emerging gay community, other than “they hope to begin organizing in a way that is inclusive of voices that have been traditionally ignored in the local queer community.”

Sounds like a lot of talk – and that’s just all this group promotes. It’s gonna take more than game nights and book clubs to really shake things up.

dvillarreal79
dvillarreal79

@ShugAveryPee Hey shithead, Daniel Villarreal here. I work for Towleroad.com. Go there right now, my most recent article was posted just last week. It has millions of readers. Is that official enough for you?


Also, the reason neither Meg nor I said how we're going to galvanize the community is 1) we weren't directly asked and 2) we're still figuring out how to. We know a big part has to do with creating queer cultural spaces and learning the ways that unfair local governmental and business policies harm queers.

It may sound like a lot of talk, but if you're interested in actually changing our community, attend meetings and put a face and an ACTUAL name behind your words instead of sniping and masturbating anonymously behind a keyboard.

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