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Dallas Gay Pride 2016

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Dallas Gay Pride 2016

The Alan Ross Texas Freedom Pride Parade and Festival has steadily grown into one of the biggest and most enthusiastic gay pride celebrations in the southern half of the United States. It’s actually the formal name for Dallas Gay Pride, which this year observes its 31st anniversary (at least in its current form), with its celebration set for September 18, 2016. Dallas actually began holding a Gay Pride celebration in 1972, in solidarity with and commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots that are the basis for many Pride events held around the country in June.

Dallas Gay Pride Parade and Festival in September:

The Dallas Tavern Guild took over the operation of Dallas Pride in 1982, moved it to September, and called it the Texas Freedom Parade. It was later renamed in honor of one of the parade’s key architects, the former Guild director Alan Ross. Since 1983, The Alan Ross Texas Freedom Pride Parade and Festival is held the third Sunday in September – in 2016, it occurs on Sunday, September 18.

Michael Williams is an award-winning investigative journalist for About Magazine | About News which provides cutting edge news and ground breaking investigative news for the LGBT+ communities of Texas. Michael holds a degree in Broadcast Journalism and is a member of many different journalism associations around the country.

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BREAKING: Pride Houston Unveils ‘Summer of ’69’ Theme for 2019

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Pride Houston Logo Theme Summer of ‘69 Grand Marshal

Tonight, Pride Houston unveiled the theme for its upcoming 2019 celebration: Summer of ’69. The theme marks many important historical landmarks, such as the moon landing and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

(HOUSTON) — Tonight at Guava Lamp on Waugh, Pride Houston hosted its annual logo and theme unveiling for the forthcoming celebration that will take place on June 22nd, 2019 at City Hall. Last year, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit blended a Wizard of Oz theme with their groundbreaking Dear Pride campaign for their 40th anniversary celebration, which featured a performance by headliner Todrick Hall. This year, the organization is taking things to the next level, and revealed that its theme will be Summer of ’69.

For the LGBTQIA+ community, the actual summer of 1969 was important, as on June 28th, 1969, the riots began outside the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, NY. These riots against police began after a random and homophobic raid by police at the legendary NYC gay bar. Moreover, the Stonewall Riots are near-universally considered the beginning of LGBTQIA+ liberation and the roots of what would come to be a queer civil rights movement in the United States that continues on today. Other note-worthy events that took place that year include the Moon Landing and Woodstock.

At the event tonight, Pride Houston took the time to introduce its elongated ensemble of board directors and production team members (a full list will be updated here tomorrow). Hosted by comedian Thrifty Newman, the event was heavily attended by Houston’s LGBTQIA+ royalty, including photographer Dalton Dehart, historian JD Doyle, politician and activist Monica Roberts, singer Christina Edwards Wells, author Jolanda Jones, and many more. The bar was far more packed than any average Thursday at Guava. While president and CEO (who was recently dubbed one of About Magazine’s Best of 2018) introduced the new board and production team, marketing director Daniel Cato revealed the logo and theme to an overzealous crowd that was more than eager to see what Pride Houston had in store for the following year. The board and production team, as noted by many, has not only grown in the last year, but has also become much more diverse, with several more people of color now stewarding the ship going into the organization’s 41st year. Grand marshal nominees for 2019 are as follows:

Male-Identifying Grand Marshal:

  • Eric Edward Schell
  • Harrison Guy
  • Jason Black

Female-Identifying Grand Marshal:

  • Jamie Lopez
  • Shannon Baldwin
  • Iris Rodriguez

Non-Binary Grand Marshal:

  • Mike Webb
  • Becca Keo-Meier
  • Julian Gomez

Ally Grand Marshal:

  • Erika Richie
  • Marian Luntz
  • Constable Alan Rosen

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EXCLUSIVE: Pride Houston Adds Non-Binary Grand Marshal Category

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Pride Houston diversity LGBTQ POC REPRESENTATION

Pride Houston, Inc. is revamping their grand marshal categories for the 2019 year — adding a ‘non-binary grand marshal’ category in a step forward toward better inclusivity.

(HOUSTON) — When it comes to Pride celebrations throughout the world, there’s always discussion about how grand marshal titles can be adjusted to be more inclusive of all people in the LGBTQIA community. These categories vary from Pride organization to Pride organization. Some host only a single grand marshal each year, while others classify their grand marshals by gender identification. Some cities even host a celebrity grand marshal seat, which has not always proven to be popular within the community. But as the discussion about gender identification is constantly and rightfully making its way to the forefront, Pride Houston, Inc. has made the optimistic decision to rebrand their own grand marshal categories and take a trailblazing step forward toward better inclusivity.

In recent years, the grand marshals that lead Houston’s LGBT Pride Celebrations annually have been classified to ‘male’, ‘female’, and ‘ally’ or ‘honorary’ categories. But after hearing and seriously considering remarks from the community to make their grand marshal categories more inclusive of trans and non-binary people, Pride Houston, Inc. has made the bold and promising decision to reassess how they’ll be taking grand marshal nominations from the community in 2019. While last year — which marked Pride Houston’s 40th Anniversary — all forty years’ worth of grand marshals were honored leading up to and at the event, this year Houston’s LGBTQ+ community can expect a few changes. According to Daniel Cato, who serves as the marketing director for Pride Houston, Inc., the 501(c)(3) nonprofit has revamped the male and female categories, now classifying them as “male-identifying grand marshal” and “female-identifying grand marshal”, in an effort to better serve the trans community and provide them with a sense of much-needed inclusion. Additionally — and while retaining its ‘ally” category — this will be the first year that Pride Houston, Inc. will open up a new grouping, a “gender non-binary grand marshal” for their 2019 celebration. By doing this, Pride Houston hopes to help highlight the often-forgotten non-binary people in its celebration here in Houston.

“As an organization, we want to continue the effort of making Pride more inclusive to all. Pride Houston has started the conversation of moving away from gender-related grand marshal categories.”

— Lo Roberts, President & CEO

But Pride Houston isn’t stopping there. It seems as if they are well aware that this may not be a fix-all. In an exclusive chat with About Magazine first, both Cato and Pride Houston President and CEO, Lo Roberts, added that come late February of 2019, the nonprofit will host a Town Hall with representatives of Houston’s LGBTQIA community to discuss what more they can do to become more inclusive. At this Town Hall, Pride Houston hopes to discuss what the future would look like for their grand marshal categories and allow the public to talk back with Pride’s representatives in order to provide ideas and input to aid in the evolution of Pride Houston’s honors.

Pride Houston diversity LGBTQ POC REPRESENTATION

Pride Houston president & CEO, Lo Roberts (photo by Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits).

In an exclusive statement from Roberts to About Magazine, the president and CEO said, “As an organization, we want to continue the effort of making Pride more inclusive to all. Pride Houston has started the conversation of moving away from gender-related grand marshal categories. The 2019 Houston LGBT Pride Celebration will maintain its traditional categories, but will additionally provide a ‘gender non-binary’ category. That being said, Pride Houston has also decided that an open and public dialogue must occur in order to review these categories and to create a consensus among the greater community about what these honors should look like and how they should be represented. I would personally like to invite our entire community to come out and be a part of the discussion as we continue to make Pride Houston the community’s organization.”

This decision comes just off the heels of the loss of Ray Hill — an icon and activist in LGBTQIA culture and the man who co-organized Houston’s very first Pride parade. Following his death, Pride Houston also announced that they would be hosting an annual Town Hall to discuss the safety of Houston’s LGBTQ+ community, as well as the issues its people face. The nonprofit is now taking nominations in all four of their 2019 grand marshal categories. The form for these nominations can be found here. Pride Houston will be accepting nominations through 6 January 2019. Nominees for each category will be announced at the Pride Unveiling Event (where the 2019 theme will also be revealed) on 24 January 2019. Public voting for nominees in each category will run from January 25th through mid-April; and the selected grand marshals will be announced at the annual Pride Kickoff Party on 25 April 2019.

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Editor’s Note: Infighting, Woodlands Pride, + the Room Bar

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Update: Both Ryan Elkins and The Woodlands Pride issued statements and apologies to the Room Bar & Lounge this afternoon following this piece. 

Let me start by saying that this is not going to be a gossipy piece about some silly Facebook argument. If that’s what you’re looking for, it’s best to go and trot back along to Facebook. What this is is an opinion piece about the behavior of an individual high in the rankings of Texas’s newest Pride celebration that made remarks about something I hold near and dear to my heart, how it has the potential to negatively affect the LGBTQIA community, and why that’s not okay.

This past weekend, the Woodlands hosted its inaugural Pride celebration to mixed emotions when the news initially came out (no pun intended) many months ago. Many were excited and proud, and many were also curious as to why the Woodlands (which is only an approximate 40 minutes outside of Downtown Houston) needed its own Pride. I, personally, thought that the idea was lovely and wanted to support the Woodlands Pride in whatever way we could. While the Woodlands is considered by most to be a part of the Greater Houston Area, the cultures of LGBTQ Houston and LGBTQ Woodlands are quite different in many ways, which is something important to remember. The bars in North Houston for LGBTQ people are limited and there is no “gayborhood” proper like Houston has in Montrose. To add to that, and in a more general sense, life outside the loop is far different than life inside it. But what I’d like to focus on the most is that second point I made about the bars.

In The Woodlands — which is an independent township in Montgomery County lying partly in Spring, TX and partly in Shenandoah, TX (basically South Conroe) — there is only one gay bar, Ranch Hill Saloon. Ranch Hill is owned by Debbie Steele, a prominent member of the North Houston LGBTQ community that dedicates her life and bar to serving its people. And in the rest of North Houston, there is only one other gay bar for people of our community to flock to, the Room Bar & Lounge. The Room is owned by another important person of notoriety, Lorraine Crowne, who opened one of Spring’s first gay bars in 1997, the Rainbow Room (a separate entity). Both Ranch Hill and the Room are excellent bars in separate ways, and also in those that intermingle. They both have excellent staffs, small and hometown feels, and serve a community of LGBTQ people that don’t have a lot of other places within their niche to relax and be themselves on their side of town. That being said, they’re also very different bars. Ranch Hill serves a more rural, country feel to it that one might expect at a place such as Neon Boots in Houston, while the Room has a more go-with-the-flow vibe and sort of acclimates to whatever audience walks through the door.

But their aesthetic differences and similarities aren’t really the point here. The point, if I may, is that both are bars that serve an underserved community of people in a predominantly conservative area of Houston.Both, however, prove to get very busy on the weekends; and since they are so small, they often see a variety of patrons that cross over from the other’s side of the tracks. They’re both hosts of several events that support the community with fundraisers, drag shows, karaoke nights, and more. Neither is perfect, but both are pretty fantastic. And that ain’t easy, folks; and it certainly does not come without hardship.

That’s why it struck me as odd when I was directed to the Room Bar’s Facebook page this weekend and saw a negative review (which has since been deleted) about the Room Bar from board director of the Woodlands Pride, Ryan Elkins. The review read as follows:

This rubs me the wrong way for two reasons: one of which is a bit personal, and the other regards our social actions toward one another in the LGBTQIA community. I’ll start with the latter. I’ve also included some personal photos here to show just how much time I have spent at the Room Bar and why I love it (you’ll have to pardon some of them, as I’ve lost about 50lbs since they were taken).

Historically, gay bars were the only places in the world that LGBTQ people could go and be themselves. When Sodomy laws and the criminalization of homosexuality was prevalent, these bars were the only places to go and be around people like you. Moreover, they were some of the only places queer people could go to meet partners and friends that shared adversities, trials, tribulations, successes, and joys. In 2018, it may not seem as though queer bars hold quite as much significance, but the fact of the matter is that they still do. Being LGBTQIA is still illegal in many places around the world — some of which are even known for punishing these people by death. Gay bars are churches, homes, safe havens to people on the LGBTQIA spectrum. There are still many in the world who feel forced to remain in closets or fear coming out that seek out these places in order to let out a sigh of relief. It’s a bit like that cigarette you sneak at work when things get particularly overwhelming or that dance you do when you get out of the shower naked because no one can see you and you just need to feel a reprieve from real life. Granted, it is both of these things and much more on a greater scale. It is, however, a similar sensation.

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

Friends and I at the Room Bar in 2017.

And that’s what makes this review not just useless to our community, but degrading and regressive. Surely the board of directors at the Woodlands Pride has a partial attitude toward Ranch Hill, as Ranch was the official after party sponsor for the Woodlands Pride and the Room was not. Making Ranch Hill the official after party venue was a smart decision. It’s not only a great venue, but it is conveniently located to the site of the Woodlands Pride, and the visitors of the event were likely familiar fans of the bar. But what does it say about the attitude of at least one member of the board of directors of the Woodlands Pride about the community when one of those directors is publicly smearing a safe haven for queer people on social media? How is it progressing us toward equality and normalization if we are tearing one another apart rather than lifting one another up?

With that said, I don’t know what Elkins’ experience at the Room in late August was like before he posted that status update. I have a few details from sources close to the situation that say Elkins allegedly was served by a bartender who didn’t seem all that interested in customer service. I also am not completely cognizant of what exactly went down at the Woodlands Pride between them and the Room Bar. In a comment left on the original review, Elkins stated that there were comments being made about the after party at Ranch Hill that were unkind to both Ranch and Woodlands Pride. From my understanding, these comments, however, did not come from the staff of the Room Bar, and were unbeknownst to the staff until after the review was posted online.

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

Actor James Reed Lowrance and I rehearsing the live performance of About’s “The Anthony Project” in July 2017 at the Room Bar.

And I’d like it to be said that if that was the case, I am in no way making excuses for the Room Bar’s staff or patrons. The issue here isn’t one on the side of the bar exclusively. It’s an issue of why we, as LGBTQIA people, feel the need to perpetuate infighting within our community rather than rising above snide remarks, regardless of who they come from. It’s also one of why higher-ups in Pride Celebrations don’t recognize that they have a responsibility to set that example. I, for one, worked as the volunteer coordinator for Pride Houston for two years, and was an occasional volunteer in the years that passed before that. What I learned in that time — and not without a lot of working on myself to make changes to my behavior — is that everything that we do is a perpetuation of the organization we represent. I had my ass handed to me more times than a few from our board directors about how I behaved and spoke on social media. And while I’m a staunch believer that everyone has a right to say and behave how they feel so long as it isn’t hurting anyone, I also understand that when affiliated with something, your words and actions not only impact your reputation, but that of the others around you. More importantly, I had to learn for myself as the volunteer coordinator then and as the editor-in-chief of one of Houston’s largest queer publications that our job as pillars of the community is not to put down one another or to react to silly commentaries that ultimately are trivial in the long run.

But as I said before, I have a personal connection to the Room Bar. While I (again) don’t know the experience in great specificity that Ryan Elkins had at the bar, I’d like to share with everyone my experience with the bar, its staff, and the community I became a part of there in order to reiterate that one bad day does not undo the good that a person or establishment does over many years. That statement is two-fold. This one bad Facebook review does not undo all the good that I know Ryan Elkins to have done and continue to do in the community, nor does it undo the good of the Room Bar.

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

Room Bar bartender Natalie Brackin and I at Bunnies on the Bayou 2018.

The Room Bar has been open at 4915 Fm 2920 Road #148 for eight years now, the better part of a decade. Its owner, Lorraine Crown, may not be LGBTQ herself; but she has been in this community advocating for our rights and providing a safe space for queer people for over twenty years. Back in 1997, she opened one of the first gay bars in the area, The Rainbow Room located off of Ella and I-45. When the Rainbow Room shut down several years ago, Crown opened the Room Bar and Lounge on 2920, transforming what was once a bar named Uncle Sam’s.

The Room Bar was my very first gay bar. I wasn’t even out to anyone yet except for a handful of close friends, and I would sneak over to the Room when I had nothing else going on — scared and hoping I’d not run into anyone that I knew for fear they’d tell my mother. What I was met with was not a tension of anxiety, however, but a sigh of relief. From the moment I walked in and saw the flame-haired bartender Natalie Brackin standing on the other side of the bar, I was made to feel like I was a part of a family. Brackin introduced me to new friends, took the time to get to know me, and remains to be one of my closest friends to this day, some three years or so later. That bar was my reprieve for the next couple of years. I’d spend my time there after work to take solace in being around people like me after being overwhelmed by homophobia at work, met my first boyfriend there, hosted our first fundraiser for my forthcoming TV show there, released my American Library Association Award-nominated book there, and made some of my favorite memories there.

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

Table tents at the Room Bar for the release of my novel “Where He Lay Down” in April 2017.

While I neither live on that side of town any longer nor make it out to the Room Bar as often as I’d like, I still spend a great deal of time with Brackin, as well as my other friends that I made there. My close friend Nick and I still get together for drinks and good music, my friend Ryan (Fuller) is the karaoke DJ there who goes to great lengths and key transpositions to let me sing any song I want, and some of my best friends and drag queens perform there on a weekly basis. The Room was even kind enough to let us film an episode of Wineding Down with Anthony there just a few weeks back. Brackin, in particular, has a way of making people feel special, and not because she’s looking for a fat tip. It’s because Natalie Brackin is genuinely invested in the bar and wants it to succeed; but this is more so because she is genuinely interested in the people that pass through its doors and wants to see them happy and well. That’s a rare thing to find amongst bartenders, who truly have some of the most chaotic and stressful jobs in the world. They’re friends of patrons, therapists of patrons, and sometimes even the only family patrons have, especially so in this community. It speaks not only to the Brackin’s work ethic that she behaves this way, but also to her heart. In the years that I’ve been patronizing the Room, I’ve never once seen or heard Natalie treat any new customer differently than the next or those that she’s been friends with for years. The bar’s manager, Chris Vega, is equally kind, which is what has made them such an effective team since Vega made his way to the Room Bar after leaving Ranch Hill a little over a year ago. When Brackin recruited him, he brought a new kind of life into the bar — not to mention many of Ranch Hill’s customers — and took it upon himself to aid in reinventing the bar’s aesthetic. He too is a genuinely kind person who speaks in a soft voice that he almost never raises and smiles and laughs with all his friends and customers. You couldn’t find two better bartenders.

It’s also fair to mention that they make excellent drinks.

The Room Bar — just as I’m sure Ranch Hill is to many — is a special place to me even after being out and moving into Houston where I quickly ingratiated myself into the LGBTQ community deeper than I ever had been with my role at Pride Houston and here at About. But there was a moment when I realized how special the bar was to me that I’m certain to never forget for as long as I live.

It was in the wee hours of the morning of June 12th, 2016 when I was at the Room Bar while another gay bar in Orlando, FL was being gunned down by a domestic terrorist. I was at the Room to see the Tatiana Mala-Niña perform in her monthly drag performance at their “Roomers” show, which also featured Veronica Strutts and since-retired Akira Sky and Estella Blow. Many other people like me were at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando that night having the same sort of fun we were, until a man entered the club and opened fire, killing 49 queer people of color simply because they identified as LGBTQ and dared to go out and celebrate themselves.

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

Rebekah Knight, Tatiana Mala-Niña, and myself at the Room the morning of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

I remember waking up later that morning, seeing the news of the shooting, and crying like I’d never cried before. These people — while different from me, certainly — were like me in a lot of ways. Many of them were gay Latinx people like myself who had only gone out to have a good time with their friends. Some of them were out of the closet to their families and friends, but others — like me — were not. I couldn’t help but think about how real the violence against LGBTQIA people was and how that could have been any bar in the world, including that same night that I sat on a bar stool on the left side of the Room bar watching my soon-to-be friend Tatiana celebrate herself and her audience.

That evening, I made a trip to my mother’s house and deliberated all night long how to tell her that I was gay. We watched the coverage together as I working up the nerve to tell her during it, backing out, and trying again. I spent the night at her house because I couldn’t make myself do it then, and I went to bed sick at my stomach, never having felt before that I’d been lying so blatantly about something in life. But the next morning when I got up for work, I took a shower, caught my mother outside while she was smoking a cigarette, sat down with her and told her the truth about who I was and the life I’d begun to put my toes in the water of over the last year.

“I’m gay.”

Once I said it, before I even saw how she was going to react, my whole life changed. Weights I’d been carrying around for twenty-two years flew off of me and I could finally move my extremities again because the chains and shackles had come off. I felt liberated, and I owed it in immense amounts to those poor souls that had lost their lives at Pulse Nightclub the morning before in a way I knew they’d never get to know. They changed my life, which is the least respect I could pay to them after they’d met such a tragic end. I wished they’d been around for me to thank them. And my mother was supportive, and she was kind, and we moved on with life as per the usual. She was raised a conservative Christian, but as a nurse knew that there was science emerging daily to prove that people are not making a choice to be gay. How could they? Who makes a choice to live a life of ridicule and adversity, all-too-often one that ends the way it did for those 49 people in Orlando. But she asked me that very same question I’d been asking myself all along through the coverage of the Pulse Massacre: what if it had been you?

And, you know, what’s funny about coming out is that even moments after you do it, you have these tiny, pocket-sized moments of clarity that just seem to make you go, “Oh. I’m not sure why I didn’t see that before.” I had one of those right then, thinking about how much fun I’d had the night before with my friends — new and old, gay and straight — as I danced and drank and took for granted the fact that I had been safe in my own safe haven.

“You know, I would never want to die,” I told my mother, “but if I were to have died last night, I can’t think of anywhere else I would have wanted to be or where I would have been happier.”

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

Bartender Natalie Brackin welcoming a regular’s new fur baby.

You don’t have to understand my story, Ryan Elkins; although I’m sure that if you look back in your own timeline as a gay man, you have a similar story relating to a similar establishment or person. Maybe for you that’s Ranch Hill. Maybe not. But if you don’t think that that’s something ‘unique’ or ‘special’ about the Room Bar, as stated in your review, I’m not quite sure what else is. Because, you see, LGBTQ bars are sometimes hit-or-miss. But the defining aspect of them is not one person’s snide opinion about the establishment; it’s the way they protect our people from the ugly, nasty world out there where we are not yet equal or normalized. And as leaders of our community, as you and I both are, it is our job to see to it that all LGBTQ businesses that are working toward goodwill, equality, intersectionality, and normalization are boasted rather than shot down.

This is not the part of this letter where I call for Ryan Elkins’ resignation or anything. Quite the contrary. I know Ryan through mutual friends, and I like him a great deal. Thanks to those mutual friends, we have had the opportunity to have spent time together. I have always and will always continue to support The Woodlands Pride, including in our forthcoming highlight of it on Wednesday that two reporters from About wrote up about the event. They were so impressed, and I was sad to have missed it due to having plans with a close friend of mine I’d had scheduled for several months. I think it is a lovely — and clearly successful — endeavor to have another Pride in our larger, spread out area of Texas. But I will say this to Ryan Elkins here publicly: Shame on you for posting a nasty review about a bar that paid to be an entry into your festival, that showed up and supported our community and your cause — as well as countless others throughout its near-10 year life, and that continues to do so inside its four walls in more ways than I think you realize. But more to the point: Shame on you for doing so while preaching about equality, diversity, intersectionality, and inclusion to the LGBTQIA community of North Houston. I know you enough to say that you are better than this.

And to the Room Bar, I say this: Get your people. If you hear something, saying something. I am not here to excuse any actions or words that may have been perpetuated, as they clearly upset Mr. Elkins and the staff of both the Woodlands Pride and Ranch Hill. We cannot, however and to both parties, continue infighting in the community if we want success and normalization of our people. We must set aside our differences and come together to continue to raise people up. The Room Bar has a responsibility to the community just as Mr. Elkins does. I do not, however, believe that anyone on its staff or any of its regulars were the speakers of the not-so-nice language, nor do I believe they have it in them to intentionally hurt anyone. They wanted to support the Woodlands Pride, and that’s what they were there — like so many others — to do.

Room Bar Ranch Hill Woodlands Pride LGBTQ Spring

About Media writers and producers Lea Alonso, myself, and Allie Bakeman at the Room Bar following the first table read of “The Anthony Project.”

This is, however, the part of the letter, where I call on not only Ryan Elkins, but the Woodlands Pride as a whole, to issue an apology to the Room Bar for Elkins’ commentary. While he is entitled to his opinion, just as I am here in this letter, it is important for all of us to be more accountable of the things we say and do. I for one am not innocent of behaving the same way. I often make jokes like, “Screw OutSmart!” as there is a misguided belief that OutSmart and About have some sort of rivalry going on. But anyone who knows me or my publication knows that I genuinely support OutSmart and all our other publishing partners in the community. We’re all hear with a similar goal (to spotlight and raise up our community) and we all do so in different, yet equally effective ways. And I know for fact that Mr. Elkins wants the same for Woodlands Pride. Unfortunately, words of inclusion and diversity and support are not enough when you perpetuate actions that speak louder than hollow words.

The Room Bar is small, and quaint, and it is sometimes dead as hell. But whether there is 1 patron in the bar or 100, the staff always does its very best to give the community — myself included — a place to call home.

Do better. Be better. Love each other.

Love always,

Anthony Ramirez
Editor-in-Chief
About Magazine + About Media Group

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About Dallas

EXCLUSIVE: Dallas Pride Announces New Executive Director

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Jaron Turnbow Executive Director Dallas Pride LGBTQ Exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: This past Thursday, Jaron Turnbow — a thirteen year veteran of Dallas Pride — was announced as the organization’s newest executive director just a week out from the Dallas Pride Celebration.

(DALLAS) – Dallas LGBTQ celebration committee, Dallas Pride, has appointed a new executive director to its board of directors. Jaron Turnbow, Dallas Pride’s newest leader, has been worked under current executive director, Michael Doughman, for several years and has spent thirteen with Dallas Pride. He has worked as head of the organization’s parade committee most recently.

Jaron Turnbow Executive Director Dallas Pride LGBTQ ExclusiveTurnbow gave us a brief interview (with an extended interview on camera to come).


Anthony Ramirez:  How long have you been with Dallas Pride and how are you feeling?

Jaron Turnbow: I’ve been with Dallas Pride for 13 years now, and it’s been a great 13 years. I’m still letting it sink in, [because] this is a huge responsibility. To oversee events that bring the LGBTQ community together and new ways to better pride — it’s a lot of pressure. I’m extremely confident for the coming years of Dallas Pride. We have an amazing Pride Committee who dedicate way more hours than the general public realize; and they are just an amazing group of people. We add new committee members every year and it’s just awesome to be a part of this family. But now, as executive director, it’s scary. But I’m ready to rock-and-roll Pride. That’s what I keep telling everyone, “Let’s rock-and-roll Pride!”
What’s your goal going forward for Dallas Pride? 
My goal is to grow the event. We are already talking about ideas for 2019 and 2020. Usually we would take a few months off after Pride to recoup, but we’re already working on ideas and how to make them happen, even before the 2018 Pride event has taken place. A few years ago, a lady told me that she brought her gay sister to Dallas Pride. It was her and her sister’s first Pride ever. She told me how happy it made her to see her sister have so much fun and to be herself. Those stories are why we work so hard to put these events together. For one weekend, everyone, and I mean everyone, can come together and celebrate each other. I tear up every year at the end of the parade as we follow the last entry down the parade route. To see everyone cheering, having fun, and being themselves — it’s a powerful thing. Together, we are stronger. Our goal is to be able to bring more people together by growing the event and throwing the best party we can. Another goal is to grow our LGBTQ Teen Pride. Amanda [Robinson] has worked hard to make it what it is today. The teens are our future, they need to know they have support from the older generations.
Describe yourself in three words.

Wow, three words huh?

“I need Dr. Pepper”? [Smiles]. Okay, no. Creative, optimistic, compassionate.


Dallas Pride kicks off with its festival next Saturday, September 15th, and its parade next Sunday, September 16th. Headliners include Asia O’Hara and Thea Austin.

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Editor’s Note: Volunteering for Pride Houston, Inc.

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Pride Houston diversity LGBTQ POC REPRESENTATION

Dear Readers,

I harp on about a lot of things in this magazine. From boys to social justice issues to inclusion to representation to the importance of community, I have a lot of opinions. Mind you, those opinions aren’t always terribly popular. Earlier this year, I wrote an opinion piece about my distaste for Houston’s GLBT Political Caucus endorsing Andrew White over Lupe Valdez for Governor of Texas. It was a tough pill for me to swallow watching a qualified, lesbian Latina get passed up for the endorsement over the white, straight, cis man, Andrew White, who — while very much accomplished and well-meaning — was a born and bred politician that didn’t have the experiences of people of color and LGBTQIA folks. While Valdez later went on to win the primary elections and is now running up against incumbent Greg Abbott, my opinions about my disappointment were not well-received by Houston’s LGBTQ community.

But here’s an opinion that I think many of can agree upon: Houston’s LGBTQ community is incredibly diverse. It is made up of people of all skin colors, all religious affiliations, all gender identifications, all sexual orientations, all body types, all nationalities, all hand-capabilities, and all political affiliations. We’re Black, Latinx, Jewish, Christian, lesbian, gay, asexual, Native American, transgender, nonbinary, Asian, Islamic, and everything in between. Unfortunately, what many of us fail to realize is that not all of those marginalized peoples are equally represented in several facets of the community. Whether it in the media, in our entertainment, in politics, or just out in the bars and at brunches, people of color and the trans/nonbinary people have not always ever been represented the way that cis, white, gay men have in this community. Hell, even About Magazine — which will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year — was not always historically diverse. When I took over, we had a very small staff that consisted mostly of males. And as a queer Latino, the responsibility of making sure my staff reflected the beautiful spectrum of people in our community was important to me. I took to the task of seeking out talent from all marginalized people, even working with Ian Syder-Blake to bring about the first strictly-trans content section of any Houston magazine last winter.

Pride Houston diversity LGBTQ POC REPRESENTATION

The About Magazine staff. Madyson Crawford, Anthony Ramirez, David Guerra, Adam Kuta, Megan Prevost, Jessica Olsen, Morena Roas, Gin Martini, Cade Michals, Wendy Taylor, Ian Townsley, Stoo Gogo, Al Farb, Shelby Jeffcoat, Raunda Ashton, Ravin Bones.

And for the last forty years, Pride Houston, Inc. has not has always been inclusive of all people. While everyone of every kind showed up to the volunteer during Pride Week each year, the Board of Directors and Production Team were historically white-washed and cis-managed. But then around this time last year, something wonderful happened at Pride Houston. For the first time in forty years, a Black, queer woman took the reigns of the organization.

Her name is Lo Roberts, and she is the sitting president and CEO of Pride Houston. I know her personally, having worked with her personally for two straight years as Pride Houston’s volunteer committee chair before stepping down to devote my time strictly to About. And if there is one thing that I’ve known about Lo since the first time we met closer to three years ago, it’s this: she cares about the needs of community — the entire community. As a woman, Lo has faced her fair share of adversity, but as a queer, Black woman, Lo has broken more than just the glass ceiling by rising to what is arguably the highest-ranking LGBTQ office of any queer Houston organization. And it didn’t come without cost. Last year, I bore witness first hand and suffered through alongside the Board of Directors to have Frankie Quijano — Lo’s predecessor — expelled from Pride Houston when he refused to step down as president and CEO after Roberts was elected and sworn-in as president of the organization. It was a lengthy legal battle that garnered the attention of Houstonian’s and queer people internationally. Many of us working with Pride at the time — which included current sitting board members such as Jeremy Fain and Dan Cato — didn’t sleep much, were constantly bombarded with emails notifications, and walked around on eggshells for several months. I mean, at one point Quijano and his husband (who was also elected to the Board of Directors and later removed) put out a cease and desist order against About Magazine to stop writing any articles relating to Pride Houston in spite of the fact that we hadn’t written anything about Pride Houston at all. We were tired; we were exasperated; but we were never defeated. And that’s simply because there was a communal knowledge that in order for this community to be best served in all its many and various facets, we needed the representation of a a queer Black woman at the organization’s helm.

And while my time with Pride Houston was not without its ups-and-downs — that’s something any committed volunteer will eventually have to learn to handle when working with a group of other strong-minded and passionate individuals — it was overall one of the most rewarding experience of my life. And it wasn’t because the role was glitzy and glamorous. It most certainly was not. Working as a volunteer year-round and running a committee is a thankless job and one that is met with refute no matter what decisions you make. Rather, the job was overwhelmingly positive — even at the worst of times — because of the volunteers from the community — as many as 600 at a time — with whom I had the privilege to work.

Pride Houston diversity LGBTQ POC REPRESENTATION

Pride Houston president & CEO, Lo Roberts (photo by Eric Edward Schell of Pride Portraits).

These volunteers give up their time and their energy to make Pride happen because they believe in it. They do it — just like I did when I got involved almost three years ago — because they want to make a difference and they want to see themselves and people like them represented. This Pride isn’t a white, gay, male Pride. At least, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a Pride for everyone in one of the most diverse cities in our nation — in the world. It’s the fourth largest Pride in the United States and it’s one that has a responsibility to represent and listen to the needs of all its community members — Black, trans, nonbinary, lesbian, Asian, or otherwise. It’s not what the community can do to serve Pride Houston, but what Pride Houston can do to serve the community. And I — as cognizant as I am about the lack in years past — am certain that this is a matter that is of great importance to President Lo Roberts.

The reason I bring this up to you, Houstonians, is because I would like to present you with a challenge. Right now, Pride Houston, Inc. is taking applications for their Board of Directors — the folks who call the shots and who make the decisions as to how to best serve the community. And I challenge you — all of you and mostly those of you who feel like you aren’t being represented in the community and that want to make a change — to follow this link and throw your hat into the ring to be a part of the change to Houston’s LGBTQIA community, as well as to the newly envisioned Pride Houston that Roberts and her team are blueprinting for the years to come. It may be a thankless job, it may be one that seems hopeless, but here’s the thing: nothing in the world ever changes until we make the effort to change it. Nothing in the world is bigger than us if we are a part of it. Nothing is impossible if we sweep the dirt off the path just a little bit further. But most importantly, nothing serves our community better than when the community is represented by people who have suffered the similar unique adversities that the community has. And that starts with representation. And Pride Houston not only needs but wants to be representative right now.

So, please. I implore of you that you take this step. Whatever issues any of us may have had with Pride Houston in the past may still be sore spots. Pride Houston needs trans, nonbinary, women, and POC representatives right now in order to be the Pride it should be. But this is the opportunity for us to rejuvenate Pride Houston and to make it the thing that everyone wants it to be. And with a president and CEO like Lo Roberts steering the ship, that dream is nothing short of possible.

Love to all of you,

Anthony Ramirez,

Editor-in-Chief

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Pride SuperStar’s Jasmine Branch in Car Accident

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JassyB Pride SuperStar

Jasmine Branch, better known by her stage name as JassyB, is a Pride SuperStar contender who recently was involved in a car accident that left her with injuries to the knee.

Wendy Taylor Pride SuperStar Rich's Houston Jasmine Branch(HOUSTON) – Every year for the last twelve years, Pride Houston, Inc. calls for singing talent from all over the city to perform in its annual Pride SuperStar singing competition. The American Idol-esque stage show is hosted every Thursday night at Rich’s Houston and is hosted by the insurmountably talented Wendy Taylor (who has competed in both Pride SuperStar and on American Idol). There, twelve performers take the stage with a microphone to match that week’s theme; and each week, contestants are eliminated. And while each contestant faces a unique set of challenges every single week, a recent automobile accident left one contestant in the hospital with injuries to her knee, which will inevitably result in a much more difficult performance at tonight’s show.

Jasmine Branch, or JassyB, is a 29-year-old Houston transplant from Louisiana who recently came to Houston with her partner ready to expand her musical following and make her dreams of being a performer come true. Only, after the aforementioned accident on Garth Rd. last week left her with some mobility issues, Jasmine will take on the challenge in a new way that none of the other performers will be forced to face.

Wendy Taylor Pride SuperStar Rich's Houston Jasmine Branch

Photo by Eric Edward Schell

Jasmine’s medical bills and car troubles are on a constant rise; and without the approval of a doctor stating it’s safe from a medical stand point, Jasmine is unable to work. That being said, hostess, fellow musician, and newfound friend, Wendy Taylor, has taken on the task of starting a GoFundMe fundraiser to help Jasmine take care of what she needs to not only keep her in the competition, but to make sure she gets back on her feet — literally.

Jasmine sat down to talk to About Magazine.


About Magazine: Do you want to start by telling me a little about your life in music and also about what brought you to Houston from Louisiana?

Jasmine: Well, I’ve been singing since I could talk. I have done a few shows in Louisiana; I was on TV back home; I made it through a few rounds in American Idol. I consider myself to be a pop/R&B artist. My artist name is JassyB! And that’s also my fan page name. I have a few videos on Facebook that have hit 5+ million views. I have a YouTube and an Instagram. I recently moved to Houston where I need to build a platform and fan base. My partner is the reason I traveled out here. Also because Shreveport, Louisiana is a tiny city and I felt [that] in order to grow, I needed to move to a bigger city. So it was a plus that she lived here. I am currently working on a new single “Better Without You”.

So, now that you’re performing in Pride Superstar, what have you learned so far and what do you think you’ll take away at the end?

I have learned to step out of the box and get out of my comfort zone. I have also learned to not be afraid to be myself. I am challenging myself with new songs; and I’m hoping at the end I will have met wonderful people who will not only be great friends but friends that can help benefit my future. I will also be glad that I met a few other singers because  I love to surround myself with music.

Have you made some new friends through this competition?

Yes, a bunch of new friends.

So, tell me the importance of Pride to you? And how important do you think this sort of competition is to LGBTQ artists out there like yourself?

Pride is very important to me. I take it very seriously. People have died standing up for something they believe in; and that is Pride. I feel like it’s important to the LGBTQ+ community because it’s letting people know it’s okay to be who they wanna be and do what they wanna do. For instance, Ada Vox on American Idol. We are proud. We are here. We are coming out! So, I would say to any artist that is LGBTQ+: Do not be afraid, and be true to who you are!

Do you mind telling me a little about the injuries and events of the accident?

So we were getting this car from a financing company, and we have been having some problems with the car because it was pre-owned and the warranty was “as is.” We were having some problems with the brake lights and brakes. So, we were driving down Garth Rd., and a truck in front of us slammed on his breaks and we did the same and slid right into the back on the truck, completely totaling our car! I ended up at the hospital with knee pain, and they told me that my knee was fractured and dislocated. Being that I’m from Louisiana, I don’t have insurance in Texas yet, so all my expenses are gonna have to be out of pocket. Well, since I hurt my knee, I can’t work for a while being that my job is nothing but standing and walking around. I can’t stand or walk too much or lift anything heavier then 10 pounds. So, I’m also looking for a job where I can sit or do light standing.

If you could tell any other aspiring queer singers and musicians anything about going into this industry, what would that be?

Go in with an open heart and open mind. Be free and express yourself. Dress how you want. Be bold. Be beautiful. Be brave. Also, go in ready to work, because in this industry, you have to work to get where you wanna be.

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Pride Galveston Is Making Waves

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Pride Galveston LGBTQ

As we begin our journey into June, we also foray into Pride Month. And what could be better in the heat of summer than a seaside Pride celebration just a short drive down to Galveston?

(GALVESTON) – With all the excitement in the news surrounding The Woodlands’ inaugural Pride festival and the vamped-up bustle of Pride Houston’s 40th Anniversary, it’s good to remember that all across the state of Texas, Pride festivals are prepping for action. Galveston, Texas, the island town known for its rich history and exuberant attractions, is no stranger to the LGBTQIA community. With queer bars staggered across the island and a large population of LGBTQIA people, its no wonder why Pride Galveston is hustling into its sophomore year with a three-day celebration that is certain to … well … make waves.

 

Kiki Dion Von Wales Terry Fuller-Waymire

Kiki Dion Von Wales

And though this is only the second annual Pride Galveston, its certain to be a big year with events spanning from Friday, June 8th until Sunday, June 10th. Friday brings about the annual Mr. & Miss Pride Galveston Pageant at local gay bar, 23rd St. Station at 10 PM. Saturday will consist of the annual Beach Bash at East Beach from 10 AM to 5 PM, immediately followed by the Pride Galveston Block Party (also at 23rd St. Station) from 5 PM until 10 PM. The block party will be headlined by Mykul J. Valentine and Tiffany Hunter, who will be performing along with DJ Chris Luera featuring Athenz. Once again at 23rd, Sunday will wrap up the weekend with T-Dance.

Jamie Fuller-Waymire

DJ Jamie Fuller-Waymire

 

But, again, this is only Pride Galveston’s second year (and its first as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit). Before 2017, the Pride celebrations in Galveston were sparse and existed under different names, which was noted by married couple and Pride Galveston founders Jamie and Terry Fuller-Waymire, who took over for last year’s Pride. Jamie, a local DJ and promoter, and his husband Terry, who is more famously known in drag as Kiki Dion Van Wales, have put all their eggs into the proverbial basket with Pride Galveston, and the city has been there to back them up. Walgreens, Antiques Amour, Galveston.com + Co., and many more have become sponsors of Pride Galveston 2018. And because About Magazine is also an official sponsor of Pride Galveston, we got to chat with the aforementioned dynamic duo behind the big event.


About Magazine: Can you give me a brief history of Pride Galveston before you two took over? 

Currently, the event is officially called Pride Galveston. Before we took over the last time it [a Pride celebration] was held was in 2013, and was under the banner of Galveston Pride. From 2009 until 2012 it was called Pride Fest. So, there was a 4-year gap when there was no official Pride celebration in Galveston. There were some informal beach events that a now-defunct local bar called Third Coast organized. The current home bar for Pride Galveston is 23rd St. Station.

What led to you taking on the challenge of taking this task on?

We wanted to revive Pride in Galveston; and it all started last year as just a beach bash and it just took off within a few months time. That is when we decided to add the block party to accommodate everyone. Some folks wanted just the beach, others wanted a block party, and many wanted both. Then the idea of a Mr. & Miss Pride Pageant was presented to us and, with our previous pageant promotion experience, this was an obvious event we needed to add. This year, of course, Pride is a 3-day event with the addition of the T-Dance on Sunday with a host of male and female dancers.

Pride Galveston Block Party 2017

Pride Galveston Block Party 2017

Last year was the first year the two of you ran Pride Galveston (correct me if I’m wrong). What do you think you learned from that event and what do you think you’re going to change this year?

Correct. Last year was our first go at Pride Galveston, and we learned a lot last year as I am sure we will learn a lot this year. For instance, last year the event exploded so fast that we learned to take on volunteers as often as we could. It can be a bit overwhelming organizing the pageant, the beach bash, the block party, and the T-Dance. There are so many variables involved, like DJ setup for the beach (a free event, save for parking), food organizing (which was free last year and [is] again this year), setting up the vendors and sponsors at the block party (another free event), setting up the stage, setting up the effects lighting, bringing in Porta Potties, extra trash bins, coordinating with the city on road closure and police allocation. Next year we are looking to put the block party and beach bash on different days so it’s not so overwhelming.

Since last year we have developed our websites, which both provide a wealth of information about the upcoming events on June 8, 9, & 10, 2018. The websites also allow for vendor sign-up, sponsor sign-up, pageant sign-up, and there is also a handy contact link if more information is needed.

“The greatest reward is seeing all the smiling faces of folks who are happy to see Pride back on the island.”

There are lots of events going on that are PG-related. Tell us about some of those?

Pride Galveston 2018 gets underway on Friday June 8th, 2018 with the Mr. & Miss Pride Galveston Pageant which starts at promptly at 9 PM at 23rd St. Station. The winners will reign as Mr. & Miss Pride Galveston for one year. The prize package includes a big crown for each winner, a brilliant Pride sash, category awards, future bookings with Island Diva Promotions as the reigning Mr. & Miss Pride Galveston 2018, and a cash prize as well!

Pride Galveston Beach Bash 2017

Pride Galveston Beach Bash 2017

Saturday June 9th, 2018, is a big day with the Beach Bash getting underway at 9 AM and running until 5 PM (an all ages event). The Beach Bash will have (from Numbers fame) DJ Houseman spinning live on the beach under the Pride Galveston canopies. We will also be serving free hotdogs under the Pride Galveston canopies and you can meet your hosts: Jamie Waymire (DJ Jamie) & Terry Fuller (Kiki Dion Van Wales). Some of our entertainers will also be present on the beach. Immediately following the Beach Bash, the Block Party gets underway at 5 PM (a free event for all ages) with live DJs Chris Luera & Athenz. We will also have some street performers present, as well as many vendors who will be selling Pride-related items, food, miscellaneous items, and services. The big show outside at the Block Party will get under way at 8 PM with our headliners, Tiffany Hunter and Mykul Valentine, both of who have won national pageant titles — royalty in the flesh! The Block Party ends at 10 PM and everything shifts inside to 23rd St. Station, which is 21 and up to get in with no cover. The back patio will have live DJs battling for the crowd, and there will be numerous roaming dancers both male and female to delight the crowd. The party at 23rd St. Station continues until 2 AM. On Sunday, June 10th, the T-Dance takes place at 23 St. Station with no cover starting at noon with free food, roaming dancers both inside and on the patio in the back. Pride concludes Sunday evening.

What is the significance of Galveston having its own Pride celebration?

We felt like the city needed its own Pride Celebration again so that our residents and tourists have a tool of empowerment which increases visibility. Our incarnation of Pride Galveston celebrates our community as a whole, not just gay, lesbian, trans, bi, queer, but our straight allies as well. We want it to be an all-inclusive celebration and feel like it is time to unite as one, rather than be divided into categories. We feel like the mission and meaning of Pride needs to evolve for the future and not be left in the past as a relic of days gone by.

How do people who want to help out volunteer to be a part of Pride Galveston?

Anyone who wishes to volunteer for Pride Galveston can go here and we will be sure to respond ASAP. We can use all the help we can get. We learned last year that it’s very hard to do without help.

What’s the biggest challenge in throwing a Pride celebration together? What are the greatest rewards?

The biggest challenge to putting together a Pride celebration is coordination with all the people, venues, and variable involved to make it work. We work closely with the city of Galveston to make this event a success and have the support needed to complete our mission. The greatest reward is seeing all the smiling faces of folks who are happy to see Pride back on the island. We made sure all of our events were free to attend so that even those with limited income could join us. This is why sponsors are so vital! They make these events possible and free!

Mr. & Miss Pride Galveston 2017

Mr. & Miss Pride Galveston 2017

Safety is always a big issue and something that everyone wants to ensure. What safety measures are being taken to protect those coming to the festival?

Glad this question was asked and we have this concern covered! The Galveston Police Department will be at both entry points to the block party and will ensure a peaceful event. We also will have up fencing this year and access to the event will be strictly controlled. No firearms are allowed, and no food or beverage will be allowed in or out of the event. We will also have many volunteers help keep watch over the event.

What are you most excited about for Pride? 

We are most excited to see the growth and all the smiling faces that will occur due to the event. For instance, last year we had a make-shift stage that I (Jamie) built with minimal lighting and sound. This year is much different as we have a full-on stage thanks to our friends at Stagedrop.com, a mobile dressing room complete with an AC unit for the outdoor entertainers, and full-range lighting and sound systems!

What are some ways that the community can do to help support Pride Galveston and make it a huge success?

Getting the word out the primary way to support Pride Galveston and make it an even bigger success than its first year! Volunteers, sponsors, and vendors all help to promote the event, but word of mouth in the community is key! Of course, directing those who wish to participate in some form can be directed to our Facebook Event Page or at the previously mentioned websites.

Are there any details I’m missing that you’d like to let me everyone know?

The big change over last year is that we are now officially a non-profit entity. Last years success prompted the application with the State and subsequent approval. We are so excited about this year’s events and look forward to growing in the years to come. We even added a board member, Mr. Jon Vance, who is a local pageant promoter as well with the Continental pageant system. We have him to thank for bringing in Tiffany Hunter and Mykul Valentine. He is also a sponsor, along with his husband Dean Weir under their JD Productions banner. We hope to see everyone come out and have a blast this year!

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Pride Comes to The Woodlands

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The Woodlands, Texas, an affluent township north of Houston, is getting its very own Pride celebration and they sat down to talk to About Magazine about it first.

If you’re a native of Houston, or if you’ve been a transplant long enough to have made your rounds in and out of the metropolitan area, you probably are at least somewhat familiar with the Woodlands. Located just 30 miles from Downtown Houston, The Woodlands has been around since 1974, when oil industry investor George P. Mitchell (yes, that’s right, husband of Cynthia Woods Mitchell, the namesake of the performance pavilion) attended a conference on developing HUD Title VII towns. For Millennials who grew up in Houston and its surrounding areas, The Woodlands was sort of an escapist township – the place with the lake that had its very own animatronic monster, the place with the giant mall that had the carousel. But in the last ten years, the Woodlands has seen a boom not only in business, but in infrastructure, population, and net worth.

The Woodlands Texas Pride LGBTQIA

The Woodlands’ Waterway

The Woodlands now serves as a sort of city of its own. Recently, the township has introduced new dining and shopping establishments along the coast of Lake Woodlands, introduced its very own San Antonio-esque waterway (which is still growing in terms of business), and countless new residences throughout its 43.9 sq mi spread. Spreading from the Sawdust Rd. area all the way up to Research Forest, The Woodlands is only growing continuously. And while the residents are majority Christian, right-wingers, that isn’t stopping the newly founded The Woodlands Pride (TWP) from setting up shop to the LGBTQIA community, which will be hosted on September 8th, 2018

About Magazine has the lucky fortune of running the first interview with TWP’s director of public relations, Ryan Elkins.


About Magazine: What brought about the idea to give The Woodlands its own Pride, and who came up with it?

The idea was brought up by Jason Rocha, our CEO. After a walk along the waterway, where he envisioned a Pride event, he began to make some calls and reach out to community activists in The Woodlands and surrounding areas about forming a committee to organize a Pride Festival.

The Woodlands Texas Pride LGBTQIA

The Woodlands’ Market Street

With The Woodlands being a community of diversity and welcoming to people from all walks of life, The Woodlands is [now] ready and has been ready for quite some time for an event like this. [It’s] a festival to show unity, love, and support for the LGBTQIA community. The Woodlands has never given our community a fair opportunity, mostly due to the fact that the LGBTQIA community has never been presented with an event like this in the area. So we are excited to show our support for The Woodlands and surrounding areas, as we know they feel the same about us.

What can we expect from TWP? Will it be different from Pride Houston?

You can expect TWP to be different than any other pride; just as no pride event in any community is the same.  We often attend Pride Houston and other events, so we hope our friends and allies in the Greater Houston Area will come and support us!

The Woodlands is a pretty conservative area of town. Are you all worried there may be some backlash from those in the community?

We are only focused on the positive and our mission. To connect, celebrate, educate and foster relationships in the LGBTQIA community while promoting equality, unity, and love in The Woodlands and beyond. We love our community. That’s why we’re here. We are looking forward to contribute and enhance why The Woodlands is so special.

What is TWP most excited about for this event?

TWP is most excited about organizing the first Pride Festival in The Woodlands! This is just the beginning of many great things to come not only for The Woodlands and surrounding areas, but for the LGBTQIA community as a whole.

The Woodlands Texas Pride LGBTQIA

Town Green Park where TWP will be held

I used to live in the Woodlands off Research and can attest to the fact that it feels like its own little city (and has been reported to be the fastest-growing city in the United States). Do you think that the expansion and constant growth of the Woodlands marks it time to establish your own Pride?

Absolutely. With the constant growth of The Woodlands, and the diversity of people moving here from all types of backgrounds, 2018 is the year to establish our own Pride. So, why not now?

Do you think that in years to come you’ll continue to celebrate TWP in September? What made September feel like the right time?

More than likely, we will celebrate The Woodlands Pride in September moving forward. We want to respect our neighbors to the south, Pride Houston, as well as hope for slightly cooler weather.

In the past, society has set a date or month to celebrate Pride when our community was tolerated. But now that we are accepted, everyday is Pride day!

“We are only focused on the positive and our mission. To connect, celebrate, educate and foster relationships in the LGBTQIA community while promoting equality, unity, and love in The Woodlands and beyond.”

Tell me about the team at TWP. Who should we be thanking for making all of this come to life? Are some of you new to working for Pride orgs, or are some of you seasoned in it?

The Woodlands Texas Pride LGBTQIA

The Woodlands Pride Board of Directors

TWP has an incredible group of individuals on our board of directors, and this is truly a group effort!

We have two political activists that both previously ran for office, two veteran board members for other pride organizations, and other local leaders.

Everyone brings their own strengths and valuable experience to the table that is going to make our Pride Festival on September 8th a huge success.

Who we should be thanking is The Woodlands and surrounding areas for expressing their love and support. This is a celebration for the LGBTQIA and our allies.

Are there any important details that we should know about? Dates, times, etc.?

Yes, save the date! The Woodlands Pride Festival will be on September 8th, 2018! We are still working on the minor details such as the time, before and after events, as well as fundraisers. But to receive the latest updates, follow us at ‘The Woodlands Pride’ on Facebook and Instagram. As well as @WoodlandsPride on Twitter and Snapchat.


You can RSVP to TWP on Facebook here.

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Pride Houston Announces New President

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The organization announced Lo Roberts as president and CEO after legal battle with former president, Frankie Quijano

Houston, TX —  Pride Houston proudly announced Lorin “Lo” Roberts has accepted the position of president and CEO on October 1 after receiving a unanimous vote by Pride Houston’s Board of Directors in late September 2017. While the transition was not without some bumps, Pride Houston is happy to announce the appointment and looks forward to a bright future for the organization.

Lo considers herself a proud Houstonian and was honored to accept the role of Pride Houston president, as well as all of the responsibility it entails. She began volunteering with Pride eight years ago and has served on different production committees and in various leadership positions including Parade Committee co-chair, Volunteer Committee chair, and member-at-large on the Board of Directors.

Lorin Roberts“Lo was, in essence, our vice president last year,Dan Cato, board observer and marketing director said. “She took on entirely new levels of responsibility with professionalism and grit, even dropping everything to organize a major event in less than 24 hours.”

Lo sees Houston’s diversity and its unique blend of cultures as an incredible resource and advantage and would like to see that diversity emphasized in Pride and the LGBTQIA community.

“The rights of everyone under the LGBTQIA umbrella are extremely important. But there needs to be a larger emphasis on supporting the visibility of people of color in this community. Especially the rights and lives of black trans people, who find themselves disproportionately affected by violence, homelessness, and a lack of social services.”

Lo has charged the organization by developing short- and long-term goals to convert this emphasis into action and to reinvigorate Pride’s advocacy spirit.

“The fight for equal rights in our community is just as important now as it ever has ever been, especially given the political climate in Washington D.C. It’s important to stay active in our advocacy and remember that there are many people in the world that don’t want LGBTQIA people to have their freedoms. And in a city like Houston, a city of over 2.3 million people, an organization like Pride needs to exist to serve as a mouthpiece for our people and to provide them with what they need to live happy, healthy, secure lives. But the first step to getting to that place is to create a more inclusive environment in our organization and make sure that all people within the community—black, white, Hispanic, Asian, bisexual, intersexual, trans, etc.feel represented by Pride Houston.”

Other major objectives for the organization in the coming year include re-establishing relationships with other LGBTQIA non-profits, outreach to primary and secondary institutions of learning, relaunching scholarship programs, and devoting new resources to the health and wellness needs of the the different LGBTQIA populations that call Houston home.

About Pride Houston:

For 40 years, Pride Houston has been a central part of the local LGBTQIA community in Houston. The 2018 Houston LGBT Pride Celebration®, the fourth largest in the nation, will again be held in Downtown Houston continuing the legacy that began on the steps of City Hall in 1977 with the protest against Anita Bryant which is widely considered Houston’s “Stonewall Movement”.

For more information on the 2018 Celebration go to www.pridehouston.org

Pride Houston, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization out of Houston, Texas.

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