Pride in Dallas: A Brief look at Dallas LGBTQ History

Pride in Dallas is presented by the University of North Texas Special Collections, and features materials found in the LGBTQ Archive. The history presented here is an overview of major events, but is not the full story of Dallas LGBTQ history and culture. Many stories are not represented within the LGBTQ Archive at UNT, especially those of the BIPOC and Trans communities. We would like to encourage people within those communities to keep documents, photographs, and other LGBTQ related materials to preserve these stories for future generations. Contact UNT Special Collections (specialcollections@unt.edu) for information on how to best keep these materials, or to donate a collection.

1965 – Circle of Friends founded

The Circle of Friends, was the first gay organization in Dallas, established in 1965 by Phil Johnson. The organization was meant to help foster a sense of community amongst the Gay & Lesbian population, improve relations with the non-gay population, and work with straight allies to prevent harassment and discrimination. Non-gay ministers working with the Circle of Friends provided protection for members as there was a general hostility and blatant discrimination against the gay community. Up until 1962, a person could be sent to prison in Texas for up to 15 years for being gay.

Find documents related to the Circle of Friends on The Portal to Texas History.

Caption: Phil Johnson (right) with friend, c. 1980.

Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc276228/

1972 – First Gay Pride Parade held in Dallas

Dallas’ first Gay Pride Parade was held on June 24, 1972, consisting of a few simple floats, about 300 marchers waving signs and chanting slogans, and a crowd of about 3,000. The next Pride Parade in Dallas didn’t take place until 1980. In 1982, the Dallas Tavern Guild took control of planning the parade, renaming it the Texas Freedom Parade, and changing the date it was held to September to commemorate Judge Buchmeyer’s ruling against the anti-sodomy law §21.06. In 1991, the name of the parade was changed to the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, to honor Alan Ross, the executive director of the Tavern Guild who had taken on the majority of the responsibilities for planning the parade each year.

Caption: Marchers at first Dallas Gay Pride Parade, June 24, 1972.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc276178/
Caption: Attendees at first Dallas Gay Pride Parade, June 24, 1972.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc276229/

1975 – Dallas Gay Political Caucus founded

The Dallas Gay Political Caucus was the first major Gay & Lesbian political organization in Dallas. Founded in 1975, by Dick Peeples, Steve Wilkins, Louise Young, Don Baker, and others, their main focus was to counter the anti-gay sentiment that was building throughout the country at the time. The Caucus worked to mobilize the Dallas gay community through voter registration efforts, and organizing attendance at the 1979 March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights.

In 1981, the organization changed its name to the Dallas Gay Alliance, and continued work to improve rights for the LGBTQ population through education and social work, as well as developing ways of combating the AIDS crisis. Donald Maison, an attorney associated with the Alliance, defended cases where gay men were targeted by the Dallas Police Department, and went on to defend AIDS patients against unfair treatment at Parkland Hospital in the Dallas Gay Alliance v. the City of Dallas (Parkland Hospital) case.

In 1992, they changed their name to the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

Find more materials related to the Dallas Gay Political Caucus and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance on The Portal to Texas History.

Caption: Dallas Gay Political Caucus first retreat, (L – R) Don Baker, Dick Peeples, Louise Young, Steve Wilkins, Jerry Ward, June 11, 1977.

Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1600005/

1975 – Flying W Motorcycle Club founded, the first LGBT group in Texas to gain 501c(3) tax exempt status

The Flying W Motorcycle Club, founded in 1975 by Lory Masters, was the first lesbian non-profit organization in Dallas, and possibly in Texas. The group gathered because of their love of motorcycles, but also used their organization to promote and serve the LGBTQ community. The Flying W’s often helped raise money for local organizations, and provided other services for events such as acting as security for the first Razzle Dazzle Dallas in 1987. In the mid-1990s the organization changed its name to Flying W Inc., as many of the members no longer rode motorcycles, and began to focus more on service projects that would benefit the LGBTQ community at large.

Caption: Flying W motorcycle vest, c. 1980.

Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1533587/

1977 – Don Baker fired from DISD, sues to challenge state anti-sodomy law (§21.06) in Baker v. Wade

Don Baker, president of the Dallas Gay Alliance (1980-82), was fired from his teaching position at the Dallas Independent School District after coming out as gay on a television interview, in 1977. His termination was based on Texas’ Penal Code §21.06, created in 1974, which criminalized sexual acts between same sex individuals. In 1979, Baker filed a suit, in federal district court in Dallas, to have the law ruled as unconstitutional. The event was sponsored by the first state-wide LGBTQ organization, Texas Human Rights Foundation. The law suit, Baker v. Wade, was won in 1982 in the court of federal Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, but an appeal was filed and the federal circuit court reversed the ruling, in 1986, upholding the anti-sodomy law.

Find materials related to Don Baker and his court case on The Portal to Texas History.

Caption: Don Baker (center) during Baker v. Wade trial, 1982.

Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc304764/
Caption: Gayteenth poster, Don Baker is uplifted in the photograph, August 17, 1982.

Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc947732/

1978 – Rev. James Harris runs as first openly gay candidate for Dallas City Council

1979 – First Razzle Dazzle Dallas event at Fair Park

Razzle Dazzle Dallas was an event that began in 1979 to coincide with June Pride Month. The event was founded by Dickie Weaver, John Thomas, Ray Kuchling, Bill Nelson, and Terry Tebedo, who decided to rent the Hall of State at Fair Park to liven up Dallas Pride with a party. About 1,000 people showed up to the initial event, and so it became a staple for Dallas Pride. Within a few years of its inception, Razzle Dazzle Dallas changed focus to become the largest annual fundraiser for local AIDS organizations. The event moved to various venues over the years before evolving into a street festival and party. Razzle Dazzle Dallas went on an 8-year hiatus starting in 2003, held events from 2011 through 2015, and is presently disbanded. The Metro Ball, one of the staple events at Razzle Dazzle Dallas, continues to be held annually as a charitable event.

Caption: Razzle Dazzle Dallas invitation, 1986.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1584501/

1979 – March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

The National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was held on October 14, 1979, aligning with the ten-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This was the first march of its kind, bringing together around 100,000 people from the LGBTQ and allies population, demanding equal civil rights legislation be passed. Bill Nelson urged the Dallas Gay Political Caucus to fully support the march. With their support, Nelson and his partner, Terry Tebedo, publicized the event in Dallas and organized the support of residents. Since the first march, there have been numerous marches on Washington for LGBTQ right throughout the years.

Caption: Texas attendees at March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights, October 14, 1979.

Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc276155/

1980 – Turtle Creek Chorale founded

The Turtle Creek Chorale was formed in 1980, with 30 members and its artistic director and conductor, Harry E. Scher. The group was devastated by the AIDS crisis, losing 197 members to the disease, as of 2013. The Chorale acted as a space for its members to grieve and heal as a family. Today the Chorale has expanded to 200 active members, consisting mostly of gay men, and is the most recorded men’s chorus in the world, with 38 CDs and two feature-length documentaries. Since its inception, the Chorale has performed at charitable events alongside their regular programming, appearing in more than 30 benefit concerts annually. The Chorale also donates portions of their proceeds to arts, senior, youth, and HIV/AIDS organizations.

Find materials related to the Turtle Creek Chorale on The Portal to Texas History.

Caption: Turtle Creek Chorale on stage, no date.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1752592/

1981 – Oak Lawn Counseling Center founded

Later known as Oak Lawn Community Services, OLCC became operational in early 1982. It was founded by two Dallas psychologists, Harold P. (Howie) Daire and Candy Marcum, and was one of the earliest sources of AIDS educational and support services for AIDS patients and their loved ones, including a 24-hour hotline.

Caption: Oak Lawn Community Services button, c. 1985.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1484169/

1982 – Men of All Colors Together-Dallas founded, a gay interracial organization committed to fostering support for overcoming racial and cultural barriers

1982 – Resource Center Dallas founded

Resource Center was organized in 1982, by the leaders of the Dallas Gay Alliance, under the original name, the Foundation for Human Understanding. Under this original name, the goals of the organization revolved around education and working towards equal rights for the LGBTQ community. In 1985, with the AIDS virus quickly spreading, the organization moved towards a focus of educating the population about prevention of the disease, as well as providing legal services, basic necessities such as clothing and food, and funding for those with AIDS. To achieve these goals, they had an AIDS Hot Line, a full Food Pantry, and also created informative publications like “AIDS Update,” “Spectrum,” and “Positive Personals.” During this period, the organization’s name was changed to AIDS Resource Center, eventually becoming just Resource Center in 2013.

During its existence, Resource Center has opened numerous community centers and health services centers throughout the Dallas area, with a focus on the health and well-being of the LGBT community as a whole, while remaining one of the leaders in HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and services.

Materials related to the Resource Center can be found on The Portal to Texas History.

Caption: Front of AIDS Resource Center, c. 1985.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc277320/

1984 – The Dallas Voice founded, a weekly news publication for the LGBT community of Dallas

1985 – Bill Nelson runs as the second openly gay candidate for Dallas City Council

Bill Nelson was an active member and prominent leader in the Dallas Gay & Lesbian community, helping to found organizations like the Foundation for Human Understanding and Razzle Dazzle Dallas, as well as acting as president of the Dallas Gay Alliance from 1984-1987.  His leadership skills helped him inspire other members of the Gay & Lesbian community to get involved in local politics. Nelson ran as the second openly gay candidate for Dallas City Council, in 1985 and 1987. Though he lost both races, Nelson is generally considered as having opened the door to politics for the Dallas LGBTQ community. While there were gay members of the City Council prior to his runs, they were not open about their sexuality and their platforms did not always support the LGBTQ community. Nelson’s campaigns paved the way for Dallas’ first openly gay city councilman, Craig McDaniel who was elected in 1993.

Caption: Bill Nelson for City Council pamphlet, 1987.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1584111/

1987 – Gay Urban Truth Squad (GUTS) established

GUTS, or Gay Urban Truth Squad, was a Dallas Gay Alliance project designed to create awareness of the AIDS epidemic through protests and site installations. Some of their most notable work involved drawing attention to the number of people who had died of AIDS or AIDS related illness, in Dallas, through physical representations. In one demonstration, life-size dummies were piled up in front of the Dallas County Health Department. In another, chalk outlines of bodies were drawn outside of Dallas City Hall.

Caption: GUTS chalk installation, c. 1987.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1752590/

1988 – Fist Texas Lesbian Conference held in Dallas

The first Texas Lesbian Conference was held in Dallas, in 1988. This event was organized by Lesbian Visionaries and another early lesbian group, Among Friends, and was attended by an estimated 340 women. The conference was created to bring together women of all races, religions, and ages to share their experiences as women who love women. The conference consisted of speakers talking about social, spiritual, and political issues, entertainment, and time for networking. The conference was held each year in a different major Texas city, with the last conference being held in 2004.

1988 – Dallas Buyer’s Club established with a mission to provide access to experimental AIDS medications

Dallas Buyer’s Club was created by Dallas native Ronald Woodroof, in 1988. After being diagnosed with HIV and rejected from drug trials, Woodroof researched treatments that were being used in other countries and began smuggling unapproved drugs into the U.S. for HIV/AIDS patients to use. Though many of these treatments had little effect against the disease, the Dallas Buyer’s Club offered hope at an affordable price. After Woodroof’s death in 1992, Dallas Buyer’s Club continued under new management and a new name, DBC Alternatives.

Caption: News clipping about Dallas Buyer’s Club, The Dallas Morning News, May 17, 1989.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc271481/

1988 – DGA v. the City of Dallas (Parkland Hospital) lawsuit

Members of the Dallas Gay Alliance and Ron Woodroof, the creator of the Dallas Buyer’s Club, sued Parkland Hospital for discrimination against, and providing inadequate care to, AIDS patients. With only one full time doctor to administer medications to around 700 AIDS patients per month, many patients were put on wait lists for treatment. Seven patients, who had died while on a waiting list for AZT, the only licensed medication to combat AIDS at the time, were listed as co-plaintiffs for the case. Judge John Marshall ruled in favor of the Dallas Gay Alliance, mandating that the hospital end its practice of wait listing patients eligible for treatment with AZT.

1989 – The Women’s Chorus of Dallas founded

The Women’s Chorus of Dallas was founded in 1989, with an initial membership of 35. In just three short months, the idea for the group turned into a reality with a few passionate women working to hire a director, conducting auditions, and scheduling their first performances for the Christmas season. The organization has grown to have over 70 members each season, and has established long-standing community partnerships to spread the joy of music and the works of women.

Caption: Women’s Chorus of Dallas on stage, 1990.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1634705/

1989 – Dallas Police Department refuses to hire openly lesbian Mica England, leading to trials ending in a win for England

Mica England applied for a job as an officer with the Dallas Police Department, in 1989. She asked recruiters if her homosexuality would prevent her from being hired, and they told her it wouldn’t.  When interviewing for the position she was told that, because of the Texas Penal Code §21.06, which criminalized sexual acts between same sex individuals, she could not be hired. In May 1990, the Dallas Gay Alliance helped England sue the City of Dallas, Chief Mack Vines, and the state of Texas, challenging the constitutionality of the anti-sodomy law. In 1992, a Travis County judge ruled the law to be unconstitutional, and the Texas Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, forcing the Dallas Police Department to amend its hiring policies.

Caption: Mica England speaking to Dallas City Council, July 12, 1989.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1634426/

1992 – Umoja Hermanas (Sisters United) founded

Umoja Hermanas (Sisters United), was founded in 1992 by Josie Mata. This organization for lesbian women of color in Dallas, created a safe space for members to gather and discuss social issues, such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. Umoja Hermanas worked with other groups in the LGBTQ community to promote the acceptance of LGBTQ people of color both in their racial communities and in the broader LGBTQ community, until the group disbanded in 1998.

1993 – Craig McDaniel elected as first openly gay Dallas City Councilman

Craig McDaniel was the first openly gay man to be elected to Dallas City Council, in 1993, and he worked to support the rights of the LGBTQ community through legislation. He worked to appoint openly LGBTQ people to city boards and commissions, helped to overturn a policy prohibiting gays from serving openly on the police force, and established a non-discrimination policy for municipal employees that included sexual orientation.

1994 – Dragonflies of Dallas founded, a social and support group for gay Asian and Pacific Islanders

Caption: 6th Annual Miss Dragonfly court, April 5 2003.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1483369/

1995 – Dallas expands city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include the category of sexual orientation

1995 – Jose Plata elected as first openly gay DISD board member

1997 – Dallas Southern Pride founded, an annual celebration for Black LGBTQ individuals

2002 – Legacy of Success founded

Legacy of Success is an ad-hoc organization formed to bring the same gender loving community of color together to celebrate Black History Month through the Heritage Celebration DFW event. Legacy of Success was co -founded by Winner Laws in 2002, and she served as Chairwoman of Heritage Celebration for three years. One of the goals of Legacy of Success is to recognize the unique struggle of the African-American gay community who face racism as well as homophobia in their daily lives. Today, Laws continues to serve the gay and lesbian community through her work with the Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, thought to be the largest LGBTQ-serving congregation in the world. She received her Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University in 2016.   

2003 – Lawrence v. Texas ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court decides Texas anti-sodomy law is unconstitutional, and the ruling applies nationwide

Caption: News clipping about Lawrence v. Texas ruling, The New York Times, June 27, 2003.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc504841/

2005 – Lupe Valdez, a Hispanic lesbian, is sworn in as Dallas County Sheriff

In 2004, Lupe Valdez was elected as Dallas County’s first female, first Hispanic, and first openly gay sheriff. Valdez worked for many years in various areas of law enforcement, including 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves, and as a military police officer, ultimately rising to the rank of captain. She worked as an agent in various federal departments including becoming a senior agent with the Department of Homeland Security. She won four consecutive elections as Dallas County Sheriff. In 2018, Valdez became the first Latina, and openly gay candidate nominated for governor of Texas by a major political party.

Caption: Lupe Valdez Dallas Voice cover, December 7, 2018.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth1181342/

2007 – Ed Oakley runs as first openly gay candidate for Mayor of Dallas, and narrowly loses in a runoff

2011 – Trans Pride Initiative founded

Nell Gaither founded the Trans Pride Initiative, in 2011, with the focus on bringing the transgender community together, and offering healthcare information to community members who are often discriminated against by their doctors and healthcare professionals. With this focus on healthcare, Gaither began to look at the health coverage offered to City of Dallas employees, and realized that trans medical care was not adequately covered. She worked with the city’s LGBT Task Force to fight for better and broader health coverage for trans employees. While continuing to fight for trans rights and health services locally and nationally, Gaither has also focused on other needs of low income trans people, such as homelessness, for which she founded the Dallas Trans Shared Housing Project, in 2014.

Caption: Nell Gaither Dallas Voice cover, December 13, 2013.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth706875/

2016 – Jack Evans and George Harris are the first legally recognized gay marriage in Dallas County

View materials from the Jack Evans and George Harris Collection on The Portal to Texas History.


Caption: George Harris and Jack Evans, no date.

                Link to image: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1608674/
 
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