PaperCity Magazine

June 2019- Dallas

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52 can be found all over town in the Rose Room Theatre and Lounge, Alexandre's Bar, Woody's, and Liquid Zoo. Local and out-of-town drag performers Endora, Janet-Fierce Andrews, and Jasmine Masters keep crowds wrapped around their cocktail-ring-adorned fingers with their flamboyant performances. One North Texas performer has found himself on the drag map with the debut of the Netflix series Dancing Queen, which chronicles the life of Justin Dwayne Lee Johnson, also known by his drag name, Alyssa Edwards. Johnson owns a popular studio, Beyond Belief Dance, in Mesquite. The Netflix series chronicles Johnson as he teaches children in the world of competitive dance. Betty Neal, a 62-year-old black lesbian activist, credits black drag performers for "uniting the black and white gay communities." During the 1980s, popular Dallas-based black entertainers such as Lady Shawn, Latina McEntire, Amazing Grace, and Racine Scott were often booked at nightclubs and bars that were thought to primarily cater to a white clientele. I n Dallas, the rallying cry for equal rights is said to have been sparked not by Stonewall, but by two other events: Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign of the late 1970s, during which the former orange- juice spokeswoman vehemently rallied against gay rights, claiming it went against her right to teach her children biblical morality; and the AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s. Until the early 2000s, anti-sodomy laws, which criminalized sexual acts between same-sex individuals, were often used to prosecute homosexuals. One of the first landmark cases that attempted to repeal the law was Baker v. Wade. After coming out as a gay man on a television interview in 1977, Don Baker was fired from his teaching position with the Dallas Independent School District on the grounds of his being gay. Two years later, Baker filed suit to have the sodomy law deemed unconstitutional. The suit was funded by the Texas Human Rights Foundation — Texas' first statewide LGBTQ organization — and Baker and his team won. But in 1986, a successful appeal was filed, and the anti-sodomy law was reinstated — remaining intact until 2003, when the Supreme Court struck down all such laws as unconstitutional as part of the Lawrence v. Texas ruling. (The Lawrence v. Texas case dealt with a same- sex couple in Houston that was arrested in 1998 for violating anti-sodomy laws.) In the 1980s, the flames of homophobia were fanned by the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Little scientific knowledge was known about the cause and treatment of the disease, and it was thus sometimes referred to by ultra-conservative religious and political groups as God's punishment for gay lifestyles. In response to the health crisis, grassroots organizations popped up, providing medical care, information, and emotional support. One pioneer was Dallasite Ron Woodroof, whose story was first told by reporter Bill Minutaglio in The Dallas Morning News' Sunday magazine in 1992. Woodroof, an AIDS patient, created the so-called Dallas Buyers Club as a front to provide AIDS patients access to effective drugs that were not approved by the FDA. In 2013, actor Matthew McConaughey would play the late Woodroof in the acclaimed film Dallas Buyers Club, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Longtime Dallas activist Rodd Gray — in his drag persona, Patti Le Plae Safe — recalls the AIDS era in an oral history video filmed by The Dallas Way, an organization documenting the history of Dallas' gay community, by way of video and audio recordings (dubbed "Outrageous Oral"), as well as written stories, all told by local LGBTQ individuals. "I hated to go home and turn on my answering machine and hear someone needed diapers. Someone needed a ride to the doctor's office," she says in the video clip. "And then there would be someone died … someone died … someone died. There were weeks when I didn't turn it on at all." For Gray and other members of the gay community, the AIDS epidemic was riddled with trauma — from the medical emergencies to the social stigma that came with the disease. It was inconceivable at the time that Princess Diana would shake hands with an AIDS patient — or that Elizabeth Taylor would embrace Rock Hudson, who was dying of AIDS. In the wake of anti-sodomy laws, discrimination, and the AIDS crisis, Robert Emery, a 40-year community leader and one of the founders of The Dallas Way, notes that Dallas dealt with LGBTQ discrimination differently than the Northeast and the West Coast. "They knew it was best to work within the system and honor the classic establishment," Emery says. "Yes, we had activist protesters who were outlining bodies in chalk and marching in the streets, but some Dallas LGBTQ leaders took a decidedly different approach by putting on corporate attire and meeting non-gay community partners." In Dallas, gay men and lesbian women worked side-by-side to effect societal and legal change, a collaboration that was not always the case in other cities. In 1974, Dallas community leader and activist Lory Masters founded a motorcycle club, the Flying W's, which became the first LGBTQ organization to receive official 501(c)(3), non-exempt tax status in the state of Texas. This made it one of the first gay-focused nonprofits to be recognized as legitimate. Prejudice within the gay community itself has been a longtime phenomenon. White gay men have historically enjoyed more privileges when compared to black gays, lesbians, or trans people. When going out on the town, Betty Neal remembers often being confronted with the demand "I'll need to see two IDs from you" from bouncers at local gay bars. This barrier to entry was often posed to black patrons but not to white ones up until the early 1990s, she says. And so, the black community opened its own gay bars. "Only we knew about them," Neal says. "Lady Love was a drag bar, strip club. It was poppin'. Some of the original black Dallas drag queens got their start at Lady Love." The LGBTQ black community, not always feeling accepted in the Gay Pride A billboard from the 1980s promoting AIDS awareness

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