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More Texas Queers

July 4, 2019 @ horse shed UK

I grew up in Manhattan and was about to turn 9 years old when the Stonewall freedom riots happened twenty blocks away and my family did not notice. My coming out occurred just a few years later in Valerie, my older sister’s room covered in posters of the Doors and Rudolf Nureyev naked. Her theatrical friends took a liking to this chubby curious kid. They were so grandly gay and I assumed they were just magic humans, far more interesting than the drab folks elsewhere. I was a precocious reader and soon learned that a huge percentage of the population liked to have sex and fall in love with the same sex. This seemed not a big deal and even my school told us in a class called “boys and sex” that if you were a homosexual your only chance for happiness was to accept this fate. This was in 1974 and I am aware of just how lucky I was to have my school tell me that gay was OK. 
 

As a curator AIDS caused me and many arts professionals to feel an urgency to coming out a second time, professionally as not just a Gay, and a Curator, but as a “Gay Curator”. It strikes me as something of a miracle that I remember curating “Stonewall 25, imagining a gay past, dreaming a gay future” at White Columns alternative Space in NYC. Now 25 years later I have organized 4 projects for Stonewall 50. (looking forward to Stonewall 75 when I will be officially an elder statesman at 83 years frisky)
 

In 2009 I moved to Houston, Texas from Cambridge Massachusetts, which is called the “people’s republic of Cambridge” for it’s well earned politically left-wing reputation. My friends feared for my safety, but I had worked in Houston co-curating a Chantal Akerman survey and found a lot of forward thinking people, a great art scene and a lot of confirmed cocksuckers and fudge packers and butch dykes, so I knew I was fine in the city of Houston. Texas, as a whole continued to terrify me. 
 

Three months after my arrival Annise Parker became the first out mayor of a major American city and her inauguration with her multi racial family became symbolic for me of the queer friendly attitudes of this most libertarian of states.   I learned Lawrence VS Texas the case that overturned national antisodomy laws originated near the house I bought in 2012. And I met Ray Hill the man who employed the Texan ornery contrariness and used it to fight for us homosexuals.
 

I started to learn the queer oddities of my adopted home. When AIDS hit there was no sense that the government was failing in its duties by not caring for the sick since in libertarian ideology that is not the purpose of a centralized government. But when the city tried to close the bathhouses a Houston Queer Nation swung into action as closing sex venues was infringing on personal space and liberties. That was not at all the politics I knew from Boston and New York.
 

All the cities and many of the rural areas like the beloved  Hill Country have their own unique takes of how to manifest queerness. I wanted state wide coverage and largely achieved it, with a few missing cities like Amarillo, Lubbock, Beaumont and among the large cities Ft Worth.  I am hoping to continue telling the queer Texan’s stories in other times and places and adding to this love letter to my adopted state.  This selection of artists, writers, singers and comics present a crazy melange of queerness in many forms and I hope gives you a feeling for the beauty and oddness of Texas gay culture.

© 2020 Bill Arning Contemporary Art Consultants