After living in nearly a dozen major cities in North America, I arrived in Austin, Texas, less than a year ago, eager to explore what I had heard was an eclectic lesbian scene in Lone Star State’s capital.
Austin has a reputation for being a Texas oasis of laid-back, gay-friendly progressiveness full of tech-savvy, brainy citizens. I soon discovered that since LGBT folks tend to feel comfortable all over the city, there is no visible gayborhood in Austin. For lesbians, this has obvious advantages, the main one being living in a town where you feel safe just about everywhere. But the downside is that there is no distinct feeling of a neighborhood-like community.
Last month I made my way through Austin and found lesbian communities everywhere from fundraisers to the South by Southwest festivals and the local softball league.
Scene 1: Equality Texas Spring Chix Mix
A roomful of politically aware, philanthropic lesbians isn’t all that unusual in Austin, but if the gathering includes booty-shaking music, good food and free-flowing liquor, chances are you are at an event planned by Equality Texas.
Equality Texas Spring Chix Mix
Every few months, the statewide LGBT political advocacy organization throws well-attended parties for women, and the events tend to be hosted at the home of a lesbian who lives in the “Oh Four” — the 78704 zip code — better known as Travis Heights. This neighborhood is the closest thing Austin has to a gay ghetto, and there is a high concentration of lesbian home-owners in the area.
I arrived in the tree-lined neighborhood of stylish, well-kept bungalows around 9:30 p.m. Cars lined the curb for several blocks near the party, which I took to be a good sign. I followed the crowd. As I neared the party, I overheard one couple having a heated conversation, and I thanked my lucky stars I was not having an argument with a girlfriend in the street right before I had to enter a roomful of lesbians.
Inside, the crowd was just what I’d expected: 30-something and above, well-coiffed, professional lesbians, including lots of couples — and no one I knew. I decided to make the rounds.
In the kitchen, a huge table of yummy-looking Tex-Mex fare was surrounded by a crowd. From the back of the house I could hear some Missy Elliott beats, and I followed the sound to the dance floor, where I spotted my friend D.J. POW on the turntable.
I realized that so far, she was the only other person of color I had seen at the party. More women of color showed up later on, but like many events in a city that is highly segregated in spite of its aura of crunchy inclusiveness, the scene was predominantly white. C’est la vie.
Outside, in the long line of women waiting for drinks at a bar on a deck overlooking the huge yard, I found a visual artist I know, Rejina Thomas. Reji’s work — which is in a variety of media, from oil on canvas to glass — is on display in the state capitol building, and her award-winning glass mural can be seen on the city’s east side.