"Scene" is AfterEllen.com’s monthly (usually) series of articles focusing on the lesbian happenings in a town near you. For previous installments, go here.
When most people think of Dallas, they think of art, culture and a thriving gay community, right? Oh, am I the only one? Well, hold on to your cowboy hats, ’cause there’s more to Dallas than meets the eye.
I know, it’s hard to believe that there would be anything interesting for us lesbians to do smack dab in the middle of Bush country (uh … by that I do mean George W.). To be honest, at first I was a little skeptical myself. I took on this article wondering how I would ever have enough to write about, but in the end I had to restrain myself from flat-out gushing about all that the city has to offer.
"It’s true, our secret is out," said Phillip Jones, president of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Dallas is proud to support a vibrant gay community, making LGBT travelers comfortable when they visit this progressive city. From our friendly residents to the numerous LGBT events held year-round, Dallas has style and charm unlike any other city."
After spending November checking out the Dallas scene, I’ve learned some important lessons. First, "style and charm" is really just a euphemism for "lots of cute gay girls." Second, never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a gay bar until the dancers have removed an article of clothing.
Last, but not least, being out in Dallas is not for the faint of heart. It means many sleepless nights, consuming unhealthy levels of alcohol, and a dangerous amount of really bad dancing. OK, that last one might just be my personal experience, but it was fun all the same.
Scene 1: Out Takes Dallas, Day 2
The first stop on my tour of Dallas’ lesbian scene was the second day of Out Takes Dallas; this year the gay and lesbian film festival celebrated its ninth year. I spent all Saturday camped out in Dallas’ West Village at one of the city’s best independent movie houses, the Magnolia Theater, watching all there was to offer in queer cinema.
In the lobby, paintings and photos by local artists were on display as part of the festival’s silent auction. As I was checking out the artwork (and a cute brunette across the room), I heard a couple of men ask what time the theater’s bar started serving drinks. Apparently they couldn’t get through the movie without their highballs and cocktails (puns intended). Could you believe the Magnolia expects its patrons to wait until after 2 p.m. to start drinking?
As the first two movies screened, though, I sympathized with the men. First up was The Believers, a documentary about the first transsexual gospel choir, the Transcendents. An interesting subject, but the armchair interviews and tear-filled embraces had me pinching myself to stay awake. (Side note: I must be alone in this opinion, as the film won Best Documentary at the festival.)
And Tick Tock Lullaby is a sperm-filled frolic into the trials of three couples attempting to get pregnant. If you ever want to see an entire theater cringe in unison, put this on for a bunch of lesbians and wait for the sex scenes. The films left me so bored and tired that I headed to the concession stand hoping that a self-induced sugar shock would revive me.
But after that the day finally began to pick up with a collection of six short films in a program dubbed Lesbian Life Stories. These funny shorts delivered important life lessons such as: If you kiss a frog you might find Princess Charming (A Fairy Tale); Flowers at the Park reveals that women are neurotic (shocker!); and according to Boxed In, "No honest person makes a living by writing." Hmm … duly noted. The best was Members Only, in which a girl fills out an application for her gay card; it comes with gaydar activation and a complimentary cat!
Though the shorts were great, as any dedicated film fest-goer knows, the best parts of any decent film festival are the parties.
At the women’s mixer, held at Republic, a small lounge just a few blocks from the theater, the outdoor patio was overflowing with groups of women drinking, chatting and posing for pictures. By the time I got there, I had some serious catching up to do, so I grabbed a drink and made my way around the room.
Time flies when you’re scoping out chicks working for AfterEllen.com, and before I knew it, it was time to head back to the Magnolia for the centerpiece film, The Gymnast.
Three words: Gay. Female. Gymnasts. Do you really need more than that? A retired gymnast stuck in a loveless marriage begins taking classes with a beautiful dancer (Addie Yungmee), and plenty of high-wire acrobatics are included. This film’s such a crowd-pleaser that there were people salsa dancing in line to get in and shouting at the screen during the show. We were all disappointed when the star, Dreya Weber, had to reschedule her appearance.
Afterward, I skipped the titillatingly titled midnight movie, Gay B&B of Terror (for some reason I got the clue that there were no lesbians involved), and headed to Sue Ellen’s for the after-party.
Located in Oak Lawn, Dallas’ trendy gay neighborhood, Sue Ellen’s is the one girl bar in an entire block of gay clubs. Inside there are pool tables, air hockey and a dance floor that was completely packed with scantily clad girls.
But most of the festival crowd was hanging around outside listening to singer Anton Shaw finish up her set. We all sat there, singing along to the music, as the night crept into morning and the second day of the festival drew to a close.