MARCH 2023

Page 1


The Diana Foundation marks 70 years of fun and philanthropy



Pearl Bar’s owner is back on solid ground

Jolanda Jones, Alexis Melvin, Shellye Arnold, and more Pg.46

Pg.34 PLUS



Julie Mabry’s Pearl Bar is one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the US



Sabrina Tellez and Janell Gurule’s blended family reflects the nation’s growing diversity



The beloved drag queen brings her new comedy act to Houston



Lesbian lawmaker Jolanda Jones overcame trauma to make a difference for Texans


Shellye Arnold oversees progress on the 10-year master plan



Alley Theatre’s Cowboy Bob immortalizes strong Texas women



Henry Poured offers stress-free bartending services for every occasion



Tennessee Williams’ work is re-envisioned for its 75th anniversary


Ryder Moore-Syder rocks a greaser vibe with lover-boy appeal


Alexis Melvin is expanding the Transgender Foundation of America’s reach

4 MARCH 2023 | MARCH 2023
40 67 46 52 74
tIt HoustonBallet Summer &Smoke March9-19 Join us for OutattheBallet night at Summer&Smokeon March 17 at 7:30 PM. Use promo code OUTBALLET to save 25% on orchestra-level seats and enjoy a private reception. including a free drink! Productionunderwriting: AnnTrammellandHallieVancterhicter 713.227.2787 Methoiist � BANKOFAMERICA'o/ FUNDED IN PAIT BY THE CIT�H£tHOUSTON HOUSTONAITS ALLIANCE

813 Richmond Ave Houston, TX 77006


MARCH 2023







Greg Mathis Jr. headlines the Black Queer AF Music Festival; Pet Pics in the Park returns to Buffalo Bayou Dog Park on March 25; T he Diana Foundation celebrates 70 years with a star-studded bash on April 1; C ancer survivors Paula Chambers Raney and Kecia Johnson spread the word about life-saving colorectal cancer screenings (Pg. 71) Christopher Barry’s new KIKI bar opens in Montrose (Pg. 74)





Pearl Bar’s owner is back on solid ground. Photography by Frank Hernandez @the_creativex (February 22 photo shoot at Pearl Bar.)

6 MARCH 2023 |
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8 | MARCH 2023 | • Virtual Appointments • 713-823-4001 • Individual Personal Development • Relationship / Marriage Issues • Addiction / Recovery • Gender / Transitioning ONE OF THE BEST FEMALE MENTAL HEALTH THERAPISTS OutSmart Reader’s Choice Awards 2004–2022 COUNSELING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY DENISE O’DOHERTY LPC, LMFT, MSN, RN Counseling to individuals, couples, and families of varying age, gender, race and sexual orientations.

As March rolls in, we celebrate the start of Women’s History Month with our Women in Power issue, paying special attention to the LGBTQ women shaping the future of Houston, such as our cover star Julie Mabry, the owner of Pearl Bar—one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the United States. She tells writer Zach McKenzie that she thinks “lesbian bars are always going to be a necessity.” With this in mind, she’s made Pearl a safe haven for Houston’s lesbian community.

We also highlight the accomplishments of State Rep. Jolanda Jones, trans advocate Alexis Melvin, married business owners Mishu and Bren Ventura, soon-to-be-married mothers

Sabrina Tellez and Janell Gurule,

and Memorial Park Conservancy executive Shellye Arnold.

Around Houston, Pet Pics in the Park returns to Buffalo Bayou Park on March 25 to raise funds for Omega House, a nonprofit HIV/ AIDS hospice. Writer Marene Gustin talks to partners Tanner Williams and Christopher Cerda, who founded the event by offering pet owners a photo-op with their furry, scaly, or feathered friends in exchange for donations. And writer Connor Behrens chats with the mastermind behind BUDDY’S, Christopher Barry, whose latest upscale Montrose club KIKI should become a prime location for LGBTQ community events.

The Diana Foundation gears up for its 70th Platinum Jubilee in early April, featuring food, drinks, entertainment by Bianca del Rio (of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame), and

more. Founded in 1953, The Diana Foundation is the longest continuously operating gay organization in the country, and focuses on distributing funds to several community nonprofits.

On the artsier side of this issue, we check in with the Houston Ballet as they prepare to present the world premiere of Summer and Smoke, a ballet adaptation of gay playwright Tennessee Williams’ drama, which will be showing March 9 through 19. Over at the Alley, the musical Cowboy Bob immortalizes the strength of Texas women like Peggy Jo Tallas, bank robber extraordinaire. We also check in with breakout reality star Greg Mathis Jr., who is heading to H-Town for the Black Queer AF Music Festival. The Normal Anomaly Initiative is sponsoring this annual event in

early May.

Finally, we prepare to move into April and celebrate OutSmart’s 30th anniversary as we offer special thanks to our contributors, advertisers, readers, and the entire Houston LGBTQ community for their three decades of support. We can’t wait to ring in our April anniversary month, and many more to come, with all of you!

10 MARCH 2023 |
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March 9–19


Houston Ballet unveils its world premiere of a new one-act ballet inspired by gay playwright Tennessee Williams’ drama Summer and Smoke, a co-production with American Ballet Theatre with a commissioned score by Michael Daugherty. The show is choreographed by internationally recognized choreographer Cathy Marston, whose works are often inspired by literature.

The same night, watch dancers evoke the magnitude of emotion of Bach’s music in George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco with sleek,

stripped-down costumes. Also on the program is one of Stanton Welch’s hallmark ballets, Clear, highlighting the talents of the Ballet’s male dancers and featuring seven men and one woman.

Tickets are available now, and Houston Ballet is partnering with O utSmart for a special March 17 LGBTQ Out at the Ballet night—25% off an orchestra-level seat and a complimentary drink during private receptions before the show and at intermission.


Through March 19


Concerts and carnivals and cattle, oh my! Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is back with plenty to do for the whole family, from rides and games to concerts by the biggest stars in music.


March 16


The true story of Texas bank robber Peggy Jo Tallas is now an Alley Theatre musical co-authored by Galveston’s own Molly Beach Murphy. The all-female creative team offers up country, folk, and riot-grrrl punk. Shows continue through March 26.

Tennessee Williams
Jackie Burns as Peggy Jo Tallas and Ashley Pérez Flanagan as Rena in Alley Theatre’s production of Cowboy Bob.


March 5


AIDS Foundation Houston has hosted this walk to benefit the fight to end HIV for the past 35 years. Lace up your shoes to help raise $300,000 before catching the after-party downtown in Sam Houston Park.


March 11


Twisted Bear comes to H-Town, with DJ Paul Coals bringing his twisted tracks and beefy dancers to the stage at KIKI Houston. Strap on your hottest gear for a night to remember.


March 19



Root for the Rockets while celebrating Pride Night with our hometown team and the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are available on the Toyota Center website now.


March 11


Twisting Through Secrets, showing at the Blaffer Art Museum and curated by Rivkah French, features a provocative and unique variety of multimedia performers.


March 5


The LGBTQ Victory Fund is hosting its annual Champagne Brunch at the Post Oak Hotel, with special guest Senator Tammy Baldwin.


March 10


Join Houston Gaymers at KIKI Houston for a night of nerdy drag benefiting Houston Gaymers, a community organization for LGBTQ Texas gamers.



March 12


Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest exhibit comes to the MFAH, accompanied by the video Worry Will Vanish, depicting a dreamlike journey through nature, the human body, and the heavens.


March 25


Chris Christopher Properties presents Pet Pics in the Park with pet photographer Jill Garrett. In exchange for a donation to Avenue 360’s Omega House, have your pet’s photo taken with or without your whole family.


March 24–26


Celebrate art in the Bayou City at this festival highlighting the work of artists globally, including featured Minnesota mixed-media artist Dewey James.


March 30


Rice University hosts Alison Kafer, a UT Austin professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, for a lecture that explores how the “disability lens” reshapes conversations about reproductive justice.


March 24


Malaysia “Babydoll” Foxx, from RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 15, takes the stage at ReBar Houston. A meet-and-greet session is available before the show.


March 31 through April 2


Lil Nas X, Maggie Rogers, and more artists will perform at NRG Stadium for the NCAA Final Four Music Festival. The festival coincides with the finals men’s college basketball tournament taking place that same weekend. | MARCH 2023 13
More Q ueer Things To D o ➝




April 15


The Orange Show’s Art Car Parade returns for its 36th year with Bun B as grand marshal. Alongside a lineup of artsy events April 6–16, the Art Car Parade will make its way through the streets of Houston. Some of the best viewing is centered in Hermann Square at City Hall.


April 9


Hop down to the best LGBTQ Easter party in Houston with Bunnies on the Bayou, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising and distributing funds to improve lives throughout Houston’s LGBTQ community.


April 1


Pride Chorus celebrates the work of Stephen Sondheim with this night of music from the Broadway master. From Sunday in the Park with George to Sweeney Todd, the chorus will feature a catalog of Sondheim classics.


April 1


Don’t miss this year’s Diana Awards, a comedic Academy Awards spoof and roast of Houston’s finest locals. The Diana Foundation is a nonprofit recognized as the oldest continuously active gay organization in the United States, and the Diana Awards is one of Houston’s most festive black-tie events of the year.

14 MARCH 2023 | CALENDAR OF EVENTS Submit your events at



On February 1, 2023, The Caucus held its monthly membership meeting at the Montrose Center. Pictured are Joelle Espeut, Odyssey Oakengrove, Maria Gonzalez, Austin Davis Ruiz, Porscha Brown, Piper Madland, Aaron Rublein, and Jack Valinski



On February 4 2023, the Painting with a Twist Brunch was hosted by the United in Service Coalition at Buddy’s. Pictured are the participants.

The Mystery and Fantasy Mardi Gras Party was held at Numbers on February 4, 2023. Pictured are Robert Harwood, Travis Walker, Clifford Dotson, and Scott Miller

ActOUT at the Alley Theatre for Cambodian Rock Band was held on February 2, 2023. Pictured are Carol Blacknall, Jerry Simoneaux, Margo Morris, Kevin Pope, Matthew Janak, Lauren Pelletier, Aaron Rublein, Tina Berry, and Alvin Weingarten

On February 21, 2023, HRC held a kickoff for their 2023 gala at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

On February 15, 2023, Judge Jerry Simoneaux held his final fundraiser “Politics Gone Wild” at the Houston Zoo. Pictured are Christopher Bown, Judge Jerry Simoneaux, and Judge Phyllis Frye

On Feb. 9, 2023, a fundraiser was held for Pasadena Councilmember Jonathan Estrada. Pictured are Andy Garcia, Crystal Davila, Senator John Whitmire, Teneisha Hudspeth, host Annise Parker, Jonathan Estrada, Carla Wyatt, Ana Hernandez, Robert Gallegos, and Judge Victor Trevino.

On February 24, 2023, LifeSmiles by Randy Mitchmore, DDS, held an “I Love My Dentist” anniversary celebration. Pictured are (upper left) John Copous, Sally May, Joaquin Galaviz, and Michael Horner; (lower left) Toni Wilson, Randy Mitchmore, Tammi Wallace, Sandra Smith, and Jack Berger

16 MARCH 2023 |
Pet Pics in the Park held its VIP underwriters kickoff party at Minute Maid Park on February 2, 2023. Pictured are Tanner Williams, Ed Holmstrom, Christopher Cerda, and Charlene Flash. The Greater Houston LGBT Chamber held its 7th-anniversary celebration at Maggiano’s Little Italy on February 22, 2023. Pictured are Stephen Miranda, Tammi Wallace, and Tiffany Tosh and Jonathan Marrs Pictured are Andrea Simonton, Trisha Beissel, Rey Ocanas, Heather J. Taylor, and Chris J. Barry The Lone Star Volleyball Association held its Diva of the Decade Pageant at South Beach on February 18, 2023. Pictured are Diva of the Decade 2020 (crowned this year) Lady Bird, and Diva of the Decade 2010 Erika Lucci. Krewe of Olympus held its Ball 51 “Dreams” on February 12, 2023. Pictured are King Olympus LI Lea Valerio and Queen Olympus LI Stephanie Hall.
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Trans People Facing

‘Horrifying’ Statehouse Rhetoric

Intimidation tactics dominate public hearings nationwide.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - It was pharmacist Gwendolyn Herzig’s first time testifying before a legislative committee when she spoke to several Arkansas lawmakers in a packed hearing room this month about a bill restricting genderaffirming care for minors.

Herzig, who is transgender, spoke out against the legislation and told the panel that one of the biggest obstacles trans people face is a lack of empathy. Only a few minutes later, a Republican lawmaker asked her an inappropriate question about her genitalia.

“It was horrifying,’’ she said.

The exchange, which was livestreamed on the Legislature’s website and has since been widely shared on social media, is an example of the type of demeaning questions and rhetoric that transgender people meet when they show up at statehouses to testify against new bills targeting their rights.

In South Dakota, a lawmaker invoked “furries’’—people who dress up as animals—when talking about gender-affirming care. In Montana, a legislator compared parents supporting their children in finding treatment to asking doctors to carry out medically assisted suicide.

Advocates worry that increasingly hostile rhetoric about transgender people could have a chilling effect on those who want to speak out against new restrictions, and could do lasting damage to a community of trans youth that is already marginalized.

“I feel like that’s what they’re trying to do, to keep us from coming and exercising this right that we have,’’ said Rumba Yambu, executive director of Intransitive, an advocacy and support group for transgender people in Arkansas. “Because who wants to go and be asked about their genitalia in front of a bunch of strangers? Especially strangers in power.’’

So far this year, at least 150 bills targeting transgender people have been introduced, which is the highest in a single year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Bans on gender-affirming care for minors have already been enacted this year in South Dakota. The push has included efforts in some states to restrict gender-affirming care for

adults and ban drag shows, which opponents have warned would also discriminate against transgender people.

Herzig came to the state Capitol to testify against a bill attempting to reinstate Arkansas’ ban on gender-affirming care for minors by making it easier to file malpractice lawsuits against providers. In her testimony, Herzig talked about working with transgender patients who are on hormone-replacement therapy.

“Bills like SB199 are designed to hinder, not help, Arkansans by creating barriers to evidence-driven health care they deserve, under the guise of helping the young and innocent,’’ she said, later saying a vote for the bill was “unpatriotic, and casts doubts on our own health and research institutions who have worked through health care fields to improve the lives of Americans.”

During followup questions, Republican Sen. Matt McKee asked Herzig if she is transgender. When she said yes, he asked: “Do you have a penis?’’

The question was met with jeers and audible gasps in the packed committee room.

“That’s horrible,’’ Herzig responded, telling McKee that asking her such a question was inappropriate and noting she was testifying as a healthcare professional.

“I had never been so publicly humiliated in my life,” Herzig told the Associated Press in an interview days later.

McKee did not respond to an email or phone call, but defended his question in a written statement.

“As a father of four daughters, I will do everything in my power to protect my children and the children of Arkansas, especially from the woke mob who intend to push their agenda and beliefs down our throats and destroy our families,’’ McKee’s statement said.

The idea of protecting children by withholding medical care is undermined by health experts, who have said minors with gender dysphoria who do not receive appropriate care face dramatically increased risk of suicide and serious depression.

McKee’s questions were similar in tone to those posed to Debi Jackson’s teen, Avery, who is transgender and nonbinary, when they testified before Missouri legislators last year about a proposal to ban trans girls and women from participating on sports teams matching their gender identity.

During the hearing, a lawmaker


A group of LGBTQ advocates gather outside the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre on Jan. 26, 2021, to protest a bill that would have banned people from updating the sex on their birth certificates. A Little Rock pharmacist’s testimony before a legislative committee about gender-affirming care for minors resulted in an Arkansas lawmaker asking about her genitalia—highlighting the type of hostile rhetoric that transgender people are facing.

18 MARCH 2023 | NEWS

Texas Republicans Push to Restrict Trans Athletes

The Austin lawmakers’ bill targets participation in college sports.

A Republican bill that would extend Texas’ restrictions on transgender athletes to the college level could be on track to become law after receiving support from a majority of House members.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, announced Wednesday that 77 GOP colleagues had signed on as co-authors of House Bill 23. That gives it slightly more than the support it needs to pass the 150-member House. The measure already has support from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the presiding officer of the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott.

The legislation would bar transgender men from competing on men’s college sports teams and transgender women from joining women’s college athletic teams. But the bill would also allow cisgender and transgender female athletes to play on a men’s team if there is no corresponding women’s team in a particular sport. The bill would also extend the current restrictions on transgender athletes in K-12 schools to private schools whose sports teams compete against public schools.

There are still nearly three months left in the legislative session, and the bill could hit procedural snags, among other hurdles. But for now, the unified GOP support makes it likely the proposal will become law in some form.

Swanson said in a news release that the legislation is important to “protect fairness in women’s sports.” The proposal is a priority for Patrick, and at a conservative political conference last month, Abbott also vowed to prevent trans women from competing against cisgender women at the college level.

Opponents say the proposal needlessly targets transgender Texans and further stigmatizes them.

“It’s such a distraction from the actual challenges women and girls face, and targets an already vulnerable group of Texans who are doing nothing other than trying to be a part of their communities,” said Anne Lieberman,

policy director at the advocacy group Athlete Ally.

House Bill 23 is among scores of bills that could bring major changes to the lives of gay and transgender Texans. Republicans also want to restrict when sexuality and gender identity are taught in schools, where people can perform in drag, and what kind of health care is available to transgender children.

Two years ago, Abbott signed into law a bill that restricted transgender student athletes from playing on K-12 school sports teams that align with their gender identity. However, there was almost instant pressure from the right to go further, and HB 23 would extend the 2021 prohibition to transgender students’ sports participation at colleges and universities.

For more than a decade, the National Collegiate Athletic Association allowed transgender women to participate in women’s college sports

championships if they had at least one year of testosterone suppression medication for treatment of gender dysphoria. Transgender men could compete in men’s teams championships if they received testosterone treatments for gender dysphoria.

Last year, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a new policy that will be phased in by the 2024-25 season. Under the new policy, the national governing body for each sport will determine the qualifications for trans athletes’ participation, though there are still requirements to report testosterone levels to the NCAA. The changes were made in response to mounting pressure from antitrans activists who criticized the NCAA’s decision to allow Lia Thomas, a trans woman, to compete on the women’s swimming team at the University of Pennsylvania.

Currently, trans athletes must meet ➝

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policy requirements set in 2010 and provide documented testosterone levels for their sports at the start of the season and six months into competition.

The NCAA has not taken a stance on similar legislation passed in states across the country. But at least 20 Texas universities compete in NCAA competitions, including the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University and Texas A&M University. The legislation would also prevent transgender athletes who attend schools outside of Texas from competing against teams at Texas universities.

All 77 co-authors of House Bill 23 signed on Tuesday. They include every Republican in the House except the speaker, Dade Phelan, who does not typically co-author bills, and seven others: Reps. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, Angie Chen Button of Richardson, Charlie Geren of Fort Worth, Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, Stan Lambert of Abilene, Morgan Meyer of Dallas and Mike Schofield of Katy. That is a mostly moderate group of House Republicans, some of whom also did not coauthor the K-12 ban.

LGBTQ rights advocates reiterated their criticism of the legislation Wednesday.

“Given that sports are such an integral part of Texas culture, I think it’s unfortunate we’re seeing legislators target minorities and exclude them from participating in sports that are such valuable ways for young people to be involved and learn teamwork and sportsmanship,” said

Johnathan Gooch, communications director for Equality Texas.

The legislation could potentially open up universities to Title IX lawsuits. In 2021, the Biden administration said that law, which was created more than 50 years ago to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, applies to LGBTQ students. The Department of Education said it would enforce the law in cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“There are so many ways in which a legal challenge could be mounted to a bill like this,” Lieberman said. “You’re talking about adults with nondiscrimination protections in other states and other areas of the country. It makes everything far more complex.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune. org/2023/03/01/texas-house-transgenderathlete-college-restrictions/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at

22 MARCH 2023 |
—Anne Lieberman, policy director at the advocacy group Athlete Ally
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Object Lesson

The next time a UFO appears, Aunt Thelma is ready with her crop duster.

Well I’ll be damned— Congress-gal Majorie Taylor Greene’s furry white balloon coat at the State of the Union Address scared everybody so much that another white balloon got itself shot down over Alaska the very next day.

America was left for weeks with no idea what it was that we shot down, which brought up the tantalizing possibility that it was her coat. Surely it wasn’t. Or was it?

“We’re calling this an ‘object’ because that’s the best description we have right now,” said an Air Force official. “We don’t know who owns it—whether it’s state-owned or corporate-owned or privately owned. We just don’t know.”

So here’s one thing I do know: I’m not in the habit of shooting at things I can’t identify. The least you should do is rule out some stuff. Like, well, it’s not a 1964 Oldsmobile. Probably not the church’s collection plate. It might be an angel, but it didn’t look like a real friendly one. Maybe it was a Rocket Club project from Our Lady of Perpetual Virginity Middle School. Or a gift-wrapped toaster oven hurled out of a perfectly lovely wedding. Honestly, there’s probably a hundred more things you could rule out.

And is the term “object” the best we can do? Why not a thingy, a doohickey, a whatchamacallit, a what-not, or a gizmo? I mean, really— an “object”?

Think about it: you could rent yourself out as an expert-witness in the courtroom. The district attorney would ask, “Hey, you’re the expert, so please tell the jury what you see here in this picture.” And you could smugly answer, “It’s an object!” The odds would be about 95 percent that you’d be right.

Just don’t tell me it was a Boy Scout project gone haywire.

A government official said the military waited to shoot the balloon down during daylight hours to make it easier for the pilots to spot it. They said the mission was “supported with aerial assets from the Alaska Air National Guard.”

Wait a minute. Wait just a damn minute. Are you telling me that an F-22, which probably costs a billion dollars, doesn’t have radar or even night-vision goggles? So we can only fight

an alien invasion during the daytime? Look, for a billion dollars, I expect that F-22 to be able to sniff out the aliens. Surely the F-22 has room inside for a few beagles or something.

Hell, they even told us that this “object” was not “purposely guided.” So they needed all that firepower to take down a big ol’ sitting duck? I’ve seen my Aunt Thelma hit a rattlesnake from 30 yards away, and that damn thing was moving! They need my Aunt Thelma—she can even get snakes in the dark by listening to their rattle. When I told her the “object” was the size of a small car, she was willing to bet that she could take it out from a crop duster—while she was flying it.

Let’s make this even crazier...

The Alaska National Guard, and units under the US Northern Command, along with an HC-130 Hercules, an HH-60 Pave Hawk, and a CH-47 Chinook all participated in the ocean recovery effort, according to General Ryder.

I guess we should be thrilled that all those fancy planes didn’t fly into each other. General Ryder said that recovery teams have “mapped the debris field” and are “in the process of searching for and identifying debris on the ocean floor.”

Y’all, I’m not real sure I want these guys messing around on the ocean floor. They are liable to pull out the drain plug down there or something.

Now, I need to add one more thing here. A day later, another one of these “objects” appeared over the Great Lakes. We took aim to shoot that one down, too, except this time we missed the whole damn thing. Fired that missile right past it like a Hail Mary pass that skipped the Hail part.

Okay, we have a phrase in Texas for people who are a bad shot. Mostly, we just say they are “hunting Dick Cheney style,” where you shoot a friend in the face with buckshot. Or for variety, we might say, “Honey, he couldn’t hit the side of a barn even if he was standing inside it.”

Here we have an airplane that cost about $30 million dollars to build and $85,325 an hour to operate. Each Sidewinder missile costs $400,000. (Nope, no 2-for-1 deals on this stuff, either.)

They miss this stationary target after waiting hours for damn daylight. I’m telling you that Aunt Thelma has a crop duster all gassed up in Needville, Texas, and she’ll do the whole job for $1,000 and a dinner date with one of those real cute female pilots.

I know a deal when I see it.

Susan Bankston lives in Richmond, Texas, where she writes about her hairdresser at The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc., at

24 MARCH 2023 |
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Dealing with Debt

How to help a relative or friend who isn’t good with money.

You have likely heard the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This age-old advice holds true in numerous situations, including our personal finances.

Maintaining financial stability can be particularly challenging for those in the LGBTQ community. Some of the primary reasons for this include workplace discrimination and pay inequity, the high cost of family planning, potentially higher healthcare costs (particularly for transgender individuals), higher student-loan costs, and less money saved for retirement (which can stem from earning lower wages).

We all know someone who may be down on their luck financially. While we may want to offer them support, there’s a big difference between just handing over cash to solve the immediate issue and showing them how to better manage their money so they can stay out of financial trouble down the road.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Fixes

There are certainly times when being downand-out financially happens for reasons beyond our control. For example, a friend may have been involved in an accident or diagnosed with an unexpected illness that threw them off course financially. And of course, there are others who have never been taught how to manage money wisely.

If you are more inclined to help your loved one “learn to fish,” rather than simply handing them cash to bail them out, there are several important strategies you should consider using:

• Help them create a budget and a spending plan

• Teach them how to save

• Show them how to negotiate and be more financially resourceful

• Put a plan in place to pay down debt and save at the same time

• Educate them on how to establish good

financial habits

Creating a Budget and Spending Plan

While many people do not like the term “budget,” following some type of income and expense guide is essential for long-term success. It is important to stress that it’s not only about how much income one earns, but also how much one spends.

Some of the key parameters of a good, solid spending plan can include:

• Identifying needs versus wants – If your loved one is having trouble paying their rent or mortgage, but they always seem to have on a new outfit or expensive shoes, it may be time to go over the benefits of spending on luxuries only after monthly expenses and savings goals are met. Otherwise, their debt could end up spiraling out of control, especially if they are racking up purchases on high-interest credit cards and not paying off the entire balance every month.

• Cutting out unnecessary costs – While your loved one might need to pay for cell-phone service, they usually don’t need the best, most expensive calling plan. Likewise, doing away with premium cable channels and an unused gym membership could free up needed funds each month. For instance, just cutting out a movie channel that costs $15 per month can add $180 to their

bottom line each year.

• Eliminating impulse purchases – Another area that may be costing your loved one is impulse purchases. It can be difficult not to reach for that candy bar in the grocery store checkout line or “supersize” an order at the drive-thru. But over time, these expenses can really add up. That’s why it is critical to make a shopping list and stick to it. In addition, identifying short- and long-term goals will help keep your loved one on track. Each time they accomplish a short-term goal, it can help them stay motivated to keep going and eventually achieve their long-term goals.

• Learning How to Save – With so few money-management courses taught in our schools, it is easy to see why so many people have trouble sorting out their spending and saving goals. One of the best ways that you can assist a loved one who has trouble with managing money is to show them how to “pay themselves first”—setting aside a certain amount of money in a savings or other type of financial account before using the rest of their income to pay bills. Once they have contributed to their savings, they should focus on paying their essential expenses next (like housing and

26 MARCH 2023 |

utilities), and only then consider spending on non-essential items. If your loved one does not yet have an emergency fund in place, this should also be a primary focus. That’s because unexpected costs like home or auto repairs can take a chunk out of one’s budget. But having access to liquid money to put toward emergencies can allow your loved one to leave other funds in place for their originally intended purpose.

• Negotiating and Being More Resourceful – Teaching your loved one how to negotiate and be resourceful is another way to keep them on track with cutting expenses and building up their savings. Money habits can be ingrained from a young age. For instance, if a parent keeps bailing out their children—even when they become adults—the younger generation will never learn how to be resourceful or responsible. So, while it may be hard to resist jumping in and saving them in financial emergencies, doing so could actually end up hurting them

in the long run. Also, many people are not aware that cars and homes aren’t the only items whose price can be negotiated. In fact, it never hurts to ask for a discount—even in a big-box store or other retail shop. You never know when a business owner will be able to “find” additional discounts, and the worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.

• Paying Down Debt while Increasing Savings – If your loved one is in debt, it is vital that they get it paid off as soon as possible. This is particularly the case with high-interest credit-card balances, because the interest charges can soon snowball out of control. When paying off debts, though, continuing to save should not be ignored. In this case, it is important to find a happy medium between getting debt balances wiped clean while at the same time adding to savings. Otherwise, if your loved one waits until their debts are paid off to begin their savings program, it could potentially never start.

• Establishing Good Financial Habits

Another critical factor in establishing good financial habits is education. Oftentimes, once people know how to move forward—and why—they will be

more apt to stick with good spending and savings habits over time. In fact, financial independence and financial freedom is the result of deliberate, habitual practice!

Helping Loved Ones Learn to Fish

Oftentimes, successfully reaching our destination on a long journey is easier when we travel with an experienced guide. So if you’re in the process of assisting a loved one with establishing good financial habits, it could help to seek out a financial-planning professional who can help them put together a customized plan based on their specific situation and goals.

Additionally, pairing up with a planner who is also well-versed in the financial issues facing the LGBTQ community could help you stay on top of things when the laws affecting same-sex relationships change.

Grace S. Yung, CFP ®, is a Certified finanCial P lanner practitioner with experience in helping LGBTQ individuals, domestic partners, and families plan and manage their finances since 1994. She is the managing director at Midtown Financial Group, LLC, in Houston.Yung can be reached at Visit letsmake or | MARCH 2023 27
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Celebrating Blackness

Greg Mathis Jr. heads to H-Town for the Black Queer AF Music Festival.

Ever since he came out on national television on his family’s reality show Mathis Family Matters, Greg Mathis Jr. has been riding high and living a life that is rooted in truth and love. Overcoming years of negative, religion-based influences and the fear of disappointing those closest to him, Mathis is leaning into the joy of queer Blackness and inviting others to celebrate with him.

Later this spring, the breakout reality star is headed to Houston to appear at the Black Queer AF Music Festival, presented by The Normal Anomaly Initiative in early May.

Mathis, whose father is Judge Greg Mathis from the syndicated courtroom TV show, admits that his coming out was a very vulnerable experience. “When I was in the process of doing it, it wasn’t necessarily [my] idea to come out on national TV, because it was like a reallife thing for me. [I experienced all of] the realworld feelings that I think a lot of gay and queer people go through. I was really coming out to the entire world. On the show it shows that we released a public coming-out video, and that was about four months before the show aired. So that part of coming out was very personal and real, because it was a real thing.”

The public response to his coming-out episode indicated to Mathis and his partner, Elliot, that his public coming out would have ripple effects far beyond their inner circle. “Once the show aired, we were blown away by the impact it had on people—[especially the show’s] focus on my relationship with my father and how positively he responded. That was the part that I knew would have an impact, but I had no idea that it would touch so many people.”

Mathis was encouraged by the twofold nature of the fan feedback he was receiving. “We got such an outpouring of support, with people telling us that we had helped them in their own lives. Parents were saying how it

helped them interact with their children in a better way. There were also people who were on that journey of coming out themselves. They said we gave them the confidence to really be themselves.”

To fully appreciate where Mathis is today, one must acknowledge the emotional hurdles he had to overcome to get to this point. “I grew up in the Church of God in Christ, which is not necessarily an affirming church, particularly when it comes to queer folks,” he explains. “Depending on which church you go to within that denomination, you could hear sermons like I did when I was growing up. The pastor stood in the pulpit and taught the entire congregation some pretty graphic things. I was 5 years old, and the pastor told us that it is wrong for men to have sex with men. I don’t

think any kid should have to hear that when they’re going to church. Sermons should be about love, community support, and all the things that Jesus talked about. When I was younger, I would go home after church and pray to not be gay anymore. I would pray to God regularly. Aside from the trauma that that created in me as a child, I had a fear of being rejected by my own community. I don’t think I ever feared my family rejecting me, because I had an uncle who was gay and I’m really close with my father. It was more the community’s perception, and the shame that would bring on my family, that really made me hide my sexual orientation for such a long time.”

Mathis is determined to use his notoriety to create positive change in the LGBTQ+

28 MARCH 2023 |
Greg Mathis Jr. (l) and his partner Elliot Cooper
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There’s a little bit of all of us at Miller...

For 100 years, Miller Outdoor Theatre has delighted generations of audiences with the best in performing arts entertainment. And every performance free.

Join the season-long celebration.

Celebrate 100 years of WOW! Enjoy eight months of the best music, dance, theatre and more.

Plus, four big celebration events March 18, May 12, July 14-15, Nov. 11 packed with fun for the whole family. Dress in themed attire. Enjoy costumed performers, live mural paintings, epic photo installations and more. All free!

Season calendar, 100th event schedule and free ticket info at

30 MARCH 2023 |

community. When he was invited to participate in Houston’s Black Queer AF Festival as a keynote speaker and forum host, he saw it as an excellent opportunity to do just that.

“One thing that’s really important to me is celebrating the positive aspects of our community. I think a lot of times we get caught up in our trauma. What I really appreciate about this weekend festival is that it will be a time to celebrate, have fun, and let loose, which I think we deserve.”

The event, which takes place at the Stampede Houston nightclub, will be a celebration of Black queerness, and Mathis is eager to get the party started. “I’m really big on Black-boy joy. As much as we’ve been through, and as much trauma that society places on us, we deserve to celebrate with each other,” he says. “I think what I look forward to most is bringing positive energy to the weekend and really celebrating our community, our culture, and everything else that we have to offer.”

His passion for creating safe spaces for all who identify as queer is a cornerstone of his community advocacy work. “A lot of the work I do revolves around HIV—not only because my uncle passed away from HIV, but also because it’s ravaging our community,” he explains. “I used to work in healthcare policy in the US Senate, and when you look at the numbers, almost half of new HIV cases are Black men. We have a lot of work to do when it comes to that particular issue. The medicine is there, the science is there to really eradicate HIV transmissions, but the awareness is not. That’s something I’m really passionate about and have been doing a lot of work on. It was really nice to see The Normal Anomaly incorporate that issue into this festival.”

Reflecting on the support he wishes he’d had at a young age, Mathis says, “Growing up, I didn’t know anybody who was gay, except for my uncle. I didn’t really see a lot of stuff on TV that reflected my community. Times have changed a lot, which is such a blessing.”

Mathis’ ultimate message to Black youth, as well as to anyone going through the coming-out process, is one of hope and affirmation. “The first thing I always say is, ‘You are loved.’ I know that’s cliché, but I think that’s important because those are the words that I would have wanted to hear. You are loved, and there’s a huge community that is waiting for you, and that loves you.”

What: Black Queer AF Music Festival

When: May 3–7

Where: Stampede Houston, 11925 Eastex Fwy.


GREG MATHIS JR | CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE 713-253-8609 DavidSellsHouston.RE DAVID BATAGOWER BROKER ASSOCIATE Helping everyone find their place in the world.

What could be better than getting a professional photo of your fur baby, spending a little outdoor time with fun people, and knowing it’s all for a great cause?

Since 2020, Pet Pics in the Park has been raising funds for Avenue 360’s Omega House, Houston’s HIV/AIDS nonprofit hospice that has been in operation since 1986. Tanner Williams and his partner, Christopher Cerda, founded Pet Pics in the Park when they heard that Omega House needed a new roof. The event was so popular that they made it an annual fundraiser. This year, the March 25 event at the Buffalo Bayou Dog Park is being sponsored by Cerda’s real-estate company, Chris Christopher Properties. Cerda has been in real estate for two decades and is an active member of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Executive and Professional Association of Houston. Becoming a proud puppy parent sparked the idea for Pet Pics in the Park.

“We were driving by a dog park back when COVID was still big, and I thought that would be a safe place to have an event,” he recalls.

Cerda and Williams have two dogs—Mishka and Sasha—and a cat named Sparkles. The couple became best friends eight years ago, and romantic partners for the past three years.

But Cerda’s journey to find his authentic self has been long and difficult. “I shouldn’t even be here right now,” he says. “I grew up in a bad part of the Second Ward. I was always afraid my grandmother’s house (where he lived) would get shot in a drive-by. Basically, I joined a gang to protect us.”

Cerda was jumped by rival gang members before he finally got out of that life—just about the time he began dealing with his sexuality.

“I started going to the bars,” Cerda says. “But then I saw what was happening with HIV and AIDS.” He wound up marrying a woman, having a daughter, and starting a successful real-estate company. But the marriage wasn’t happy, and after 15 years it ended. “I just gave up. I decided I was going to be me.”

Today, Cerda and Williams own a home near his ex-wife and their daughter, and they all see each other regularly and celebrate holidays as a family. Cerda likes to say that he “went from hood to good.”

And one of those good things is his passion for raising money for Omega House. Founded at the height of the AIDS crisis by retired Montessori school teacher Eleanor Munger, Omega House was the first residential hospice

Pics with a Purpose

Pet Pics in the Park raises funds for Omega House.

choosing, you’ll get a professional photo session with Jill Garrett. She began photographing pets at age eight and has experience with horses, dogs, cats, and even lizards. She says she’s “truly honored to be helping this year’s Pet Pics in the Park,” and encourages pets and people to join her for a good time.

And it isn’t just fur babies that Garrett can photograph. Pets with fins, feathers, or scales are also welcome—as are folks who don’t have a pet. If you can’t make it, you can use the Donate button on the website to make a personal donation to Omega House. You can also subscribe to receive updates on the event at

for terminally ill AIDS patients in Texas. In 2016, it became part of the nonprofit Avenue 360 Health and Wellness, a Federally Qualified Health Center dedicated to providing health care to underserved populations.

Cerda is hoping for a turnout of about 100 at the Pet Pics in the Park event this year. They had about 75 folks attend a recent kickoff party.

If you attend and make a donation of your

The photos will be available for download within two days of the event. A QR code and instructions on where to download your photos will be provided after the photoshoot. A link to access photos will also be on the Pet Pics in the Park website.

What: Pet Pics in the Park

When: March 25, 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.

Where: Buffalo Bayou Dog Park, 2525 Allen Parkway


32 MARCH 2023 |
JILL GARRETT ROBYN AROUTY Tanner Williams (l) and Christopher Cerda
OutTSmart Houston's LGBTQ Magazine @ Viiv GATEKEEPERS Healthcare

Platinum Jubilee

The Diana Foundation celebrates 70 years with a star-studded bash.

The Diana Foundation is gearing up for a party fit for queens!

The local philanthropic organization, now recognized as the oldest continuously running gay organization in the country, is celebrating a major milestone this year. The 70th Diana Awards, slated for April 1, will feature fabulous food, libations, a fan-favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race winner, and more.

Founded in 1953, The Diana Foundation focuses its efforts on “assisting and supporting the needs of the gay community by distributing funds to organizations that are dedicated to providing services that enhance the lives of deserving individuals in our diverse community.”

The philanthropic nature of the organization is what initially caught the attention of Howard Huffstutler, the organization’s 19th president. “I accompanied a friend of mine to the Diana Country Dinner in 2015 at Neon Boots,” he recalls. “There was a live auction, and one of the items was a meet-and-greet with the entertainer that evening, Steve Grand. The bids were in the hundreds, and I thought, ‘This guy is going to go back and tell everyone where he’s from how cheap we are!’ So I decided to throw my hat in the ring. I raised my paddle and yelled, ‘$1,000!’ There was a couple there who apparently really wanted to meet this guy, so they yelled, ‘$1,100!’”

The bidding war commenced, with Huffstutler bowing out just before the bidding reached $5,000. Still, his energy caught the eye of then president Tanner Williams. “He came over and thanked me for helping make the event such a success, and invited me to meet the artist anyway. I asked him to tell me a little more about The Diana Foundation, and I joined the club shortly thereafter.”

Being a member was fulfilling for Huffs-

tutler, but then a position of leadership soon revealed itself. “I was voted in as a member and always had a feeling I would run for president, but I wanted to wait until I was eight years in,” he says with a hint of laughter. “When the call came, I knew I had to answer, so I skipped ahead a bit and ran for president at my fiveyear mark. It has proven to be a wonderful experience!”

Through various social gatherings, the fundraising organization is able to maintain its spirit of philanthropy by supporting many local LGBTQ organizations ever since it achieved nonprofit status in 1976. “[In its early] years, Diana operated as a social club exclusively. In my role as president, I wanted to continue elevating the organization and make sure we were being even more proactive at giving back to the community,” the leader explains. “We’ve been able to support so many causes through-

out the years.”

In fact, The Diana Foundation has donated over $1.6 million since its founding. The legacy of this organization is not something Huffstutler takes lightly. “One major goal of mine is to make sure we bring in new members. When our older members (and myself) eventually pass on, we want to make sure the organization lives on and doesn’t just disappear.”

The jovial president takes pride in his role within the organization, always mindful of the way he was first introduced to it. “It’s my job to walk around at events, greet new faces I see in the crowd, thank them for coming and supporting us, telling them more about who we are, and inviting them to join us again. My board and committee members always give me a hard time and say that I don’t sit down and enjoy the events. Even though we have amazing volunteers and I know all is in good hands, I like to be a part of making sure everyone feels welcome.

“We have fabulous chairs for our events, but I am always there with my pail of water to put out any fires that pop up,” he admits. One such event is the upcoming 70thAnniversary Diana Awards, entitled Diana Platinum. Huffstutler is overcome with emotion as he reflects on the organization’s seven decades. “It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to this point. I wasn’t going to let our 70th anniversary come and go without a big celebration. I think about all that our community has been through, and what we’ve survived over the years. The fact that we got to 70 years is no small feat.”

When it came to planning the upcoming ceremony, he knew he needed to go big. “Some Diana members were apprehensive about doing such a large-scale event. We’ve historically done smaller events, having

34 MARCH 2023 |
Howard Huffstutler

started in peoples’ homes, then graduating to the Tower Theater and other venues. But this year, I said we need to go big or go home. The Queen of England got her platinum jubilee and we’re a bunch of queens, so we’re getting a jubilee, too!”

Bianca Del Rio, of Drag Race fame, is sure to bring the laughs as she hosts the festivities—including a four-course dinner,

open bar, live and silent auctions, a comedy roast awards show, Texas drag legends Dina Jacobs, Tasha Kohl, Tommie Ross, and more. The event will go well into the night, complete with a disco after-party. “We’re going to have fabulous entertainment, we’re going all out on decorations, and after the two-hour program, guests will be invited to the Studio 54-themed disco dance party,” Huffstutler says. “It’s going to be fabulous!”

Beneficiaries for this year’s event include the Law Harrington Senior Living Center, Open Gate Homeless Ministries, and Avenue 360. “These organizations do so much important work for our community, and it’s an

honor for us to support the work they’re doing,” Huffstutler says. Reflecting on the impact of The Diana Foundation over the years, he concludes, “Our members have lived through some really scary times in our country’s history, and being able to support organizations that are continuing to do the work that needs to be done is what being a part of The Diana Foundation is all about.”

What: The Diana Foundation’s 70th Platinum Jubilee

When: April 1, 2023

Where: The Ballroom at Bayou Place

Info: | MARCH 2023 35
—Howard Huffstutler
Bianca Del Rio


This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your condition and your treatment.


BIKTARVY may cause serious side e ects, including:

 Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. Your healthcare provider will test you for HBV. If you have both HIV-1 and HBV, your HBV may suddenly get worse if you stop taking BIKTARVY. Do not stop taking BIKTARVY without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to check your health regularly for several months, and may give you HBV medicine.


BIKTARVY is a complete, 1-pill, once-a-day prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in adults and children who weigh at least 55 pounds. It can either be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose healthcare provider determines they meet certain requirements.

BIKTARVY does not cure HIV-1 or AIDS. HIV-1 is the virus that causes AIDS.

Do NOT take BIKTARVY if you also take a medicine that contains:

 dofetilide

 rifampin

 any other medicines to treat HIV-1


Tell your healthcare provider if you:

 Have or have had any kidney or liver problems , including hepatitis infection

 Have any other health problems.

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Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while taking BIKTARVY.

 Are breastfeeding (nursing) or plan to breastfeed

Do not breastfeed. HIV-1 can be passed to the baby in breast milk.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take:

 Keep a list that includes all prescription and over-thecounter medicines, antacids, laxatives, vitamins, and h erbal supplements, and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist.

 BIKTARVY and other medicines may a ect each other. Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist about medicines that interact with BIKTARVY, and ask if it is safe to take BIKTARVY with all your other medicines.


BIKTARVY may cause serious side e ects, including:

 Those in the “Most Important Information About B IKTARVY” section.

 Changes in your immune system. Your immune system may get stronger and begin to fight infections that may have been hidden in your body. Tell your h ealthcare provider if you have any new symptoms after you start taking BIKTARVY.

 Kidney problems, including kidney failure. Your healthcare provider should do blood and urine tests to check your kidneys. If you develop new or worse kidney problems, they may tell you to stop taking BIKTARVY.

 Too much lactic acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious but rare medical emergency that can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: weakness or being more tired than usual, unusual muscle pain, being short of breath or fast breathing, stomach pain with nausea and vomiting , cold or blue hands and feet, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or a fast or abnormal heartbeat.

 Severe liver problems, which in rare cases can lead to death. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you get these symptoms: skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow, dark “tea-colored” urine, light-colored stools , loss of appetite for several days or longer, nausea, or stomach-area pain.

 The most common side e ects of BIKTARVY in clinical studies were diarrhea (6%), nausea (6%), and headache (5%). These are not all the possible side e ects of BIKTARVY. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any new symptoms while taking BIKTARVY.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Your healthcare provider will need to do tests to monitor your health before and during treatment with BIKTARVY.


Take BIKTARVY 1 time each day with or without food.


 This is only a brief summary of important information about BIKTARVY. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more.

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From Memorial Park to Pearl Bar— and even in the State Legislature— powerful women are making waves all over Texas. This Women’s History Month, OutSmart celebrates LGBTQ women making an impact on H-Town and beyond.

Women power

Next, Alexis Melvin, the Transgender Foundation of America president, shares how she supports the trans community on a global scale. Melvin is leading the TFA as they expand their services and offer more supportive programming as the threat of COVID recedes.

We begin with the Mother of Pearl herself. Julie Mabry is the owner of Pearl—one of the few lesbian-specific bars remaining in the United States—who dedicates herself to protecting and preserving safe spaces for the entire LGBTQ community. Tucked into Washington Avenue, the bar has gained national notoriety through a 2020 documentary and is a home for many, with crawfish on the patio and framed photos of lesbians throughout history.

Jolanda Jones, the first openly LGBTQ Black representative in the Texas Legislature, says she grew stronger from her own experiences with poverty, and now fights for “the least, the last, and the lost.” From school board member to, now, a representative in Austin, she advocates for LGBTQ Texans both in and out of queer spaces.

Then, we pull up to Henry Poured, where married couple Mishu Ullah Ventura and Bren Ventura are serving up drinks with their mobile bar service. Whether it’s a birthday party, wedding, or corporate event, this duo has Houston covered with beer, wine, signature cocktails, and more.

Sabrina Tellez and Janell Gurule open up about their love story—from meeting through a dating app to now raising five kids together—and their upcoming April wedding in Florida.

Have you stopped by Memorial Park lately? We meet Shellye Arnold, the woman overseeing major changes to the urban green space including the new land bridge and prairie restoration. Arnold, a lesbian and native Houstonian, is literally shaping the city’s landscape as Memorial Park Conservancy’s president and CEO.

Presented by | MARCH 2023 39


Julie Mabry ’s Pearl Bar is one of the few remaining lesbian bars in the US.

There’s an LGBTQ gathering place on Washington Avenue that is unique to, and rare in, the United States. Pearl Bar Houston, located between the Heights and Montrose neighborhoods, is one of just a few remaining lesbianspecific bars in the country. Helmed by owner Julie Mabry, the queer haven gained national notoriety during the pandemic. Facing financial uncertainty, Pearl Bar was featured in the 2022 documentary The Lesbian Bar Project— a film whose objective was to celebrate, support, and preserve the remaining lesbian bars in the US.

Today, Mabry finds herself on solid ground, both personally and professionally, and stands strong in her fight to protect safe spaces that are representative of the entire LGBTQ community.

“I’m 10 years alcohol free,” Mabry, who has lived in Houston for more than 28 years, says. “I was a cocaine addict and an alcoholic, and I have quit both of those. I was 11 months sober when I opened Pearl.”

Adorned with Pride flags, framed photos of lesbians throughout history lining the walls, a fully stocked bar awaiting eager bar-goers, and a quaint outdoor patio perfect for weekly crawfish events, Pearl is Mabry’s passion project birthed from a sisterly bond. “I have a sister who’s also gay, so I had an early exposure to the gay lifestyle,” she explains. “I came out when I was about 16. We went through a lot of hardships when we were younger, especially my sister, and I think that had to do with her identity. This was in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so I watched her struggle with a lot of things.”

While living in San Antonio, Mabry and her sister found community in the local gay

bar scene. “We would go to a bar called The Bonham Exchange. It wasn’t a lesbian bar or anything specific, but it was a huge gay club. I always remembered how I felt, how safe it was, and being able to dress how we wanted,” she reminisces. “I had drawn a club [on a piece of paper during that time], because it was something I wanted,” she says. That visualization sketch worked, as Mabry explains with a laugh. “I don’t know what my problem was, but it was definitely my dream pretty much my whole life.”

A decade ago, Pearl Bar’s previous owner was facing eviction from the Washington Avenue space. Mabry was working at another nearby bar, and decided that rescuing the failing business was an opportunity to show some love to her community and realize her lifelong dream of bar ownership.

“The bar still had everything in there following its eviction, including that effeminate type of decor,” Mabry recalls. “At that time, the direction was to be specifically a lesbian bar, and luckily we were able to get it. It’s been a lot of work, but she’s still there.”

Officially opening its doors under Mabry’s ownership in October 2013, Pearl Bar wasted no time in reintroducing itself as the perfect queer bar for drinks, dancing, entertainment, community, and more. “Our drag king shows have really blown up, and it’s amazing to see. I typically bring in DJs that are mostly femalespecific, and a lot of DJs from other cities and states,” Mabry says of her nightlife promotions. “We’ve had so many awesome entertainers. Big Freedia came in for the premiere of the documentary, and we’ve even had Charlie XCX and Fletcher.”

With nearly two decades of experience in the entertainment industry, it’s no wonder Mabry is able to bring in such engaging and high-profile talent. “I’ve been a lesbian event promoter for about 15 or 16 years. I was one of

the original promoters at Blur, so I’ve been immersed in the lesbian promotion community for a really long time,” she explains.

The bar is more than just a business for Mabry, who uses her industry expertise to welcome a variety of acts into the unique venue. “What I like about Pearl is being able to bring in shows that would typically have to go to a bigger venue. [Many of these performers] consider Pearl to be their home. I definitely invest a lot in bringing wellknown DJs and entertainers from other states and cities, so that they also see how much great entertainment we have in our community. A lot of the shows we try to bring in are lesbian and trans performers, and that’s how it’s always kind of been. I think it’s sexy.”

During the pandemic, Pearl was faced with the challenge of staying financially stable as Houston bars shut down for months. “I had written this letter on Instagram to Ellen Degeneres and asked her if she’d be our ‘lesbian-bar sugar mama.’ I was just trying to be comical, but at the same time, I was frozen in fear with everything.”

Mabry’s attempt to gain support via social media caught the eye of documentary filmmakers Erica Rose and Elina Street, as well as actor and producer Lea Delaria, of Orange Is the New Black fame, among other credits. The team was interested in covering Mabry’s establishment after learning that it is one of fewer than 30 lesbian bars currently operating in the United States.

“The Lesbian Bar Project documentary came up within the first four months of the pandemic,” Mabry explains. “Most lesbian bars don’t have a huge amount of disposable income. They were going to use [Delaria’s film] as a fundraising tool.”

But as the documentary project progressed, Houston’s LGBTQ community

40 MARCH 2023 |
—Julie Mabry
42 MARCH 2023 | “From the inner loop to The Woodlands, Kingwood to the Energy Corridor, I’ve got you covered.” Jason Knebel Top Producer 713.232.9712 GREENWOOD KING PROPERTIES

rallied to donate over $40,000 in an effort to save Pearl. Mabry was no longer feeling the sting of financial uncertainty, so she saw Pearl’s involvement in the documentary more as a means of educating the public and supporting other lesbian bars. “The direction with The Lesbian Bar Project was to shed light on why lesbian bars have been declining over the past 20 years, and focus on the ones that are still here,” Mabry notes. “[After the project’s two national fundraising drives raised almost $200,000], I donated our part back both times. I thought it was cool what they were doing, mainly for the bars on the East Coast and in California that couldn’t open as soon as we could.

“I think what’s happened is our community has grown so much, and we have been more accepted than ever,” she says. “A lot of people think we still have a lot of things to fight for, but in general—especially in Houston—our community is very much supported. I think we have one of the most amazing cities, [where] lesbians, or even our larger queer community, don’t have to go to a specifically queer or lesbian bar anymore. Lesbians used to go to lesbian bars because they didn’t want to be judged. I think that a lot of us realize that it’s changed a lot. I still think there’s a necessity for lesbianspecific bars and queer bars, because lesbians do want to go out if they drink. They want to be able to hit on someone that isn’t some guy’s girlfriend. I do think lesbian bars are always going to be a necessity, but at the same time, it’s been pretty cool to watch everything evolve. I’m

49, and a lot of the younger generation—both lesbians and the larger queer community—go to straight clubs. I think it’s an awesome thing, but I do still think that there’s a necessity for our bars because that’s our safe haven.”

There’s no doubt that Mabry’s contributions to Houston’s lesbian and queer communities have had an immeasurable impact—even on out-of-towners she’s never met. “After The Lesbian Bar Project came out, we were contacted by people from all around the world, and a lot of younger people that didn’t even know that lesbian bars exist,” she says. “I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. For a lot of us, we definitely find ourselves in a very small community.”

Her sobriety is an achievement that has led her down a path of success as she looks forward

to Pearl’s future and the impact it can have on both regulars and newcomers who pass through its wooden doors with glass windows. “A lot of people go to my bar, and probably 15 or 20 have told me that they want to quit drinking or quit doing drugs. And they have! But they still come to Pearl, because that’s their safe place,” she says. “I think my message, and what I want everyone to see about Pearl, is our ability to persevere and still provide a safe environment for our community.”

The Lesbian Bar Project is available for free streaming on Roku. Follow Pearl Bar Houston at | MARCH 2023 43
—Julie Mabry
Mabry (center) in a scene from The Lesbian Bar Project documentary that featured Pearl Bar and several other lesbian bars. THE LESBIAN BAR PROJECT/INSTAGRAM


APRETUDE is a prescription medicine used for HIV-1 PrEP to reduce the risk of getting HIV-1 infection in adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 pounds (at least 35 kg).

Reasons to ask your doctor about APRETUDE

APRETUDE is the first and only long-acting, injectable PrEP for reducing the risk of getting HIV-1

It’s an injection given every other month, instead of a pill you take every day

Studied in HIV-1 negative cisgender men, transgender women, and cisgender women at risk of getting HIV-1

APRETUDE is given every other month by a healthcare provider after initiation injections have been given 1 month apart for 2 consecutive months. Stay under a provider’s care while receiving APRETUDE. You must receive it as scheduled. If you will miss a scheduled injection by more than 7 days, call your provider right away.


This is only a brief summary of important information about APRETUDE and does not replace talking to your healthcare provider about your medicine.



Important information for people who receive APRETUDE to help reduce their risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) infection, also called pre-exposure prophylaxis or “PrEP”:


Before receiving APRETUDE to reduce your risk of getting HIV-1:

• You must be HIV-1 negative to start APRETUDE. You must get tested to make sure that you do not already have HIV-1 infection.

• Do not receive APRETUDE for HIV-1 PrEP unless you are confirmed to be HIV-1 negative.

• Some HIV-1 tests can miss HIV-1 infection in a person who has recently become infected. If you have flu-like symptoms, you could have recently become infected with HIV-1. Tell your healthcare provider if you had a flu-like illness within the last month before starting APRETUDE or at any time while receiving APRETUDE. Symptoms of new HIV-1 infection include: tiredness; joint or muscle aches; sore throat; rash; enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or groin; fever; headache; vomiting or diarrhea; night sweats. Please see additional Important Facts About APRETUDE at right.

Eligible patients may pay as little as a $0 co-pay per injection on prescribed APRETUDE.

seeaccompanyingImportant aboutAPRETUDE,includinganImportantWarning. Savings Program Eligiblepatientsmaypayaslittle asa$0co-payperinjectionon prescribedAPRETUDE.
Learn more at



While you are receiving APRETUDE for HIV-1 PrEP:

• APRETUDE does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections. Practice safer sex by using a latex or polyurethane condom to reduce the risk of getting sexually transmitted infections.

• You must stay HIV-1 negative to keep receiving APRETUDE for HIV-1 PrEP.

° Know your HIV-1 status and the HIV-1 status of your partners.

° Ask your partners with HIV-1 if they are taking anti-HIV-1 medicines and have an undetectable viral load. An undetectable viral load is when the amount of virus in the blood is too low to be measured in a lab test. To maintain an undetectable viral load, your partners must keep taking HIV-1 medicine as prescribed. Your risk of getting HIV-1 is lower if your partners with HIV-1 are taking effective treatment.

° Get tested for HIV-1 with each APRETUDE injection or when your healthcare provider tells you. You should not miss any HIV-1 tests. If you become HIV-1 infected and continue receiving APRETUDE because you do not know you are HIV-1 infected, the HIV-1 infection may become harder to treat.

° Get tested for other sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. These infections make it easier for HIV-1 to infect you.

° If you think you were exposed to HIV-1, tell your healthcare provider right away. They may want to do more tests to be sure you are still HIV-1 negative.

° Get information and support to help reduce sexual risk behaviors.

° Do not miss any injections of APRETUDE. Missing injections increases your risk of getting HIV-1 infection.

° If you do become HIV-1 positive, you will need to take other medicines to treat HIV-1. APRETUDE is not approved for treatment of HIV-1.

If you have HIV-1 and receive only APRETUDE, over time your HIV-1 may become harder to treat.


APRETUDE is a prescription medicine used for HIV-1 PrEP to reduce the risk of getting HIV-1 infection in adults and adolescents who weigh at least 77 pounds (at least 35 kg). HIV-1 is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

It is not known if APRETUDE is safe and effective in children younger than 12 years of age or weighing less than 77 pounds (less than 35 kg).


• already have HIV-1 infection. If you are HIV-1 positive, you will need to take other medicines to treat HIV-1. APRETUDE is not approved for treatment of HIV-1.

• do not know your HIV-1 infection status. You may already be HIV-1 positive. You need to take other medicines to treat HIV-1. APRETUDE can only help reduce your risk of getting HIV-1 infection before you are infected.

• are allergic to cabotegravir.

• are taking any of the following medicines: carbamazepine; oxcarbazepine; phenobarbital; phenytoin; rifampin; rifapentine.


Tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including if you:

• have ever had a skin rash or an allergic reaction to medicines that contain cabotegravir.

• have or have had liver problems.

• have ever had mental health problems.

• are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if APRETUDE will harm your unborn baby. APRETUDE can remain in your body for up to 12 months or longer after the last injection. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant while receiving APRETUDE.


• are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if APRETUDE can pass to your baby in your breast milk. Talk with your healthcare provider about the best way to feed your baby while receiving APRETUDE.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Some medicines may interact with APRETUDE. Keep a list of your medicines and show it to your healthcare provider and pharmacist when you get a new medicine. You can ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for a list of medicines that interact with APRETUDE. Do not start a new medicine without telling your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can tell you if it is safe to receive APRETUDE with other medicines.


APRETUDE may cause serious side effects, including:

• Allergic reactions. Call your healthcare provider right away if you develop a rash with APRETUDE. Stop receiving APRETUDE and get medical help right away if you develop a rash with any of the following signs or symptoms: fever; generally ill feeling; tiredness; muscle or joint aches; trouble breathing; blisters or sores in mouth; blisters; redness or swelling of the eyes; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue.

• Liver problems. Liver problems have happened in people with or without a history of liver problems or other risk factors. Your healthcare provider may do blood tests to check your liver function.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of the following signs or symptoms of liver problems: your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice); dark or "tea-colored" urine; lightcolored stools (bowel movements); nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; pain, aching, or tenderness on the right side of your stomach area; itching.

• Depression or mood changes. Call your healthcare provider or get medical help right away if you have any of the following symptoms: feeling sad or hopeless; feeling anxious or restless; have thoughts of hurting yourself (suicide) or have tried to hurt yourself.

The most common side effects of APRETUDE include: pain, tenderness, hardened mass or lump, swelling, bruising, redness, itching, warmth, loss of sensation at the injection site, abscess, and discoloration; diarrhea; headache; fever; tiredness; sleep problems; nausea; dizziness; passing gas; stomach pain; vomiting; muscle pain; rash; loss of appetite; drowsiness; back pain; upper respiratory infection. These are not all the possible side effects of APRETUDE.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


• Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

• Go to or call 1-877-844-8872 where you can also get FDA-approved labeling.

December 2021 APR:1PIL

Trademark is owned by or licensed to the ViiV Healthcare group of companies. ©2022 ViiV Healthcare or licensor.

CBTADVT220018 September 2022

Produced in USA.


Lesbian lawmaker Jolanda Jones overcame trauma to make a difference for Texans.

Jolanda Jones’ motto is “Just keep moving.” That mantra has served Jones well throughout the peaks and valleys of her life. The former school board and Houston City Council member is now the first openly LGBTQ Black representative in the Texas Legislature, and her experience with poverty and trauma helped her become the tough-as-nails civil servant that Houstonians have come to know.

Growing up in Houston, Jones’ father committed suicide right in front of her, and that was followed by the suicide of another family member. She has been confronted with multiple evictions, houses burning down, bullying, rape and domestic violence, gun violence, lack of food, utilities disruptions, her relatives’ murders, her newborn niece’s SIDS death, and even personal death threats.

She mentions that her secret to moving forward in life is to change her outlook on the situation.

“I’ve learned to turn my kryptonite into my superpower. I used to feel really sorry for myself. I used to be very angry, and I would ask why God would let all these really bad things happen to me,” she says. “But I shifted the paradigm. I started to realize that God was making me go through tough times so that I would be really tough.”

Jones relied on the values her family instilled in her as a way to keep moving.

“My mother protested the disenfranchisement of Black people,” she recalls. “I was around activists like University of Houston’s first Black homecoming queen, Lynn Eusan; the Black playwright Thomas Meloncon; and Deloitte Parker and Ester King. These are my mom’s contemporaries, so I’m a Movement kid.”

Fighting for “the least, the last, and the lost” became central to Jones’ identity.

“My mother always said that if 100 people are in a room and 99 of them are doing bad, you better have the courage to be the one doing right,” she says.

Jones attended the University of Houston for both her bachelor’s degree and her law degree. After passing the bar, she founded her law

office and distinguished herself as a defender of the disenfranchised.

Her courtroom expertise helped shut down the Houston Police Department crime lab after it faked lab results, convicted innocents, and allowed the guilty to go free. She defeated a powerful politician by reuniting an African mom with her child that the politician had stolen. Her legal acumen has prevailed in multiple murder and felony cases.

Jones’ passion for leadership—which she defines as the courage to stand up even when it’s not popular, and to deflect the shots that inevitably come at you when you are speaking truth to power—led her to become a civil servant. Prior to her successful bid for the AtLarge Position 5 City Council seat, she served as a Houston Independent School District board member.

While serving on City Council, Jones again took up the fight for marginalized communities, and she remembers tackling thorny issues that her counterparts shied away from. She was the first non-transgender person to participate in a Transgender Day of Remembrance event. She was the first elected official in the United States to employ an openly transgender staffer. And she was a fierce ally for the LGBTQ community (long before she realized she was a member of it) who publicly advocated for marriage equality.

“I didn’t figure out I am lesbian until later in life, [even though] I had an uncle who was gay. I also have a cousin who is lesbian,” she says. “I knew gay people were regular people because I had them in my family, so that’s why I fought for gay people before I knew I was gay.”

In fact, Jones was the first “LGBTQ ally” candidate to receive a 100-percent rating from the LGBTQ+ Political Caucus.

“I thought I was the best damn ally there was,” she jokes about her attitude before she eventually came out as lesbian.

She has also seen the pain that LGBTQ stigma causes.

“I have two friends whose children committed suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying. Asher Brown hanged himself because people thought he was gay. To this day, I’m friends

with Asher’s parents. In fact, I introduced them to Representative Garnet Coleman, who introduced the Asher’s Law bill to show that Asher’s death has not been in vain. Another friend of mine, who I played basketball with in high school, killed himself because both of his moms were gay.”

After her service on City Council, Jones again embraced her “just keep moving” mantra and returned to her legal career. But her colleagues soon convinced her that she should run for elected office again—this time in the Texas Legislature.

She won a special election in May 2022 to represent State District 147, which includes parts of downtown Houston, the Washington Corridor, the Museum District, EaDo, and South Houston. And she is still using her skills as a lawmaker to fight for the disenfranchised—even within the LGBTQ community.

“I’ve never been afraid to talk about difficult issues. There are a lot of issues related to whether Black gay people are included in the larger discussion about gayness. Even now, there are issues related to whether we are treated the same way,” she says. “The Victory Fund supports white LGBTQ people more than they support Black LGBTQ people. People don’t want to talk about it, but I’m talking about it because it’s a big issue.”

It appears as though Jones’ evangelism for more equitable and just Black representation is paying off. “I’m very proud to find out that, because of those issues, the Texas Legislative Black Caucus created a work group specifically related to Black gay issues, and they named me the chair,” she notes.

While she continues making waves in the legal and legislative arenas, she is always mindful of one of her biggest accomplishments in life: raising her son, 31-year-old Jiovanni, who also happens to be a lawyer.

Follow Jolanda Jones on Instagram @jolandajones.

46 MARCH 2023 |
—Jolanda Jones

The Diana Foundation is America’s oldest continuously running LGBTQ+ organization!

The Diana Foundation’s mission is dedicated to the tradition of producing the annual “Diana Awards Show” and providing meaningful membership engagement through social and philanthropic activities.

April 1, 2023 The Ballroom at Bayou Place

Doors Open At 6:00 pm Show Starts At 8:00 pm

VIP Meet & Greet Formal Seated Dinner

Open Bar Live & Silent Auction

Comedy Roast Awards Show


Dina Jacobs Tasha Kohl Tommie Ross


Afterhours Studio 54 Disco Black Tie or Festive 70s Attire

Tickets on sale now at

Proceeds from the event support The Diana Foundation 2022-2023 Beneficiaries: Law Harrington Senior Living Center, Avenue 360, and Open Gate Ministries. Special guest Performance by BIANCA


Henry Poured offers stress-free bartending services for every occasion.

What’s better than one “hostess with the mostest”? Two!

Mishu Ullah Ventura and Bren Ventura are the festive and fearless married couple behind Henry Poured, a Houston-based mobile bar service that brings fun and convenience to birthday parties, weddings, corporate events, and more.

“Henry Poured is a premium mobile bar and bartending service available for hire in Houston and the surrounding area,” Mishu explains. “Our retrofitted horse trailer and mobile bars are fully equipped with all the bartending needs.”

As a full-beverage caterer and dry-hire bar—playfully named after Henry Ford, the creator of the Model T—Henry Poured offers a variety of services, from having professional bar staff pouring beer and wine service to the creation of signature cocktails curated especially for each event, such as their famous jalapeño basil mezcal margarita that was featured on KPRC’s live Cinco de Mayo TV broadcast. With a solid foundation and a love for hosting parties, it’s a no-brainer that Mishu and Bren’s business idea translated into success. “I love drinking and hosting. I was always the type of person to host gatherings and make cocktails for friends and family,” Mishu says. A trip to Austin inspired her to seize an opportunity. “I was in Austin in 2015 for SXSW and saw Barefoot Wine had a truck that they were serving wine out of. I thought, ‘Why don’t we have something like that in Houston?’ I was able to combine my love for cocktails and hosting. Henry Poured stemmed out of a desire to create a memorable experience for the people we serve.”

The pandemic slowdown was actually a blessing for the couple, in that it gave them the time to truly refine their business model. “We launched in April of 2020, right after COVID hit. The following year, 2021, was our first full year of service. We had a successful 2022 season but we’re so excited to see 2023 unfold.”

Bren, a full-time maternal fetal-medicine sonographer, emphasizes that their mobile

cocktail bar is a full-service operation. “We work with customers from beginning to end with professionalism, fun, and personality. Every event is unique, and treated as such. We offer a consultation call (or a few) to make sure we get everything taken care of for our clients. We customize their menu, craft their cocktails, recommend local vendors for decorations and accessories, and offer a detailed shopping guide for the purchase of the alcohol.”

The trailer, which comes complete with running water, air conditioning, and heat, allows the couple to keep their operation running while on the move, no matter the season or time of year. It’s a service you’d receive at a brick-and-mortar, but we come to you.”

Mishu and Bren began dating in 2014. After pushing the wedding date back due to the pandemic, they ended up eloping before finally having a destination wedding in Mexico in December of 2020.

Mishu, who graduated with her MBA from Texas A&M and now works full-time in the energy industry, says working alongside her partner is a learning experience. “We definitely had a rocky start, but we eventually set business boundaries. I had to communicate what my expectations were for her as a business partner. You don’t want to rock the boat on a personal level, but if you don’t see eye-to-eye

on business matters, it can be difficult.”

The duo sets aside specific times to talk business, which has paid off. “Now that we’ve set boundaries, we have a better direction on how we can work together.” Mishu adds.

The pair works up to 60 hours a week at their full-time jobs—in addition to their Henry Poured responsibilities, being proud mothers to their adopted pitbulls, and finding quality time for each other. “In the evenings we answer emails, prepare shopping guides for the clients, and work on custom signs that clients can order for their events,” Bren says. “On weekends, if we don’t have events, we are organizing our bar items or strategizing for growth.”

Their mutual love of hosting parties, and their ability to work successfully in tandem, make for a fun and profitable way to spend time together. “What we want to do is take the stress away from hosting,” Mishu says. “[Your guests] may not remember all the details, but they’ll remember how they felt. It’s not just about the cocktails, but the experience. We provide a service that you can’t get elsewhere and a memorable moment that will be remembered for a lifetime.”

For more info, visit

50 MARCH 2023 |
Mishu Ullah Ventura serving specialty cocktails from the Henry Poured mobile bar trailer.
—Mishu Ullah Ventura
Mishu Ullah Ventura (r) and Bren Ventura


52 MARCH 2023 |
Alexis Melvin expands Transgender Foundation of America’s reach.

The Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) is a Houston-based nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of transgender people. People from all over the world have received support from the group, including crisis grants, scholarships, and nonprofit incubation funding. Alexis Melvin, 74, has been president of the group since 2017.

“Our goal is to improve the lives of transgender people. That’s it. If someone else, or some other organization, is doing that, we will help them,” says Melvin.

The concept seems so simple, but the services that the organization provides or supports can be complex, especially for an organization that is run entirely by volunteers.

“One example is our trangender disaster-relief grant,” she adds. “During a disaster like Harvey, transgender people on average received services much later than their non-transgender counterparts. This is due to issues around name changes or various other things. It can sometimes delay things by one or two months. That is a real problem if the assistance you need is to get food on the table.”

TFA can trace its roots all the way back to 1965, but according to Melvin it has been in its current form since 1971. She became involved when the organization merged with the Houston Transgender Unity Committee. At the time, both organizations were serving the community in complementary ways, so merging operations and the board of directors made sense to reduce both groups’ overhead costs. The move also helped the Foundation streamline planning for its annual Unity Banquet—the event that the group is most widely known for.

The banquet, among many other services, had to be suspended during the pandemic, due in large part to the number

of requests that the organization was getting for assistance. “During COVID, we [received] thousands of requests for assistance, compared to a typical year when a disaster like Harvey hits and we might get between six and thirty requests every couple of weeks,” says Melvin.

“We had a lot going on just as COVID hit. We are 100 percent volunteers, and there is a key set of volunteers who serve as the board of directors. They do a lot of the work overseeing the grants and how they are distributed. There were so many requests coming in that it started to make many of them sick. We had to sit down and look at what we could continue to do and what we had to cut. Those were hard choices, and we are just now gearing back up from [that crisis].”

will soon premiere that will help educate and inform the world about the impact that transgender people have had throughout history. The project will showcase the Transgender Archives, which are kept by the group and considered to be a significant source of community information.

“The show will be called TransHistory Roadshow. It will be styled after the Antiques Roadshow. We will pull items out of our archives and showcase them. This is being done, in part, to counter some politicians’ false ideas that transgender people are somehow a new phenomenon. Episode 2 will showcase newspapers from the [previous four centuries] with actual news stories about transgender people. We aren’t new,” Melvin emphasizes.

As the threat of COVID recedes, the TFA will resume offering scholarships, grants, and other supportive programming that helps improve the lives of transgender people. An inspiring aspect of the grants is the TFA board’s commitment to making access to these services as simple as possible. Some types of grants only need three of the seven board members to approve them. There are no long application forms that often create barriers to getting assistance.

One of the things that was cut was their successful podcast, The Transadvocate, which was established in 2002. The podcast became one of the foremost resources for information relating to the transgender community in the country, and it even gained a following in some parts of Canada, according to Melvin. They are hoping to revive the podcast this month.

Melvin can be heard hosting the podcast regularly, and she is hoping a new project

“I have had a lot of people ask me whether there is enough vetting to make sure that we aren’t being taken advantage of,” Melvin admits. “I can tell you from experience that most of the time, you can tell in about the first minute if someone is actually in need or if they are trying to scam us. It’s almost funny, actually. Most of the time, the people that get the grants come back to us and tell us how they used it and how it helped them. So far, it has not been a problem.”

A new and improved TFA website is also in the works as the group continues to expand their outreach to better serve the transgender community.

More information on Transgender Foundation of America services, podcasts, and archives can be found on their Facebook page or at | MARCH 2023 53
—Alexis Melvin


Sabrina Tellez and Janell Gurule ’s blended family reflects the nation’s growing diversity.

In 2019, when single mothers Sabrina Tellez, 41, and Janell Gurule, 46, first met for brunch and a mimosa at a restaurant in the Heights, neither of the executive-level professionals had a vision of the future that included getting married. Although they had quickly selected the “No Preferred Gender” option on the internet dating app that connected them, neither woman identified as a lesbian, or even bisexual.

Like many single American women today, both Tellez and Gurule were raising children and identifying as mothers, first and foremost.

“It was apparent from my first brunch with Janell that we fit together like puzzle pieces,” Tellez recalls, brimming with joy.

“One mimosa turned into a carafe of mimosas and, four years later, we are still inseparable.“

While the couple has much in common, their backgrounds are very different. Tellez has a strong Latinx lineage, and communication is her superpower. Gurule comes from an Asian-American family and is a genius with numbers.

“I am from a conservative, Asian background, so it took me time to learn that some people’s’ sexuality is fluid, rather than static or fixed,” Gurule notes. “I knew that I never truly felt intimate with men, and when I met Sabrina, I thought to myself, ‘Ahha! This is why!’” she says with a laugh.

Modern Family

Together, the two women have five kids. Gurule’s oldest son, Bryce, is a brilliant 17-yearold red-head, and his charming sister, Briella, is 12 years old.

Tellez is raising three 16-year-old boys

who are triplets. “Tristan is a funny ‘old soul’ and identifies as heterosexual,” she explains. “Travis is the ‘baby,’ and still figuring out who he is. He identifies as bisexual. Ash is a courageous trans male who makes me proud every day.”

A Final Trip to Florida

In April, Gurule and Tellez will stand together on a beautiful beach in Florida and exchange their vows surrounded by friends and family. It is a dream realized for both of them, and a source of joy for their kids.

The couple chose Florida due to family ties, and convenience coupled with the state’s many breathtaking options for beachfront ceremonies.


It is a decision they have come to regret.

“I have handled most of the arrangements for our wedding—the cake, the flowers, and more. About 80 percent of the original vendors we contacted for services backed out when they discovered we are a same-sex couple. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” Gurule says.

“We will celebrate our love [on a lovely beach], and then we will never step foot in Florida again,” she added bluntly. “It’s time to stand up against this. We must. If we don’t, who will?”

“It was so upsetting to me that I had to step away from it all,” Tellez says with pain in her voice. “Fortunately, Janell was willing

to take over the planning, because it really disturbed me.”

But in spite of their wedding preparation nightmares, Gurule and Tellez’s family could not be happier. And being able to raise such a diverse mix of beautiful children is clearly a gift that neither of them saw coming.

Diversity by the Numbers

According to a Gallup Poll published last month, young Americans are rapidly embracing such diversity. The percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or “other than heterosexual” has risen to a high of 7.1 percent—double the percentage from 2012, when Gallup launched the poll.

Since then, Gallup reports that the percentage of older adults who identify as LGBTQ has ticked upward only slightly. There has been a notable uptick among millennials, from 5.8 percent in 2012 to 7.8 percent in 2017, and 10.5 percent today.

However, the percentage of Gen Z who identify as LGBTQ has almost doubled since 2017—roughly 21 percent today.

About 57 percent of those who identified in the poll as LGBTQ claim to be bisexual, which is 4 percent of all US adults. Meanwhile, among LGBTQ Americans, 21 percent say they are gay, 14 percent are lesbian, 10 percent are transgender, and 4 percent responded “other.”

These poll results should come as no surprise to Tellez and Gurule. “When you look at me, Janell, and our blended family, you see the entire rainbow,” Tellez concludes with pride. “The best part is that we have five of the coolest kids!”

56 MARCH 2023 |
—Sabrina Tellez
Sabrina Tellez (l) and Janell Gurule


Shellye Arnold oversees progress on the 10-year master plan.

courtesy of Memorial Park Conservancy

In February, the Memorial Park Conservancy formally debuted the most recent additions to Houston’s largest urban greenspace. Memorial Park—a favorite of runners, walkers, and wildlife—now boasts the Kinder Land Bridge & Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Prairie, which together form a key element of the Conservancy’s 10-year master plan.

“Projects like these take a village to make them happen,” according to Shellye Arnold, Memorial Park Conservancy’s president and CEO. “Our project partners, our donors, our very talented staff—all of us have come together to bring these improvements [that have been] heralded as one of the most architecturally innovative projects in the world by the New York Times and Architectural Digest. These projects will elevate the park—and Houston—in a positive way, on a national and global level. It will change the way people think about Houston.”

The land bridge and prairie restoration will also improve the way that the park works, especially when it comes to flood mitigation. The nearly 45 acres of restored native coastal prairie within Memorial Park will ensure greater resilience during flooding events, expand the park’s stormwater management capacity, and improve animal and insect habitats. (Native coastal prairie is the rarest

ecosystem in Texas, and less than 1 percent of it remains intact.)

Memorial Park is probably known by most residents for its multi-mile Seymour Lieberman Exercise Trail—the single most-used free public health amenity in the city, and the most popular jogging trail in the nation. The trail sees an average of 10,000 runners (and walkers) daily. In the past, famous Houstonians like First Lady Barbara Bush could be spotted there getting her exercise.

Established in 1924 by the City of Houston, the park has been a favorite spot for golfers, sports teams, marathon trainers, and the like. “People from over 170 zip codes and from all walks of life visit Memorial Park on a regular basis. It is Houston’s park, and we make sure that we steward a space that is welcoming to all users who want to enjoy it. This expansion will provide even more opportunities to make that happen,” says Arnold.

The land bridge and prairie restoration are only the most recent projects to be unveiled. Improvements have been in the works since 2015, when a master plan designed by the landscape-architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz was unanimously approved by the Houston City Council. That plan is now being developed by the Conservancy in partnership with the Houston Parks and Recreation Dept., Uptown Development Authority, and with

input from over 3,000 Houstonians, 75 scientists, and other experts. A generous multimillion dollar contribution from the Kinder Foundation greatly increased the pace of development, enabling early completion of the Eastern Glades and the first phase of the Sports Complex.

The land bridge accomplishes a major goal of the master plan by reuniting the two halves of Memorial Park that were formerly bifurcated by the six-lane Memorial Drive. This caused safety issues for park users and created a barrier for wildlife trying to access their natural habitat. Now, both of those issues are solved in a way that also adds some impressive views from the land bridge while cars zip through the tunnels underneath it.

Arnold, a lesbian native Houstonian, is celebrating ten years with the Conservancy just as these exciting projects are being unveiled. “I joined to help lead this transformation of Memorial Park. After the 2011 drought devastated so much of Houston and the park, it became clear that a recommitment to making Memorial Park reach its full potential was necessary,” she says.

She credits her partner of 34 years, Tina Sabuco, with helping to keep her focused during this huge undertaking that has consumed so much of Arnold’s attention. “Tina has been a tremendous supporter of my work at Memorial Park,” Arnold notes.

The Conservancy Board has also demonstrated their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by formally adopting those priorities as part of their strategic plan. Arnold is proud of the hard work it took to put a board and staff together that represents this city’s many voices. It’s an important factor, given the park’s size and prominence, and a key part of its continuing success.

For more info on volunteering and donations, visit

58 MARCH 2023 |
The new stepping stones leading up to the Kinder Land Bridge over Memorial Drive.
Memorial Park’s Kinder Land Bridge and Cyvia and Melvyn
Wolff Prairie Pavilion INC
Shellye Arnold (center), Memorial Park Conservancy’s president and CEO

Houston Ballet’s Summer and Smoke

Tennessee Williams’ work is re-envisioned for its 75th anniversary.

Of all the unforgettable female characters that the great gay playwright Tennessee Williams created, he loved one above all: Miss Alma Winemiller, the heroine of his 1948 drama Summer and Smoke. Like her creator, Miss Alma—the repressed spinster daughter of a conservative minister—finds herself torn between sex and spirituality.

In the 75 years since the play’s debut on Broadway, a number of superb actresses have also felt the irresistible allure of Miss Alma, including Geraldine Page, Betsy Palmer, Blythe Danner, Rosamund Pike, Amanda Plummer, and Marin Ireland.

More recently, Miss Alma has been flirting with the highly regarded British choreographer of narrative ballets, Cathy Marston. From March 9 through 19, Houston Ballet will unveil the world premiere of an hour-long dance version of Summer and Smoke choreographed by Marston, set to a newly commissioned score by American composer Michael Daugherty. This co-production by Houston Ballet and New York’s American Ballet Theatre features 30 dancers portraying 87 characters, with designs by Patrick Kinmonth.

“There’s a woman who lives in her soul, and a man who lives in his body. She focuses upon religion, and he embraces science,”

Marston observes of the tensions dividing the play’s two leading characters, Miss Alma and Doctor John Buchanan, who are obviously attracted to each other. “I love that the premise is very structured. The detail of the characters is

wonderful and rich. The secondary characters are also rich.”

A Texas Legacy

It is fitting that a ballet company in Texas should bring a dance version of Summer and Smoke to the stage. Williams’ play had its premiere at Margo Jones’ Theatre ’48, a famed Dallas theater-in-the-round, in 1948. Jones, who was dubbed “The Texas Tornado,” had co-directed the landmark first production of Williams’ The Glass Menagerie on Broadway in 1945, and was a visionary of the American resident theater movement.

Later that year, on October 6, 1948, Jones took her Dallas production of Summer and Smoke to Broadway, where it fared less well critically and closed after 102 performances. In 1952, the work was revived spectacularly at the Circle in the Square Theatre in a seminal offBroadway production that catapulted two great stars to prominence: the actress Geraldine Page, who gave an incandescent performance as Miss Alma, and the legendary gay director

José Quintero. That staging also cemented the importance of off-Broadway productions as a major force in the American theater.

In 1961, Page reprised her role as Miss Alma in the film version of Summer and Smoke, appearing opposite Laurence Harvey as Doctor John and garnering an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

Williams’ Defining Struggle

The story of Miss Alma and Doctor John would consume Williams for decades. While in Rome, he revised Summer and Smoke in advance of the London premiere of the play, but the drama was already deep in rehearsal by the time he arrived, so that rewrite was shelved. In 1964, he published his radical revision of the work entitled The Eccentricities of a Nightingale. “Aside from the characters having the same names and the locale remaining the same, I think The Eccentricities of a Nightingale is a substantially different play from Summer and Smoke, and I prefer it,” he wrote at the time. “It’s less

60 MARCH 2023 |
“Life is such a mysteriously complicated thing that no one should presume to judge and condemn the behavior of anyone else.”
—Alma Winemiller, in Summer and Smoke
Houston Ballet principal dancers Jessica Collado and Chase O’Connell star as Miss Alma and Dr. John in the world premiere of Houston Ballet’s S ummer and Smoke. ➝
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conventional and melodramatic.” When Eccentricities debuted on Broadway in 1976, Clive Barnes, theater critic for the New York Times, observed, “The new work effectively knocks Summer and Smoke off the map, except as a literary curiosity.”

Perhaps one of the reasons for Williams’ decades-long fascination with Miss Alma was the deep personal resonance between the playwright and his character—most notably their painful struggles to accept and embrace their sexualities in repressive societies.

“Miss Alma grew up in the shadow of the rectory, and so did I,” Williams once observed. “She is my favorite because I came out so late and so did Alma, and she had the greatest struggle.” As theater critic John Lahr notes in his 2008 biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, “Williams’ own transition from timid virgin to florid gay man was his defining struggle.”

Marston’s Inspirations

Cathy Marston finds fresh inspiration for her narrative ballet projects in history and literature. She is compelled by strong female characters, and has created works dramatizing the lives of Queen Victoria, Jane Eyre, and Mrs. Robinson (immortalized by Anne Bancroft in the 1967 film The Graduate). Over the last five years, she has dived deep into 20th-century American novels. In 2018, she created Snowblind for the San Francisco Ballet, inspired by Edith Wharton’s 1911 novel Ethan Frome. For the Joffrey Ballet, she created Of Mice and Men in 2022, after John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel. She plans to continue staging new narrative works when she takes the reins as ballet director and chief choreographer of Ballett Zürich, Switzerland’s largest ballet company, later this year.

Born in the United Kingdom in 1975, Marston received her dance training in Cambridge and at the Royal Ballet School in London. From 1994 until 1999, she danced with Ballett Zürich, the Ballett des Luzerner Theaters, and the Konzert Theater Bern. She was an associate artist of the Royal Opera House in London from 2002 to 2006. From 2007 to 2013, she served as director of Bern Ballett.

An Angel Emerges

Before starting to choreograph a new narrative work, Marston does extensive research and engages in a close reading of the text.

When reviewing Williams’ detailed stage directions for the scenic design of the play, she was struck by the dramatist’s description of a stone angel. “For me, this was a great prompt to make a stone body into a

dancer,” she notes. “I was a little bit inspired by Wim Wenders’ film Wings of Desire, where angels hover over the streets of Berlin.”

Marston’s angel is a key character in her ballet, shadowing and interacting with Miss Alma and Doctor John at key moments.

“In my version of the ballet, we see the play that Tennessee wrote through [the eyes of] the angel,” she observes. “It was an exciting extra layer to investigate with the dancers in the studio.”

She arrives for the Houston rehearsals meticulously prepared, but also open to a level of collaboration with the dancers in establishing the movement vocabulary for the work that is uncommon in the world of ballet.

“I go into the studio with a list of words for each character, which could be verbs or words from the actual text,” she notes. “I spend the first week developing a vocabulary for each character. That might mean a way of walking, some leitmotifs, a way of holding their arms, or movement phrases.

“Each dancer who’s playing the character has materials that they can draw from in larger rehearsals. When I come to choreograph larger scenes, I work with the dancers. They can make suggestions for the role based on the vocabulary that we’ve already developed. It’s a very collaborative process.”

Marston has cast Houston Ballet’s luminous dramatic ballerina Jessica Collado as Miss Alma. Principal dancer Chase O’Connell, the tall, handsome newcomer who recently arrived from Salt Lake City, plays Doctor John. Soloist Mackenzie Richter creates the role of the angel.

Marston also chooses her collaborators carefully. The dramaturg for Summer and Smoke is Edward Kemp, a British theatrical director who served for 13 years as the head of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, England’s renowned actor-training program. Marston has worked with him on over 20 productions.

“We discuss what the [best] way into the story [might be]. For Summer and Smoke, it’s the angel,” she says. “Then we write the script—a scenario that structures the story in a way that can tell the story. I take that document to the composer and the designer, and work with them on the design.

“Ed Kemp will be in the studio when we are putting the piece together for the first run. It’s wonderful to have an extra pair of eyes looking at the details, the logic of things, the continuity. It’s wonderful to have someone who knows what you’re aiming for looking at the work objectively.”

Summer and Smoke marks her first collaboration with American composer Michael Daugherty, who was commissioned to create a new score for the production.

“He’s been someone I’ve had my ear on for a while. He’s got lots of beautiful music written,” Marston comments. “He definitely has a leaning towards Americana. He’s done something on Elvis.

“He loves film, and he loves literature. He enjoys working on leitmotifs. So each character has an instrument, sound, or melodic theme that identifies them. What I love about him is that his attitude towards melody is different from contemporary composers. Many contemporary composers shy away from strong melodies. As a dancer, melodies can carry you in a different way.”

A New Vision of Miss Alma

While many critics have interpreted Miss Alma as a tragic victim who is ultimately rebuffed in her search for love, Marston sees her as a survivor.

“Alma had anticipated this being the end of the world, and nothing could go on beyond that. Yet, the world keeps on turning,” Marston emphasizes. “She’s managed to express herself. She’s said to John, ‘I’ll give you my body and soul.’ Even though he doesn’t take it, she’s managed to free her soul.”

What: Houston Ballet presents Summer and Smoke

Where: Wortham Theater Center

When: March 9–19; March 17 is the LGBTQ Out at the Ballet performance with a private pre-show reception.

Info: Discounted orchestra-level tickets are available by entering code OUTBALLET when reserving for this performance at

62 MARCH 2023 |
The acclaimed British choreographer Cathy Marston created the new one-act dance version of Summer and Smoke.
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Woman on the Verge

Varla Jean Merman brings her new comedy Ready to Blow to MATCH.

Varla Jean Merman, the carrot-topped chanteuse with a penchant for terminal ditziness, is a woman on the verge of a mental breakdown in Ready to Blow This international drag superstar, portrayed by actor Jeffery Roberson, brings the thrills, spills, and a few nerve-calming pills to Houston on March 11. His all-new show is filled with hilarious songs, dazzling costumes, and more excitement than a panic attack—a slight case of art imitating life, Roberson admits.

“I had a lot of anxiety attacks after COVID. I started realizing that a lot of people were experiencing anxiety, too. I decided that I would do a show about my anxiety attacks [to let people know] that everyone experiences anxiety—just on different scales,” he says. “It did take a while to make it funny at first, because anxiety is not innately funny. COVID made our baseline anxiety go up, and then monkeypox, and then everything else [happening in the world] further increased our baseline of anxiety. Eventually, minor things just push [people] over the top. But I’ve wrapped that all together and found a way to make it funny.”

Comedy is just one of the ways that Roberson has dealt with his anxiety. Another form of therapy came in the form of his service dog, Jasper, who will be making his Houston stage debut.

“Jasper is a psychiatric support animal. I do a big scene in the show about emotional support animals and psychiatric dogs, and he’s so amazing. He’s also in the show because he’s a big part of how I personally calm myself down and work through my anxiety.”

For Roberson, performing comedy is something that he has always been drawn to. “When I was young, I was obsessed with The Carol Burnett Show, but I didn’t want to play the Harvey Korman parts—I wanted to play Carol Burnett’s parts! Also during that time,

there were a lot of variety shows like Barbara Mandrell & The Mandrell Sisters, and they would do vaudeville humor,” he adds. “Growing up watching that made me want to make people laugh, and the drag developed because I wanted to play the female roles. I thought they were funnier.”

By the time he started college at LSU, a friend introduced him to John Waters’ underground films, which captured Roberson’s attention and inspired him to develop his own brand of zany videos.

“My friend videoed everything. He’d always carry his camera around, so we started shooting videos. I would kind of be in drag, but I didn’t have any money at the time, so it was really bad,” he admits. “We would do these videos of me running around New Orleans with a plastic rat following me, and I’d be screaming, and it would go on for about 20 minutes. My friend gave my videos to the bars, and they started playing them while they were playing dance music. I noticed people would just stop and stare at the videos the whole time.”

It must have been fate—or good timing—because when Roberson relocated to New York City for an advertising job, he noticed that his drag alter ego had a gay following there, too.

“I went to Wonder Bar in the East Village, and they were playing my videos from New Orleans. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s me!’ The bartender there couldn’t believe it was me. He said, ‘Well, you should come and do a big benefit at The Pyramid Club. They’re having a march on Washington,’” he recalls.

That benefit performance, which raised money for the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, is what launched Roberson’s new drag career. “So many people saw me [perform at the benefit] that I got booked almost every night in New York—and out of the city—for years. [And all of that was in addition to] holding down my day job.”

As Varla Jean began rising in popularity and demanding more of Roberson’s time, he

decided to quit his day job. Embodying Varla Jean full-time allowed him to fully embrace what he loved to do: perform and make people laugh.

Hollywood and Broadway noticed, too. Roberson started receiving contracts for film, television, musicals, and more. Among his many notable appearances, he starred in Lucky Guy opposite Leslie Jordan at the Little Schubert theater, guest-starred in Ugly Betty, played the Mary Sunshine character in the Broadway revival of Chicago, and portrayed the recurring role of Rosemary Chicken, a lady of the evening, on All My Children

Roberson shared the Outfest Film Festival’s “Best Actor” award (and the Aspen HBO Film Festival’s “Best Actress” award) with his costars Jack Plotnick and Clinton Leupp for his featured performance in the cult-classic film Girls Will Be Girls (Sundance, 2003).

As for the future, Roberson says he’s enjoying life and notes that Varla Jean still has some kick left in her, even if she isn’t the most notorious drag performer.

“I am married, and I have the most wonderful family and dogs. I’m so happy now, just traveling all the time. I just love performing and touring, and that’s all I’m going to keep doing,” he predicts.

“I had giant aspirations when I was younger to be the world’s most famous drag queen. As you know, someone else beat me to it! So instead, I tour and write shows every year. I used to do a lot more theater, but of course COVID changed that. I want to go back to doing more theater. I’m currently planning a show with my friend Peaches Christ from San Francisco.”

What: Varla Jean Merman’s Ready to Blow

When: March 11, 8:00 p.m.

Where: Midtown Arts & Theatre Center Houston (MATCH)


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Spotlight on Empowerment

Alley Theatre’s Cowboy Bob immortalizes strong Texas women.

A one-act musical entitled Cowboy Bob doesn’t sound like something that would celebrate powerful women, but it does. Co-created by Molly Beach Murphy, Jeanna Phillips, and Annie Tippe, the musical blends the aesthetics of Riot Grrrl and the Texas twostep to tell the true story of small-town Texas bank robber Peggy Jo Tallas.

Tallas was a soft-spoken motherly figure, so of course none of her relatives or acquaintances ever envisioned her as a cross-dressing bank robber yearning to cast off a routine

small-town existence for something more exciting. A November 2005 Texas Monthly feature describes her as “a modern-day Bonnie without a Clyde,” pointing out how her cowboy disguise perfectly concealed her identity, and that she never injured any bank employees or bystanders during her heists.

And the motive behind her robberies? Simply to pay off debts incurred as a caregiver for her ailing mother.

Consciously or not, Tallas knew how to effortlessly balance the duality of masculinity and femininity as she donned a 10-gallon hat and a fake beard to seamlessly transition into

Cowboy Bob. “It is sort of like a sleeper-cell lesson of how much women do, how much women put up with, how women survive, and how women succeed,” explains cast member Nathaniel Tenenbaum, who plays the queer-identifying Stan. “[The women in this story know] it’s about revolution— fighting back against the oppression that the system makes for us, finding a way, and taking life for yourself,” he adds.

“These women are not apologizing to each other for it [by saying] ‘That’s too much,’ ‘I can’t do that,’ or ‘This is what my life is.’ I love that they’re at the forefront. | MARCH 2023 67
Jackie Burns as Peggy Jo Tallas, Ashley Pérez Flanagan as Rena, and Nathaniel Tenenbaum as Stan in Alley Theatre’s production of Cowboy Bob.
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This is an important opportunity to show women in positions of leadership and dominance—what that could look like, and how soft and safe that could feel.”

This kind of femme-forward storytelling and art is only gaining in relevance as we see women’s rights under attack. “In this musical, the world doesn’t go without women. And [the real] world doesn’t go without women,” Tenenbaum emphasizes. “I hope to God that people see that correlation.”

Using the real-life experiences of Tallas as a springboard, this musical accomplishes a lot. “[It is] holding a lot of narrative, holding a lot of funny, holding a lot of devastation, holding a lot of true things that are very present today. You would think that might make it hard to [enjoy this show], because you’re like, ‘This shit is actually happening!’” he says.

So audiences should be prepared to enjoy an evening of great theater that celebrates the strength and resiliency of women. The heart and humor will carry them through the performance and inspire them to overcome the hardships of everyday life. “This is not just a show. It is a message. It is a protest. It is all those things, and I love that about it. It requires more from me, and it requires more from anybody that wants to step inside of it,” explains Tenenbaum.

The actor sums up the show’s message that he hopes will resonate with audiences: “Thank God for women that are in a place in their lives to [challenge] boundaries and take what they want. I hope [the women in the story will help audiences] appreciate the women in their lives. That spans across every culture, and that’s the beauty of it.

“I want people to see the show and [come away ready to] encourage, support, and uplift the women in their lives,” Tenenbaum adds. “Call your mom. Call your sister. I wish they would put it in the program: After the show, if you saw somebody you know represented on this stage, call them, if you can—or think about them.”

What: Cowboy Bob at the Alley Theatre When: March 3–26; the ActOUT LGBTQ reception before the Thursday, March 16 performance.


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Jackie Burns as Peggy Jo Tallas
70 MARCH 2023 | Specializing in the needs of LGBTQ violence survivors anti violence program dome st ic v iole nce se xual a ss ault hate/b ia s crimes tr affi ck ing learn more 713.529.3211 C M Y CM MY CY CMY K OutSmart_3.625x4.5 Sept_Ad.pdf 1 8/17/22 3:28 PM Pol. Adv. paid for by Jerry for Judge Campaign, Jerry Simoneaux, Treasurer, P.O. Box 942, Seabrook, TX 77586. In voluntary compliance with the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. Voted Best Financial Planner/Advisor Fi P ® JOHN NECHMAN MITCHELL KATINE NEIL McLAURIN IMMIGRATION S Same-Same-Sex M ex Marriage G arriage Grreen C een Carards to A ds Asylum sylum 17 years of helping LGBTQ couples and individuals find solutions for all immigration needs Real Estate Disputes • Homeowner Association Law • Immigration Criminal Law • Family Law • Adoptions • Insurance and Disability Claims HIV/LGBTQ Law • Estate Documents • Employment Law KATINE NECHMAN McLAURIN LLP 2000 Bering Drive, Suite 700 | Houston, TX 77057 713-808-1000 | | Lawyers You Know, A Firm You Can Trust KATINE NECHMAN McLAURIN LLP

Cancer Crusaders

Paula Chambers Raney and Kecia Johnson spread the word about prevention.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so OutSmart reached out to two of Houston’s most knowledgeable CRC survivors, Paula Chambers Raney and Kecia Johnson, who are deeply committed to raising awareness of a disease threatening our LGBTQ community in particular.

“There is often a resistance to discussing colorectal cancer. People just don’t like to say the word ‘colon’,” Paula Chambers Raney says with a smile.

“Well—too bad! We may not like to say it, but we all have one, and making it a part of everyone’s routine health care will save many, many lives!” she emphasizes.

Raney is passionate about enlightening the public, and particularly the LGBTQ community, on the risks of this treatable disease.

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the US, and it is not getting better. While there is a slight drop in deaths among older people, thanks to better detection, we are seeing more of it in people at a younger and younger age. Colorectal cancer is projected to become the number-one cancer killer of Americans under age 50 by 2030!” Raney says.

That statistic is unacceptable to this determined survivor. “We should not be losing people to this disease. About 60 percent of colorectal cancers can be treated—and even cured—if they are caught early enough. Timely identification and treatment is absolutely the best defense. We have work to do!”

What, exactly, is colorectal cancer, you ask? The term “colorectal” refers to the two areas where the cancerous tissue or tumors first appear. The colon (also known as the large intestine) is about six feet long and terminates with the anus. The last five to ten inches of the colon is called the rectum.

Cancer located in the rectum is called rectal cancer, and cancer located farther up in the colon is deemed colon cancer. Both types are commonly known simply as colorectal cancer, or CRC. About 72 percent of new CRCs appear in the colon, and the remaining 28 percent

appear in the rectum. While they are similar, their treatment often varies.

Raney now serves as the national “hope coordinator” for Fight Colorectal Cancer, the leading CRC nonprofit advocacy organization in the United States. As an advocate, she focuses on education and screening in minority communities throughout Houston, and specifically the LGBTQ community.

There are many stereotypes about cancer that make Raney’s efforts an uphill battle.

Some Americans assume that CRC is just an old person’s disease, or one limited to certain ethnic groups.

The demographics of CRC do, in fact, vary by age and ethnicity, but no one is left “behind.”

According to Raney, diagnoses are about 35 percent higher in men than in women, and 15 percent higher in Blacks than in whites. Nationally, the mortality rate for Blacks is 40 percent higher—due to a multitude of reasons,

including disparities in healthcare options for people of color—while Jews of Eastern European descent have one of the highest risks for colorectal cancer of any ethnic group in the world.

Raney also emphasizes that the LGBTQ community is particularly vulnerable. Large numbers of gay or bisexual men and trans people are diagnosed annually, due to the transmission of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) during sexual activity. HPV is not usually dangerous, but the condition can cause genital-anal warts to eventually become cancerous.

Fight CRC’s official Hope Ambassador this year is Kecia Johnson, a vibrant, intelligent Houstonian who contracted HIV in a relationship at the age of 20. By age 35, she was facing Stage 3 anal cancer.

“Even with my HIV [screenings], the CRC escaped detection. I had been seen by | MARCH 2023 71
Paula Chambers Raney (l) and her wife Lara Raney

four different doctors and was in terrible pain when it was finally identified in an emergency room. It seems crazy, but when someone is young—say, under 45—tests for CRC are not routinely issued. That’s why we must insist that CRC tests be given as a matter of course. I suggest annuals starting at 35.

“And HIV will suppress the immune system and create a condition that makes the human body subject to all sorts of disorders. In my case, and for many in the LGBTQ community, CRC is absolutely a greater threat than in the public at large,” Johnson explains.

“I am dedicated to getting the word out to my beloved community now—the people who have been so supportive of me through everything. I figure that if I had to go through all this, maybe I can help someone else avoid it,” she concludes with a smile.

In 2014, Paula Chambers Raney and her partner of three decades traveled to New York City, where they exchanged marriage vows. But the couple’s honeymoon did not last long. Just one day after the wedding, Raney fell ill.

Three months later, she was laying in a hospital bed in Houston while her wife, Lara Raney, held her hand. After a long wait for the diagnosing physician, Raney heard the words that she never dreamed she would: “You have cancer,” the doctor stated, his eyes lowered.

“Today, nine years later, I am thriving—but I could not have done it alone,” Raney says. “I am so grateful to my wife and to all my mentors from Fight CRC. Now I feel compelled to help others, and it all starts with ‘getting your rear in gear.’ Get checked out!”

To learn more about colorectal cancer, its prevention, and much more, visit

72 MARCH 2023 |
Kecia Johnson
832-393-4220 Get a FAIR SHOT at avoiding

Community Hot Spot

Christopher Barry opens KIKI , a new upscale club in Montrose.

After opening BUDDY’s in Montrose several years ago, local bar owner Christopher Barry is bringing an additional hot spot to Houston’s gayborhood with KIKI, an ultramodern club that features giant TV screens, a dance floor, VIP sections, and spacious outdoor seating.

For Barry, a native of Beaumont, creating safe spaces for those in the LGBTQ community has become a passion of his over the last few years, and KIKI felt like the perfect way to continue that momentum.

“I named the club KIKI to celebrate our LGBTQ+ ancestors who hosted house parties before gay rights or gay bars existed,” he explains. “They laid the groundwork that made it possible for today’s gay bars to even exist. What better way to recognize their efforts than to name something in their honor?”

The club, located next door to BUDDY’S at 2409 Grant Street, features immersive audio, dazzling lights, an upscale liquor selection, comfortable indoor lounge sections, a patio, and a back bar designed for speedy service.

Getting into the bar scene was quite a career shift for Barry, who has been selling medical-implant devices for 12 years. But he notes that his former career was a way of helping people, and working in the club scene is no different. Opening BUDDY’S, and now KIKI, is his way of making sure everyone has places of their own to relax, kick back, and have fun.

“If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that it sucks to be alone,” he says. “People go out for personal connection and to experience the adventures of life. I got into nightlife because I saw the gay bars failing. I wasn’t sure if gay communities were losing their safe spaces because of a cultural shift [to online dating and delivery service] or because of mismanagement. After

working in the nightlife industry, I realized it was a little bit of both. So my goal was to remove the pain points people were experiencing in gay bars, and get involved in actively working with and for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Like BUDDY’S, Barry plans to make KIKI a pillar of the Montrose LGBTQ community by offering the new space for community events. Hosting events such as the Gaymers Charity Drag Show March 10 and Cornhole League Stars on April 19, KIKI is hosting several LGBTQ community events over the next few months.

“KIKI is already off to a great start as a community player,” he notes. “Over 600 people voted at KIKI in the last election cycle after KIKI followed in the footsteps of BUDDY’S next door. BUDDY’S and KIKI are connected by a hallway.”

Barry wants to make sure that KIKI becomes a wellknown polling center in order to encourage the gay community to play a more active role in politics. Barry suspects that BUDDY’S was the first LGBTQ bar in the world to serve as a polling place for a presidential election.

Since opening these two businesses in the gayborhood, Barry hopes that Montrose can evolve with the times and remain a safe haven for the LGBTQ community.

“I hope the gay nightlife here in Houston can stay fun and energetic, offering up experiences for everyone to enjoy,” he says. “Montrose is great because there’s such a synergy between all the clubs and bars around here. I believe gay bars can still be safe spaces for the community to go out and make connections, feel safe, and express themselves as they truly are. I got into the nightclub scene because I wanted people to have a good time and hang out with friends, and KIKI offers an atmosphere of excitement and inclusiveness with elevated flamboyance.”

For KIKI events and hours, go to KIKI Houston on

74 MARCH 2023 |
—Christopher Barry
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asked Avery if they were “gonna go through the procedure.’’ Since that exchange, Jackson said Avery hasn’t wanted to testify again before the Legislature.

“It’s this same idea that in any of these discussions about trans people just being treated with basic dignity and respect, legislators want to reduce them to one body part,’’ Jackson said. “They miss the entirety of the human being sitting in front of them having a conversation.”

Advocates say the rhetoric surrounding these proposed bans further exacerbates an already treacherous environment for transgender people, their families, and medical providers. Children’s hospitals around the country have faced an uptick of harassment and threats of violence for providing gender-confirming care.

Though she said she’s received an outcry of support since her testimony, Herzig said she and the pharmacy she owns have also gotten hateful emails and calls.

People opposed to gender-affirming care for minors argue that children are too young to make decisions about their futures, sometimes comparing such treatments to child abuse. That’s despite medical experts saying the care is safe when administered properly.

Nearly every major medical group, including the American Medical Association, has opposed the bans on such care for minors.

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last year ordered the state’s child-welfare agency to investigate reports of genderaffirming care for kids as abuse. Amber Briggle, the mother of a transgender teenager in Texas whose family was investigated after Abbott’s order, said she gets frustrated when speaking before lawmakers in her state, who she thinks have already made up their minds on the issue. But Briggle said she plans on returning to Texas’ Capitol this year, and that Herzig’s encounter motivates her even more to show up and speak out.

“They should not have to fight this alone,’’ Briggle said of transgender people testifying in statehouses. “They should know they have loving, supporting allies in their corner.’’

Herzig said she probably would not have testified had she known she was going to be asked about her genitalia.

“I felt like I was pretty much prepared for any combative question,’’ she said. “Except that.’’ | MARCH 2023 77
YOUR DAILY LGBTQ NEWS SOURCE OutSmartMagazine com NATIONAL NEWS • LOCAL FEATURES • LIFESTYLE ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT • EVENTS & CALENDAR Proudly publishing in our 30th year, OutSmart magazine can be found at more than 350 locations in Houston & Galveston. Houston’s LGBTQ Magazine View our DIGITAL EDITION on your iPad or any other devices! NEWS | CONTINUED FROM PAGE 18


A Winding Road

Sarah Michelle Zelczak and Mandi Dang Zelczak ’s wedding was bittersweet.

It wasn’t a short path to the altar for Sarah Michelle Zelczak and Mandi Dang Zelczak (née Mandi Thi Dang), but the love they celebrated on their special day was well worth the journey.

The two met at Lamar University in 2009. “We had signed up for the same English Composition II class,” Sarah recalls. She had waited until almost the very last moment to work up the courage to talk to Mandi, and she was certainly glad that she took that chance.

Sarah can’t pinpoint the exact moment she knew Mandi was the one, “But I was fortunate to know very early that I didn’t want to know a life without Mandi.”

For Mandi, there wasn’t one specific mo -

ment, either. “Over time, I found myself falling deeper and deeper in love with her, and I knew that she was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

Sarah, 34, who is from Port Neches, Texas, and a graduate of Lamar University in Beaumont, is a senior marketing director for Indio Management. The couple relocated from Houston to Dallas last July for Sarah’s work.

Mandi, 32, of Beaumont, is at a crossroads in her professional life. “I’m taking a break from working to explore my passions. I have a background in medical research, and worked at MD Anderson Cancer Center prior to relocating to Dallas.” She attended Lamar University for two years, and then transferred to the University of Houston for the last two.

To celebrate Mandi’s 31st birthday in 2021, Sarah planned a surprise Hill Country vacation to The Yurtopian resort in Wimberley, where she planned to propose. “We love playing card games, and I knew we’d be playing a ton during this vacation. So, I wrote ‘Will You Marry Me’ on the cards (one word on each card) and had them ready to go,” Sarah explains.

“Because it was game time (and she was now the enemy), I inadvertently reshuffled the cards and counted them again to make sure she didn’t give me extra cards,” Mandi adds. “When I saw the cards, I said, ‘OMG of course! Yes I will marry you!’ despite the fact that the cards now read ‘Marry You Me Will.’”

78 MARCH 2023 |

“Mandi, who never cries, cried,” Sarah says. “So it was a double win!”

They had been together for 13 years before the two were wed on September 17, 2022, at the Dukessa Event Venue in Houston. “Our really good friend, Allison Culver, officiated. We knew that we wanted her to be an integral part of our ceremony, and this was the perfect role for her,” Sarah says.

It was a beautiful day, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “I come from a close-knit, very religious family. I knew that I wanted my family at the wedding, but we didn’t reach a point where that was a possibility until very recently,” Sarah notes. “Because of my religious upbringing, I had to work through a lot of shame, which took a very long time.”

Sarah and Mandi fought hard for their dream wedding, and it turned out to be an almost perfect day. “We were surrounded by more family than I could’ve ever imagined,

and friends who have become family,” Sarah says. “However, my stepfather who more-orless raised me since I was 4, chose not to be there. That is something that I’m still working to find peace with.”

In addition, Mandi’s mother was battling stomach cancer at the time. “Although she was very weak and in immense pain, she was able to make it. She passed three months and one day after our wedding. The photos and memories that we have of her at our wedding are things that we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives,” Sarah says.

“I’m a fairly traditional person to begin with,” she continues. “So, our wedding was traditional in almost every sense. We kept a religious element to the ceremony, but kept it fairly minimal. I still consider myself a religious person, but it is a part of me that has wavered.”

The couple wanted to use either women or LGBTQ vendors as much as possible. “We

used mostly women vendors, and two LGBT vendors—Perfect Petals by Geo, and Julia Bri Photography for our engagement photos.”

Sarah and Mandi have decided to delay their honeymoon until later this year. “Our lives have been on a bit of a roller coaster since the wedding, with relocating to Dallas, starting a new job, and the passing of Mandi’s mother,” Sarah says.

But the two are nevertheless thrilled that married life has been so good to both of them. As Sarah emphasizes, “My life took a trajectory to a level of happiness and love that I don’t think I ever saw possible for myself.”

And Mandi adds that “Sarah has a heart of gold, and inspires people to be the best versions of themselves. I am so honored to receive this love.” | MARCH 2023 79
Sarah Michelle Zelczak (l) and Mandi Dang Zelczak

February 9, 2023

The Victory Fund hosted a fundraiser for Pasadena City Council Member Jonathan Estrada at the home of Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker and her wife, Kathy Hubbard.

80 MARCH 2023 |
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82 MARCH 2023 |
26, 2023
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February 4, 2023

Hundreds of costumed revelers enjoyed a Roaring ‘20s-themed Mardi Gras party at Numbers, hosted by the Krewe of Olympus. | MARCH 2023 85



February 18, 2023

Music from the material girl herself filled South Beach on Saturday, February 18, as members of the Lone Star Volleyball Association and its supporters gathered for the sport league’s Diva of the Decade drag pageant fundraiser. The event honored former Miss Diva Erika Lucci, who handed her crown to the evening’s winner, Lady Byrd. Rounding out the competitors at this Madonna-inspired night were Ruby Rox, Jacklyn Dior and Jacuzzi Heata. Proceeds from the event benefited the Craig Henderson Memorial Scholarship.

86 MARCH 2023 |
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February 2, 2023


February 2, 2023

Theatergoers enjoyed Asianinspired bites and cocktails at the pre-curtain ActOUT reception hosted by the Alley Theatre for the musical Cambodian Rock Band. | MARCH 2023 89
Pet Pics In The Ball Park underwriters kickoff party sponsored by The Astros Foundation at Minute Maid Park.

1801 Post Oak Blvd, Ste. 100


Montrose Forge

3423 White Oak 7 13/893-5002

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711 Fairview


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R yan Fugate, RMT



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Bayou City Veterinary Hospital


4720 Washington 713/343-9909


1839 W. Alabama St 2 81/985-5158

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2030 W. Alabama 7 13/528-0818


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Paul Gomberg/The Rock Star Real Estate Group


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15103 Mason Rd Suite A-1


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Lesbians Over Age Fifty have a good time! LOAF provides opportunities to socialize several times throughout the month. Activities range from:




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Montrose’s newest dance club is open Thursday through Sunday and features a daily Happy Hour from 7 to 10 p.m.

2320 Crocker St, Houston TX 77006


With the longest daily Happy Hours in Montrose from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., this neighborhood watering hole is a popular spot. Drag shows occur Wednesday through Sunday, and the bar hosts karaoke on Mondays and Wednesdays.

817 Fairview, Houston TX 77006

Blur Bar

This multi-level dance club features an upstairs lounge and balconies, with weekly events including Travesura Thursdays and Latin Saturdays.

710 Pacific St, Houston TX 77006


“EveryBUDDY’S welcome” at this modern LGBTQ bar with “events as diverse as Houston.” The bar features cocktails, beer, karaoke, pool, DJ’s, and more.

2409 Grant St STE A, Houston TX 77006

Club Crystal

With roots going back to the iconic club Inergy, Club Crystal is Houston’s original LGBTQ Latino nightclub. Find some of Ingegy’s décor at this tworoom Latin/hip-hop club.

6680 Southwest Freeway, Houston TX 77036

Club Geminis

The newest LGBTQ club in Southeast Houston, where couples are welcome. Friday-night super show with Rosselyn D Montiel. $3 shots. No cover, free parking.

10705 Gulf Freeway, Houston, TX 77034

Crocker Bar

This comfortably remodeled Montrose nightspot offers karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and extended Happy Hour prices throughout the week.

2312 Crocker, Houston TX 77006

Eagle Houston

As part of the worldwide Eagle family, Eagle Houston is the definitive home of the man’s man. Leather, bear, or jock, you’ll find them all here. This neighbor-

hood bar has multiple levels and outdoor decks, and regularly features DJs and male dancers.

611 Hyde Blvd., Houston TX 77006


Country Sports Bar

Regulars rule at this comfortable neighborhood sports bar with dart boards and pool tables. Sports fans can watch games on televisions, and Steak Night with chef Michele Free is on Thursday nights.

617 Fairview St, Houston TX 77006


Mary’s Houston

This drag-queen themed downtown restaurant serves up the best in entertainment, delicious food, and gloriously yummy drinks.

1008 Prarie St., Houston TX 77006

JR’s Bar & Grill

Proudly serving Montrose for 40 years, JR’s Bar & Grill offers drag Sunday through Thursday, karaoke Wednesday through Sunday, and daily Happy Hour specials on a spacious courtyard patio.

808 Pacific St, Houston TX 77006


Montrose’s newest experience! Award winning DJs, spectacular cocktails, amazing lighting and huge screens make for the best club vibe in town. Doors open at 9p. Thursday - Sunday.

2409 Grant St., STE D., Houston, TX 77006


Granja Disco y Cantina

One of Houston’s favorite Latin LGBTQ bars, La Granja Disco y Cantina is open Wednesday through Sunday and features daily Happy Hour prices, DJs, drag shows, and karaoke nights.

5505 Pinemont Dr, Houston TX 77092

Michael’s Outpost

The only piano bar in Montrose offers great drinks, award-winning drag shows, and a roundup of talented musicians taking turns on the keys seven nights a week.

1419 Richmond Ave, Houston TX 77006

Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon

Houston’s only LGBTQ country dance hall is open Wednesdays through Sundays and hosts dance classes, steak nights, bingo, and karaoke.

11410 Hempstead Hwy, Houston TX 77092



General Dermatology




Skin Cancer Treatments

Superficial Radiotherapy

Mohs Micrographic Surgery


Cosmetic Procedures




HeightsSkin . co m | MARCH 2023 93 BAR GUIDE
Come in for a free cosmetic consultation! Dr. Alpesh Desai
Tejas Desai B o a r d C er ti f ie d D e rm atologi s t s
Ashland St. Houston, T X 77008
713.864 . 265 9
We pride ourselves in building lasting relationships, finding an individual solution to your every dermatologic need.

What is the best and worst holiday to work?

Best holiday: I’m going to count Pride as a holiday, so Pride and Halloween are the best because people are in great spirits.

Worst holiday: New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, when all of the amateurs are out!

Biggest tip from one customer?

$500 during a big party when a major


There’s always something going on at TONY’S CORNER POCKET!


in an LGBTQ bar?

Be real, be humble, and smile. Remember that everyone is welcome! Desired super-power?

Gotta be the power of flight—in my dreams, I fly!

Theme song?

The “Peanuts” theme song from Charlie Brown.

Papi’s Houston’s newest Latin LGBTQ club offers dancing, drag, and game shows all week long. Visit Papi’s and experience the spicy side of Montrose!

570 Waugh Dr, Houston TX 77019

Pearl Bar

Houston’s only lesbian bar—one of just 21 left in the nation—is home to a wide variety of events including weekly drag-king shows, nationally known LGBTQ DJs, and a queer farmers market on the patio.

4216 Washington, Houston TX 77007


This full-service venue offers distinctive food with Southern flair, a popular patio, multiple bars, VIP bottle-service areas, a large dance floor, and some of Houston’s most acclaimed resident DJs.

days a week and hosts shows like Tornado Tuesdays, Wepa Wednesdays, and Sassy Saturdays.

817 W. Dallas, Houston TX 77019

Viviana’s Nite Club

This weekend-only LGBTQ Latin dance club is home to a variety of DJs, singers, talent shows, and Sunday strippers.

4624 Dacoma St, Houston TX 77092


23rd St. Station Piano Bar

This upscale piano bar with an extensive martini menu offers daily drink specials. Happy Hour prices from 4 to 7pm and live entertainment every evening. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Weekends include a fullservice outside garden patio bar. 1706 23rd Street Galveston 77550

Houston’s Hottest Male Amateur Strip Contest Headquarters!

There’s always something going on at TONY’S CORNER POCKET! 817 W. Dallas 713.571.7870

202 Tuam St, Houston TX 77006

Voted the Best Place to Watch Male Dancers Tues. and Thurs, – Sunday Nights

Robert’s Lafitte

Nightly Specials – Call for Details Cold Beverages & Hot Guys!

Sabroso Patio Bar and Restaurant

Northwest Houston’s newest LGBTQ destination, serving delicious food and cocktails in a beautiful patio setting.

5503 Pinemont Dr, Houston TX 77092

South Beach

Montrose’s favorite dance club has re-opened to rave reviews. South Beach’s state-of-the-art sound, laser light show, and world-class DJs make the club a must-visit destination.

810 Pacific Street, Houston TX 77006


Since 1982, this leather bar has been a fixture in Houston’s LGBTQ community. It’s where the wild, the weird, and the kinky gather on a nightly basis—no pretense, no gatekeeping, just pure camaraderie and debauchery.

715 Fairview, Houston TX 77006

Tony’s Corner Pocket

If you love a friendly bar staff, sexy male dancers, and entertaining showgirls, Tony’s Corner Pocket is the perfect spot. The bar is open seven

Texas’ oldest bar has been open for over half a century, and is home to Galveston’s original drag show. 2501 Avenue Q, Galveston TX 77550


Ranch Hill Saloon

The first (and only) LGBTQ bar in Walker County offers DJs, dancing, drink specials, and drag shows. 1000 12th St, Huntsville TX 77340


The Room

This bar and video lounge has a laid-back atmosphere and features daily drink specials, karaoke, free pool, drag shows, and live DJs several nights a week.

4915 FM 2920 #148, Spring TX 77388



The only LGBTQ dance club in Bryan/College Station is this sleek spot located smack in the middle of Aggieland.

121 North Main Street, Bryan TX 77803

Mon-Sat 7am–2am
Fairview • Houston, Texas
Voted the Best Place to Watch Male Dancers
and Thurs, – Sunday Nights
817 W. Dallas
& Bingo
Nightly Specials – Call for Details Cold Beverages & Hot Guys!
FRIDAY Trivia then Rotating Weekly Drag Shows SATURDAY Brunch, ReBarlesque then Joe Ross
then Sunday


The Houston Women’s Group

A diverse multi-generational, multi-cultural feminist group for all women where each one defines her own feminism. Speakers, conversation, and lunch afterward EVERY SUNDAY • 10:30 AM


5200 Fannin St. @ Southmore Blvd. Room 302 • Elevator accessible ~ where women learn, connect, and rise!

Galveston Beach Rental

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recently renovated and
Lynette Lew • 713.582.2202 Residential and Commercial Realtor Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene Gary Greene Commercial Properties | LILLY RODDY ASTROLOGER Voted BEST ASTROLOGER by OutSmart Readers 713.529.5842 • CONSULTATIONS BY APPOINTMENT ONLY GIFT CERTIFICATES • CREDIT CARDS Right now is the perfect opportunity TO BE PROUD OF WHO YOU ARE TO BE COMPASSIONATE TO YOURSELF AND OTHERS TO SHOW GRATITUDE TO THOSE YOU LOVE AND TRULY APPRECIATE Thank you again to my OutSmart readers for voting me Best Astrologer for all of these years.” Personal astrological sessions Relationship readings - personal/business Presentations & lectures to organizations Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene 2615 Broadway • Galveston, Texas 77550 David Bowers REALTOR® 409-763-2800

ARIES (Mar. 21–Apr. 19)

Though this continues to be a very busy and active time in your life, you should take some time for yourself in early March. You are more sensitive to your environment, and take things very personally. You are also exploring ways to increase your earnings and considering some long-term investments. A mentor (or very close friends) can really help you with advice about career and planning for your retirement. By the 20th, you are feeling ready to get out in the world. Relationships, both business and personal, are improving. If you are single, this is a great time to get out and discover the world around you! Generally, you are speaking your mind with ease this month.

TAURUS (Apr. 20–May 20)

Career activity remains strong as the month begins. You have been working on your long-term plans, looking for more stability and less drama all around. You may be considering starting your own business, or you may decide to live off the grid! Either way, you are looking for more personal freedom and choices. Friends, support groups, and people in your community are more than ready to help you in your endeavors. Toward the end of the month, you need some time away to regain your center and operate from a clearer point of view. Relationships continue to be positive. You are looking for a long-term commitment. You may even be considering expanding your existing family or purchasing real estate!

GEMINI (May 21–June 21)

You are still very active and busy addressing issues, starting new projects, and putting yourself first as much as possible. You have been more impatient, and life seems to come at you in a very personal way. For the last several years, you have been exploring your career path, and now you will be finding a lot more clarity in that area. You could start something on your own, take on a leadership position or, if you are older, look toward

A Busy and Tense Month

Time for decision-making during this Pisces season.

This March, Saturn, the planet of career, long-term security, and responsibility, moves into Pisces, where it will remain for over two years. The last time Saturn was in Pisces was between February 1994 and April 1996. The mutable signs of Gemini, Sagittarius, Pisces, and Virgo will be most affected, and they will face decision-making during this period. The week of the 12th to the 18th will be particularly active, but the 14th, 15th, and 16th could be tense. The absence of retrograde planets means it is an excellent time for everyone to move forward. The Spring Equinox begins at 4:24 p.m. on the 20th, when the sun enters Aries, and spring officially begins. Mercury begins the month in Pisces but enters Aries on the 19th. Venus begins the month in Aries and moves to Taurus on the 16th. Mars completes its journey through Gemini and enters Cancer on the 25th. Pluto enters Aquarius on the 23rd, marking its first entry into this sign since the end of the American Revolution. With several planets changing signs, there will be a lot of activity, tension, and shifts in our lives this month. It promises to be a busy time for all.

working less and having more time to do what you like. You may be looking for this even if you aren’t older! This is a more social time for you, and friends and business groups can be very helpful in your quests. The middle of this month can be very tense for you. Your patience will be at an all-time low!

CANCER (June 22–July 22)

This time of the year, your career area is usually stimulated. This year, it’s actually busier than usual. This is a good month to increase your presence on social media, as well as start your own business, expand your outreach, or take on a leadership position at work or in your community. This is a more public time for you, and you can make a lot of headway by taking advantage of that energy this month. This can be a good time to travel for work or personal study. This is also a great time to take a class, or become a teacher yourself! You have had a lot of ideas gathering since the end of August, and when Mars, planet of action, enters Cancer on the 25th, you won’t be hesitant about taking action. The middle of the month is better for collecting data and getting organized so you are ready!

LEO (July 23–Aug. 22)

You continue to be busy with work, social obligations, friends, and your relationships. You have been working to improve your current partnerships and looking for long-term commitment. But you are just as willing to bring it to an end if you aren’t both pulling in the same direction, as you are much more outspoken concerning partnerships this month. This can be a great month to travel, take classes, expand your social media, and even make some podcasts. With your work, you are looking to take on a more active role and bring the business into the 21st century. You will also be working on getting rid of debt and bad investments. Middle-of-the-month tensions will affect your workplace and work equipment. This is a good time to step back and gain some perspective.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept.22)

This month you are taking a realistic look at how you create your relationships. With positive relationships, this is a time of setting new goals to generate intimacy and shared experiences. In difficult partnerships, this may be a time to take a hard look at where you may be going. On an internal level, this may be about improving on methods that may have worked in the past but don’t work now. On the financial scene, this is a good time to ask for raises or increase your fees. Your talents are showcased more at this time, and this can generate a better flow of money and energy. In the middle of the month, tensions are strong in your career and with your family. Don’t get lost in the struggle. Detachment and perspective will really help.

LIBRA (Sept. 23–Oct. 23)

This is a very active relationship month for you, and there is a lot of positive energy that really helps you find solutions to problems. For some of you, this can be the beginning of a new relationship! At your workplace, you are looking for improvement—from better equipment to improved methods that work for everybody. You will also be more interested in your health, exercise, and diet. You may be feeling the effects of aging, even if you are young. This is also a great month to travel, expand your education, and clear up legal matters. Tension in the middle of the month may bring attention to improving your current work conditions. You will be more decisive and feel more in control after the 25th.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24–Nov. 21)

This is the beginning of a period with lots of changes for Scorpio. You may be looking to move or relocate due to work. You may also be looking at some major remodeling. There are shifts in the core of your family as a new matriarch or patriarch steps in. This may

96 MARCH 2023 | SIGN OUT

be you, if you are older, or it may be an older relative stepping in. You are more than ready to create some stability in your life. You are in a creative mood as the month begins. This is a much better time to enjoy your hobbies or spend time with loved ones. There is an abundance of activity in your house and at work. You are redefining what you are doing and bringing your workplace up to date. This may also be a time for improving your home office. This is a busy month and a busy year. Communications may be wonky in the middle of the month, so follow up if you need to!

SAGITTARIUS (Nov.22–Dec.21)

Home and family are big areas of interest for you this month. You have been dealing with shifts in your family, anticipating a time when a different person takes over the family hierarchy. This could be you or an older relative, and you are ready for some order here. You may also be looking at moving, downsizing, or remodeling. This could be a fairly extensive project, and not just painting the walls and putting up new curtains. You are looking to have more fun this month, enjoying your hobbies, your kids, and the new people you are meeting. You are being more direct with people, and that will continue throughout the year. Normally, you try to keep things happy and pleasant around you, but your boundaries are improving as you speak your mind more.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22–Jan. 19)

You are getting your house and your life in order this month. You are working hard to have some routine and structure in your life after the disruption of COVID. You are letting your actions speak for you. Family continues to play a major role in your life this month. You may be looking to relocate or remodel. Your family could be getting bigger through births and marriages. Personally, you are looking for more space and room to breathe. The middle of the month brings work issues to the surface so that they can be finally addressed. Going to the gym or taking a walk can really help with the tensions that are generated at this time. You just won’t tolerate deception and lying. Partnerships need some attention as we approach the end of the month. It can be easy to overschedule yourself this month. Pace yourself!

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20–Feb. 18)

This month, you’re focusing on setting boundaries and clarifying responsibilities, both at home and work. You expect others to step up and take more responsibility, and if they don’t, you’re willing to cut them out of your support network. You’re also taking a closer look at your financial situation, and this is a good time to tackle debt, shift investments, and let go of unprofitable projects. You’re communicating your needs and desires more clearly and promptly than before. As the month progresses, you’ll be in the mood for some spring cleaning and decluttering, es -

pecially as the weather warms up. In a rare cosmic event, Pluto enters your sign for the first time in 248 years, marking the beginning of a 21-year transformational journey t hrough Aquarius. This energy gives you the opportunity to make significant changes in your life, including your relationships, career, diet, and even where you live. These changes will take time, as Pluto’s influence reshapes society’s values and priorities, affecting you directly. Be patient, and embrace this opportunity for transformation.

PISCES (Feb. 19–Mar. 20)

For the next two-and-a-third years, Saturn, the planet of order, stability, decision-making, and long-term security, will be transiting your sign. Saturn emphasizes future usefulness and current reality, and favors what works and is s afe. Immature behavior will test your patience during this period. This month, your focus is on yourself rather than on others. What may benefit others may not be in your best interest. Although Pisces is known for being adaptable and conflict-avoidant, you are more likely to stand your ground and allow others to leave. In the latter half of the month, you will pay more attention to your finances. It’s an ideal time to review your career goals and consider new ones. You could also obtain a loan or extend your current credit line, as well as consider investing.

For more astro-insight, | MARCH 2023 97

Freedom Ryder

Ryder Moore-Syder rocks a greaser vibe with lover-boy appeal.

If The Fonz were to pick who would play him in a biopic, Ryder Moore-Syder would be the obvious answer. It’s easy to imagine Ryder, with their ’60s throwback style and rocker swagger, tooling around town in Greased Lighting and burning up the quarter-mile. Find out Moore(-Syder) about what makes Ryder supreme.

Pronouns? They/Them

Inner avatar? I’ve always felt lions are as loyal and protective of their families as I am, so I can relate.

Hometown? Conroe

Drag birthday? August 22, 2018

What got you interested in drag? It’s a combination of the art, costumes, people, and the families that we develop as performers.

Describe your performing persona. Ryder is a lovable dork that everyone sees as a supportive uncle.

Story behind the name?

I ran through all the names I liked and found one with a pun that fit! It’s important to have a memorable name as a drag king.

Any pageant titles?

Mister Texas USofA MI 2019 First Alternate.

Any thoughts on Women’s History Month?

I’d like to recognize all the icons and activists that have paved the way for us thus far, knowing that they fought for something they themselves may not have been able to realize in their own lives. I feel it’s important to continue to push for equality in drag and to create spaces for AFAB performers. Trans women have always been seen as equals on stage, and if we are to recognize that they are women as much as any others, then there has always been a place for us as well.

Describe your aesthetic. Greaser meets lover boy—like Danny Zuko, but without the problematic tendencies.

What’s your must-have clothing accessory or prop?

My lettermen’s jacket or my leather jacket! If I could, I would wear either one constantly. Houston isn’t a great climate for it, though!

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I am a drag king who happens to be disabled. While many people see my disability, they don’t realize that’s what it is. That’s why I’m so open, because I’m proof that there really is a stage for everyone, and nothing should hold you back from pursuing your art.

What was your dream job as a child?

I always believed I’d have a place in the medical field, especially as a doctor.

What’s your life’s mantra?

I’m trying to live my best life, not a stressed life.

Have you ever had a defining moment in your life?

I struggled getting over being seriously ill about ten years ago, when my life had turned upside down. I suffered nerve damage from an undisclosed virus that is often fatal, and I had to remember how to be a human while learning to be an adult. I grew so much in that year, and that growth has continued because of what I was lucky enough to live through.

Who are your favorite artists to perform?

Panic! At The Disco, Paramore, P!nk, and Joan Jett all top that list.

If you could pick one celebrity (living or dead) to perform with you, who would it be and why?

Robin Williams, hands down. He was a huge part of my childhood, and my humor developed because of his influence. He was the supportive uncle I strive to be to this day.

Where can fans see you perform?

I’m a cast member of the weekly Htown Kings show at Pearl, and you can follow my social media to see where else I’ll pop up!

98 MARCH 2023 |
Follow Ryder Moore-Syder at ryder.moore. moore.syder.
OUTSMARTMAGAZINE.COM For advertising opportunities, contact your sales rep: 713.520.7237 or Deadline: March 15, 2023. OutSma rt ’ s spe cia l Apr il 202 3 iss ue will ma r k t hr ee d ec ade s of ch ro nic li n g Hou sto n’ s vib ran t LGB T Q c omm un ity . Th is e xp an de d iss u e will lo o k ba c k o n o ur f avo rit e stori e s an d p e rs ona liti e s wh il e a ls o ce lebr ati ng ou r t hr ivi n g pr es en t-day c omm un ity . B ec om e a pa r t of t h is mil e sto ne editi on! P RO U DLY P UBL IS HING I N OUR 3 0 TH Y E AR YEARS

Articles inside

Freedom Ryder

pages 98-99

A Busy and Tense Month

pages 96-97


pages 93-96


pages 78-80, 82-84

Community Hot Spot

pages 74-77

Cancer Crusaders

pages 71-73

Spotlight on Empowerment

pages 67-70

Woman on the Verge

pages 64-66

Houston Ballet’s Summer and Smoke

pages 60-63


pages 58-59


pages 56-57


pages 52-53


pages 50-51


pages 46-49


pages 44-45


pages 40-43

Women power

page 38

Platinum Jubilee

pages 34-38

Pics with a Purpose

page 32


pages 30-32

Celebrating Blackness

pages 28-29

Dealing with Debt

pages 26-27

Object Lesson

pages 24-26

Texas Republicans Push to Restrict Trans Athletes

pages 20-24

Trans People Facing ‘Horrifying’ Statehouse Rhetoric

page 18


pages 14-16
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