Last year, the owners of several gay bars along Cedar Springs Avenue joined forces to create a more "family friendly" parade. In addition to adding a "Family PRIDE Zone" to Lee Park, where kids could safely avoid drunk people and get their faces painted, the Dallas Tavern Guild announced that they would impose a new dress code parade participants - no one was allowed to wear underwear on a parade float, "overexposed" female breasts with pasties on the nipples were no longer allowed, even though both had been okay at previous Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parades.
The decision ruffled feathers, most notably former Dallas Voice editor John Wright. Wright alleged that the Voice fired him for bringing negative publicity to the ban on displays of sexuality, which publisher Lee Cuisimano (also heavily involved in the parade) vehemently denied. Despite the outrage, the rules stood -- no naked breasts, no visible penises, and no exposed asses.
In a recent blog post at Wright's new independent LGBT news site Lone Star Q, local activist Daniel Cates charged that the Tavern Guild is continuing to sanitize Dallas pride through a subtle "re-branding campaign." In a banner on the Dallas Pride website, the slogan for the 2014 parade would present the "positive image of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community of Texas.
According to Cates, the Tavern Guild's focus on nudity at Pride wasunnecessary -- public nudity laws already existed, and neither he or the Tavern Guild were able to confirm a single instance of someone reporting offensive nudity. Besides that, "if you are not ready to have an open and honest talk with your child about human sexuality or bodies, then maybe you are not ready to bring them to a celebration specifically created for people to be able to express those things without shame," Cates wrote to me in an email.
Cates also argues that these attempts at cleaning up gay pride are really just thinly veiled efforts to make more money at the bars during Pride Weekend. Via email, he told me that "these changes are to ensure that the Dallas Pride Parade will appear as attractive to potential donors, sponsors, and advertisers as possible. I don't know how much the bars bring in, but Pride is easily their biggest weekend with crowds of around 30,000 each year."
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"Pride in Dallas is run by the people who stand most to profit from it - the bar owners. In other cities like Fort Worth, Austin, and even New York City, Pride is organized by a community group," wrote Cates. "The Tavern Guild's "positive image" is one that is highly corporate, expensive, and culturally limited. Essentially, a pride parade that makes no one uncomfortable." But Pride Parades are meant to challenge social mores and make people re-think their own comforts, biases, and conceptions of what it means to be queer. It's not an image that resonates with most of us."
A group called Queerbomb Dallas has already planned their own all-inclusive Pride event without additional restrictions. They plan to follow all public nudity laws, but won't be focusing on presenting a sanitized image of the gay community.
Cates suggested that these events spring from disenfranchisement that many LGBT people in already feel in Dallas, and this "highly corporate" image of the gay community only makes things worse. "The fact the queer people of color celebrate pride separately in Dallas should be your first clue that not everyone made it into the class photo."
The Tavern Guild has not released a statement regarding the 2014 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade's new slogan, but it's unlikely that the organization has reversed itself and stopped supporting the rules they were so gung-ho about just last year.