We're recruiting new authors! To find out how to apply, click here!
Site under maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

Don't Mess with Texas Gays

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




We'll be drinking to them. I mean, I won't be drinking, because I'm underage, that that would be wrong. Cough.
Ladies, gentlemen, variations thereof, and none of the above, break out the glitter and bring on the rainbows, for Dallas Pride is this Sunday, the 16th! Queers will be flying in from all over the nation to partake in the revelry surrounding the famous Dallas "gayborhood", Cedar Springs Road. Lee Park will become a Mecca for fun-loving, fancy-free, hard-partying LGBTQers of all walks of life. And dear readers, you'd better believe that yours truly is going to be in the middle of all that. I shall join in the Festival of My People.

It may surprise some of you hailing from more enlightened climes that a large city in Texas even has a Pride parade, but the old saying "work hard, party hard" is applicable here. We've spent so much time fighting the conservative Powers-That-Be that we jump at the chance to engage in some much-deserved debauched celebrations of our sick lifestyles. Besides, large cities in Texas tend to be oases of sanity and tolerance: notably Houston, Dallas, and Austin. End result? People in the stereotypical ignorant cesspools that are a hallmark of the Texas countryside flock to Dallas Pride like fabulous moths to rainbow-colored all-natural fair-trade beeswax candles. But wait a Sodom-tastic minute, Ingrid, I'll pretend you just interjected, Pride Month was June. FRW did a whole banner thing on it, remember? Why does Texas celebrate Pride in September, after school has started and summer indulgences are no longer acceptable?

Why indeed. There are three reasons, and anyone who's lived in Texas can guess the first.The lowest temperature from June 27-29 in Dallas was ninety-seven degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 degrees C) and it went into the triple digits the other two days. So there's that. 

Pictured: A lovely summer day in Dallas.
Also, we like to do things differently than everyone else, because fuck you we're Texas and we're awesome, that's why. The last reason is far more interesting, and is also the main point of today's article. Most cities celebrate Pride in June, commemorating the Stonewall Riots. Texas celebrates another huge milestone in the gay rights struggle in America, which began on September 17, 1998.

It was the night of September 17, 1998 and our story begins in a daytime sitcom setup. Imagine this TV show: Three gay men in one apartment in the sprawling city of Houston. John, the owner of the apartment and the voice of reason for the other two, is the level-headed one: the responsible old white guy in steady employ. Even his name sounds square. His long-time friend Bob is the poster boy for being a colossal fuck-up: a drunken nearly toothless loser on the brink of homelessness. In other words, the comic relief. Then we have the token black guy, predictably named Tyrone. Soft-spoken, rather feminine, and the baby of the group, he's in an on-again, off-again, theatrically emotional relationship with Bob, and the show takes great fun at hinting at a torrid affair between Tyrone and his 24-year-elder John, and derives much of its laughs from Bob's hilarious furious jealousy. Would you watch that? I'd watch the hell out of that. 

Bob Eubanks, however, was not so entertained. He had just stormed out of the apartment convinced that his boytoy was getting it on with his fifty-five-year-old friend John Lawrence. The mental images are only going to get worse from here on out, but I swear it's worth it. Bob, being a colossal fuck-up, decides that going back and discussing his frustration like a healthy adult would is for pansies. Which is funny, when you think about it. So his alcohol-addled brain decides that a much better way of handling the situation would be to call the Houston Police Department and say that a "crazy black man" was waving a gun around in Lawrence's apartment. Which, I'm sure you can guess, was not true and in legal terms, "titfuckingly stupid". 

Of course, when Houston PD hears that the culprit is black, shit gets done. Minutes after Bob's brilliant idea, four officers of the law break into John Lawrence's apartment to find Lawrence and Tyrone Garner most certainly not in any physical danger. In fact, the generally law-abiding Mr. Lawrence has no earthly idea what the police could want with him at this hour of the night, and is understandably annoyed. According to both Lawrence and the policemen, the first thing he said was,
You don't have any right to be here.
Unluckily for Lawrence and Garner but luckily for me, that's the only thing that they could all agree on. According to both Lawrence and Garner, they were just hanging out casually, shooting the breeze or whatever.  According to the first two deputies to arrive, Lawrence and Garner were caught in flagrante delicto. For those of you who need to brush up on your Latin, fucking. That means fucking.

We like to serve our euphemisms extra-esoteric. (S)
Now, I may have mentioned that same-sex sodomy was illegal in Texas up until very recently. Like, "my lifetime" recently. Well, this was one of those years that same-sex sodomy was  illegal. Yes, you read the date correctly, having gay sex was illegal in Texas in the year 1998. Take a moment to soak that in.

Ready? Great. Lawrence was rather unhappy at the idea that he was going to be arrested for doing something that would be a-okay if Garner was a girl, so much so that the deputies had to drag him down the stairs, bloodying his knees. Actually, up until he died in 2011, he insisted that nothing happened between him and Garner that night, and that the first two deputies had made that whole thing up when they saw some sexy portraits of film actor James Dean in Lawrence's bedroom (Remember, John Lawrence was old. Really old.). The other two deputies had, understandably, gone along with their comrades' version of events rather than that of the accused criminals.

Actually, I'm going to have to go with Lawrence on this one, for one compelling reason. The first two deputies on the scene could never decide exactly what Garner and Lawrence were doing. Deputy Quinn, the first man on the scene, adamantly insisted for years that the two were engaged in anal sex, and moreover, they kept going until Quinn and the other deputy pulled them apart. That's some dedication. Deputy Lilly, however, remembers the two having oral sex. Sure, they both agreed that Garner was receiving, but his mannerisms were markedly more passive than the angry resistance of Lawrence, and that fits straight males' perceptions of gay bottoms. Now, I hate to ask my readers who aren't attracted to males to seriously consider this question in detail, but how is it possible to walk in on two men doin' it, be forced to get in there and pull them apart, and not even be sure if they were having anal or oral sex? I mean, I have absolutely no experience or other detailed knowledge on this subject but, like, that's two different poles there, bucko.

Goddammit, I'm trying.
Anyway, what most people did in this situation was plead guilty, pay the fine, and hope you didn't get fired or disowned. However, Harris County clerk and gay man Nathan Broussard decided that the whole thing was bullshit, and news of the arrest permeated the fine gay bars of the city, reaching the ears of passionate young gay lawyers like Mitchell Katine and the good folks of Lambda Legal through bartender Lane Lewis, who contacted the two accused men. Which shows that you should listen to everything the bartender says. Ever.

Lawrence was all set to plead not guilty because he didn't fucking do anything, when Lane Lewis began to tell the illustrious tales of gay martyrs like the patrons of the Stonewall, Harry Hay, and Harvey Milk.  Lawrence, taking the advice above, pleaded no contest, meaning that he did not dispute the charges against him but did not believe he was guilty, allowing lawyers to challenge the constitutionality of the law. To Lawrence, this meant allowing everyone to believe that he had sex with a much younger and far more attractive man. The level of self-sacrifice this man had is truly inspiring.

Okay, fine, dammit!
The odds were against them. Lawrence and Garner weren't just gay men, they were (according to the narrative) a trans-generational, interracial, gay male couple. If Lawrence was Jewish, that would be a full laundry list of all the KKK's hatreds. It's like a jackpot of potential bigotry. Nevertheless, Lawrence v Texas went all the way to the Supreme Court, where all laws criminalizing sex between two consenting adults of the same sex were struck down by a 7-2 majority. And so, on June 26, 2003, gay sex was finally legalized throughout the United States. Revelers could come up to celebrate the decision AND make DC's Pride Parade. Truly, a Pridetime miracle.

I was eight or nine at the time and had no idea what was going on or how it would affect me in the future. But  I owe a world of debt to John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner, two ordinary men who became heroes.

Gentlemen, when I get wasted out of my mind and hopefully engage in some debauched gay sex this Pride, I'll be doing it in your illustrious memory. Thank you.
< > F
Join us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter