Austin Pride

Photo Credit: Lex Rojas | Daily Texan Staff

Offstage, the man’s name is Brady Faucett. Onstage, it’s CupCake – winner of Austin’s Next Drag Superstar season one and Miss Austin Pride 2013 and the poster girl for the fLAWLESS Surrealist Ball.

This is CupCake’s second year performing in the fLAWLESS Surrealist Ball, in which drag queens pair up with local Austin designers to create custom gowns and perform. The event is an official showcase for Austin Fashion Week and will be held in the Scottish Rite Theater at 9 p.m. Thursday.

“I am beyond excited for the fLAWLESS fashion show,” CupCake said. “Last year’s club-kid-themed show was a huge success and the opportunity to work with professional designers is always exciting.”

The fLAWLESS Ball will feature drag performances, classical piano music played by Russell Reed, and aerial dancers from Sky Candy. Sym Coronado-Prole of the Austin drag-collective Poo Poo Platter and Valeri “Jinxy” Abrego, founder of Jinxedaposed Clothing, created the event to push the boundaries of runway by combining drag performances with fashion and art.

“Even working with the drag queens as performers to have something that’s more conceptualized gets things out of the box by letting creativity take precedence over the process,” Coronado-Prole said.

Coronado-Prole said the show celebrates fashion and expression without restraint. They stylized the name fLAWLESS to accentuate that idea of freedom.

“We’re going with fLAWLESS because it’s the term of being flawless but we emphasize being lawless,” Cornado-Prole said. “It’s thwe concept of focusing on the queer community and how it correlates with fashion and art and expression.”

Last year’s event celebrated the history of the club kids, a glam-punk movement in 1980s and 1990s New York City.

“We wanted to have a drag show that focused more on art as fashion and focus on people who didn’t really play by the rules and took fashion to new levels by doing so,” Coronado-Prole said.

Abrego said this year’s event aims to recreate the Rothschild Surrealist Ball, a famous party thrown by an elite Parisian family in 1972 where attendees wore long dresses with animal-head masks. The creators encourage guests to channel the ball’s bizarre attire.

Coronado-Prole said the creators wanted to use their position as an official Austin Fashion Week showcase to bring something different to the fashion week’s scheduled events. The queens are going to perform in their outfits, meaning they will lip sync and dance to songs of their choice.

The show is the Austin drag community’s chance to represent itself during fashion week. CupCake, who has been performing in drag in Austin for four years, said the drag scene in Austin is “incredible.”

“When I started four years ago, there was such a stagnation in the drag scene,” CupCake said. “It was very ‘out of the coffin and onto the stage.’ Now it is a beautiful, open scene that provides access and opportunities to anyone who expresses interest.”

Abrego said the show is more than a fun event — a chance to represent the often-overlooked queer community.

“Some veer away because it is too controversial, or they’re worried that they will be categorized in a negative way,” Abrego said. “But this is not the day or age that such ignorance should exist. I prefer to be on the right side of history.”

What: fLAWLESS Surrealist Ball

When: 9 p.m. Thursday

Where: Scottish Rite Theater

Admission: Free

Kip Dollar and Toby Johnson relax at their home in North Campus. In 1991, Dollar and Johnson were the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in Travis County, where they were subsequently denied.

Even in Austin — a city often characterized as a bubble for its liberal mind-set encompassed in a conservative state — it hasn’t been easy for those in the LGBT community. As hundreds of people sprawled out on the lawn of Fiesta Gardens on Saturday, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Austin Pride, the sunny easiness of the day masked those darker days of the past. But the personal stories of the grand marshals of this festival serve as a reminder and a bridge between yesterday and today.

Kip Dollar, Toby Johnson, Jody Mekkers, Joanna Lawbow and Pat Cramer were the grand marshals for this year’s Austin pride. As public emissaries of the event, they were chosen by the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation to recognize their significant contributions to the LGBT community in Austin.

Along with his partner Johnson, Dollar helped form the city’s first gay and lesbian business association and ran Liberty Books, a local lesbian and gay bookstore, for seven years. Dollar and Cramer were among the handful of organizers of the first Austin Pride. Cramer also works with the Austin Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus and helped formed the first lobby group in Texas for gay and lesbian rights. Mekkers and Lawbow were among the hundreds who marched in the first pride celebrations in the early ’70s.

As much as their civic contributions exemplify the progress made in gay rights, their personal stories and encounters are reminders of an even more fearful time for homosexuals and transgendered people. The adversity they faced — Cramer was in one of the first lawsuits challenging Law 2106 against sodomy, and Mekkers was court marshaled by the U.S Navy for being a lesbian — are the details of a more complete picture.

Mekkers, a retired minister, said she remembers marching at the Christopher Street Liberation Day Gay-In, San Francisco’s first pride celebration at Golden Gate Park, with her church group on June 28, 1970. Protesters screamed hateful words and threw objects at the participants, she said.

“It wasn’t much fun,” she said. “But in reality, looking back, I was amazed at the courage of the people who marched that day.”

There was a lot to lose, she said. There was little to no legal protection for gays and lesbians against prejudice in the ’70s and ’80s. Participants could have been expelled from college, fired from their jobs and denied from housing if they were outed. Mekkers remembered seeing participants at a demonstration in Boise with paper bags over their heads. They were frightened someone would recognize their faces, she said.

Lawbow, who was among the 6,000 participants of Christopher Street Liberation Day, New York’s first gay march celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, said she too was afraid she would get noticed in the crowd.

“I knew there would be news media there, like TV cameras for all the major stations out of NYC,” she said. “My family did not know I was gay at that point, so that was one of the things that was scary — the possibility of my face showing on the 11 o’clock news.”

Lawbow, who had just graduated from Douglass College — a women’s college about 45 minutes about from New York City — that month and who had turned 20 four days earlier, said the late ’60s was a time of great political activity.

“[It was] a time when we really believed that we could have an impact and make a difference,” she said. And though she had rallied and protested against the Vietnam War, championing gay rights was different — the stakes were higher.

“It was really bold to declare publicly that you were gay back then,” Lawbow said. “We didn’t even have the word gay; it was homosexual and/or lesbian.”

Though the organizers got a permit at the last minute, Lawbow said the experience was still frightening because it was the first march and no one knew what to expect.

The demonstrators marched between traffic, up one lane of Sixth Avenue on June 18, 1970, starting off at Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street and ending at Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park. As the participants passed by, several policemen turned their backs on them and faced towards the sidewalk to show their contempt, she said. The experience was scary, yet also exciting for her, she said.

“It was just unheard of to congregate and celebrate and not hide and be secretive and buy into shame,” she said. “My strongest memory is seeing the size of the crowd at Central Park and realizing that my friends and I were not alone, that so many people were willing to take huge risks, and that meant that things were just going to have to change because we weren’t going to go backwards from that liberating moment.”

But while progress has been made since Lawbow walked nearly four miles to Central Park and since Mekkers was condemned for her sexuality by the military, (such as the legalization of gay marriage in New York and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell), Labow said there is still so much that needs to happen.

“The juxtaposition is painful,” she said.

The idea of losing some and gaining a bit is not only a factor of time, but also place.

Dollar and Johnson requested a marriage license in Texas in 1991. The couple, who have been together for 27 years, were the first to apply and get denied. In 1993, however, Travis County approved a plan ensuring same-sex benefits and allowing same-sex couples to register for domestic partnership.

Because of the couple’s prominent role in the LGBT community with their bookstore, they were asked to be the first to register their partnership. Shortly after, however, protesters from religious and family groups and organizations brought a referendum and had the benefits revoked. The registry was not abolished, however, and same sex couples can still apply with the county’s clerk for their domestic partnerships.

As a red, conservative state, it is going to take longer for Texas to pass gay rights, Dollar said, but it will happen.

“I think it’ll happen in Texas because Texas doesn’t lead. Sometime it may seem like that, but [Texas] will have to follow,” he said.

Nearly 20 years after the first marches in San Francisco and New York City, Dollar said Austin hosted its first pride festival in 1991, after organizers thought, ‘Why hasn’t it happened yet?’

There was barely any seed money for that first pride festival, Kipp said. The festival didn’t even have a name. He said organizers worried no one was going to show up, but to all of their amazement, more than 2,000 people showed up at Fiesta Gardens. The turnout at Saturday’s festival doubled.

“It feels like an incredible honor to be asked to represent that time and those people and to be here in Austin,” Mekkers said.

Nathan James, director of entertainment for Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation, said the pride festivities are a way for the community to be itself. “We are simply people,” James said.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

With an established and growing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, this year will mark Austin’s 20th Pride Celebration.

The Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation, whose purpose is to educate, connect and strengthen the GLBT community, is organizing the celebration. The foundation anticipates this year’s event to be the most successful yet.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring the community together as a collective voice,” said AGLPF vice president Paul Huddleston. “We’re trying to be as together as possible, even through entertainment and event lineups.”

Indeed, the performers lined up for the festival reflect this sense of unity. Artists at the festival range from rap groups to techno, with some comedy in between. There will also be a mix of local artists, along with artists who will be traveling from the east and west coasts.

One such group, Ejector, will be traveling from San Francisco to join the festivities. With a very European-electro style, Ejector promises theatricality with dark latex and leather. Visually, the band is a breed of sci-fi mixed with James Bond, bringing prop laser guns to the stage. Lead singer Ben Holder said that the band will hook the audience with melody lines you can sing along to.

Ejector also brings to the stage a message of positivity and overcoming personal turmoil.

“We try to reach cities through music,” Holder said. “Though we have a great fan base at home, we want to see how people in Austin will perceive us. It’s the next step, a big music town with experience and attitude.”

Lil ‘P (Phyllis Charles) and Sweet LD (Djuana J. Johnican) of Oaktown’s 3.5.7, a female rap group created by MC Hammer, will also be making an appearance. Saturday will be their first pride fest and their first performance together since 1989. The duo said they are ready to make it happen and promises to exert a high, dancey energy, bringing fun and flashback to the celebration. They also hope to encourage audiences to be themselves.

“Humanity should be without categories — if we can understand we’re all beautiful spirits, we’ll be fine,” said Johnican. “You have labels and conditions, but it doesn’t make a difference. Nobody’s able to be blessed in these conditions, but you yourself can be a blessing for other people.”

Jacinta, a singer-songwriter and DJ, shares a similar message.

“Austin has a beautiful growth with an attitude that is realizing people are people, love is love, and we’re all individuals and need to respect each other.”

Originally from Australia, Jacinta has been living in Texas for nearly a decade. She has performed in pride events across the country and GLBT events in New York, Chicago, Seattle and Oregon, encouraging her listeners to follow the light from inside themselves.

Shunda K and Shon B plan to spread a more distinct message through their Christian yet sexually explicit lyrics. The rap duo goes by Yo! Majesty and strongly advocates its belief in God and its “what you see is what you get” approach to life.

“We are who we are. We are gay females. We talk about what’s real, so with us, it’s about being real,” Shunda said. “Pride is a great revolution. I’m gay too, so I’m obliged to be a part of it.”

While Yo! Majesty is grateful for the opportunity to spread their word at the festival, they are not just performing for Austin, rather, the whole world that seems to be spinning out of control. "We’re trying to create a balance," Shunda said.

Printed on September 8, 2011 as: Pride Celebration will feature artists in atmosphere of unity