LGBT culture in Houston

Houston has a large and diverse LGBT population and is home to the 4th largest gay pride parade in the nation.[1][2] Houston has the largest LGBT population in the state of Texas.[1][2]


According to Ray Hill, a Montrose resident quoted in the Houston Press, before the 1970s, the city's gay bars were spread around Downtown Houston and what is now Midtown Houston. Gays and lesbians needed to have a place to socialize after the closing of the gay bars. They began going to Art Wren, a 24-hour restaurant in Montrose, a community of empty nesters and widows. LGBT community members were attracted to Montrose as a neighborhood after encountering it while patronizing Art Wren, and they began to gentrify the neighborhood and assist the widows with the maintenance of their houses. Within Montrose, new gay bars began to open.[3] By 1985, the flavor and politics of the neighborhood were heavily influenced by the LGBT community.[3] and in 1990, according to Hill, 19% of the residents of Montrose were LGBT.[3] Paul Broussard was murdered in Montrose in 1991.[3]

In the 2000s many LGBT individuals began moving to Westbury and several began referring to it as "Little Montrose".[4] By 2009 some were also moving to Riverside Terrace.[5] By 2011 many LGBT people moved to the Houston Heights and to suburbs in Greater Houston, and according to Hill, possibly less than 8% of Montrose's population was LGBT. Decentralization of Houston's LGBT population with the increasing LGBT acceptance in the city caused business at gay bars in Montrose to decline. Hill stated that "Gay bars used to be places where we had to go to get refuge because we were not welcome anywhere else. Well, guess what? There's nowhere we're not welcome anymore."[6] The suburbs especially attracting gays are Pearland, Sugar Land, and Missouri City.

In February 2015 a 17-year-old gay student at Lutheran High School North reported that the school forced him to leave since he refused to take down YouTube videos discussing his sexuality.[7] The school's executive director, Wayne Kramer, referred to the student handbook, which stated: "Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity".[8]


Jordan Blum of the Houston Chronicle stated in 2016 that levels of LGBT acceptance and discrimination vary throughout the Houston energy industry. Around the 1990s BP, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and several other companies offered benefits and protection to LGBT employees equal to that of straight employees. According to Blum many LGBT-identifying persons told him that several companies have cultures non-supportive of LGBT-identifying persons and that some had "described thinly veiled or blatant discrimination."[9] Blum stated that "In many ways, the energy sector mirrors Houston's dual identities - the diverse, innovative, big-business urban image clashing with a conservative culture, deeply rooted in Christian faith."[9]


The Houston GLBT Community Center is located in the Dow School in the Sixth Ward of Houston.[10]

The Montrose Center is a LGBT community center located in the Montrose district of Houston.[11]

The center in 2019 began the establishment of a senior center in the Third Ward.[12]

Politics and activism

Michael Ennis of the Texas Monthly stated in 1980 that within Texas, "gay political inroads" were "most visible" in Houston.[13] In the October 1979 Village Voice Richard Goldstein wrote that due to the perceived threat from the "Christian right" in the area, gay people in Houston "take politics more seriously" than those in New York City.[13]

The Marriage of Billie Ert and Antonio Molina, the first gay marriage in Texas, took place in 1972, although it was later voided by the Texas Attorney General.[14]

In 1978 Steve Shifflet, a former Young Republican, became the head of the Houston Gay Political Caucus (HGPC). He advocated for using bloc-voting so gay people could get their preferred candidates. That year, the LGBT bloc-voted to put Mickey Leland in the Congressional seat formerly held by Barbara Jordan, and Leland personally thanked the HGPC.[15]

In 1979 Montrose became included in a single-member Houston City Council district and therefore increasing LGBT political representation.[16]

In 1980 Montrose was in Texas Legislative District 79. That year, Ennis stated that according to "[l]ocal politicians" the district "will now go the way the gay vote goes."[16]

In the fall 1979 election for Houston City Council, Eleanor Tinsley, a liberal, and Frank Mann, a conservative, competed for an at-large city council district. Tinsley attracted LGBT voters while Mann referred to them as "oddwads and queers" as a way of polarizing those opposing the LGBT community into voting for him. Due to the support of the LGBT community, Tinsley defeated Mann.[16]

In 2002 voters in the City of Houston had passed Proposition 2, which outlawed the city government from giving same-sex partners of municipal employees benefits.[17]

In 2010 Annise Parker, a lesbian woman, was voted Mayor of Houston, making that city the first large American city to vote an openly homosexual person as a mayor.[18][19] This made Parker the LGBT official in the United States with the largest constituency.[20] Parker had been elected to political offices in the city government six previous times. Miguel Bustillo of The Wall Street Journal stated that this occurred "with little controversy over her sexual preference". [21]


OutSmart is a monthly LGBT magazine in Houston.[22] In 2008 the Houston Press ranked it the "Best Local Magazine."[23]


In previous eras, gay people in the area attended gay rock and roll clubs. By 1980, gay Houstonians were still going to disco clubs, while among straight people disco was a fad.[24]

Charles Armstrong owns four gay clubs in Houston,[25] with two of them being South Beach and Montrose Mining Company;[26] Mandy Oaklander of the Houston Press wrote in 2011 that Armstrong's clubs were "the most successful clubs in Houston's gay scene".[25]

In 2002 Jeremy Quittner of The Advocate wrote that "it would seem" one could be prevented from being in the "superelite" of Houston for being homosexual;[27] he stated this in reference to Michael J. Kopper, the chief assistant of Enron CFO Andrew Fastow.[17]

The Gay Men's Chorus of Houston is the premier predominately gay male chorus in the Houston metro. The men's chorus was founded in 1979 and has a predominately lesbian counterpart known as the Bayou City Women's Chorus. The women's chorus was established in 2005.[28]

"Out at the Rodeo" week is held annually at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March. During this week, there are several events acknowledging and celebrating the LGBT community in conjunction with the festival.[29]

The Houston Gay Pride Parade is the largest pride parade in Texas. Pride Houston (parade organizers) has been able to attract approximately 200,000 spectators from Houston and beyond for the annual June event. For the first time since its inception, the parade has moved from Montrose to Downtown Houston for 2015. The reason cited for the move is that downtown has the space and resources to improve the quality and size of the event.[30]

Houston's annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is organized by Qfest. Qfest was founded in 1996 and sponsors several events throughout the year.[31]

Houston's Splash is a black gay and lesbian event that attracts an estimated 10,000 attendees. The event officially began in 1995 and is held every second week in May. It is the largest event of its kind in the Gulf Coast Region with a five-day span of activities celebrating the black gay community.[32][33]

The epicenter of Houston's gay community and nightlife is the Montrose district.



Some Christian churches accept members of the LGBT community.[34] In 2008 Reverend Dwayne Johnson, the pastor of the Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church,[35] a church in the Houston Heights,[34] stated that there were about 15-20 openly gay Christian clergy members in Houston.[35]

Resurrection Metropolitan's main service group is the LGBT community.[35] In 1980 the pastor was gay, and almost all of the congregation was LGBT.[36] In December 2010 Reverend Harry Knox, a pro-LGBT activist, became the leader of the Resurrection Metropolitan. In 2011 Resurrection Metropolitan had 850 members.[34]

Over the years a number of Evangelical/Pentecostal GLBT affirming churches have also ministered to the Houston Community. Community Gospel Church began in the early 1980s and served the community until 2012, with about 150 members at its height. In 2012, Gateway of Hope Church was birthed as a Pentecostal/Word of Faith, Spirit Filled, Word Based, Jesus Centered fellowship meeting off of Dacoma Street and Hempstead Highway and is pastored by Pastor Sven Verbeet. It is affiliated with the Covenant Network and serves not only the Houston area, but also active missions works in the Philippines and India. Founded in 2010 Living Mosaic Christian Church is an independent, nondenominational fellowship, pastored by Rev. Jason Wood meets at the Montrose Counseling Center. Living Mosaic's worship style is a liturgical and evangelical blend.

In 1995 Grace Evangelican Lutheran Church began accepting LGBT members and became a "Reconciling in Christ" Lutheran church; it was founded in 1922. In 2008 René Garcia, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), stated that he estimated that 40% of the members identified themselves as LGBT, with many of them coming from other Christian denominations such as Missouri Synod Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism.[35]

In 2008 pro-LGBT activist Jay Bakker argued that Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church, should speak out in favor of the LGBT community, and invited him to join his group in a picnic.[37]


The group Keshet Houston is a non-profit organization that connects Jewish LGBT people in the Houston area.[38] They connect Jewish people with LGBT affirming synagogues as well as holding their own social and religious events.[39] Keshet Houston has participated in the Houston Pride Parade since 2014, and in 2015 the first legally married same-sex couple from Texas rode on their float.[38][40]

Temple Emanu El is an LGBT friendly congregation whose leaders have spoken out against LGBT discrimination, and participated in events that seek to end this discrimination in Texas.[41][42]


Houston has a large number of Muslim residents, constituting approximately 1.2% of the population.[43] After the Pulse shooting that occurred in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, M.J. Khan, the president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston denounced the shooter, and said that the Muslim community stands in solidarity with LGBT people.[44][45] The Council on American-Islamic Relations of Houston also hosted a blood drive to benefit those who had been hurt by the shooting.[45][46]

Notable residents

See also


  3. Oaklander, Mandy. "The Mayor of Montrose." Houston Press. 18 May 2011. 2. Retrieved on May 18, 2011.
  4. Holley, Peter, John Lomax, and Todd Spoth. "25 Hottest Neighborhoods" (Archive). Houstonia. June 1, 2013. Retrieved on November 2, 2015.
  5. Shilcutt, Katharine. "Houston 101: The Forgotten Mansions of Riverside Terrace." Houston Press. Friday August 28, 2009. Retrieved on November 2, 2015.
  6. Oaklander, Mandy. "The Mayor of Montrose." Houston Press. 18 May 2011. 4. Retrieved on May 18, 2011.
  7. Hastings, Deborah. "Houston 17-year-old says Lutheran school booted him for coming out of the closet." New York Daily News. Saturday February 7, 2015. Retrieved on February 10, 2015.
  8. Wright, John. "Houston School Responds To Gay Student’s Viral Video." Texas Observer. Thursday February 5, 2015. Retrieved on February 10, 2015.
  9. Blum, Jordan. "In energy sector, coming out 'can put you at risk'." Houston Chronicle. January 16, 2016. Retrieved on March 3, 2016.
  10. "glbtcc_banner_V4.png Archived 2014-05-09 at WebCite" (Archive). Houston GLBT Community Center. Retrieved on May 9, 2014. "In The Historic Dow School Old Sixth Ward Historic District 1900 Kane Street, Houston, Texas 77007"
  12. "Affordable LGBTQ-Affirming Senior Living Center Breaks Ground In The Third Ward". Houston Public Media. 2019-08-06. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  13. Ennis, Michael. "What do these Rugged Texas He-Men Have in Common?". Texas Monthly. June 1980. Volume 8, No. 6. ISSN 0148-7736. Start page: 107. Cited: p. 213. Retrieved from Google Books on May 9, 2014.
  14. McGaughy, Lauren (November 28, 2014). "Unlikely gay marriage pioneers tied knot in Houston". Houston Chronicle. Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  15. Ennis, Michael. "What do these Rugged Texas He-Men Have in Common?". Texas Monthly. June 1980. Volume 8, No. 6. ISSN 0148-7736. Start page: 107. Cited: p. 213-214. Retrieved from Google Books on May 9, 2014.
  16. Ennis, Michael. "What do these Rugged Texas He-Men Have in Common?". Texas Monthly. June 1980. Volume 8, No. 6. ISSN 0148-7736. Start page: 107. Cited: p. 214. Retrieved from Google Books on May 9, 2014.
  17. Quittner, Jeremy. "Odd Man Out at Enron." The Advocate. Here Publishing, October 15, 2002. No. 874 ISSN 0001-8996. p. 30. Retrieved from Google Books on May 10, 2014.
  18. Olson, Bradley (December 13, 2009). "Annise Parker elected Houston's next mayor". Houston Chronicle. Archived from the original on December 17, 2009. Retrieved December 13, 2009. "Annise Danette Parker was elected mayor of Houston on Saturday, winning her seventh consecutive city election and becoming both the first contender in a generation to defeat the hand-picked candidate of Houston's business establishment and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city."
  19. James C. McKinley Jr (December 12, 2009). "Houston Is Largest City to Elect Openly Gay Mayor". New York Times. Archived from the original on February 25, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2009. "Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor on Saturday night, as voters gave a solid victory to the city controller, Annise Parker."
  20. Haider-Markel, Donald P. and Chelsie Lynn Moore Bright. "Lesbian Candidates and Officeholders" (Chapter 15). In: Thomas, Sue and Clyde Wilcox (editors). Women and Elective Office: Past, Present, and Future. Oxford University Press, January 1, 2014. Start page 253. ISBN 0199328730, 9780199328734. Cited: p. 255.
  21. Bustillo, Miguel (December 12, 2009). "Houston Election May Prove Historic". The Wall Street Journal. "But voters here have largely dismissed the issue as insignificant, even though she could become the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city. Ms. Parker, a city controller who has been elected to local office six times with little controversy over her sexual preference, is the leading candidate in Saturday's election runoff."
  22. Guerra, Joey. "OutSmart Magazine organizes celebration party in Houston" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. June 26, 2013. Retrieved on September 25, 2014.
  23. "Best Local Magazine (2008) OutSmart Archived 2015-09-27 at WebCite" (Archive). Houston Press. Retrieved on September 28, 2015.
  24. Ennis, Michael. "What do these Rugged Texas He-Men Have in Common?". Texas Monthly. June 1980. Volume 8, No. 6. ISSN 0148-7736. Start page: 107. Cited: p. 210. Retrieved from Google Books on May 9, 2014.
  25. Oaklander, Mandy. "The Mayor of Montrose." Houston Press. 18 May 2011. 1. Retrieved on May 10, 2014.
  26. Oaklander, Mandy. "The Mayor of Montrose." Houston Press. 18 May 2011. 2. Retrieved on May 10, 2014.
  27. Quittner, Jeremy. "Odd Man Out at Enron." The Advocate. Here Publishing, October 15, 2002. No. 874 ISSN 0001-8996. p. 31. Retrieved from Google Books on May 10, 2014.
  28. "Gay Men's Chorus of Houston". Bayou City Performing Arts. Bayou City Performing Arts. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  29. "Rodeo Week". Out at the Rodeo. Out at the Rodeo. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  30. Guerra, Joey (1 October 2014). "Houston's Pride parade to move downtown". Chron. Hearst Newspapers. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  31. "About QFest". QFest. QFest. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  32. "About Us". Houston Splash. Houston Splash. Retrieved 24 June 2016.
  34. Shelnutt, Kate. "Gay Christian community in Houston: Diverse, kid-friendly and working for justice" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. January 28, 2011. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  35. Karkabi, Barbara. "Grace Evangelical Lutheran welcomes gay pastor" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. August 29, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  36. Ennis, Michael. "What do these Rugged Texas He-Men Have in Common?". Texas Monthly. June 1980. Volume 8, No. 6. ISSN 0148-7736. Start page: 107. Cited: p. 107. Retrieved from Google Books on May 9, 2014. "It was Easter morning at Houston's Metropolitan Community Church of the Resurrection. [...]"
  37. Feldman, Claudia. "Gay group, Tammy Faye's son invite Joel Osteen to picnic" (Archive). Houston Chronicle. May 8, 2008. Retrieved on May 3, 2014.
  38. Zieben, Kathy (July 2, 2015). "Houston soars over the rainbow at Pride Parade". Jewish Herald Voice. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  39. "Keshet Houston Helps Queer Jews Connect". OutSmart Magazine. 2014-09-01. Retrieved 2016-11-04.
  40. Samuels, Jeanne F. Jewish Herald-Voice (Houston, Tex.), Vol. 107, No. 10, Ed. 1 Thursday, June 12, 2014, newspaper, June 12, 2014; Houston, Texas. ( accessed November 4, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; .
  41. "Rabbi's Shabbat Morning Talmud Class - Archive | TEMPLE EMANUEL". 2010-06-28. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  42. "Faith Advocacy Day planned at state capitol | Out in SA". Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  43. "Women for first time will recite Quran during Ramadan in Houston-area mosques". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  44. "Houston Muslim leader: We stand with the LGBT community". KHOU. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  45. Martin, Florian (2016-06-13). "Houston Faith Leaders, LGBT Community Unite To Condemn Orlando Mass Shooting | Houston Public Media". Houston Public Media. Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  46. "CAIR-Houston Joins Community to Speak Against Violence". Retrieved 2016-11-05.
  47. Patrick, Diane (June 15, 2018). "What Would Beyoncé Do? Michael Arceneaux's Asking". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
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