DALLAS — "Spread love, not hate."
Those words came from drag performer Vegas Van Cartier as she wrapped up her show in the Rose Room at Dallas' Station 4 nightclub. The stage was blooming with trans-identifying Texas drag stars, including Van Cartier (from Austin), Alexander the Great (Austin), Adriana LaRue (Houston), and Ruby Diamond (Dallas).
"Spread love" also described the overall atmosphere of the night for TX Trans Pride, the inaugural event hosted by Prism Health North Texas (PHNTX). The LGBTQ+ health-based organization partnered with Arttitude and Transgender Pride of Dallas to have the event Friday night on the city's Cedar Springs Strip.
When PHNTX's Shalissa Corpus (they/them) decided to organize TX Trans Pride, they said the overall goal was to throw more of a party for the trans-identifying community since they're usually not honored in a positive light.
"When we look at events for the trans community, they're never a thought-out celebration. They're always 'In Remembrance,' they're always 'In Observance,' they're 'In Awareness,' but they're never just a flat out celebration," said Corpus. "This is an opportunity for us to be able to smell our flowers and have our flowers and enjoy our flowers while we're alive to do so."
Drag performer Mulan Alexander (she/her) from Arlington noted that while the event was open for any LGBTQ+ person or ally to attend, it was important to cater to the trans community and give them the extra support they needed to be their authentic selves.
"There are trans people out there that don't feel comfortable coming into other people's spaces. So we wanted to create this space for the trans community so they can come and they can be comfortable with who they are, who they're around, seek information that they aren't comfortable in other settings to talk about, to be seen or any of that," she said.
Outside of the jaw-dropping performances, good food and attendees filling up the dancefloor, PHNTX wanted TX Trans Pride to be an opportunity to support the overall well-being of the community. There were stations for people to learn about the organization's Transgender Primary Care, get tested for HIV and other STIs, and for them to get a monkeypox vaccine.
Corpus said every decision made for this event was intentional for supporting transgender people, from the Affirmation Station to all of the performers being trans-identified.
"We wanted to get some diversity amongst the trans community," they said. "Oftentimes I feel like, whenever when we think about the trans community, sometimes trans women are a little in the spotlight. So we definitely wanted to go ahead and provide some opportunities for our transmasculine folks to also shine."
For anyone asking why the event happened outside of Pride Month in June, Corpus has a reminder that September Pride events are a part of Dallas history.
According to Dallas Pride, the Dallas Tavern Guild moved the city's gay Pride parade in 1983 to the third Sunday in September. They did that and renamed it the "Texas Freedom Parade" to commemorate a Dallas judge's ruling that temporarily blocked the state's anti-sodomy law.
"I think that by having this event in September, [it] really does make this a Texas Pride. This makes this more Texas-oriented - more Dallas-oriented - and really allows us to get back to the roots of what Pride was for us in the DFW community, but also just getting back to, in general, what Pride started out as," they said.
In a separate interview, headlining performer and Dallas native Kerri Colby (she/her) cosigned Corpus' answer. She also took the topic to a national level, saying Pride as a whole is practically a year-round celebration.
"Pride actually, if we look at it in the United States, goes all the way from some events starting in March until the last one, I think, is in November in Palm Springs," she said. "We just need Pride and Inclusivity Years because really, it is a lifestyle. It is an everyday thing for us."
As transfeminine North Texas natives, performing at TX Trans Pride was a special moment for Colby and Alexander.
Alexander said she was excited to be a part of the first TX Trans Pride event and she already knows there will be more to come.
"We need stuff like this. We need productions like this. We need a space for everybody to feel comfortable," she said. "This is something iconic and monumental."
Colby has a lot of things she's working on at the moment (new music, an upcoming talk show, etc.), but she definitely wanted to make room for this event. She said it was an opportunity to educate others while also looking back at her good and bad memories from her hometown.
"It really is where so much of my triumphs and also so much of my trauma came from," said Colby. "To be able to go back and to communicate and to be present and be visible and be celebrated and help celebrate others in a place that I necessarily didn't have that in the past, and it did cause a lot of damage for me... It really is more of one of those 'soul space healings.'"