ColumnsWhat A World

What A World: There’s No Place Like Home

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In Montrose, there’s much to be proud about.

by Nancy Ford

NancyFordDespite its promising rhyme as it began that everything would be just fine, 2009 has had its disappointments.

First, The L Word, considered by some of us lesbians as our small-cinematographic home away from home, ended its six-year run with what was arguably the most ill-advised finale since The Sopranos flat-lined in 2007. Bring on the movie.

Next, we cringe to remember how Barack Obama said he would have the gay community’s back in the White House if we would have his on his way there. But President Chill (and I call him that with the friendliest of intentions) said last month, that lifting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, that notorious, injurious gay ban on the military, would have to wait.

Then, slightly more locally, Texas governor Rick Perry disappointed some, yet inspired others, by conjuring the possibility of Texas seceding from the remaining 49 states.

“There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But,” Perry hinted on April 15, referring to the “great union” that is these United States, “if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that.”

But the disappointments of this year are dwarfed by positive occurrences that, especially this month, give us queer folk here in Houston—specifically, here in Montrose—reason to be proud:

For one, you may have heard that our own Annise Parker, who has risen from the ranks of Houston City Council and the controller’s office of the largest city in Texas, is leading a pack of candidates for Houston’s next mayor. Leading handsomely, we might add.

Next, there is also the very real possibility that in November, Houston may boast not only an out mayor, but also four out city council members in addition to already seated out council member, Sue Lovell. How’s that for a comeback, Straight Slate (that ill-fated roster of antigay candidates that ran for city office in 1985)?

And finally, Pride season, the highest of high holy days for the LGBT community, is here.

Forty years after the first glittering high heels and smelly trash cans were thrown at Stonewall, we still celebrate the bravery of those theretofore immaculately groomed, closeted, gay men who looked like a casting call for Mad Men auditions. Shoulder-to-shoulder beside them were the butch dykes with their stereotypical butch haircuts and pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in the sleeve of their white T-shirts, and the transgenders and crossdressers who didn’t run when their mascara ran.

Christopher Street, the place where the Stonewall rebellion occurred in 1969, was a microcosm of New York City’s artists, Bohemians, forward-thinkers, and, of course, the queers.

Much like Montrose.

And just like Christopher Street, Montrose, the 31-year home of the southwest’s biggest Pride celebration held every June in commemoration of Stonewall, has its own history to be proud of.

Montrose looked much different in 1978 when Houston’s first official Pride parade rolled down Westheimer than it does now. There were no five-story townhomes. Mom and pop restaurants, resale shops, bars, and other small businesses dominated the neighborhood otherwise occupied by Houston’s artists, Bohemians, forward-thinkers, and, of course, queers.

Prior to that, in the 1900s, before the Bohemians et al settled there in the heady ’60s era, Montrose was a barren prairie land.

Doing its part to ensure that today’s flavorless fast-food franchises and towering townhomes don’t return Montrose to that indistinguishable esthetically barren state is a new locally produced television show—a must-see for anyone who has emotional or financial investment in Montrose.

Montrose, Texas: The Transformation of a Neighborhood from Sunset Productions with assistance by Sally Huffer and the Montrose Counseling Center is scheduled to air during Pride month, on June 3, 9 p.m., on PBS. That’s Channel 8 for most local viewers.

PBS Houston’s ubiquitous Ernie Manouse narrates the 30-minute program focusing on the rich heritage that is the land and the people of Montrose. We also are treated to personal recollections of the area as told by some of the key people who helped Montrose (which originally got its name from a town in Scotland) become the gem that it is today.

Neighborhood matri- and patriarchs, Suzanne Anderson, Jimmy Carper, Marion Coleman, John Coulter, John Danielson, Ray Hill, John Kellett, Dan Martin, Sharon Montgomery, Carol Adatto Nelson, Brandon Wolf, and others afix their own individual pieces of memory into the story, contributing to the rich jigsaw puzzle of diversity that is Montrose.

They refer to Montrose as Houston’s Disneyland, Mecca, Castro, Greenwich Village, and even Cape Cod, proving that Montrose is a state of mind as much as a geographic location.

But on June 27, Montrose is known to the rest of Houston as, simply, the place to be.

Gathering like they were responding to a biological clock that sounds its big gay alarm every last Saturday night of every June, every year, hoards of homosexuals and heterosexuals and families and singles and young people and people who wish after the parade as they adjust their spines that that were still young all converge on Montrose for the festivities in astounding, ever-increasing numbers.

Lord, they love those beads.

If only those same thousands and thousands of people—the gay and the straight and all the rest—who come to Montrose to revel each June responded with equal enthusiasm when it’s time to vote to support what Montrose stands for, everything equality-minded people ever dreamed of may someday be attainable.

Who knows—maybe someday, Montrose could even secede from Texas.

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