Dozens of gender-diverse individuals gathered downtown at the WeWork Jones building on Friday, June 14, for Pride Houston’s inaugural Genderless Cocktail Party.
According to organizers, at least 150 people attended the LGBTQ organization’s first-ever event specifically for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming folks. Created in collaboration with Pride Houston’s board observer Barret White and special-events director Kendra Walker, the Genderless Cocktail Party is part of a growing effort to become more inclusive to all gender identities within the LGBTQ community.
“The Genderless Cocktail Party was born to celebrate the full spectrum of gender expression,” says Walker, who is also the owner of the Houston branch of Lesbians of Color, or LOC. “Sometimes we get caught up in the L, the G, and the B, and we forget the T, the I, and the A+. Pride Houston wants to lend support to [all] sections of our community.”
Hosted by Miss Black Trans International Angel Iman and Houston drag king Ian Syder-Blake, the party featured a silent auction, an open wine bar, and music by DJ Stunt Queen. Although white cocktail attire was recommended, the policy was not strictly enforced, allowing attendees to present themselves comfortably. The classically decorated space featured a selfie wall, a dance floor, a buffet, seating for attendees to mingle, and displays of free Pride Houston merchandise.
Walker hopes that the free event marked the beginning of an annual tradition that can foster more representation and inclusion for Houston’s trans and gender-diverse communities.
“Representation matters. People are happiest, inspire more, and open more doors and opportunities when they see themselves represented. That matters for everybody, whether you’re cis or trans—everybody,” says Walker, who went on to explain why the push for gender-specific representation was necessary when organizing the event. “The only sector of the community that I can think of that is more marginalized than queer women of color is trans women, specifically trans women of color. And the least-represented deserve this spotlight.”
Kala Winkelmann, a 29-year-old who identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, echoes this sentiment when asked why they planned to attend the party.
“The event directly recognizes genders outside the binary,” Winkelmann says. “I think it’s great, since Pride Houston recently added a nonbinary grand-marshal category. Many events already [exist] that are heavily masculine or feminine, [so this event] provides exposure, accessibility, and awareness for genders that exist outside the binary.”
The idea for the Genderless Cocktail Party came from White, who is a board observer for Pride Houston this year. After volunteering with Pride Houston as an active community member for several years, White was able to pitch his idea to the board, which was met with great enthusiasm.
“One of the goals that President Lo had for this year was to return Pride to the community,” Walker says. “We wanted to have a lot of local involvement. And not only that, but we wanted to have events that represented everybody, from L to A+. So this year there is a performer, entertainer, or host that represents every letter of the LGBTIA+ community.”
While the Genderless Cocktail Party focused on the celebration of genders outside of the binary, cis allies were more than welcome to join the party.
Seth Anderson, 25, a member of the Space City Sisters who identifies as trans and nonbinary, reflected on the event’s inclusion of gender-diverse identities.
“These spaces are important because they give people the ability to be themselves fully—where we don’t have to worry about things like transphobia being thrown at us constantly,” Anderson says. “Cis people aren’t bad, and I love our ally brothers and sisters, but having a space to just be around other people like you is euphoric, in a sense.”
Kaneishia Sam, a 31-year-old trans man, also noted the significance that the Genderless Cocktail Party had for the LGBTIA+ community. “I feel it’s important for us as a community to come together and learn more about each other’s labels and lifestyles,” Sam says. “We’re already being torn apart by the world, so an event like this brings unity and love to the community as a whole.”