When Yvonne Tutt and Christy Chris Gross were preparing to move to Galveston from College Station, they realized there were no real lesbian organizations to speak of in their soon-to-be home. So the 37-year-old friends decided to take matters into their own hands and founded the Galveston Island Rainbow Lesbian Society (GIRLS) on March 13, 2018.
“We made our own group in hopes of bringing more awareness and social gatherings to the lesbian community,” Gross explains. “GIRLS is a space where you can build forever-friendships and everlasting bonds with people that you relate to. GIRLS affirms that any person who identifies as a woman, or who is a respectful ally, is welcome. We do not tolerate sexism, racism, homophobia, or transphobia in our space.”
GIRLS has a Facebook page where members discuss LGBTQ issues, share online experiences, and plan group meetups, including the Island’s first lesbian prom in 2019. “It’s important that we have the GIRLS group because many of us didn’t have a familiar place to belong,” Tutt says. “It’s a group where we can vent and feel safe. GIRLS [members] come from all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, and you can more often than not find someone that can help you through things or, at the very least, a friend to get you over the steepest hill.”
Gross and Tutt describe Galveston’s LGBTQ scene as being vibrant and diverse. “There is a lot of support on social media and within the different groups,” they say. “We also have Pride Galveston every year in June. This year it will be September 18–20.”
When it comes to the lesbian scene in Galveston, the two say it’s definitely in the mix when it comes to all things LGBTQ on the Island. “However, we wanted to bring representation to the lesbian community. The lesbian scene, in our opinion, was pretty much nonexistent when we moved to Galveston,” Gross says. “Most of us have some sort of connection to each other, if by nothing else than being part of the same social network,” adds Tutt.
Both women would love to see more free activities and events focused on the lesbian community in alcohol-free spaces and outside of bars and clubs. “We would like for there to be more family-based events and activities. Also, [we’d like to see] more activities that cater to queer women instead of mostly gay men,” Tutt says.
GIRLS is changing that narrative by partnering with other LGBTQ organizations on the Island. “We participate in Pride Galveston, which is run by my two good friends Terry and Jamie Fuller-Waymire,” Tutt explains. “They also keep us in the loop and let us know when there are events going on. We are actually one of their sponsors this year. Todd Slaughter, the owner of Rumors Beach Bar, was generous enough to pay for our sponsorship fee.”
Tutt and Gross are both Palestine, Texas, natives who now call Galveston home. Tutt holds an associate’s degree in medical assisting from Vista College, while Gross earned her BA in psychology with a minor in child development at American Public University System’s American Military University. When it comes to childhood dreams, Tutt wanted to be a model and an actress, and Gross wanted to be a veterinarian.
Life had different plans for both of them, however. Tutt and Gross both work for UTMB Health—Tutt as a health unit coordinator in the hospital’s NICU, and Gross as an animal research biocontainment technician at the Galveston National Laboratory.
Tutt explains that managing GIRLS quickly became more than a two-woman endeavor. “After Christy and I founded GIRLS, we needed a little bit of help because our group began to grow quickly.” Enter Kristen Chauncey, Darinae Ivey, Sky Taylor, and Heather Barker. “They help us keep this group running. They are like sisters to us.”
GIRLS now has more than 500 members, and is growing by the day. Tutt and Gross say it is definitely the group to watch out for in the Galvestion lesbian scene. And, Tutt adds, “We have big things planned for GIRLS in the future!”
For more information on GIRLS, visit facebook.com/GalvestonIslandRainbows.
This article appears in the July 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.