Beyond the BinaryFeatures

Life of the Party

DJ Mel is proud to be a part of a diversifying community.

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DJ Mel Frausto (photo by Frank Hernandez)

You may know Mel Frausto best as DJ Mel, the entertainer who spins sounds at clubs and bars around town and on Out & Proud Live radio. 

“I’m always looking for new sounds and new music,” Frausto admits. “Countless hours of listening to various genres of music to bring to the masses—that has always been a goal of mine, to share music and possibly make an everlasting connection with my audience. After all, ‘Music makes the people come together,’ as Madonna says.”

The 50-year-old single, nonbinary, and gender-fluid DJ (who uses they/them pronouns) has been living their best life for the last 20 years.

“I identified as gay/queer for most of my younger years,” they say. “I’ve expressed my gender through my style of clothing, behavior, posture, mannerisms, and activities. Always embracing the androgyny I embodied, mostly on the masculine side. However, I also learned to accept my feminine characteristics such as having naturally long eyelashes and a soft-spoken voice.

While their gender identity has a huge impact on how they present themself, Frausto says it does not limit their music choices. They love to spin not only gay pop, but everything from EDM (such as house music and circuit music) to Top 40, Latin pop, alternative rock and, of course, anything ’80s.

“I always knew music was going to be a major part of my life. I just never thought it would turn out to be my career of a lifetime,” they say. 

Frausto was born in the small town of Weslaco, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. They moved to Houston at age 6, and then to California to attend the College of Alameda and become an auto technician, following in their father’s footsteps. Although a repair-shop accident ended that path for Frausto, the incident pushed them to pursue a career as a DJ, which they initially did as a hobby for house parties. However, before their DJ career took off in California, Frausto moved back to Houston to help their ailing father, who later died of cancer. After their father passed, they decided to become a full-time DJ in Houston, and they haven’t looked back since.

Their stage name is based on Grandmaster Melle Mel and a love of old-school hip hop from the ’80s. They love performing at ReBar, BUDDY’S, and Rosemont, but their favorite club has to be Numbers, which was the first venue that embraced them. They also enjoy donating their time to local nonprofit events such as Bunnies on the Bayou and the Montrose Softball League Association.

DJ Mel’s performances are loved by many. They were voted Favorite DJ in OutSmart’s Gayest & Greatest awards for 2019. However, due to the pandemic their opportunities to perform and the number of DJ gigs declined last year.

“During the pandemic, my work came to a complete halt, with everything being completely shut down,” they say. “I was able to do the livestreaming for a while, until the bars and clubs were able to reopen slowly but surely.”

Now back in demand, they still find time to hang with their Siamese-mix cat named Jacques, which they say acts like a dog. They also relax by socializing with fellow bikers at the annual Pride Bike Ride Houston event. 

They say Houston is the the right place for them as a nonbinary DJ.

“Houston is gaining awareness that people are more complex than male or female, thanks to the many activists that protested for our right to have Houston’s first annual Pride parade 42 years ago.”

Frausto is proud to be a part of a diversifying city, and hopes people become more accepting of nonbinary people and artists. “I would like people to know that the nonbinary community is simply being themselves, [no matter which] parts they may have been born with. It varies for each individual. In the end, we are humans.”

Keep up with DJ Mel on Facebook at facebook.com/melfrausto.dj.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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