The Top Ten Greatest Gays of Texas

Here in Texas, we lay claim to some of the most interesting and influential GLBT men and women of our time. Admittedly, they generally get out as fast as they can, but to us, they'll always be Texans. Here are ten GLBT men and women we're proudest to call Texans, especially during this season of Pride.

Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey

10. Alvin Ailey One of the biggest names in modern dance grew up in the Bell County town of Rogers. Ailey was raised during a time of segregation, and many of the racial and religious themes prevalent in the choreographer's later works were gleaned from his Southern Baptist childhood. When he was 12, Ailey moved to LA, where he saw his first ballet and enrolled in dance class. He joined a company, later becoming the artistic director. His own company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is one of the best-known in the world.

An openly gay black man, Ailey encountered plenty of stigma, even from his own mother. He is said to have kept his early life as a dancer secret -- when his mother caught Ailey in makeup before a performance, she slapped him. Even at the end of Ailey's life, he asked the doctor to say that he was suffering from terminal blood dyscrasia. Ailey died from AIDS in 1989.

Dustin Lance Black
Dustin Lance Black

9. Dustin Lance Black Dustin Lance Black, a mega hunk who grew up Mormon in San Antonio, went on to write the screenplay for Milk.

Black won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2009. From his acceptance speech:

If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.

Now, he calls on his Texas childhood to write and produce HBO's polygamist show Big Love.

Sheryl Swoopes
Sheryl Swoopes

8. Sheryl Swoopes WNBA superstar Sheryl Swoopes is an Olympian and a lesbian -- two of the best -ians! She grew up in Brownfield and started shooting hoops at an early age. She chose to stay close to home when she was recruited for college, and enrolled at Texas Tech in Lubbock. There, Sports Illustrated and USA Today named her National Player of the Year.

Swoopes helped win America an Olympic gold medal in 1996 and was the first drafted player for the WNBA, where she played for the Houston Comets. And though by this time Swoopes was married with a son, she fell in love with Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott. She came out in 2005, divorced her husband, and has been with Scott ever since.

From a 2006 ESPN interview:

The thought of being intimate with her [Alisa Scott] or any other woman never entered my mind. I've had plenty of gay friends I've hung out with, but that thought never entered my mind. At the same time, I'm also a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can't control that. Whether it's another woman. Whether it's another man. Whatever. I think that's what happened to me, to us.


Terrence McNally
Terrence McNally

7. Terrence McNally Playwright Terrence McNally has more awards than you can shake a cat at: four Tonys, two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Rockefeller Grant and a bunch of others you've never heard of but that are very, very hard to win. McNally was raised in Corpus Christi but -- you guessed it -- jumped ship to New York. He began a romance with his theater mentor, Edward Albee (playwright of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and a current UH professor). Some of McNally's work was focused on AIDS and studied social stigmas against positive folks, including Andre's Mother and Lips Together, Teeth Apart.

Most famously, McNally wrote the musicals Ragtime, The Full Monty and Catch Me If You Can.

But McNally's most controversial play was Corpus Christi, a reimagining of Jesus' life where Jesus and his disciples are gay. On opening night 2,000 protesters took to the theater, and when it opened in London, a Muslim group issued a fatwa against McNally and he was sentenced to death.

McNally is currently revising the beloved musical Pal Joey.

6. Mary Martin Okay, so Weatherford native Mary Martin -- famous for her portrayal of Peter Pan -- never actually came out. But she's rumored to have had a long-term relationship with fellow movie star Janet Gaynor. Both ladies had "lavender marriages," those contrived to hide the sexuality of one or both of the spouses. (Martin was married to an interior decorator; Gaynor, to a costume designer.)

One of the most entertaining snippets about Martin comes from her performance of an innuendo-laden Cole Porter song, "My Heart Belongs to Daddy." Apparently, Martin was so naive that she had no idea what she was really singing about, to the delight of her cosmopolitan audiences:

If I invite A boy, some night To dine on my fine finnan haddie, I just adore His asking for more, But my heart belongs to Daddy.

5. John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner Not all great Texas gays made their mark on the stage. John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner changed Texas forever when their Supreme Court case legalized being gay. In 1998, a sheriff's deputy busted into Lawrence's apartment on the tip that there was a gun-wielding maniac inside. (The tipster later admitted to making the story up. He was actually a jealous lover of Garner's.) Instead of discovering weapons, the deputy found two men making love. They were arrested on the spot for violation of sodomy laws.

Thankfully, they fought their conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, which voted 6-3 to strike down the law. It would be one of the biggest Supreme Court decisions in history. (We spoke with the arresting officer who started the whole ball rolling after the Supreme Court decision.)  

4. Tommy Tune A Wichita Falls native, Broadway sensation Tommy Tune went to Lamar High School. He completed his entire education in our fair state, getting his undergrad on at UT Austin and taking graduate courses at UH. He then moved the hell out of Texas and swept New York as a Broadway actor, director and choreographer. Tune won nine Tony Awards, the National Medal of the Arts and a star in Hollywood's Walk of Fame. But he never forgot his roots. In fact, Tune's first directing stint was for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Tom Ford
Tom Ford

3. Tom Ford Austin's Tom Ford makes the world look and smell just a little bit better, and for that, we applaud him. He high-tailed it to New York, where he came out. Ford is credited with giving Gucci the best makeover of its life in the mid-'90s, and pulling the same stunt with Yves Saint Laurent. Since 2005, Ford has had his own menswear, accessory and beauty brand. He lives with journalist Richard Buckley, the former editor of Vogue Hommes International.

From Out Magazine, here's Ford's narration of their romance:

You can look at someone and feel like you've known him forever. The first night I ever had drinks with Richard I felt I knew everything about him. He has the wildest eyes -- like an Alaskan husky...

We first encountered each other at a fashion show in New York in 1986. He was 38 at the time and the fashion editor of Women's Wear Daily. He was confident and handsome in a way that made him almost unapproachable. His stare was so intense that it completely unnerved me, and when the show was over I literally bolted out the door and down the street to avoid him.

Ten days later, they fell in love.

2. Robert Rauschenberg Painter, sculptor and composite artist Robert Rauschenberg was an all-around non-traditional. A Port Arthur native, Rauschenberg challenged the notions of what is and is not art, broadening the definition with his silkscreens and found objects. He also challenged the concept of love, which was pretty narrowly defined back in the 1950s. Though he married and had a child, Rauschenberg and his wife divorced three years later. Rauschenberg engaged in several love affairs with peers Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly.

Rauschenberg's work made him world-famous and earned him the National Medal of Arts.  

Annise Parker
Annise Parker

1. Annise Parker Houston's own Annise Parker is, of course, the first gay mayor of any major U.S. city. She's always been active in her GLBT community, including serving as president of Houston's GLBT Political Caucus in 1986. She continues to serve on the board of the Montrose Counseling Center.

Always open about her sexuality, Parker made an intimate video about growing up gay for I'm From Driftwood, an organization that uses media to show GLBT youth that they're not alone. Parker came out when she was 15 and fell in love a year later, but neither of the girls' mothers approved. Parker and her girlfriend went on double dates with guys so they could see each other.

Now, Parker lives with her partner of 21 years, Kathy Hubbard. They have two adopted daughters and a foster son.

Parker gets extra points for being one of the few to stay in her home state. As she once told BusinessWeek, "I take a lot of credit for raising Houston's coolness factor." We couldn't agree more.

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