June is pride month, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, often regarded as the tipping point in the modern gay rights movement. Houston Press met with members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn more about their experiences as being part of this group. These are their stories.
Arts AND crafts. Peanut butter AND jelly. Country AND Rock-and-Roll. Sometimes you like both. That's how Jeremy Dotson, a bartender at George Country Sports Bar, feels about dating: he likes both men and women.
Upon meeting him, one can't help but notice his character. The solid built, 40-year-old represents the consummate gentleman: polite and even tempered, with a welcoming smile and aw-shucks demeanor. As even keeled as he may seem, though, being bisexual has shown him the ups and downs of navigating a sexuality that can be sometimes confusing to others.
Having grown up in Arkansas, he didn't have much exposure to the LGBTQ scene, and he didn't even realize his own sexuality had a name until he was nearly drinking age.
"That’s when I considered dating and becoming sexually active. I moved away from Arkansas, and to the city, and I started being exposed to different things," he said. "I have memories from childhood of actors and actresses that I would be fixated on. Around 20 is when I realized and talked to friends and said, 'Yeah, that is me.' You never know who you're going to grow fond of."
To Dotson, it never really mattered the gender of his love interests. What did matter, though, was his finding a job. Thanks to a friend who owned a bar, he took a shot at slinging drinks and eventually made his way into working at the LGBTQ watering holes. It was in these places where he started to find his tribe.
"I’ve gotten more acceptance in the LGBTQ community. I’ve had less issues trying to date males in the LGBTQ community than dating females outside the community. I’m not sure why that is, but that’s my personal experience. That’s how things have gone for me," he said.
But even dating can be somewhat challenging when people are still a little bit fuzzy about what bisexual means. Is bisexual just a pit stop before gay? Does being bisexual mean he won't be happy with a committed relationship?
"I think a lot of people assume that because I’m fine with either gender, I need both. They assume a level of promiscuity from me and that monogamy won’t appeal to someone of my orientation…that I won’t want to settle down because there will still be some need. There might be people who have that need, but I never did. When I was in relationships, one person was enough. I’ve never felt comfortable dating more than one person at a time," he said.
Just as Dotson's gate doth swing both ways, the fickle nature of how others perceive him can too. The community at large can sometimes show acceptance and other times demonstrate confusion or even anger.
"I could probably walk around and not have people notice me or people be judgmental toward me. But when I mention that I’m bi, there’s been a lot of awkwardness in response to that," Dotson said. "Working in the community and people meeting me, sometimes people feel more comfortable around me because they assume I’m gay. Then, when the topic comes out, they’re taken aback. They’ll feel like they trusted me with saying things they wouldn’t have said before. Sometimes females will joke, ‘Well, if you weren’t gay...’ and then I tell them 'Well, you know, [I’m bi]…' and they feel embarrassed."
Typically, people show an emotional reaction to the realization that Dotson identifies as bisexual. However, last month, Dotson had a different, more physical experience with a bar patron. He describes the customer as having a nice time and being a really decent guy. After already closing out his tab, the customer asked about Dotson's sexual identity. Upon hearing the "b" word, the customer's facial expression changed, he threw a glass at Dotson's work station and then stormed out.
"He doesn’t think I have a place in this community, and I don’t belong here because I’m not gay. Like the bar is trash and the bar deserves to have glasses thrown against the wall. I’m not part of it, that’s how I felt," he said.
The incident demonstrates even through pride month is considered a time of celebration and acceptance, there is still work to do, even within the LGBTQ population.
But even then, Dotson still finds comfort in the support of the sports bar and pool hall where he has made his living these last handful of years.
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"My management and owner support and defend me. They don’t tolerate someone being bigoted, even if they’re inside the community," he said. "Even if it’s a gay man saying 'Why are there lesbians here?' That’s not tolerated. I feel comfortable working for an open-minded, progressive bar owner."
Fittingly, Dotson sees George as a microcosm of pride month. It's a place where everyone belongs, which is just how he likes it.
"We have men, women, lesbians, transgender, all who feel comfortable coming to our bar because they’re sports fans or neighborhood friends. You also have so many allies," he said. "It is the most diverse bar in the community I’ve had the privilege of working at. It’s not that the patrons are just showing up, they’re showing up to be together and mix with each other."
George Country Sports Bar is open 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays. For more information, visit its facebook page. To learn more about Pride Houston, visit pridehouston.org.