Queer Nation-Houston
Clippings & Info

Back to start of Houston History Section

This page will share various clippings, photos, etc that I have found related to the Queer Nation Houston
chapter and its history, and are in chronological order. They come from various Houston LGBT publications, including
This Week in Texas, the New Voice, Houston Voice, and others. They begin after the short summary.

And obviously, this is just the beginning of this effort to accumulate clippings, photos, etc on Houston's
Queer Nation. I very much welcome folks to send me scans of more, so
please contact me. This section
also includes related articles on ACT-UP, OUTrage, etc.

Yes, the pages are wide, as the clippings were wide. For some I have included a PDF link.

1991 (this page) plus Paul Broussard coverage
    1992      1993-1996     1988-90

 

The first Queer Nation chapter - an offshoot of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power -
was founded in New York in early 1990 to specifically combat homophobia.
Queer Nation-Houston (QN) was launched late that year by local activists,
including former Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus President David Fowler
and attorney John Paul Barnich. QN was grassroots, democratic, and based on direct action.

LGBT visibility was minimal in the mass media and existing representations were mostly
negative. Among QN's first actions in early 1991 were a banner hanging ("We're Queer!")
over the Southwest Freeway bridges; a demonstration against bigoted comedian Andrew Dice Clay's
performance at the Summit; and a contingent in that year's pride parade.

Paul Broussard was beaten to death on July 4. QN's Take Back the Streets march the following week
brought out 2,000 people outraged at this vicious, antigay murder. Yielding to pressure from
LGBT communities, Houston police sent undercover officers into Montrose in "Operation Vice-Versa".
Officers were attacked in multiple incidents, because they were perceived as gay; more than
fifteen people were arrested over a mere two weeks. This revealed, for (the many) skeptics,
the homophobic violence prevalent at that time.

QN membership swelled into the hundreds.

AIDS actions included distribution of condoms and safer-sex information. QN also organized
protests against M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which had removed operating room nurse
Brian Bradley from his position because he was HIV-positive, and City Councilman
John Goodner, who had called for quarantining people with HIV.

With ACT UP chapters from around the country, QN organized major demonstrations
against the 1992 Republican National Convention, held at the Houston Astrodome -
and at which Patrick Buchanan's notorious, keynote "culture war" speech initiated
a fifteen-year wave of increasingly antigay politics.

During the Convention, anti-abortion extremists from Operation Rescue descended on Houston,
as part of their long-running campaign to physically blockade women's health clinics. QN
supported ongoing efforts to defend local clinics and the right to abortion.

Amidst increasing disarray in queer and AIDS movements nationally, Queer Nation Houston folded in 1993. (Paul Mullan)

You can find over 20 video clips of
news reports on YouTube, Here
And, Also see the Queer Nation Facebook Group

 

At left is a sheet of crack-and-peel stickers for Queer Nation-Houston. Stickers like these were widely distributed to activists and were a do-it-yourself, on-the-street mechanism for creating visibility for LGBT people. They frequently ended up on peoples' clothing during demonstrations; at drive-through windows; on utility poles; and elsewhere.

Masters or templates for at least some stickers were received from a Queer Helper packet ("Dykes, Faggots, and Bisexuals in a Zesty Sauce"), originally put together by the Queer Nation-San Francisco chapter and distributed to new QN groups in different cities around the country, including Houston. The packet name was a riff on Hamburger Helper.

In practice, a new chapter could physical cut-and-paste (literally, using scissors and glue) their city's name, with an identical font and sizing, over the appropriate areas on the hardcopy master sheet. If a designer was available and had the latest computer applications, a new master could be created from scratch. Photocopies of the sheet were then made in black ink on 8x11 label paper, frequently in blinding-neon colors. (PM)


Clippings

1991

Currently, this is the first known reference, in the media, to Queer Nation-Houston and appeared in the Friday, January 4, 1991
edition of the Montrose Voice, a major LGBT community newsweekly based in the city. According to this article, QN-Houston
was formed by David Fowler in conjunction with another local activist, Scott Simpson. As reported by Fowler, in other sources,
a third local activist was involved as well in that process, attorney John Paul Barnich.

Per the Harris County online Assumed Names Database, the DBAs (doing-business-as) for "Queer Nation-Houston"
and another potential name ("Queer Nation-Montrose") were created by Fowler on Thursday, January 3, 1991.

The first QN chapter - an offshoot of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power - was founded in New York City
in early 1990 to specifically combat homophobia. However, QN did not have a "national headquarters", to which this article
refers, in any conventional sense, as each city was autonomous. In practice, established QN groups could assist
new groups elsewhere, as can be seen in San Francisco's Queer Helper packet (see the discussion above).
Occasionaly, though not frequently, established QN groups would call for actions around the country -
and some of those are, again, mentioned in this article. For the most part, though, local chapters were
independent and determined their own own specific agendas.

This article notes "Houston's tendency towards conservatism in regard to gay/lesbian direct action",
and Fowler says he "is not so sure about the kiss-ins at the shopping malls, things like that". QN in Houston
quickly overcame any inhibitions based on the city's lousy history around LGBT rights and, among its many
activities, took up kiss-ins and actions at the malls. For example, see the Houston Chronicle articles, below:
from March 11, 1991, "A kiss is just a kiss"; and from March 18, 1991, "Radical Queer Nation stands up for gay rights". (PM)

Above, first mention of QN-H in Houston Chronicle

David Embry was a young Houston activist who was very active in Queer Nation-Houston. He did a scrapbook on the press the group received,
and he very graciously scanned the entire book for me. Those pages are spread through the clippings section. Below, David then, and now.

   

This statement of principles for Queer Nation-Houston includes some standard language that appeared
in statements for other QN chapters, elsewhere, founded prior to Houston's:
http://qrd.org/qrd/orgs/QN/queer.nation-policy. There are still notable differences between this Houston statement and those earlier versions.

Further, "loose federation of autonomous groups" may not exactly describe what the Houston chapter actually was in practice. (PM)

Assorted notes on the article above:

- Andrew Dice Clay was a widely popular, and very homophobic, comedian, who had appeared in many films and television shows.

- Alan Klein, one of the founders of the original QN chapter in New York City, is quoted:

We will react when violence is directed against us. We will react to bigotry and to any type of hatred …. [Q]ueers bash back.

The frequency of homophobic hate crimes had been significantly increasing throughout the 1980s, particularly once biased,
mass-media coverage of the AIDS crisis became prominent - such as the 1985 revelation that actor Rock Hudson had
died from the disease. Per the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, there was a 42% increase in such crimes from 1986-1987 (1);
a 4-9% increase from 1987-1988 (2); a slight dip from 1988-1989 (3); and then another, 42% increase from 1989-1990 (4).
A spate of antigay murders in NYC - of James Zappalorti and others - was one factor that sparked the demand for a new,
queer-specific politics, and thus sparked the creation of QN.

- ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in NYC addressed the particularity of AIDS and HIV - and how exactly that should
relate concretely to addressing homophobia and heterosexism could be a contentious debate. Nevertheless, in practice many
activists in QN NYC were also involved in the ACT UP chapter there. For example, the original, anonymous
"Queers Read This" / "I Hate Straights" statement distributed to thousands at the 1990 pride parade in Manhattan -
and widely considered to be the founding Queer Nation "manifesto" - was written by folks in ACT UP (5).

- QN in Houston did not use consensus-based decision-making processes in the general meetings or in the
organization as a whole. Instead, a majority-rule, democratic decision-making process was used. (PM)

References:

(1) Los Angeles Times. "Violence against homosexuals at record high, study says." Houston Chronicle. Houston Chronicle, 8 June, 1988. Web. 9 Jan. 2014.
(2) Rehg, Rob. "Survey cites increase in anti-gay violence." Houston Chronicle. Houston Chronicle, 8 June, 1989. Web. 9 Jan. 2014.
(3) Clayton, William E., Jr. "Texas ranks 2nd in 'gay-bashing' incidents in '89, group says." Houston Chronicle. Houston Chronicle, 8 June, 1990. Web. 9 Jan. 2014.
(4) Hull, S. Kelly. "Violence against gays rises sharply." Houston Chronicle. Houston Chronicle, 7 Mar., 1991. Web. 9 Jan. 2014.
(5) http://www.actuporalhistory.org/interviews/images/gagliostro.pdf

Paul Broussard coverage

The three posters and the pink flyer below are courtesy of the Botts Collection
These were street posters, 11" x 17"

Cary Anderson and "James", a pseudonym, were the two companions with Paul Broussard on the night of his murder,
and they are interviewed for "Nightmarish attacks haunts lives of gay friends", from the Houston Post, below.
Anderson describes previous incidents of homophobic harassment -- unrelated to the 1991 attack - on the streets,
such as verbal abuse and being pelted with eggs. Broussard himself had been a target in one such incident.

Anderson further states, in a second Houston Chronicle article "5 Woodlands teens held, 5 sought in `gay-bashing' case",
below, that on the night of the murder: "[T]here were three of us together", and "[w]e just assumed we'd be safe enough."

In yet another article from the Chronicle, "Gays in Montrose live in fear of attack on the streets", below, activist
Robert Bridges recounts homophobic harassment at the Westheimer Arts Festival - a bottle was thrown at him
and a friend. Bridges notes, in a sentiment very common among LGBT folks in the early 1990s: "We live with it (danger)
all the time. If you had a roomful of people at a party, I'd be surprised if you found someone it hadn't happened to." Further:

Several gay men said they will drive for 10 or 15 minutes until a parking spot close to their destination becomes
available. Some said they will return home and take a taxi back to a club rather than park too far away.

All of this indicated the prevalence of - and, within the LGBT communities, consciousness of - such harassment, to the
degree that people routinely took precautions, as best they could, to avoid being bashed.
These understandings were not widely shared outside of those communities.

The political response to the Broussard killing, by Queer Nation-Houston and other LGBT organizations, was the first time
this serious problem had been successfully highlighted for the general public locally. From 1986-1990, for example, there had been
a number of antigay killings in Houston, but those usually received little coverage in mainstream newsmedia outside the LGBT communities. (PM)
Here are some instances:

- Marion Pantzer 1986, shot to death in her community bar.
- Debbie Marie Koss, killed over an argument concerning gay rights in 1987.
- William Wayne Price, 1987.
- Thomas Hammerton, 1989, stabbed to death.
- Michael James Burzinski, 1990 shot in the back of the head.


The 'Take Back the Streets' demonstration was one of the largest ever organized by Queer Nation Houston,
drawing out, as this article indicates, about 2,000, with 1,200 blocking the intersection of Montrose at Westheimer
in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience.

Other large events include the second-anniversary 'Take Back the Streets' demonstration in 1992 and the
main march, organized by QN-Houston and ACT UP chapters from around the country, against the
Republican National Convention held in Houston later that year.
(PM)

 

TWT-071991 PDF (click to download)

 

   

In the aftermath of Paul Broussard's murder, Ray Hill, per this article, was planning a citizen's patrol for Montrose, tentatively called "Peacemakers".
Q-Patrol started, shortly thereafter, as an affinity group within Queer Nation-Houston and ultimately became an fully independent organization. (PM)

   

In the wake of the bias killing of Paul Broussard, the Houston Police Department began an undercover effort
ultimately known as Operation Vice-Versa. This article notes:

Although gay-bashing has occurred in the past, [HPD Captain] Adamson said the present undercover operation,
designed to draw out such behavior, is the first of its kind in the city.

As detailed in both the Houston Chronicle and The New Voice article from August 9-15, 1991,
"Police working sting attacked by 'gay bashers'," officers "posing as gay" were attacked in three separate
incidents over a single weekend. This was one indication of the homophobic violence common at the time.
Further, this evidence - coming from an institutional, establishment source - was required for those skeptical of the prevalence of bashing. (PM)

Find Much More on Paul Broussard Murder
At This Link

  

The Coming Out Day party organized by Queer Nation Houston was held at DiverseWorks (DW), then off of Main Street
and just north of the I-10 freeway. DW was an important alternative arts space, often featuring performing and
visual works integrally related to the LGBT communities and to the queer and AIDS movements.
During the August, 1992 Republican National Convention held in Houston, QN-Houston and ACT UP
chapters from around the country were headquartered at the DW building.

Suggesting the ongoing centrality then of the Montrose area for LGBT life, this article, interestingly, notes:

It … pulled a crowd - about 1500 people - previously unheard of in Houston at a time of year other than
Lesbian/Gay Pride Week, for an event held outside of Montrose in a non-bar locale.
(PM)

The pink flier for Queer Nation Houston's Coming Out Day Celebration at DiverseWorks lists some of the event's further sponsors.
These included clubs, bookstores (of the legitimate sort), clothing stores, gyms, and a variety of LGBT bars
(some of which one would not have commonly associated with QN-Houston), both in Montrose and farther afield.

The white "Why We Kiss" flier refers to the "Texas state statute (21.06) which labels us as criminals."
The 21.06 anti-sodomy law was finally declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 2003.
(PM)

 

Palomo Firing

  

Click to View: Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4   Part 5   Part 6

This New Voice article below, "Juan Palomo rehired at the Houston Post as 'op-ed' columnist", September 13-19, 1991, details the 1991
controversy around the newspaper and popular columnist.

Palomo had written his regular column, one to appear on July 9, on hate crimes and the recent gay-bashing murder of Paul Broussard.
Further, he had ended that submitted piece by coming of the closet as a gay man. Post editors removed the last passage,
claiming that Palomo should not be discussing his sexuality, and published a revised version of the column instead.

In an extended discussion with the Houston Press, Palomo went public with the dispute between Post management and himself.
He was fired from the Post on August 30, after turning down an offer to work on the paper's editorial pages.

An uproar ensued, with coverage in the national newsmedia. This article "Gay activists picket editor's home, demand he rehire writer"
discusses one aspect of the broad responses from the Latino, LGBT, and journalistic communities.

Queer Nation Houston demonstrated in front of the high-rise residence of Post editor Charles Cooper. Further, QN-Houston
member Tracy Brown indicates that the group will be voting, in its next general meeting, on a proposed boycott of the newspaper.

Palomo himself points to the questions of race and sexuality in his termination:

They (Post management) saw me as a direct challenge to their authority. They saw me as an uppity Mexican and then they saw me as an uppity, queer Mexican.
(PM)

This Houston Chronicle article "Ex-columnist Palomo and Post still talking" indicates that Queer Nation Houston
had decided at its general meeting to begin a circulation and advertising boycott of the Post, if Palomo was not rehired by Friday September 6.

Further, the article notes a planned protest, by Latino organizations, at the Post headquarters.
Part V of the video links, above, is a local news report on Palomo's ultimate rehiring and features
comments from Yolanda Navarro Flores, an activist with Mexican-American Democrats.
(PM)

   

Palomo was rehired at the Post after agreeing to take up the new editorial columnist position - which he
had originally rejected - and a seat on the newspaper's board. Palomo noted that would make him
"one of the few Hispanics and 'probably the first openly gay person' to serve on an editorial board of a
major metropolitan daily newspaper."

This article discusses another aspect of the response to Palomo's firing. Post employees were
concerned not only about the columnist being silenced on "personal" questions around his sexuality;
but also about "the ethical question of a newspaper trying to prevent an employee from speaking to the media."
That was in reference to Palomo's going public, in the Houston Press, on the controversy.
Many Post personnel were involved - alongside LGBT and Latino community organizations - in demonstrations
concerning the case. (PM)

 

Per the Montrose Voice article above, dated July 19-25, 1991 and titled "Unexpectedly large crowd turns
out for 'Take Back the Streets' rally": Queer Nation Houston and other LGBT community
organizations, such as the Caucus, proposed cultural sensitivity training for the Houston Police Department.
This demand was raised by the Take Back the Streets march and at City Council public forums in the wake of the Broussard killing.

The Houston Chronicle article below, from October 16, 1991 and titled "Gays, right-wing police group clash,"
reports on opposition to LGBT-inclusive sensitivity training from the extreme-right John Birch Society's
Houston-Area Support Your Local Police Committee. The Society's head, Robert W. Welch, Jr.,
had been notorious in the 1950s and 1960s after suggesting that US President Dwight D. Eisenhower
was a pawn of international communism. (PM)

  

PDF for 10/18/91 Voice article

This article notes different political groups protesting the visit of Bush the Elder - including the local chapter of
NOW, the National Organization for Women. The women's and feminist movements were, at that time,
one of the few, consistent allies that the LGBT movement had. (PM)

Patrick Buchanan was a conservative commentator, for CNN and other media outlets, and former
advisor to President Richard Nixon. He was running in Republican Party primaries for the 1992
Presidential nomination. While ultimately unsuccessful, Buchanan was to get a prime speaking slot at the
1992 Republican National Convention, held in Houston. There, his notorious "culture war"
speech, broadcast to a national audience, attacked LGBT people, abortion rights, feminists,
and many others and was a marked intensification of the right-wing offensive apparent throughout the 1990s. (PM)

Below, Phillip W Smith Murder


The November 3, 1991 antigay slaying of Phillip W. Smith was the first homicide to be labeled a
hate crime by the Houston Police Department (HPD). Via pressure from the LGBT communities
following the Broussard killing, the HPD definition of such a crime was modified earlier that year to be
inclusive of sexual orientation. (PM)

Click to View:    Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

Houston Police Department (HPD) Chief Elizabeth Watson met with members of the LGBT community
and organizations, including Brian Bradley of Queer Nation Houston, over concerns about the Smith murder.
Per this article: "According to the gay representatives, HPD … renewed its commitment to
sensitivity training." Further, and again per this article, Bradley argues that such a training program which
"started early this year and was completed by 220 members of police management staff is in
fact not the planned gay-specific program, but a more general 'cultural awareness'
training on relating to minority groups. The other training, which was to have been conducted by
Stafford Meadows Hospital, was put on hold."

There had been prior controversy over such sensitivity programs. This is pointed out in the above
article from the Houston Chronicle, dated October 16, 1991, and titled "Gays, right-wing police group clash,"
on opposition from the John Birch Society and inside HPD itself. (PM)

A print advertisement for film director Isaac Julien's 1991 release "Young Soul Rebels" showed
two men embracing and was thus refused by the Houston Chronicle. It was replaced by an alternate
ad showing two men flanking a woman.

The Dallas Morning News, as well, had previously refused to run that ad. The Landmark Theater company
threatened to pull all of its advertising, and the Morning News relented. Landmark then had
alternative designs drafted - the two men flanking a woman - which ultimately appeared in the Chronicle. (PM)

Per this article, the Houston Chronicle had justified its refusal to run the original Young Soul Rebels
advertisement by claiming it was a "'family'" newspaper. Landmark Theater's local publicist,
Cynthia Reinhart, expressed surprise at the Chronicle's position, given that it ran ads for adult films and clubs.
The Houston Post and the Houston Press used the original copy, with the two men embracing.

The Voice reveals that Landmark put pressure on the Dallas Morning News, only after local LGBT community
activists there had coordinated a telephone call-in campaign to pressure the theater company. (PM)


PDF for 12/27/91 article

Below, from article highlighting most important news stories of the year 1991

On to 1992