Waco Is Conservative and Baptist, But It’s Got Good Potential

A friend of mine, who long ago moved on to that big gay bar in the sky, used to regale me with the story of how they stopped gay bashing in Waco in the early 1950s. Back then, gays used to cruise Franklin Avenue in downtown Waco and Baylor boys (who probably had some sexual issues of their own) would sometimes drive the same route looking for easy targets to beat up and rob.  Guess that was the Christian thing to do in the 1950s.

 At some point, the bashing got so bad that several of the “girls” decided to take matters into their own hands. They took bricks and put them in purses which they then carried along Franklin Avenue, sashaying like only a 1950s queen could do. When the car stopped and the boys got out swinging their bats (the wooden kind) the gay men started swinging their purses, knocking out their attackers and leaving the remaining would-be bashers so embarrassed and scared that they jumped in their car never to return to downtown late at night again.

 There are some people that will tell you Waco has improved much. I tend to disagree. The tenacity of the Waco GLBT community is still there. While there’s still only one gay bar in town, members of the GLBT community also frequent several gay friendly straight clubs. Plus there is a growing Metropolitan Community Church, an active Court system, GLBT charities and a more open attitude among those who want to see Waco grow and prosper.

 Don’t be fooled into thinking that Waco is a backwater Austin – it isn’t, but times they are a changin’ and Waco is no longer the city that raided a gay party in 1953 calling the action “one of the greatest pieces of police work in history.”

Sure Baylor is still scared that “the homosexual lifestyle” will send their students to hell and they once sued a gay theology student to try and get back his $77,000 in scholarship money when they found out he liked men, but this is also the town that in 2004 gave PFLAG – Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays – a first-in-the-nation PFLAG community center.

 Cynics will tell you that center is now closed but that’s all a matter of bad bookkeeping and other problems. It brought Waco gays a lot of good publicity because the center was named after Eddie Dwyer, a Baptist minister and one time Baylor professor of religion whose gay son made them realize he was part of “God’s diverse creation.”

 But there is more to Waco than Baylor University. This is the home of the Dr. Pepper Museum, there’s a great zoo, terrific places to hook up and a Craig’s List male to male section that’s growing by leaps and bounds.

 Gay news from Waco has not always been good but the days when college fraternities used to take down license numbers at the local gay bar are over. Waco may best be remembered in the annals of gay history because of that party in 1953 but there have also been news stories about loving relationships between same sex couples in the local newspaper.

 Things have gotten dramatically different in the last 50 years since the party of 1953.. Then one of the local newspapers led with a front page headline that read “Police Raid Convention” and called the party a “homosexual interstate affair.” Today out gays and lesbians may get a second glance but rarely experience any outward backlash. In 1953 Waco police surrounded the house and arrested over 60 party goers, including some airmen from the city’s Air Force Base and sons of some of the city’s prominent businessmen. To read the story click here. But remember, in 1953 this was not funny and the newspaper ran the names of everyone arrested on the front page of its paper along with a photo of a female impersonator in a wedding dress. Now most gay news is just another in a long string of stories

 And even when gays have made the headlines there have been positive outcomes. In 2003, when James Matthew Bass had to leave seminary because he was stripped of his scholarship, hundreds of students formed a protest supporting Bass. And in 2007, when six gay rights advocates with the Soulforce Equality Ride were arrested on the Baylor University Campus and charged with criminal trespassing after writing on the sidewalks with chalk, one Baylor Student had the courage to stand up with the protestors and started a dialogue with arresting police on GLBT issues that has helped relations between law enforcement agencies and the gay community.

 Things for the GLBT community in Waco are improving and with its low cost of living, cheap housing prices and central access to the rest of Texas, Waco is fast becoming a potential home to retiring gays and lesbians who don’t mind the quiet life.

 Here are some GLBT activities, businesses and events of interest:

 RED DOOR PROJECT – The Red Door Project is a ministry of the Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church and provides a food pantry service for people living with HIV, as well as peer support groups for them and their friends, families, partners and caregivers. It is the only food pantry in McLennan County dedicated solely to needs of the HIV population and the support groups are the only HIV support groups available in McLennan County.

 One of the great things about the Red Door Pantry is the fact that you can shop online and know exactly where your money is going and what groceries will be bought – so you will know exactly how your donations are spent.

 The RED DOOR PANTRY Is located at Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church at the corner of 16th and Clay. For more information call 752-5331 or go to the pantry website at www.reddoorwaco.org

 CENTRAL TEXAS MCC FROM THE HEART – Worship services are at 11 a.m. on Sundays for this growing congregation of GLBT Christians and it has become a vital part of the gay community in Central Texas. Adult Sunday school is at 9:45 a.m. and although there are still no classes for children, the congregation is growing at such a good rate it shouldn’t be long before that happens. For more information go to the church’s website at www.centexmcc.com

 THE ROYAL, SOVEREIGN AND IMPERIAL COURT OF THE CENTRAL TEXAS EMPIRE – This is the local organization of the International Court system and serves a six county area. It raises funds for other nonprofits and since 1993 has raised over $160,000 in Central Texas for groups such as McCARES (the McLennan County HIV/AIDS Resources & Education Services) in Waco, The Waco Civic Theatre, The Red Door Food Pantry, CTSS (Central Texas Support Services) and its predecessor, Bluebonnet Health and Human Services in Temple, Planned Parenthood of Central Texas (to provide free mammograms for women at risk), the Gay & Lesbian Alliance of Central Texas (GLACT), Central Texas Gay and Lesbian Pride, PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays), Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church From the Heart, the Tilitha Koums Institute, the Latin American Community Center and the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt Display in Waco. For more information on the court system go to http://www.centraltexasempire.org/ or call 254-756-2101.


  • Facebook

    Unable to display Facebook posts.
    Show error

    Error: Error validating application. Application has been deleted.
    Type: OAuthException
    Code: 190
    Please refer to our Error Message Reference.