When Kindred Spirits first opened on Valentine’s Day, 1980, to a packed house Marion said she chose that particular day so that people’s hearts would be opened to that “spirit of caring”. Women who visited the club for the first time that night were greeted not by dark corners and boarded-over windows, but by live plants, works of art hanging from the walls, matching décor and, yes, ample parking with security.
It was one of the first places where women started really getting in touch with who they were as women rather than reaching into strictly butch/femme roles.
What made Kindred Spirits special was the people who came in. It was a big stepping stone between where we were in 1980 and where we would go next. KS represents a historical era that many of us shared. We were growing into ourselves as women. It was something of a rebirth that we needed to go through to move on into being more of ourselves. It was a time when we were still learning to walk. We all grew up together, no matter which direction we ultimately went in once we moved on.
Even if you didn’t know people there, you walked in and felt right at home. It was a neighborhood pub where you felt a great sense of compassion, friendliness, and safety. Kindred Spirits was also groundbreaking in its welcoming approach to men in an era when the men’s and women’s communities didn’t interact as much as they do now.
Marion wanted everyone to grow together, so she extended a family environment, making it clear that both men and women were welcome.
I felt that it belonged to me. Most women felt that way. Kindred Spirits was a variety of individuals who came together to share space for the same reason. You could go there and be accepted, feel good about yourself, and have a great time.
It’s a rare thing when you can walk into an establishment looking for a friend and walk out with a family. Kindred Spirits was special in that it was the first club for gay women in Houston – make that in the Southwestern U.S. – that looked more like a Bennigan’s than a garage.
The elegance of the bar provided many people with a deeper sense of dignity and pride about being gay.
Kindred Spirits was a family place in the larger sense. It was a friendly neighborhood bar, a gathering place for the entire community.
A new generation was coming of age, and you could see a new sense of freedom growing.