Sirius Radio Interview, 2013 by Nancy Ford
What Independence Hall in Philadelphia was to the American Revolution, Kindred Spirits was to Houston’s early gay community. It was the place where our community leaders gathered early on to organize and support each other.
When it originally opened in 1980, there were other lesbian bars in Houston, but they were all places like you see in the opening footage of the movie Milk – dark and dirty and full of secrecy and shame. Kindred Spirits broke the stereotype of what a gay bar was then. It was light and clean and empowering and safe. It was a big dance club and had beautiful furnishings. Nobody spit on the floor! It was the first club that we could be proud to bring our families and co-workers to. Plus, it was wall-to-wall women, and that never hurts! Kindred Spirits was an early place of empowerment at a time when there were few safe gathering places for lesbians, especially in Houston.
At that time, there were a couple gay social organizations, but they were very closeted. There were no gay community centers, or chambers of commerce, or bowling leagues, or any of the inclusive groups that now pretty much permeate most major cities. Because it was THE HUB in gay Houston’s formative years, our early political leaders met at Kindred Spirits, Many of our sports teams and many cultural groups met there, Houston’s gay symphonic band and the gay men’s chorus, which are still going strong today, first met there. Houston’s first model for PFLAG met there. A year after the club opened, when AIDS hit, Kindred Spirits presented one of the community’s first blood drives, and then hundreds of fundraisers for AIDS and community projects.
The legacy continues with Kindred Spirits Foundation, which has operated for about nine years. Now, 20 years after Kindred Spirits, the bar closed, Kindred Spirits, the foundation has raised well over $100,000 for women’s health. And it’s wonderful to see how the men in our community are now supporting women in need, just like the women responded to the AIDS crisis. Thirty years later, it’s a mixed party with men and women, in their 20s to their 80s come. It’s a great celebration. DJ Joy de la O, one of the southwest’s most popular lesbian DJs, is our DJ. We’re expecting close to 1,000 people at the August 28 party. People are coming in from all over the country for our big annual dance. This year, we have people coming from the east coast, from the west coast, from the entire Gulf Coast region, and from throughout Texas, of course. Wish you could join us! Our founder, Marion Coleman, greets everybody that comes through the door. It’s amazing to hear all the women who tell her, one after another, what an important role having Kindred Spirits played in the lives.
A Little History
Houston has come a long way in 30 years: The year Kindred Spirits first opened, it was still illegal in Houston for women to wear fly-front pants. The KKK paraded in full robe through Montrose, Houston’s big gay neighborhood, as recently as 1983.
Now, Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker is openly gay. Her partner, Kathy Hubbard, is commonly referred to in the media as the First Lady, without reservation. We have openly gay men and women on city council, as seated judges, and as business and religious leaders. Our Gay Men’s Chorus performs with the Houston Symphony. The US Supreme Court decision that declared sodomy laws unconstitutional in 2003 originated here in Houston. And evangelicals are calling Houston the Sodom of the Southwest, because of our lesbian mayor, so that’s always good PR!