Get To Know Dallas with LGBTQ Activist Karen McCrocklin

“We get things done down here. It’s the Dallas way.”

Karen McCrocklin celebrating Pride
Karen McCrocklin celebrating PridePhoto by Dallas News

My City with Karen McCrocklin
Dallas, Texas

When you think of LGBTQ America, the state of Texas rarely comes to mind. But, LGBT activist and motivational speaker, Karen McCrocklin maintains that Dallas is bubbling over with fabulous LGBTQ events, bustling businesses, endless community events, and fierce activism. The fact that most people believe that a city in Texas couldn’t possibly be welcoming and supportive of LGBTQ folks is a misconception that 55-year-old McCrocklin is determined to dispel, one detractor at a time. She’s more than ready to tell you all about LGBTQ Dallas—a city she’s more than proud to call home—even if you have to schedule a visit with her yourself.

Best part of the Dallas LGBTQ scene:

“The sheer scope and size of it! From the large and lively LGBT bar and restaurant scene to the dozens of annual parties and fundraising events and number of organizations, the opportunities for socializing, activism and service are endless. There really is something for everyone.”

Wort Part of the Dallas LGBTQ scene:

“Sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time to participate in everything I’d like to. There are so many things to do, ways to serve and new people to meet.”

Is Dallas a welcoming city for LGBTQ folks?

“One of my favorite things is seeing the look of surprise on people’s faces when they find out how unexpectedly wonderful and welcoming my city is for LGBT people. There seems to be a preconceived idea that a city in Texas couldn’t possibly be LGBTQ friendly because of the political history and climate. While that may be true in some of the rural areas and smaller towns, the major cities are all progressive and welcoming.

We have openly gay members serving on our city council and other government positions and if that isn’t enough to make someone feel safe, we’ve had the pleasure of electing and reelecting the nation’s only Latina Lesbian Sheriff.

This year, Dallas and Fort Worth both scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide survey that ranks select cities based on whether local laws and policies foster greater acceptance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Have there been isolated instances of violence toward LGBTQ people? Sure, but the statistics in Dallas are well below the national average for those types of crimes. Most of all, the people of the City of Dallas are just damn friendly.”

Chick Happy Hour in Dallas, Texas
Chick Happy Hour in Dallas, TexasPhoto by Karen McCrocklin

Bar/Restaurant/Club that is a must-go-to?

“Oh, it’s so hard to pick one. I’ll just pretend you asked for three.

My number one stop for out-of-town guests is The Roundup Saloon & Dance Hall. It’s so uniquely Texas, and until you’ve seen a few hundred cowboys and cowgirls twirling each other around a dance floor, two-stepping to country music, you haven’t been to LGBTQ Texas. And if it’s good enough for Lady Gaga, it’s got to be good! She stops in every time she’s in town because The Round Up was one of the first bars to give her a gig.

For lesbians, our monthly Chick Happy Hour has been going strong for a dozen years. Hundreds of lesbians descend upon a different venue each month, usually a traditionally straight bar or restaurant and they LOVE us!

The Dallas/ Fort Worth Black Tie Dinner is the largest event of its kind in the nation. In its 36-year history, the “dinner” has distributed over 21 million dollars to local and national beneficiaries, while hosting more inspirational political and celebrity speakers than I can count. It’s a tremendous organization where we do fabulous outfits, big hair and raise big money.”

Describe the Dallas LGBTQ Community in one word or phrase:

“Delicious, diverse, determined and damn fun.”

What is your favorite LGBTQ-owned businesses to frequent?

“The foodie part of me wants to talk about chicken and burgers, so I’d direct a visitor to Street’s Fine Chicken or Hunky’s Hamburgers in the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs Gayborhood. It’s great food and even better people-watching.

But really, there are LGBTQ owned businesses everywhere. I’d direct a visitor or new resident to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce for referrals.”

LGBTQ nightlife in Dallas is:

“Exhausting! So many clubs with so many themes and diverse clientele.”

For older LGBTQ folks, Dallas is:

“Full of opportunities for connection. We are very committed to recording and honoring our community’s history and ensuring that there are services available to meet the needs of our LGBTQ elders. We’re all about creating age-inclusive events, support groups and even have a Gray Pride celebration. In my golden years, I intend to plunk myself down at Gay Bingo and spend my retirement fund on B-17.”

Texas American and Pride flags together
Texas American and Pride flags togetherPhoto by Dallas Pride

Pride Weekend in Dallas is:

“Our official Pride parade and surrounding events and festivals are traditionally held in September of each year because it is slightly cooler then, but we also have tons of celebrations in June. Basically, we celebrate Pride all summer long. In June, the Mayor of Dallas makes an official Pride proclamation and hosts an LGBTQ memorabilia exhibit at City Hall in conjunction with The Dallas Way, our community history project.

The bars and clubs host all sorts of events like The Voice of Dallas Contest (a signing competition), pool parties, red parties, white parties, Bear parties, drag competitions, you name it. We also have a great Queer Bomb, a couple of film festivals, the list is endless.

This year marks the 34th year of the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, one of the biggest and most enthusiastic Pride celebrations in the southern half of the US, with dozens of floats and marching groups parading through the streets for hours. September Pride also includes a fun and vibrant festival where our local LGBTQ family organizations create a lot of activities for families where parents and the ever-growing number of kids that are an important part of our community can celebrate. Like I said, Pride lasts for months down here.”

Karen McCrocklin with her rainbow flag
Karen McCrocklin with her rainbow flagCourtesy of Karen McCrocklin

LGBTQ activism in Dallas is:

“Longstanding, fierce, committed and super-effective. I can’t think of a better place to have grown up and learned the tools of the activist trade. Dallas has a long history of effective and constantly engaged activism that has resulted in super-progressive city government policy. It’s really quite incredible.

We’ve had a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in effect for places of employment, housing and public accommodations for over 15 years. Our city charter includes protections against discrimination, full parity in healthcare benefits for all employees/retirees and their dependents, including transgender employees, we’ve had LGBTQ cultural competency trainings in place for police and fire department employees since 1993.

I’m also super proud of Resource Center Dallas, and its newly opened community center building. It’s really the heavy-lifting of infrastructure and service-oriented programming that makes for a truly great community.

We get things done down here. It’s the Dallas way.”

What would you tell LGBTQ individuals who are planning to visit Dallas in the near future?

“Hurry! It’s awesome down here. Call me and I’ll give you a tour.”

What do you love most about your city as an LGBTQ individual?

“I love how much fun we have, how well we get along and the sheer volume of important work we get done every single day.”

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