And We’re Back!

So much for regularly scheduled programming..

For anyone who has figured out how to blog weekly, much less daily, then kudos to you! And can you tell me how to do it?

For the past few months I’ve been telling myself I needed to write a post. Write a post. WRITE A POST!

But that didn’t really work. With all the other normal architect things happening (construction , documents for another client, and trying to work out an addition on a site with an angled property line) I found myself pushing off any writing. Besides, I was frantically prepping to speak in Virginia. Wasn’t that enough writing?

Which means here we are in December with me finally taking a breath to think about what to write. And what not to write. I even had an incident the week of Thanksgiving that I thought would make a great post.

So I would say hang on to your hats, but I don’t know many people who wear hats anymore. Hang on to your man-bun perhaps?

The Big Gay Architect is off to the races. And this time he’ll try not to wait so long between posts!

Sacred Space

At least for me.

Everyone has a sacred space. Or at least I like to think they do. Whether that’s the home they grew up in. Or their church. Or perhaps the place they met their spouse.

I had never thought about what that might be for me until this past Labor Day. And I never imagined in a million years that place would be a bar.

At the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Ann in New Orleans is a bar appropriately titled Bourbon Pub and Parade. Since 2001, any time we visited NOLA this was our home. No matter the event, if you wanted to find us, you need only look to the outside corner facing Bourbon, and we’d be there. Holding court with our favorite bartender. Occasionally tipping a go-go boy. And generally having a great time catching up on the past year’s events.

Never would I have thought of that corner of Bourbon Pub as our sacred place. Until now.

When we arrived for Southern Decadence this year, we were met with the news that our bartender had retired. The woman who we only saw once a year – yet could put our drinks in front of us without asking – was no more. And somewhere in that moment, the light went out.

Don’t get me wrong. We still had a wonderful time at Decadence. We saw old friends and made new ones. Tried out some new places – both food and drinks. And helped the group we attend with, the Decadent Ducks, and the fabulous Candy Samples raise almost $16,000 for Food for Friends.

However, as we walked through the Pub, you could feel the magic was gone. No one looked familiar. Our corner of the bar seemed dim. The space in some ways almost felt haunted.

New Orleans will always be our second home. Over the years we have developed a fondness for the city and the people, and the friends who visit every year.

Except returning next year will be a little bittersweet.

At least until we find out next sacred space.

Wow! That Was Gay!

I would call last week the gayest week I’ve had in a while. Which is saying something given that we spend a week in New Orleans every year at Southern Decadence (look it up!).

However, last week found me (and by extension James) in Las Vegas for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) International Business and Leadership Conference. I was one – one – of 1,200 LGBT business owners attending seminars, plenary luncheons, and receptions as well as meeting with supplier diversity reps from NGLCC sponsors like American Airlines.

But because that wasn’t gay enough, on the last day of the conference, we went to see Cher.

Yes. That Cher.

And the show was fabulous. Not “he-looks-fabulous” fabulous. But FABULOUS! With all the glitter and sprinkles you could possibly imagine.

We weren’t sure what to expect, since this was our first time to see Cher in concert. (For our friends, the 4th time.) As it turned out, the show was everything we could imagine. Costume changes. Dance numbers. Acrobats. You name it.

Cher herself was amazing. And not the “Wow! She gets around really well for someone who is 70” kind of amazing. I would have been happy to have that energy and stamina in my 30s!

One of the more interesting parts of the evening, though, came pre-show, when we looked around the arena and realized the median age was somewhere between fifty and fifty-five. In addition, the crowd was as much hetero as it was homo.

So while we were having a pretty gay time, turns out the straight fans were too.

Now we’ll see if we can’t top that when we land in New Orleans in a few weeks!

Just Me?

Not really but…

I’m the only gay architect in Dallas.

For years, I’ve made that comment even though I know it’s not true. Just based on the law of averages. But also because I do know one or two others.

However, after 20 years in the industry, it still feels that way, primarily because we are not recognized within the architecture community. You have groups like Women in Architecture and Latinos in Architecture. Emerging professionals and young professionals.

And nationally the AIA is really focused on diversity and inclusion. But often that conversation ends before anyone gets to the LGBT community, unless you count the annual LGBT reception at our national convention.

As if that doesn’t make me feel a little isolated…

I received a call in 2014 from a gay couple who needed someone to look at their house. They were having foundation issues and the latest recommendation was to add 22 piers to the existing pier and beam foundation. However, in just looking at the house you could tell that wasn’t going to do anything except flush money down the drain. Ultimately, we designed a new house on the existing lot.

As we were talking in that initial meeting, they expressed how important working with a gay architect was for them, for no other reason than their own personal comfort level. And like a good business owner I asked them how they had located me.

After looking in several guides, one of them had finally turned to Google and typed in: gay dallas architect.

The first name to pop up on the list was Philip Johnson. Pritzker-prize winner. Designed the Beck House in Dallas. Certainly not likely to take on something as simple as this couple’s home.

Plus Philip was also dead.

The second item on Google referenced a blog post my firm had done in 2010 as a follow-up to The Architecture Happy Hour podcast about gays in architecture. And there was my name.

And lucky for me, I was still alive.

So perhaps being the only gay architect in Dallas, or at least the only visibly gay architect in Dallas, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

But really…just me?

Finally Gay Enough

Although it wasn’t that big of a stretch

Never in my life did I ever think – “I’m just not gay enough.” – until my former partners and I became a member business of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. In the 6-1/2 years we were members, we were approached multiple times about becoming a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. After all, we were woman-owned. Why not LGBT-owned?

Because as fate would have it, we weren’t gay enough. Which is the response I would give every time I was asked – feeling a little like Dr. Evil telling Scotty he was the Diet Coke of Evil. Just one calorie. Not gay enough!

And before you say: “But Larry, you’re more gay before 9 am than most people are all day” (and a special thanks to Will & Grace for getting that little nugget stuck in my head) – I would like to go on record as saying I had nothing to do with not being certified. I was plenty gay. It was getting my other two partners to switch teams that was the problem – especially the married one with two kids.

But now it’s official.

I’m certifiably gay.

Last month, Spotted Dog Architecture was recognized by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as a certified LGBT Business Enterprise. Which makes me one of only ten certified architecture firms. 1 of 10.

Where did everyone else go?

Of the estimated 90,000 members in the American Institute of Architecture, there are how many hundreds of firms represented? Yet there are only ten of us certified.

Not that I’m going to make too much noise about that. I’m fine being one of ten firms available to the NGLCC’s 140+ corporate partners looking to fulfill supplier diversity needs. And I’m fine being recognized this year in front of 1000+ attendees at the NGLCC business and leadership conference.

But I know I’m not the only one this gay. So feel free to join me.

Assuming you’re gay enough.

A little bit about the Q&A

First Impressions

So what does the intersection of queer and architecture mean?

For starters – I’m an architect. Have been for nearly 20 years. I’ve been an employee and a business owner. At the moment, I’m working for myself after over 8 years with two partners. I have to say I’m enjoying the change. Sure, my boss is kind of a dick sometimes, but he let’s me leave early or come in late if I feel like it.

For seconds – I’m gay. That I’ve been doing for a lot longer than I’ve been doing architecture. But I think that’s a given. I’m married to a very patient husband. It’s been a little over 3 years, and it only took 18 years together before we were finally hitched. So if you’re doing the math, that’s a little over 21 years. As I like to say – longer than some of my parents’ marriages.

I’ve always been out at work. Even at school. And I don’t know that I’ve seen that as an issue. However, as I became more involved in the LGBT community, I realized how isolated I’ve been in the profession. I often joke that I’m the only gay architect in Dallas. (Not true, but we’ll get to that in another post.) At least it feels that way.

The Big Gay Architect Blog will talk about queer influence in architecture. I’ve heard people say that they’re architects first and gay second, but I think you can’t be gay and pretend that has no influence on you as an architect.

Some of the posts will just be about architecture. Some will just be about LGBT issues. Others are going to intersect. I won’t always get everything right so don’t expect me to. And I’ll probably be on the wrong side of opinion from time to time. But come on the journey with me, and let’s see where we end up.

Larry – The Big Gay Architect