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Weekend-long LGBTQ pride celebration comes to Marfa

A small group of volunteers from West Texas and beyond has been working for months to put on Pride Marfa from June 17-19.

By Travis Bubenik

A weekend-long LGTBQ pride celebration is coming to Marfa the weekend of June 17-19, thanks to the work of volunteers from West Texas and beyond.

Pride Marfa runs Friday through Sunday and is set to include everything from a community block party at the Presidio County Courthouse to a drag brunch.

Marfa Public Radio recently caught up with former Marfa resident Chris Gonzales, who along with his partner Paul Chavarria and others with ties to the town is helping organize the event.

Interview Highlights

On the idea of Marfa as "queer tolerant," but not "queer celebratory”

The notion of Marfa as a place that’s LGBTQ tolerant, but not necessarily “celebratory,” was something Gonzales brought up at a Presidio County commissioners meeting back in April, when he and other organizers were asking officials for permission to use the courthouse lawn for the event.

Gonzales says while that phrasing wasn’t something he came up with himself, it got him and his partner Paul thinking about their experience living in Marfa.

“No one’s given us any flack about being openly queer, but there’s also no…lighting rod for queer culture in Marfa, or at least something that was at the forefront queer,” he said.

“I feel like a lot of things in Marfa are very like, it’s this idea, and there’s queer elements kind of sprinkled around it,” he said.

Gonzales said he hopes the Pride Marfa celebration will start to fill that void.

“There’s celebrations of all different types of culture in Marfa, and everyone’s always getting uplifted,” he said. “We just want to make sure that that option is there for maybe people who don’t have access to it in West Texas.”

On the variety of events planned for the weekend

Pride Marfa kicks off Friday night with a welcome party at Planet Marfa and continues Saturday with a family-friendly “block party” at the Presidio County courthouse lawn during the day and a dance party Saturday night at the Sentinel. The weekend closes out with a Sunday morning brunch.

The courthouse lawn event will feature everything from what organizers have described as “queer/trans health education materials” to drag bingo and a performance from Austin-based electronic musician p1nkstar.

Gonzales described the Saturday night dance party as “our big blowout event.”

“Lots of drag, lots of dance performances, lots of music,” he said. “Think of: this is the club night.”

On the value of a pride event in the current political climate

Texas lawmakers have in recent years targeted LGTBQ people through a variety of policy proposals,and the state continues to investigate families with transgender kids for alleged child abuse, though a district judge recently ordered a halt to some of those investigations as a lawsuit continues to play out.

Speaking to the value of having a pride event in West Texas in the midst of that political climate, Gonzales says the event will be a “celebration for us and for our lives.”

“I don’t think a lot of people who aren’t queer or trans or any other marginalized community realize the amount of self-regulation and self-policing that goes into having to assess whether or not a space is safe,” he said. “Or whether or not the government is going to pass some horrible, disgusting law.”

“It’s a heavy topic, but a celebration is a celebration, and we want to celebrate our lives,” Gonzales said. 

Pride Marfa organizers are having a hard time gauging just how many people will come to town for the event, Gonzales said, but they’re expecting a good turnout, especially since the popular Agave Festival is happening the same weekend in Marfa.

“Obviously we have high hopes, but we’re like dang, this could be big, and this could be fun,” he said.

Editor’s note: Elise Pepple, Executive Director of Marfa Public Radio, is one of the organizers of Pride Marfa.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.