By Brennen Beckwith, with additional reporting by Daniela “Dani” Capistrano
On March 9th, 2023, Texas State Representative Steve Toth filed House Bill 4378. This transphobic, violent legislation proposes a bounty on anyone who performs in drag where children are present. On that same day, I was in Texas at a family-friendly trans event called Mutual Love Fest.
ABOUT MUTUAL LOVE FEST
Mutual Love Fest was founded by Alex Guerra and Anuva Kalawar, two trans men and experienced entrepreneurs. An unofficial SXSW satellite event, Mutual Love Fest also functions as a community-building organization. They partner with queer owned businesses to put on safe, accessible, and family-friendly festivals in areas that need it most.
To kick things off, a panel of queer artists discussed using web3 and advancing technology to uplift their work and carve out new spaces for queer people.
What followed was a day long art festival at The Little Gay Shop, full of local queer owned vendors, security by Veterans For Equality, The Crane Center, a live painting by Mars Wright, haircuts by several local queer stylists, and a closing drag performance by Austin’s own House Of Lepore.
Mutual Love Fest was an act of resistance by all of us who attended.
“Trans and queer people are beautiful and vibrant and we will NEVER be erased!” says founder Alex Guerra in his instagram post about the event. This is his vision for Mutual Love Fest, holding space for talented trans people to share their light.
Les Del Fuego, creator of Gays With Clay, gave me the most exciting mini polymer clay sculpting lesson I’ve ever had. Les was raising money for their top surgery, and after years of navigating the daunting Texas health care system, Les finally got their surgery date.
We celebrated by making clay sculptures of all kinds of trans anatomy!
House of Lepore closed out the night with an inspiring drag performance. This ground breaking, award winning ballroom family is lead by House Mother Natalie Lepore.
Last year, House of Lepore threw the first official ball at SXSW called The Dirty South Ball, and this year they were at SXSW again with The Big Stage Ball. They hold Balls and Vogue Nights all over Austin and San Antonio to strengthen the roots of Ballroom culture in Texas, despite constant push back from one of the most anti-trans legislatures in the country.
INSIDE THE ANTI-TRANS HATE MACHINE IN TEXAS
Representative Steve Toth and his GOP colleagues are trying to criminalize drag in Texas, but House of Lepore performs anyway. Queerness has always existed outside of the law. Ballroom was created to protect Black queer and trans culture from the constant threat of white supremacy and it will continue to do just that. Performing at Mutual Love Fest was just one more act of resistance for House Of Lepore.
Learn more about the anti-trans legislation that’s effecting Texans and trans people all over the country in our new season of The Anti-Trans Hate Machine.
CREATING A TRANS-AFFIRMING TEXAS
As I flew back to my sanctuary state of California, my heart was heavy with the situation I had witnessed. I met some of the most creative, talented and vibrant trans people in Texas, and they all live in a precarious position there.
Their lifesaving transition care is becoming more and more difficult to access. One trans person told me their top surgery date will fall after a law goes into effect making it illegal, so they don’t know if it will happen at all. I also spoke to parents of trans kids who constantly live in fear of losing them.
Despite the campaign of fear being led by Texas State Representative Steve Toth, most trans people are staying in Texas. Many can’t afford to leave, and some people just don’t want to; no trans person should have to escape from their own home state. The #AntiTransHateMachine in Texas creates suffering among the trans community. Despite everything, they continue to create art, build community, and live their most authentic lives in Texas.
Trans people deserve to keep their homes, their communities, and their lives exactly as they are. Uprooting and displacing trans people is part of eliminating us from society: trans genocide.
The solution isn’t to flee or ban Texas. Let’s work together to transform one of the most transphobic states in the country into a place that is safe for trans people and their loved ones. Mutual Love Fest shows us all a vision of what that safety can look like.
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