Gay Fort Worth
The story of Texas's 5th largest city, Fort Worth, can be told through its various nicknames and mottos held over time. For much of its past, Fort Worth had been known as “Cowtown,” based primarily on its location along the Chisholm Trail, which cowboys used to take in the 19th century to drive their herds up to Kansas's railyards to ship back East. The Civil War and harsh winters, combined with the railroad stopping laying track 30 miles outside the city had left it in hard times though. By 1875 the dwindling town only had around 175 residents, prompting one former Fort Worth lawyer to deride in a Dallas newspaper, “[having] been to a meeting in Fort Worth the other day…things were so quiet I saw a panther asleep on Main Street, undisturbed by the rush of men or the hum of trade.” However, in 1876 the Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in Fort Worth and began a period of economic boom. Although an intended insult, the name “Panther City” was enthusiastically embraced by the local denizens, becoming a symbol of the city's enduring strength. Indeed there remains to this day a statue of a panther near the Courthouse to remind the people of their capability. Panther iconography has since sprung up all over the area: carved on downtown buildings, crouching on Fort Worth Police badges, painted on fire trucks, and celebrated as mascots like the Fort Worth Cats.
The economic boom from the railroad quickly brought about a bustling population of cowboys, business men, and other migrants. Indeed, being the Western terminus of the railroad made Fort Worth “Where the West Begins.” The bustling factories, mills, and cattle industry again renamed Fort Worth as “The Queen City of the Prairies.” (A city fit for a Queen, eh?) Having all those cowboys pass through town with the cattle trade quickly gave Fort Worth a notorious reputation. Red light districts sprung up like Hell's Half Acre in the area asouth of present day Sundance Square, The Acre quickly grew to a whole 2.5 acres of saloons, brothels, brawling, and general mischief. This salacious lawlessness earned Fort Worth the moniker “Paris of the Plains” before it was put to an end in the early part of the 20th century.
Today, the 16th most populous city in the nation is branding itself as the “City of Cowboys and Culture,” (which to us sounds like a gay dream come true!) The Fort Worth Stockyards and Sundance Square are still an integral part of the city, and that cowboy spirit is very much alive in the people and places around town. Fort Worth is also home to a Cultural District containing five world class museums in a park-like green-space, all within walking distance of one another: the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Add to that a coveted Van Cliburn Piano Competition, Bass Performance Hall, independent galleries, world-class symphony, ballet, and theatre programs.
With a bustling cultural scene and thriving nightlife, the indomitable Panther City is here to stay. In recent years, several gay bars have sprung up, and while the gays aren't likely to be a visible presence (it is still Texas after all), Fort Worth does have a Pride week festival as well as its own Gay Rodeo competition, so it's well on its way to becoming a different type of “Queen City,” we hope. Regardless of your itinerary, you're sure to have a good time when you visit the City of Cowboys and Culture.
Photos provided by Texas Tourism, Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Kenny Braun.
The Gay Scene in Fort Worth
A renowned arts scene, thriving nightlife venues, and a flawlessly incorporated past make Fort Worth a city to reckon with.
Nightlife in Fort Worth
Rowdy cowboys? Sign us up!