Three Gay Texans’ guides to nightlife in Dallas-Fort Worth

We’ve been here. We’ve been queer. Three Gay Texans’ guides to nightlife in Dallas-Fort Worth (and everywhere in between)!

Howdy fellow gay Texans or curious non-Texan gay people or just a person in general –

Hello. Welcome. We’re taking a trip to the wild, wild, west. Or like, next door to the wild, wild west. 

What’s always lost in the (rightful) political discourse around Texas is the thriving queer community that has been present since the beginning. We’re loud, we’re proud, and we deserve to exist — loudly and proudly. 

I moved to Texas in 2019 and had some reservations, but I quickly found myself not only adapting to Texas life & culture but being defensive and unapologetic of my love for this new state. You don’t know her like *I* do! Being gay in Texas is a struggle — you fight for your rights and safety almost every day — but you’re never doing it alone. Also, being a gay Texan is really fun — the culture, the community is all unmatched. There’s nothing else like it.

So whether you’re a local DFW Texan looking for some fun or if you’re just curious about us, please read on and enjoy this glimpse into the Dallas-Fort Worth queer nightlife directly from the people who live here. Saddle up and get ready for a fun time with our guides Namtam Ho, Connor Gray, and myself, “Imani”!

Where to Yee and Where to Haw in Dallas Proper by Namtam Ho
Namtam poses in a group selfie with three friends in a nightclub

Going against the grain of understanding Texas, Dallas remains a city of diversity, of democratic thinking. Despite Dallas’s overall liberal sensibilities, the challenge remains to find a place where one can freely express their queer identity without head turns and questionable remarks. You’ll often hear from many LGBTQ+ folk that the Dallas Gayborhood is the place to go to alleviate this challenge. Containing some of the oldest and most well established offerings, the Dallas Gayborhood delivers resources, reprieve, and representation.

Before we jump into the glitz and glamor, I want to start with highlighting some of the services to be found here. Growing up in Dallas can make it very challenging to discover your identity. Falong with finding reliable resources that help you make the right decisions to be confident in your own body can be even tougher. Fortunately, nestled between the bars and shopping, is the Resource Center– offering queer-informed health and wellness options for those seeking a safe space. In the same vein of making decisions around bodily autonomy, Out of the Closet is a business focused on community-driven upcycled and repurposed clothing, giving you a chance to dress yourself to any and every identity that resonates within you.

Ok, you found yourself and want a place to try yourself out. The gayborhood showcases a multitude of bars and lounges that highlight the spectrum of sexuality such as Sue Ellen’s, Dallas’s oldest lesbian-centric bar. In a world already narrowly focused on cis straight white men, Sue Ellen’s goes strong and creates a place to let loose and have fun. Round Up Saloon is what you think of when you think of Texas gay fun. Drag shows, karaoke, Texas two-step classes, and so much more can be found in Round Up’s regular programming to bring out your inner yasss yee-haw. And if you haven’t hit the ripe age of 21, Station 4 (S4) welcomes 18+ on Friday nights. Having a place to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community when I had just freshly left my parent’s house really helped me feel comfortable in my skin for the first time. You don’t have to look far outside of the DFW metroplex to have your queer home away from home.

Fort Worth: THE Y’allternative City for Gay by Connor Gray
Connor poses in a nightclub under a disco ball.

This is Texas. This is a hoe-down. And there are plenty of cards to lay down. I don’t think there’s any denying that cowboy culture is in (see my 2024 Beyonce moodboard). Whether it’s leatherware, boots, or the massive pop music shift to country, the queer eye hasn’t been more focused on the West in this way for a while. As queer communities continue to embrace this Wild West aesthetic, they’ll quickly discover that it’s more than a phase in a place like Fort Worth.

Wild West diva Will Rogers famously said, “Fort Worth is where the West begins and Dallas is where the East peters out.” The same could be said for the wild queer scenes of Fort Worth.

When you think of queer cities, Fort Worth, Texas might not be the first place that comes to mind, but it should be. This city is the ultimate y’allternative gay haven, where cowboy culture meets vibrant diversity. Think of your friends losing it to Cowboy Carter, Kacey Musgraves, and Dixon Dallas. Where are you going to send them on a night out? Fort Worth isn’t just about cowboys—though you’ll find plenty of those. It’s about a community that fiercely defends and celebrates its queer identity through the lens of TEXAS.

So where are we taking shots? The newly renovated Urban Cowboy offers a modern twist on the classic cowboy bar with weekly drag shows, DJ sets, and themed nights. Urban Cowboy is the standby, catch-all where you’ll find the largest crowds, loudest drag shows, and best dance parties. Club Reflection, a long-standing favorite, captures the essence of a traditional cowboy gay bar with a full dance floor and frequent live shows. For those seeking something with a bit more edge, Changes provides a darker, more intimate setting. Drinks are cheaaaap, the bar is dark, and that’s really all I’m gonna put out there. 

Each venue contributes to Fort Worth's unique blend of traditional and modern queer culture. The spirit of Fort Worth’s queer community is epitomized by the now closed Rainbow Lounge (one of the first queer bars in the entire metroplex). Raided in 2009, it remains to be a memorial that sparked activism and solidarity across Texas. This raid, occurring on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, led to protests and a strong grassroots movement, echoing the resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community.

I need you to know about this one. The Texas Gay Rodeo Association (TGRA) is more than just a joke on King of the Hill, it’s been a cornerstone of the Texas community since 1983. TGRA hosts popular rodeos, including the Spring Rodeo in Fort Worth, which attracts diverse participants and raises millions for charity. The organization has chapters across Texas and is dedicated to promoting inclusivity in the traditionally conservative world of rodeo. Events like these showcase the city's commitment to creating spaces where everyone can embrace their true selves. 

Fort Worth's blend of cowboy culture and vibrant queer community makes it a unique and exciting place to be. There’s something tight-knit about the Fort Worth scene despite the city’s immense size. Fort Worth is a testament to the power of community and the importance of creating spaces where everyone can thrive. 

Dallas Fort Worth & Beyond by “Imani”
Imani poses under a sign reading “You can find me in the club”

Okay, perfect. You’ve heard all about how great Dallas and Fort Worth are…but what about everywhere else. The DFW metroplex is the most populated metroplex in the Southern United States, consisting of 11 counties, and has a population of over 7.6 million people. Dallas is awesome, Fort Worth is awesome, but what about Arlington, Frisco, Plano, Denton, Mesquite?? Do you really have to drive all the way out to the cities just to have a good time? Negative! There are a bunch of places to celebrate being queer in DFW. You can go out, stay in, go far from home, go somewhere close, and the community is still there. The night you want to have is out there waiting for you — and it’s not always in the big cities!

If you’re in the northern part of North Texas, say Denton, you can check out Glitterbomb — a fun, Black-owned queer variety show featuring themed nights such as Bubbles & Burlesque, Lofi Beats to Dance to, and Masquerade Magnifique. You can also stop by Lucky Lou’s, Denton’s premier watering hole, for drag brunches! If you’re a gaymer (Sorry. Gamer) looking for a fun night out, Free Play in Richardson promises a good, queer-friendly night with beer, pinball, and a very humbling game of Pac-Man. Heading back down south to Dallas for a truly y’alternative moment, check out The Church — a gothic club held at It’ll Do Dance Club every Sunday (duh). Bring an open mind, an open wallet, and probably some black eyeliner.

If you’re looking for an activity that isn’t at a nightclub/bar or a meetup sans alcohol, DFW + beyond has just as many options! Dallas Social Queer Organization hosts events like trivia, hiking, yoga, workshops, support groups, and other fun happenings. Queer Tribe Meetup in Richardson offers game nights, adventures, picnics, cooking nights, tarot, and more! Pride Frisco hosts fun events and meetups too! Meetup & Eventbrite are also excellent for finding queer hangs — even if you’re going in solo! They’re both great apps to find & make friends. And if you don’t see something you’re interested in, start your own! Turn those apps off, and these apps on!

The It’ll Do Dance Club marquee stating “Enjoy It’ll Do Club Dancing”

Thank you for reading all the way to the end! Here’s a third-party cookie.

We hope you were able to find something new or exciting to check out, if you’re local. All of these spots will be here after Pride Month so there’s no deadline if you don’t make it out this month. The community will always be here and full of people who can’t wait to meet you. And if you’re not a local, just an observer, we hope you were able to see that there is a strong, proud community here and to remember us when you’re (again, rightfully) shaking your fists at our politicians.

Now go shake some [redacted] or go on a hike, and be unapologetically Texan and unapologetically you. And if you see one of us out at any of these spots, our words and actions are our own and not reflective of Meow Wolf okbyeeeeee!!!