The Lavender Heart of Texas

How once conservative Dallas has quietly become one of the nation's most gay-friendly cities

Jensen Walker for TIME

Scott Szelipajlo and Corey Fleming take part in western dance lessons at the Round-Up Saloon in Dallas, Texas.

When I was a kid in Arkansas in the 1980s, we viewed Dallas with something approaching reverence. Mine was a fairly conservative family, aspirational. We passionately golfed and occasionally visited Neiman Marcus, the Dallas clothier that taught the South how to wear Versace and an air of profligacy. I wanted to drive a Mercedes and order bourbon and branch the way J.R. Ewing did. I wanted to go out with a Cowboys cheerleader with marcelled blond hair. The summer I was 13, Ronald Reagan was renominated in Dallas, and I signed up to be a young volunteer.

I've changed quite a...

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