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Meet The Pearl, a lesbian bar under attack in Houston, TX

Robyn Exton

May 17, 2023

Meet The Pearl, a lesbian bar under attack in Houston, TX

The Pearl is one of our favorite lesbian bars in the US, with good reason.

A Transformative Encounter: Julie Mabry’s Inspiration

In 1989, Julie Mabry witnessed the transformative power of a queer bar when her sister stepped into San Antonio’s Bonham Exchange for the first time. “I just saw a completely different person. She was just happy, she was in a great mood,” Mabry recalls. Her sister’s journey of self-discovery and the lack of support she faced inspired Mabry to establish The Pearl Bar, Houston’s sole remaining lesbian-specific establishment—a sanctuary for the community to embrace their true selves.

The Pearl Bar: A Pillar of Lesbian Strength in Houston

The Pearl Bar quickly became a symbol of empowerment, attracting a diverse and vibrant crowd seeking solace and connection. However, as conservative lawmakers relentlessly target LGBTQ+ rights in Texas, Mabry’s cherished haven faces unprecedented threats. Earlier this year, Pearl Bar was denied an insurance policy necessary for its operations solely because it hosts drag shows—a blatant attack on the queer community’s identity and freedom.

Battling Discrimination: Texas Lawmakers and Their Agenda

This denial aligns with the Texas GOP’s ongoing agenda to criminalize drag performances under the guise of protecting minors. Bills like SB 12 aim to ban “sexually oriented performances” from venues, imposing civil penalties of up to $10,000 per alleged violation and classifying violations as criminal misdemeanors. These legislative maneuvers disguise bigotry behind vague terms, enabling selective enforcement and perpetuating harmful stereotypes about LGBTQ+ individuals.

The Insurance Struggle: Threats to The Pearl Bar’s Future

Mabry’s struggle intensified when she sought a new insurance policy. Astonishingly, the only underwriter willing to offer coverage demanded a staggering $91,000 premium—more than double the previous year’s cost. Days later, the offer was retracted, leaving Mabry uncertain about the future of The Pearl Bar. The insurance industry’s discriminatory practices, driven by fears of potential backlash, further amplify the challenges faced by businesses like Mabry’s.

Houston’s Legacy: Uniting Against Bigotry

The Pearl Bar stands defiantly, embodying the indomitable spirit of the queer community and lesbian strength. It represents a legacy of resilience against oppression and adversity. Houston, a city with a rich history of fighting back against bigots, rallies behind The Pearl Bar. Just as Houstonians have united in the past to combat discrimination, the community once again demonstrates solidarity, refusing to let prejudice erase the vital spaces where authentic expression thrives.

The Broader Agenda: Erasing Queer Identities from Public Life

The Pearl Bar’s plight reflects a broader strategy employed by conservatives to undermine LGBTQ+ establishments and force them out of existence. Legislation like SB 12 serves as a weapon to marginalize and erase queer identities from public life. By invoking children as a pretense, these lawmakers perpetuate a harmful narrative aimed at purging LGBTQ+ people from society. It is crucial to recognize these insidious intentions and stand firm in our commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion.

A Call to Action: Celebrating Resilience and Defying Hate

As The Pearl Bar navigates these turbulent waters, its unwavering resilience fuels a call to action. Let us celebrate the unapologetic lesbian strength and the vibrant queer community that gathers within these walls. Together, we amplify our voices, supporting and protecting spaces that celebrate authenticity, love, and defiance against bigotry. The Pearl Bar symbolizes our collective fight for a future where acceptance thrives, and we conquer hate with unyielding pride.

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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