Be my y'allentine

Democrasexy gives Austinites a school-dance redo free of gender norms

Democrasexy gives Austinites a school-dance redo free of gender norms

The poster for Y'allentines Day by Democrasexy
The party raises funds for Black Trans Leadership of Austin, and for a night of gender-expansive community decompression. Image courtesy of Democrasexy

Trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming Austinites of all ages are getting a free second chance at their middle school dances this May. Hosted by Democrasexy, a new initiative in pleasure activism, a one-night event on May 19, called Y’allentines Day, combines education, fundraising, and a great time to break up the stress of fighting discrimination every day.

“Because folks from the affected community have been psychologically dealing with so much and the focus has been on their suffering, I want to bring some love and some celebration to the community,” says Democrasexy founder Becky Bullard. “Just their existence is a beautiful miracle. And I think that's something that gets missed when we're talking about all the hard stuff.”

BoyFriend ATX will be DJing this dance, focusing on the '90s tunes he plays at his recurring Middle School Dance Party events. Acclaimed musician Gina Chávez will join for a live performance, alongside drag performers from Extragrams, a wig bar by wig and costume shop Coco Coquette, makeup artists, and more to be announced as the event comes together.

The main event highlights a discussion panel, moderated by Rev. Remington Johnson, a trans woman and advocate with experience as a healthcare chaplain (providing spiritual care to hospital patients). Johnson will help organize an informed discussion around questions by audience members and anonymous write-ins.

Since allies are invited too, Bullard wants the panel to serve as a safe space. Attendees will likely meet with topics they have not taken the initiative to seek out on their own, whether out of embarrassment, ignorance, fear of outing themselves, or lack of an appropriate channel. A videographer will document the panel, so interested parties who can’t attend can access the wisdom shared after the event. Any cisgender visitor (i.e. someone who identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth) except caregivers of gender expansive youth, who enter free, is invited to add a donation to their own purchase to help cover costs for the other attendees.

In addition to ticket sales, funds for the event will be raised through sponsors, with any excess and a silent auction benefiting Black Trans Leadership of Austin (BLTA). Among other projects, the BTLA offers a crisis grant intersectionally prioritizing financial support for daily necessities, and manages a land trust focused on providing housing. According to Bullard, everyone working the event, including an ASL interpreter, will be paid, and nearly all are from the impacted community.

“My philosophy on advocacy work is that it's really valuable, but it's not valued in our society. I'm trying to do whatever I can to change that because we all benefit from it,” says Bullard. “I think that especially people who are advocating out of suffering…I don't think they should also be doing it for free.”

Bullard and her friends Kristen Gunn and Ashley Cheng became prominent activating beginner activists with their podcast The Rabble, which irreverently but earnestly explored Texas politics for left-leaning audiences. The high-energy political slumber-party-round-table of a podcast chaotically posited a belief that if these three women could get it together in politics, anyone could join them. It was fun to listen to, and surprisingly informative for a discussion based on games like spin the bottle.

The Rabble aired its 2021 legislative recap episode on June 7, and is on an indefinite hiatus while its former hosts explore their options as more influential political activists. Cheng has devoted herself to AAPI issues through Texas’ AAPI Caucus for the DNC as a national committeewoman, and Asian Texans for Justice, a statewide advocacy nonprofit she co-founded. Meanwhile, Bullard is building the Democrasexy brand.

“It’s like a character, in a way,” says Bullard, describing the brand’s scope encompassing both her personal advocacy, and community engagement at events hosted under the Democrasexy name. “But I want other people to be Democrasexy, too.”

Other people have been quick on the uptake, nominating Democrasexy for the Austin Chronicle’s annual Best of Austin awards within its first year of existence. At the first event for the project last October, called Texorcism, visitors learned about reproductive rights in Texas, and how to elect stronger supporters.

“My hope is that any of the events that I'm creating are a fun party that you would want to come to regardless of if you thought of yourself as an activist, or thought you wanted to engage on a deeper level,” says Bullard.  “It can be a lot to take that first step in activism, so sometimes I like to hide the vegetable.”

Y’allentines Day will be held May 19 at 7 pm at Vuka - Bouldin Creek. Tickets are available on Eventbrite for trans, interesex, gender non-conforming visitors, and their caregivers (free), and for everyone else ($40). Donations towards others’ tickets can be made at the checkout.