I went to a drag show last night. Nothing surprising there. It almost sounds like a bad joke. “A gay guy walks into a drag show and [fill in the blank]. Except last night was more momentous because the show was the final moment for the Set the Stage design competition by the AIA Dallas LGBTQIA+ Alliance.

In other words, AIA Dallas held a drag show.

I would have never imagined in my lifetime typing those words. Or that 100+ people would show up to the event. Or that six architecture firms in Dallas would sign up to participate in the contest.

I also never thought there would be a group within AIA Dallas for queer architects. In 2008, when I finally became a registered architect and a member of The American Institute of Architects, I spent a lot of time wondering where the other gays were. So much so that my running joke for years was about being the only gay architect in Dallas.

Apparently I was really off base on that one. In 2022, a member of the Chicago Alliance moved to Dallas and decided we needed our own Alliance. A year later, the Dallas co-chairs were kicking off their first design competition. AIA Dallas has a doghouse competition. AIA Dallas has a playhouse competition. Why not a pop-up drag stage competition?

That AIA Dallas would allow an LGBTQIA+ group much less a queer-centric design contest has blown me away. When I started working in 1997, I couldn’t get married. I couldn’t serve openly in the military. I was lucky to find a firm whose owner was progressive. I like to think if he were still alive, he would be a sponsor and possibly field a team. And have a blast while doing it.

That the profession has come far enough – and taken the stick out a little – for this contest to move forward speaks volumes. At a time when the state is attacking the queer community on multiple fronts – including drag performers – having the community back up the event gives some hope that we have allies in the profession who will gladly have our back.

And like any event, there’s been some hand-wringing, some pearl clutching, and a hiccup or two. But what’s a queer event without a little drama? A tent revival?

I am looking forward to next year’s contest and show. There’s plenty of time to plan something just as spectacular if not more, and I’ve hinted to the Alliance leadership that something is afoot. I just hope that after this first time, they still have the strength. Because the architecture community is willing to embrace the queer architects in their midst and stretch their creative muscle. Last night was certainly the proof in the pudding.