I grew up in Dallas. I hated Dallas when I was young. I hated the people, the city, and the overall lack of any redeeming qualities. After all, this was the home of J.R. Ewing and his rapacious relatives. I'd always dreamed of leaving and in 1996, the US Navy made that dream a reality. I ended up in Honolulu - a dream for most, but the high cost of living and the lack of roads out of the state made it something of a nightmare.
Fast-forward six years. I came back, not to Dallas, but to the Dallas area for college. In the northernmost reaches of the post-millennial suburban sprawl, I found myself surrounded by the same J.R. Ewing clones and the need for a personal exodus resurfaced. By this time, I had a job with a major corporation and the only exit led to Oklahoma City. The less said about OKC, the better...
Throwing caution to the wind, I left that job and landed back in Dallas to finish grad school and take a job at the Dallas VA hospital. The city seemed to have greatly improved since I had last lived within the city limits, but I wasn't sure if the changes were legitimate or if Dallas was just more comfortable than OKC. Regardless, the DART light rail meant that we wouldn't have to get a second car and we live within walking distance of what may be the largest used bookstore in this sector of the galaxy. The changes seem to be real.
Today, inspired by the biannual media circus known as election year, I started looking up liberal and conservative cities. I was shocked to find this report (WARNING: it's a .pdf), which lists Dallas as the 32nd most liberal city in the US and the most liberal city in the state. Austin, a city that is often perceived as a bastion of southern liberalism, ranked a paltry 93. Take that, smug Austin hipsters! Further investigation into this discovery revealed this 2007 Time Magazine article. This article actually discusses the transformation, saying that, "gays have played an important, less noticed role in Dallas' evolution."
I knew the city had an active gay/lesbian scene, but I was surprised to learn how influential it has become. The county even has an openly lesbian sheriff, but it doesn't stop there. The city has recently revamped and expanded the Arts District with a $275 million Center for the Performing Arts. While I don't give two squirts of piss for the performing arts, it is nice to have that sort of cultural touchstone in the city. The article touts this and a few more architectural additions as reasons "why Dallas is more attractive to gays than, say, dowdy Austin." This tells me that, while Austin may retain it's image of hippie-based liberalism, Dallas has adopted a more art house, black turtleneck-style of liberalism. That's fine with me. At least art house people tend to bathe.
So, it appears that Dallas has undergone a rather dramatic change since I fled the city in November of 1996. And I have to admit, I'm very pleased with most of the changes. Sure, we still have a lot of ignorant people who still think a large truck is the cure for a small penis, but at least the city is more tolerant and open-minded than it was in my childhood.