Deep Dish - Dubious Man of the Year: The Story of Tex Gill, Pittsburgh's Red Light District, and the implications of 1980s Urban Renewal

Thursday, March 31, 2016 -
12:00pm to 1:00pm
Presenter(s): 
Harrison Apple
Location: 
McClelland Park Building, Room 402
In the 1976, a bombing in downtown Pittsburgh signaled the start of a visible "mob war" among rival massage parlor owners who were vying for control of a lucrative prostitution industry after the death of the region's former king pin, George Lee. In the ongoing publicity which covered the city's daily paper for nearly a decade, narratives of innocence and guilt divided the Pittsburg population. Dante "Tex" Gill emerging from the chaotic scandal of sexual misconduct and violence as an icon of the era, named by the Pittsburgh Press Magazine as both "Dubious Man and Dubious Woman of the Year." Tex's career as a massage parlor owner became the platform to discuss the entanglement of criminality and transsexuality simultaneously. Through public suspicion of various "fronts," a pun of false business and false masculinity, the Pittsburgh public condemned both the massage parlor and its transmasculine anti-hero to the annals of Pittsburgh past. Tex passed away in 2003 and has since become a caricature of Pittsburgh's "dingy" past, reflected on with the same disdain as the smog and pollution that once ran rampant in the former steel producing metropolis. The notion of placing Tex in the temporal framework past and present, filth to clean, as well as his relative invisibility among LGBT organizations as a trans elder, offers a unique opportunity to discuss the experience of a queer anti-hero whose criminal history was made inseparable from his gender. Using the works of Lauren Berlant, Jane Gallop, and Lisa Dugan on public sexual scandal, and Karen Barad's work on materiality, I read Tex's story as less of a local folk-lore, and more so as an example in which the transsexual body becomes a symbol for urban transformation in a sexually conservative era of neoliberalization.
 
Harrison Apple is a 1st year Ph.D. Student in the Gender and Women's Studies Program at the University of Arizona. Their work is based in years of community archiving work which culminated in the creation of the Pittsburgh Queer History Project. While at the U of A, they draw on a combination of affect theory, experimental geography, and public sphere theory to discuss the emergence of a post-war sexual counter-public capable of producing a queer history of Pittsburgh which emphasizes the entanglements of race and class identity with discordant sexual behaviors and social organization.