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Pride by Design – AIA Dallas LGBTQIA+ and why alliances are needed

Blog.003 | Sarah Woynicz + Beau Frail



Bradley Fritz (he/him) is a Senior Theater Design Consultant at Charcoalblue. Prior to relocating to the Dallas area, he was involved with the AIA Chicago LGBTQIA+ Alliance. In Dallas, Bradley ran for the AIA Board of Directors, At-Large position. His focus was on diversity, equity, inclusion (D.E.I) efforts, with the hope of establishing a LGBTQIA+ Alliance in Dallas.


Lisa Ulibarri (they/them) is a planner with Page/. While a Baylor graduate and not unfamiliar to Texas, Lisa is also a transplant to Dallas. They first heard about the Dallas LGBTQIA+ Alliance at the Empower Conference. Lisa joined the Alliance as co-chair last year and is now leading this year as chair.


In their conversation with Pride by Design, Bradley and Lisa shared about the growth of the Dallas LGBTQIA+ Alliance, advice for others who may be looking to start an Alliance, and what a more equitable future for LGBTQIA+ architects and design professionals looks like.


Tell us how the AIA Dallas LGBTQIA+ Alliance began and what you have leaned into in the first two years since forming.


BF: Dallas had a launch meeting for its initial start. Instead of forming an interest group, we began as a LGBTQIA+ Alliance in 2021. The Board of Directors and AIA Leadership was supportive from day one with a lot of interest from the AIA community.

LU: Initial focus of the Alliance has been aimed at growth and getting the word out. We have hosted happy hours, explored various neighborhoods of Dallas, such as Bishop Arts and the gayborhood, and begun to connect with a number of LGBTQIA+ organizations outside of architecture in Dallas.


Bradley and Lisa also shared that the Dallas LGBTQIA+ Alliance has joined the AIA Austin LGBTQIA+ Alliance the last two years at the Texas Society of Architects (TxA) Conference - hosting a panel discussion and meet-up each year. In addition to the sessions being well attended, great questions (particularly from firm leadership) have been raised. Questions such as:


How do we make inclusive policy changes? How do we reach out and ask the right questions? What should we [firms] be thinking about? What advice would queer practitioners give based on specific and sometimes challenging situations?

What advice do you have for others who may be looking to start an LGBTQIA+ Alliance in their own chapter?


LU: Consider what you need to start from scratch versus what existing infrastructure may already be in place.

Lisa also shared an example of connecting with Larry Paschal, a Dallas-based gay architect and founder of the Big Gay Architect blog, and his guidance to leverage and utilize connections already in place, such as the Dallas LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. While not exclusively focused on architects, the Chamber of Commerce is a part of the business community affecting the Dallas area.


Bradley spoke to the importance of the business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion, noting that, whether an AIA Board of Directors or firm leadership, “it is critical to make [the importance of] visibility understandable.”


What would a more equitable future for LGBTQIA+ people in architecture look like?

BF: A big part of this is firm culture and firms that make it known they are open and welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community. Other firms may just avoid the conversation or not change the language. That can make the culture of a firm unwelcoming without someone outside of the community even realizing it. Actively cultivating a culture that is welcoming helps not only those already at the firm, but to attract those outside a firm.

LU: It’s important to start from a place of respect. An example would be the use of a person’s pronouns. It’s also important to speak to both the moral imperative for doing the right thing and the business case for increasing equity. That way the conversation includes both the bottom line and how the workplace and firm culture can benefit.


Why do we need a LGBTQIA+ Alliance?

Just prior to ending our conversation, Bradley shared that the above question was one that they had received all too often. Both Bradley and Lisa shared the responses and the “why” for them.

LU: “While there are not always many of us at our monthly meetings, it is important for us to be here. It is worth it for the five people, the ten people. Sometimes even the two people. There is a place that people can come to and feel safe. If there is nobody to make space for us, we have to make it for ourselves.”

BF: “Everyone has different experiences. There is a lot of benefit to finding those with similar experiences to your own, sharing with one another, and being there to support each other. There is something that gets lost in translation when trying to explain who you are to someone who does not have that shared experience, even in a design field that is (in general) accepting.”


As the LGBTQIA+ Alliances from Chicago to Austin to Dallas work towards a common goal of having a larger national presence - both at conferences and by expanding local Alliance chapters across the country - Pride by Design looks forward to the opportunity to share the stories of both the work the alliances are engaged in as well as the leaders and LGBTQIA+ community within them. For those who may be interested in connecting with one of these chapters and starting your own LGBTQIA+ Alliance, please reach out to Pride by Design at hello@pridebydesign.org and we will gladly connect the dots!


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