Shawn Kuehn is a Houston native with an immense passion for his community and a beard that won’t quit. As the Treasurer of Lambda NextGen, a social network for Houston’s LGBTQ young professionals, Kuehn is also dedicated to fostering and nurturing queer safe spaces. “We typically choose happy hour venues that are not traditionally gay bars - we still love gay bars - but we also want a better presence throughout all of Houston. We want to be visible, be proud, and show these other establishments just how much of a driving force we can be as a community.”
As Vice President of the University of Houston’s LGBTQ Alumni Association, Kuehn recently co-chaired their Red Dinner for the second year. Keynote speaker Michael Sam was joined by other major speakers, former Houston mayor, Annise Parker, and Stephanie Rice (of The Voice fame). While all speakers were impassioned and impressive, Shawn was particularly taken by Rice, who gave an emotional speech about her own struggles as a queer Texan youth who self-funded her University of Houston education, aligning perfectly with Red Dinner’s mission. Kuehn wasn’t alone in his admiration. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. She performed a stripped-down acoustic version of a song, and everyone just lost it,” he says.
Don’t let the name, “Red Dinner” invoke dramatic memories of Game of Thrones - this philanthropic powerhouse is actually an annual fundraiser for University of Houston students who have been financially affected as a result of their sexual identity or expression. The first Red Dinner was held in the current LGBTQ Alumni Association president, Kevin Hamby’s, backyard, raising a total of $975. Last year’s Red Dinner picked up significant momentum by raising $42,000. This year, Kuehn is happy to report a total of $60,000 raised. “The money raised is split up into two significant branches; an emergency crisis fund that provides services such as counseling and food, and an LGBTQ academic scholarship. One year, we were able to provide a student in need with food for the entire semester,” says Kuehn, beaming with pride.
Speaking of pride, Shawn becomes completely animated when asked about “gay volleyball,” otherwise known as Lone Star Volleyball Association. “I wish that we as a community would find more social outlets that get away from the bar scene. That’s why I’ve spent so much time with volleyball. It’s social, fun, and much healthier. I’ll admit, I probably drink more than I should sometimes. Our community needs to have a paradigm shift where we do not always couple being social with consuming alcohol.” LSVA is currently in its 30th year in action and is entirely volunteer-based, not surprising considering how active and civically-engaged Shawn Kuehn is. They are always looking for new players, and play on Sunday nights from 5-9PM.
Keep an eye peeled for Kuehn’s thrilling new business venture, Straylight Run. Heavily inspired by cyberpunk roots, this virtual reality gaming bar and lounge in EaDo is due to open in November. “While our target market isn’t solely LGBTQ folks, I think the fact that we’ll be a totally welcoming gamer bar is really important,” Kuehn emphasizes. “We’ll have tabletop games and console games, too. So, you can play Mario Kart 64 or Settlers of Catan, if you’re looking for a change of pace.” In the meantime, Strylight’s Bar Catering service can be found holding bar pop-ups all over the city, so follow them on social media to see when and where you can catch them next.