Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
Cheryl Berman is the woman from ZIP code 75230 who challenged Governor candidate Ann Richards.
The Hillcrest High School graduate attended an event at Lucy Crow Billingsley’s home, where she met Richards in the early 1990s.
Berman stood in the back and then raised her hand after Richards spoke. “If you get elected governor, will you come speak at our Black Tie Dinner?”
Richards won the governor’s race and remembered her promise. Berman says it was one of the most memorable Black Tie Dinners.
Berman was elected to the Black Tie board in 1989 and co-chaired the dinner in 1992 and 1993. The Black Tie Dinner is a charity dinner held each year to raise money for the LGBTQ community. The first dinner was held in 1982.
“Being on the board was one of the most special experiences I ever had. It was a lot of work, but we made lifetime friendships.”
Berman has always been politically active. She recently hosted former Clinton aide and Dallas mayoral candidate Regina Montoya at her home. She worked on Hubert Humphrey’s campaign.
“It’s important to be involved. I don’t understand people who don’t care and especially people who don’t vote.”
Berman graduated from the University of Texas and then went into the apparel fabrics business, a mostly male-dominated field. She served on the Turtle Creek Chorale board and became one of the first females in Dallas to join a donor arm of the national board for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States.
Berman grew to understand in her 20s that she was gay. She didn’t know any gay people. She says she played a lot of tennis. Then, on her 30th birthday, she thought, “I have to do something about this.” She read about a lesbian child custody case and sought out the psychologist who was testifying. After the psychologist said, “Tell me about yourself,” Berman said, “I’m gay and I don’t know anyone else that is.”
The psychologist introduced her to like-minded people, and that became her nucleus.
Berman says she had a girlfriend, and her family always included her if they went to dinner. “I think they knew, but we never talked about it.”
Today, she is open to her family and friends about her sexuality. “I don’t keep anything a secret anymore. I’m totally open about everything.”
Her advice? “Be true to yourself and live your life for you. If you want something, go after it so that you don’t have regrets.”