Cocktail Friday: Happy National Margarita Day!

Posted on 17 Feb 2017 at 3:18pm

The Sex and the City girls have their cosmos, but in Texas, it’s the margarita that we worship more. It’s so Texasy — potent, tequila-centric and diverse. National Margarita Day is on Feb. 22 (right after Taco Tuesday — good thinkin’!), and are restaurants are celebrating with their own specials and specialties. Area Del Frisco’s Grilles (including Uptown) will be offering their pomegranate marg (made with Camarena reposado) for $6 during happy hour. Cantina Laredo in Addison serves its Perfect Patron Rita, pictured, Saturday–Thursday for $8 (and will even hold a tequila dinner on Feb. 23). Hopdoddy burgers is selling thweir signature margs for $5, from the classic frozen to the doble fina. There’s even a new restaurant, T. Blanco’s Mexican Cantina in Addison, that opens on Feb. 22 with a ribbon cutting and margarita toast.

Be sure to find your favorite marg on Wednesday and toast the signature tequila cocktail … before a wall with Mexico and a tax makes them difficult to secure.


John Tesar packs his knives on ‘Top Chef’ finale

Posted on 17 Feb 2017 at 10:02am

Dallas chef John Tesar made it all the way to the Top Chef finale, only to get booted just before the end.

Part 1 of the 2-part finale of the cooking competition series aired last night, with the three finalists — also including Sheldon and Shirley — were joined by recently-eliminated chef Brooke to pair a tequila cocktail with a local Mexican dish. (Most of the season was set in Charleston, S.C., but the finale moved south of the border.) Tesar, who runs the steakhouse Knife in The Highland, was critiqued for making a too-plain margarita in the challenge that overwhelmed his caldo.

This was his second stint on the show — this season pitted veterans with newcomers. The finale was comprised entirely of veterans (and only one newcomer even made it to the top 8). Tesar did much better this time.

Now I’m rooting for Sheldon.

Oh, and the episode where they has to make margaritas aired less than a week before National Margarita Day. Come back to InstanTea later today for places to check out for a good marg this week. And maybe ask for one at Knife as well.


A transformative weekend

Posted on 17 Feb 2017 at 7:50am

TLI2 offered ideas, inspiration and hope

Leslie McMurrayThis past weekend, transgender people from all over Texas — along with parents of transgender kids — met in Dallas for TLI2 (Transgender Leadership Institute 2). It was the second such weekend-long seminar on activism organized by Equality Texas and Freedom For All Americans. The first was held in Houston late last year.

In addition to the two organizing groups, there were presentations from Rebecca Kling from the National Center for Transgender Equality and representatives from the ACLU, Transgender Law Center, TransGriot and several other organizations.

There was a “get to know you” reception on Friday night, then on Saturday after an early breakfast, the intensive work began. The workshop challenged us to examine our beliefs and why we do what we do. It offered suggestions on how to do it better and be more effective advocates and leaders in our communities.

Topics ranged from transgender issues to racial justice and immigration, a topic that has been in the news and maybe even on your street.

Rebecca Kling from NCTE spent a good amount of time on helping us craft our stories. It’s not as easy as you might think: Writing just to make yourself feel better is different than writing to make a specific point or to advance a cause. Understanding who you are addressing and what you want them to do are key elements in shaping your story.

The conversation on intersectionality was a spirited discussion. Our group was quite diverse and everyone had a voice.

I was familiar with the word, but not the origin of “intersectionality.” It was coined in 1989 by Kimberle’ Williams Crenshaw, and stemmed from a discrimination lawsuit was filed on behalf of an African-American woman who claimed that African-American women were not being promoted based on their status.

The law said that race and sex could not be combined, so there were two trials. But because the company could show that women were being promoted and that African-American men were being promoted, both cases were defeated.

The fact remained that African-American women were not being promoted but thanks to a technicality, the law at the time provided no recourse.

The value of contact with local, state and federal representatives was emphasized throughout TLI2. Personal contact through office visits, lobbying and testimony is the most powerful, followed by phone calls, letters and finally, e-mail, everyone agreed.

A phrase came up that I hadn’t heard before: “Oppression Olympics” (I hope the IOC doesn’t sue!). This is the idea that we seem to be running a long race against each other to determine who is the most oppressed when it’s really not a contest at all.

The weekend’s discussion also include a really good description of “privilege,” describing it as all of us playing the exact same video game, except each of us is given different tools or weapons within the game that we didn’t earn; they’re just randomly handed out.

If you have an armored tank, the game gets pretty easy. If all you have is a stick, things are much harder. So some people have an advantage not due to differences in skill, but because of unearned resources.

For me, what made this whole experience magical was the presence and participation of parents — partly because it wasn’t expected. My preconceived notion was that it would just be transgender people there. Each of us learned a few new things.

See, the parents who come to events like this wouldn’t be there if they weren’t loving and supportive of their kids. There were a lot of tears as some of the adult trans people described being thrown out of the house or abused by their parents. More than one mom shouted “I’ll adopt you!” Or “I have a guest room.”

I feel like each of us came away with a large adopted family.

I was deeply affected by a mom who worries about her football player son. She is not worried that he can’t handle himself or that he will be injured on the playing field, She worries that in a locker room setting, four or five other players may gang up on him and he won’t be able to fight back effectively.

She worries that he may be sexually assaulted. How many moms of football players have that concern?

Legislators pushing SB6 — the Texas “bathroom bill” — have it backwards: trans kids aren’t the ones the other kids need protection from, trans kids are the ones who need protection.

Now more than ever, action is needed. Facebook posts are fine, but unless the Texas Legislature is on your “friends list,” your message isn’t reaching the right ears.

You have to vote. You have to speak out, and you have to make sure the right people hear you.

You can track bills in the Texas Legislature online at Pay attention to what’s happening in Austin, and show up for committee hearings. Wear purple when you go.

Write letters. Make phone calls. Recruit your friends. Make your voice heard.

Sometimes, it can feel like the whole world is against us. It was so nice to be in a huge room full of people this weekend and feel so much love.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at



Monday is the bigliest holiday of the year

Posted on 16 Feb 2017 at 4:55pm

Monday is President’s Day. Trump’s still in office. Obama’s still out of the country. How the fuck are we supposed to celebrate that?

Mr. Trump has been working hard. Yuge hard. So hard that he’s taking his third Palm Beach vacation of his presidency.

So hard, I’m taking my first vacation of the year and going to Palm Beach myself. No, really. I have relatives there and it was planned even before this Trump fiasco began. Believe me. I need that vacation. I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

Chicago is celebrating what they’re calling Not My President’s Day. Maybe by Monday, we’ll have our own Not My President’s Day planned in Dallas.

On the bright side, Trump’s already solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the immigration problem (you know, the one where people come to this country to work), the refugee problem (where victims of oppressive governments and war try to find a place to not be killed) and issued an Amber Alert for every child in the country as his choice for Education Secretary got sworn in.

The one issue that seems to be at the center of a lot of really bad policy and really confuses me is immigration. People here know they’re all immigrants, right? My grandparents and great-grandparents first arrived in the 1860s and were all in this country by 1905 and came from places like the Netherlands, Hungary, Alsace and Romania — and that makes me from an immigrant family.

Or am I unusual in knowing anything about my family history?

And my grandparents and great-grandparents all arrived with exactly the same documentation as a six-year-old who floats across the Rio Grande on a tire — absolutely none. That’s because passports and visas weren’t invented until later. And neither they nor more recent immigrants are rapists, terrorists or any other pejoratives being hurled at them. They just decided to come to the U.S. for a better life and they stayed.

Well, except my father’s father.

His brothers were already here and sent back stories of the streets being paved with gold. But when he arrived, no gold.

So he went back to Austria-Hungary.

Before his first trip to America, my grandfather had already served in the Kaiser’s army and, when he got back to Europe, the Kaiser was talking war. Sxo my grandfather high-tailed it back to New York. The Lower East Side was pretty slummy, but by then his brothers had moved to New Jersey and started small, downtown department stores. He met my grandmother and they opened Taffet’s Department Store in Nutley, N.J.

So this immigration issue that I’m just not understanding — I’m not arguing doing away with documentation. I am saying I simply understand. I don’t have this raging hatred that I’m seeing all around me for people with or without documentation. I don’t understand the cruelty with which immigrants are being treated.

All that leads me to believe that most people in this country don’t know their own family histories, and that’s sad. Or they honestly don’t understand that they are immigrants, too. If you see other people through your own family’s story, you have to understand we’re all much more similar than different.

So Monday is President’s Day. It’s meant to honor all past U.S. presidents. Slave-owning presidents. Presidents who established the National Parks System and fought for civil rights legislation and Social Security and Medicare. Presidents who dragged us into the Great Depression as well as those who dragged us out. Presidents who declared war and presidents who ended wars. Those who welcomed immigrants and those who didn’t.

And even for a recent president who is still on vacation out of the country and is beginning to piss me off just a little bit even though I’m not sure what he could do even if he were back. So this year, I think I’m just going to pass on Presidents Day.


Come see Dallas’ best beards (no, Tom Cruise’s girlfriend is not among them)

Posted on 16 Feb 2017 at 1:59pm

Brent Baxter is a local photographer who decided about two years ago to do a book about Dallas men and their great facial hair. The project was such a success, last year he decided to put out a 2017 edition. The Best Beards in Dallas Vol. 2 includes about 20 local North Texans in all their bearish bushiness … and among them is… well, me. Now, look — no one is thinking of me as a replacement for ZZTop. But as Brent said, it’s not all about the beard, but the man who wears it. Hey, I can deal with that.

You can pick up a copy of the book, meet some of those profiled in it (including yours truly) and enjoy a party with live music, all at once. The event starts as the doors open at 6 p.m. at The Rustic Saturday, with the show starting around 8 p.m. Admission is free, and you can RSVP here. Hope to see you there!


First cracks appear in SB6

Posted on 16 Feb 2017 at 11:08am

You can pee here

Anti-transgender forces may be starting to cave in their fight to regulate where transgender people pee.

An amendment to SB6, better known as the Texas bathroom bill, would exempt stadiums and convention centers from the regulation. In addition to the cost of inspecting everyone’s vagina before entering a restroom at places like AT&T Stadium or the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, the NCAA and NFL have threatened boycotts of states with bathroom bills. The Final Four has already been moved from Charlotte to San Antonio next year because of a bathroom bill in North Carolina, costing that state tens of millions in revenue.

Sports boycotts, however, are not dependent on allowing transgender fans to pee in their arenas. They’re prompted by opposition to state-sponsored discrimination.

“It exposes how bullshit this bill is,” said transgender activist Leslie McMurray. “The bill is supposed to be about ‘safety.’ Are they saying women are inherently safer in stadium bathrooms and not in need of protection?”

She also pointed out that with this exemption, children who weren’t allowed to use the restroom in their schools could just run over to the American Airlines Center and pee.


Republican Congresswoman supports her transgender son

Posted on 16 Feb 2017 at 10:31am

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., released a video to support the rights of transgender people to use public accommodations.

Ros-Lehtinen represents a South Florida district that includes Miami and has usually been the first Republican to sign on as a co-sponsor of employment nondiscrimination legislation each time it’s introduced in Congress. This video is to discourage anti-trans legislation like SB6 in Texas for very personal reasons — her son is transgender.


Gonzalez files sex ed bill; Johnson files immigrant protections

Posted on 15 Feb 2017 at 12:33pm

Rep. Mary Gonzalez

On Valentines Day, state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, filed HB1547 a bill to expand sex education in the state of Texas. Currently, all sex education is abstinence-based. Her bill would require evidence-based, age-appropriate information on birth control be taught.

“We say we don’t want abortion, but we’re also not providing sex education that will limit teen pregnancy,” Gonzalez told KVUE in Austin.

Texas regularly is in the top five states for teen pregnancy and six out of 10 high school seniors admit to having sex. Abstinence-only sex education that includes teaching teens that condoms don’t work isn’t preventing teen pregnancy. Gonzalez bill would require accurate teaching of birth control.

State Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, filed HB1855 to protect immigrant communities by prohibiting Texas law enforcement officers from asking witnesses or crime victims about their immigration status. Data shows that immigrant communities underreport crime because they fear being questioned about their immigration status. Underreporting makes immigrant populations especially vulnerable, as they are often targeted by criminals.

“The well-being and safety of our communities should be the first priority of Texas’ public safety agenda. All too often immigrants fear that their 9-1-1 call will result in them being separated from their families.” Johnson said. “There is a clear need for consistent policies regarding this issue — policies that put public safety first.”


Darren Woods out as general director of Fort Worth Opera

Posted on 14 Feb 2017 at 12:33am

Darren-K.-Woods-(Hortensius)Darren Woods, the out leader of the Fort Worth Opera for the last 16 years, has been axed, according to multiple reports as well as a release from the FWO.

About 10 years ago, Woods began a series of innovations at the oldest opera company in Texas, including converting to a festival format (several weeks of continuous operas in repertory rather than a season spread out over several months), as well as the commission of new works, the mounting of local premieres, and edgy series aimed at generating new interest in opera by younger audiences.

The release from the board of directors praised woods for his “energy and artistic vision,” while saying a “fresh perspective” was needed to invigorate an ageing business model. A national search for a new general director will begin immediately.

This comes just months before the new festival is set to commence, including a specific outreach to the Latino community.

He has championed unusual artistic choices, often with gay content … sometimes with success, sometimes not so much. The opera version of Angels in America didn’t resonate, although Before Night Falls, about gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, scored with audiences and critics. He also greenlighted an opera based on queer poet Allen Ginsberg’s words, Phillip Glass’ Hydrogen Jukebox.

Woods was a trained opera singer in his own right; four years ago, he even took a signing role in a production of Daughter of the Regiment.


DMA expands this season’s Arts & Letters live with Chelsea Clinton

Posted on 13 Feb 2017 at 12:55pm

For more than two decades, the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts & Letters Live program has brought in many authors, activists and artists to talk about their work in a seminar-like session. This season’s lineup was just expanded, however, to add two more writers: Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, will discuss her latest A Piece of the World on April 3. But even more exciting is the “get” of Chelsea Clinton, who will appear on April 23 to discuss her book It’s Your World

Tickets are currently on sale for DMA members ($40) and will open to the general public on Wednesday. VIP tickets are available for the evening event with Chelsea Clinton and include reserved front-section seating, a paperback copy of It’s Your World and a “fast track” pass for the booksigning following the event; VIP tickets are $55 with discounts for students and DMA members. Order online at or call 214-922-1818.