Nothing ‘lax’ about this out athlete

Posted on 29 Nov 2016 at 1:47pm

Taylor Tvedt

When Taylor Tvedt made the “no-brainer” decision to come out as a high school sophomore in the Twin Cities suburb of Apple Valley, the response was largely positive. Her “progressive” parents were supportive; her friends, and lacrosse and ice hockey teammates, were “awesome.”

Tvedt was relieved. She could be herself … even in the locker room, where she’d worried about what everyone might think.

The only ones who seemed to have an issue were parents of teammates. There was gossip in the stands. One mother did not want Tvedt driving her daughter to practice. Taylor’s mother fought those battles. By senior year, Tvedt says proudly, “No one messed with my mom.”

When Lehigh University recruited her for lacrosse, Tcedt was “pretty sure they knew” her sexual orientation. Visiting the Division I school, she asked about the gay scene. Her tour guide was surprised, but said, “I’m sure you’ll be happy here.”

In her first week as a Mountain Hawk, her coaches met separately with all the new players. They’d never had an openly gay athlete before. Their main concern, Tvedt says, was what they should be saying, and how to say it. Her sexuality was never an issue.

Though most of her teammates come from similar Northeastern U.S. backgrounds, Tvedt says they are accepting of each other’s “little differences.” The women are best friends. They live near each other, and share a tight team culture. “We’re all open-minded, and willing to have conversations about anything,” she notes. “Our coach is good at recognizing that we have personalities beyond our lacrosse skills.”

of1128162Tvedt says that while her sexuality “does not make me the athlete I am,” she also refuses to live a “don’t ask, don’t tell” life. The more people talk, the more they learn about her. And, just as crucially, the more other LGBT athletes will be empowered to come out themselves.

Lehigh had an Athlete Ally chapter. The organization works to end homophobia and transphobia in sports, and educates teams and coaches to stand up against anti-LGBT discrimination.

Last spring, the college’s director of athletic leadership development asked Tvedt to take on an Athlete Ally leadership role. Her goal is to provide awareness and engagement opportunities, and challenge people beyond her own team to have “important dialogues.”

This fall, Tvedt designed and distributed a culture survey to all Lehigh athletes. A sociology major, she knows the importance of data in making a case for change.

She received 410 responses — a very high, 60-percent response rate. Only 3 percent of those athletes identified themselves as “non-heterosexual.”

The surveys showed that male Lehigh athletes are much less likely than their female counterparts to take a “very” or “somewhat” accepting view of LGBT athletes. The open-ended questions elicited a few “jerk” responses from men, she adds.

Athlete Ally sponsored a “lunch and learn” session about homophobia. Thirty-four athletes came. All were women. Tvedt was disappointed. “I’ve got plenty of male athlete friends,” she notes.

At the meeting, she spoke about the importance of being an ally. So far, six teams have signed the Athlete Ally pledge.

Armed with data, she approached Lehigh administrators. She pointed out gaps in the schools written inclusion policies, especially compared with similar institutions. Their response — that it’s “just one of many issues” — surprised her. It also impelled her to keep pushing on.

As she works with Athlete Ally, Tvedt realizes that she wants to continue her efforts after graduation this spring. The connections she’s made — and her awareness of the power of allies — drive her forward.

“I want to leave Lehigh with a legacy,” she says. “And not only on the field. I want to build something that is lasting, and impactful.”

She’s already done that. In advance of National Coming Out Day last October, Lehigh’s sports communications office interviewed Taylor. The resulting story — focusing on her Athlete Ally efforts, but also highlighting her sexual orientation — was wide-ranging, positive and powerful. It included insights from teammate Lauren Beausoleil: “When individuals feel they cannot be themselves, they can start to doubt who they are and feel distant from others. Open communication and having teammates that are both accepting and approachable is one of the greatest things a program can provide.”

To Taylor’s surprise, the story was distributed widely. Thanks to Lehigh’s online presence, and social media, it went far beyond the Pennsylvania campus. It was even included in Lehigh’s football program. As a result, Tvedt has heard from LGBT athletes and allies all over the country.

Lehigh still has a way to go on LGBT issues. Every institution does. But, Tvedt says, “People need to see what’s going on here. We’re doing some good things.”

So is she.

— Dan Woog



Raising money by pissing people off: The Hanuka Grinch’s first holiday post

Posted on 29 Nov 2016 at 1:01pm

black-fridayDear Non-Profit organizations:

I’m on a lot of your mailing lists. I read your emails. I use the information you send me. And I understand you must solicit funds.

If I recently unsubscribed from your mail list, it’s because I receive more solicitations from you than actual information. So why am I writing this today? Because the barrage of solicitations came to a head today. It’s Giving Tuesday.

I’m not mentioning that to promote it. I hope Giving Tuesday dies along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday — and make no mistake, those are already dying.

The name Black Friday is an old retail term that dates back to the 1970s. I first heard it when I was working on Fifth Avenue in New York (at the job that got me transferred to NorthPark in Dallas). Black Friday referred to a black cloud that descended on the store the day after Thanksgiving. Our regular customers disappeared for a month and the most horribly rude customers appeared that tore the store apart. A job that was a joy the rest of the year became a nightmare for the next few weeks.

I’m not sure when the term “Black Friday” went from being something we weren’t supposed to say out loud because we weren’t trying to offend our customers to a term that these vultures wore as a badge of pride. Sometime in the 1980s, I guess, after I was out of retail.

Then there’s Cyber Monday. Why Monday? Because in the early 1990s, most people didn’t have computers at home. So instead of working, people sat at their computers in the office the Monday after Thanksgiving searching for bargains and shopping online.

And why will both die?

Because as online shopping increases, the need to camp out outside stores waiting for them to open (was that ever really a need?) has decreased. And since many people got home computers and virtually everyone has smart phones, there’s no need to wait until Monday.

And barraging me with email? That just takes up my time and all I can do about it is unsubscribe from your mail lists. And if anyone who stuffed my inbox with solicitations calls me next week and asks why I didn’t include their event in this week’s calendar, it’s because I missed your actual information because of the deluge of extraneous information and solicitations.

And a note about why my friends call me the Channukah Grinch. As far as I’m concerned, the holidays were in October. They were joyous, but they’re over. The upcoming week of Hanukah actually commemorates the creation of guerrilla warfare by the Maccabees, a lovely Jewish family who lived in a town now best known for the Elvis Inn and shrine (my favorite attraction in Israel), which also holds the Guinness record for preparing the biggest plate of hummus. And to Jews reading this: Historically Chanukah is absolutely not the gift-giving holiday. Purim is.

But I digress. I wrote this piece earlier today and put it aside, but now I’m getting Giving Tuesday Updates telling me how well you’re doing. I’m glad you are. I really do support all of you. But I’m trying to work here and you’re driving me crazy. And really, does fundraising really work when you’re pissing off the people you’re soliciting?


Trump names anti-equality Rep. Tom Price to head HHS

Posted on 29 Nov 2016 at 9:33am

Rep. Tom Price

President-elect Donald Trump named Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to lead the 80,000-person Department of Health and Human Services. Price has earned a score of “zero” on the past three HRC Congressional Scorecards, and is fiercely opposed to the Affordable Care Act, which extends protections to LGBTQ people in heath care settings.

In the 114th Congress, Price did not support the Customer Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect LGBTQ people from discrimination from healthcare providers.

As recently as 2013, he has also claimed LGBTQ rights had a negative health impact; opposes a woman’s right to choose; and voted against funding for Planned Parenthood.

NPR reports that Price has also “voted against legislation aimed at prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation; for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman; and against the bill that would’ve ended the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding disclosure of sexual orientation in the military.”


Meet the candidates for Dallas city manager

Posted on 28 Nov 2016 at 3:03pm

dallas-city-hallDallas wants the public’s input on the new Dallas city manager.

Dallas residents may fill out a survey here.

Then meet the candidates at a reception on Tuesday, Dec. 6 from 6-8 p.m. in the second floor atrium of Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St.

“As we all work with local entities to promote LGBT equality and equity, the next City Manager for the City of Dallas is important,” said Cannon Flowers, Dallas District 7 senior affairs commissioner. “I plan to attend the reception and I hope to see you there.”

Parking behind City Hall is free after 6 p.m. Enter the building through the main entrance facing the reflecting pool.


Texas elector won’t vote for Trump

Posted on 28 Nov 2016 at 11:38am

Elector Art Sisneros via Facebook

Art Sisneros, a Republican elector from East Texas, said as a Christian he can’t vote for Donald Trump when the Electoral College meets on Dec. 18. Rather than be a “faithless elector,” someone who votes for a candidate other than the one who received the majority of votes in the state, he will resign.

“The Electors were to be men who were selected to make this vote based on their own discernment,” Sisneros wrote in a blog post. “There is no indication that Electors were ever to be directed by the population at large on how to vote. Their votes were to be their own, made in the best interest of those they represented.”

In his post, Sisneros explains the constitutional wording that allows him to vote for someone else or resign. He also talks about George Washington’s warning and warnings in the Federalist Papers, presumably written by Alexander Hamilton, about political parties and how they would interfere with the work of the Electoral College.

“The Electoral College was corrupted from its original intent once states started dictating the votes of the Electors,” he wrote. “The two biggest aggressors to the original system were from political parties and the switch to winner-take-all states.”

He said he did sign a pledge given to him by the Republican Party to vote for the winner, but said his conscience does not allow him to cast his vote that way.

In another post he wrote, “I do not see how Donald Trump is biblically qualified to serve in the office of the Presidency. Of the hundreds of angry messages that I have received, not one has made a convincing case from scripture otherwise. If Trump is not qualified and my role, both morally and historically, as an elected official is to vote my conscience, then I can not and will not vote for Donald Trump for President.”

However, since Sisneros will resign from the Electoral College, the Republican Party may name a replacement.

“The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is,” Sisneros wrote. “Many are furious that I am willing to have this discussion publicly. Personally, I wish more civil officers would be honest about their convictions.  Assuming a Trump Presidency is their ultimate goal, they will get that. The problem is, that isn’t what they want. They want a democracy.”


Parkland World AIDS Day event seeks to eliminate stigma

Posted on 28 Nov 2016 at 10:54am

ParklandMore than 35 years after the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported, individuals living with the disease, as well as their families, continue to face the fear of stigma and discrimination.

That’s why Parkland Health & Hospital System is once again taking part in the yearly observance of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. The worldwide observance, which has taken place each year since 1988, is an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, show their support for people living with the disease and to commemorate those who have died.

Parkland invites the public to a balloon launch that will take at 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1 at the Amelia Court Clinic, 1936 Amelia Court.

“This is an event to commemorate the lives of those lost as a result of HIV/AIDS and also to show support for all those who are affected by this,” said Jane Fitzpatrick, RN, HIV Services Unit manager at Parkland.

Fitzpatrick said observances such as World AIDS Day are important because stigma about the disease continues to be a major challenge for individuals and also a huge barrier that still keeps many people from getting tested and receiving ongoing treatment.

“People knowing their status is a vital part of addressing HIV/AIDS,” Fitzpatrick said. “That is why Parkland provides some 30,000 HIV tests each year in its Emergency Department through a routine testing initiative funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services.”

In addition, UT Southwestern Medical Center provides confidential HIV testing at Parkland’s Amelia Court Clinic from 9 a.m.–1 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.2 million persons in the U.S. are living with HIV infection; about 13 percent of them are unaware they have it.

“Testing is very important because if HIV is left untreated, the immune system deteriorates and the person can develop a major opportunistic infection, such as a bad case of pneumonia, meningitis or retinitis,” said Amneris E. Luque, MD, Medical Director of HIV services at Parkland and a Professor of Medicine/Infectious Disease at UT Southwestern. “It is much easier to treat someone who has been diagnosed early and they usually do much better.”

Parkland provides HIV care and services to more than 5,000 persons at three community outpatient clinics. Dr. Luque said that with current medications, a person’s viral load, the amount of the virus in a person’s blood, can often be suppressed.

“Suppression of the viral load not only helps keep the patient from developing an opportunistic infection, it also has been shown to decrease the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others,” Dr. Luque said.

Parkland provides HIV services through Ryan White HIV/AIDS grant funding. These services range from primary care medical services to support services such as financial counseling and case management. And when necessary, patients also can be referred to about 100 specialty and subspecialty clinics in the Parkland system.


Holiday Gift Guide: Cyber Monday

Posted on 28 Nov 2016 at 8:41am

Here are some items you can click on for easy buying while coming out of your four-day turkey coma.

orthodox-calendarCalendar boys. We all know what a DILF is. Or a MILF, if you swing that way. But a PILF?! That’s Priests I’d Like to… well, you know the rest. We’ve been fans for several years of the Orthodox Calendar, which combats religious hypocrisy by recruiting gay and gay-friendly priests of the Orthodox Church to pose in artistic yet homoerotic settings. The 2017 PILF calendar, with 12 charged months of photos, is available in both classic and explicit versions, and there’s even a video option to see the making-of each calendar. (From Europe, so prices are in euros: 16–30.)

Available at

(In addition to this calendar, there’s always one of the hardcore collections from our friends at Colt Studios.)

The music and mood of the season. A great gift idea you can get right now? A pair of tickets for you and a loved one to see a show. And the Turtle Creek Chorale’s A Not So Silent Night Holiday Concert — which runs Dec. 8–11 at City Performance Hall, is a queerlicious way to spend time together and get into the holiday spirit.

Available at

In addition, you can enjoy song and dance with Mistletoe Magic, the annual fundraiser and cabaret from the Bruce Wood Dance Project. It, too, takes over City Performance Hall (on Dec. 20) with Broadway and recording artists Liz Callaway, Hugh Panaro and Joseph Thralken performing live.

Available at



1986 called: They want their racist back

Posted on 25 Nov 2016 at 7:35am


A long, long time ago in 1986, Jeff Sessions was nominated to be a federal judge in Alabama. But the Senate Judiciary Committee was all, “Uh, no, you’re way too racist.”

Fast forward 30 years and Donald Trump is all, “There’s no such thing as too racist! Here, have the whole Justice Department, Jeff!”

danne-witkowskiSo what if Sessions called the ACLU and NAACP “un-American” for forcing “civil rights down the throats of people”? So what if he called a white civil rights lawyer a “traitor to his race”? So what if he brought trumped up voter fraud charges against three civil rights workers for the “crime” of registering black voters?

All of this stuff happened SO, SO LONG AGO. Nobody who was alive in 1986 is even still alive today so what’s the big deal?

Ha. Just kidding; 1986 is, like, yesterday, historically speaking. Fun fact: Trump was a wee 40-year-old back then.

Another fun fact: In the 1970s, the Justice Department sued Trump’s company for discriminating against black people trying to rent apartments. Twice. Putting Sessions in charge of the Justice Department really would be the ultimate revenge, yes?

Of course, a person can change a lot in 30 years. Some people who were racist/sexist/anti-gay/thought-The-Clan-of-the-Cave-Bear-was-a-great-movie have, through a willingness to be educated and an ability to admit they were wrong, changed for the better.

But not Sessions.

After getting rejected by the Senate in his bid to become a federal judge, Sessions went on to become Alabama’s attorney general and then a U.S. senator where — get this — he’s on the Judiciary Committee. The same committee that told him to go pound sand in 1986.

He’s pretty much spent his career being racist and demonizing immigrants. All you have to do is look at his voting record and it’s pretty clear that 1986 Sessions is alive and kicking.

And, of course, no surprise: Sessions is not exactly down with the LGBTQ crowd. Marriage equality? Against it. Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? Against it. Hate crimes protections for LGBTQ people? Against it. Employment Non-Discrimination Act? Against it. Trans people using public restrooms? Against it.

The Human Rights Campaign Congressional Scorecard gives Sessions a big ol’ ZERO, which is not surprising considering his support for an anti-gay marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as the so-called First Amendment Defense Act which allows people to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the guise of “religious freedom.”

“It is deeply disturbing that Jeff Sessions, who has such clear animus against so many Americans – including the LGBTQ community, women and people of color – could be charged with running the very system of justice designed to protect them,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release.

You know who has a total boner for Sessions, though? The white supremacist Nazis who call themselves the “alt right,” like they’re some kind of cute little indie band.

Racist scumbag Richard Spencer said of Sessions, “The fact that he is going to be at such a high level, I think, is a wonderful thing.” Spencer is the head of the National Policy Institute, a white power think tank, and is a proponent of “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Also so excited is Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, professional LGBTQ hatemonger. “FRC has worked with Sen. Sessions on a number of issues and could not be happier to watch him usher in a new era at DOJ — one that cherishes the Constitution and its protection of our freedom from government oppression,” Perkins said in a statement, apparently forgetting to add “for heterosexual Christian men only, of course.”

Sessions will need Senate confirmation to become attorney general. Time to put your senators on speed dial like it’s 1986.

D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2016.


Little Caesers on Inwood robbed

Posted on 23 Nov 2016 at 4:04pm

fotorcreatedThe Little Caeser’s Pizza restaurant on Inwood Road at Maple Avenue in Oak Lawn was robbed at gunpoint at 1:15 p.m. on Nov. 22, according to a Dallas Police report. The shop is in the same strip center as the Dallas Eagle.

From the police blog:

The suspect entered the location and demanded cash from an employee.  No one was injured during the commission of this offense.

The suspect is described as a Black male, 35-45 years of age, dark complexion, thin build, and tattoos across his collar bone and upper chest. The suspect was last seen wearing a black hoodie with an orange traffic vest.  The suspect was driving a green 2003-04 Ford Explorer.

Anyone who recognizes this suspect or has information regarding this offense is asked to call Detective Harris at (214) 671-3703. If you wish to remain anonymous you may call Crime Stoppers at (214) 373-TIPS (8477).


Let Zales know we got their back (and 1MM can suck eggs)

Posted on 23 Nov 2016 at 3:52pm


Zales has come under attack by right-wingnuts after airing an ad, “A Diamond Kind of Love,” that includes images of a lesbian couple getting married. (You can watch it below.)

The mis-named “One Million Moms” group, an off-shoot of the American Family Association, is calling for a boycott of the jewelry store chain because Zales is “attempting to normalize sin by featuring two women getting married in their latest commercial.” After a description of Zales’ new “Love and Pride” wedding band collection that emphasizes all the reasons LGBT people would want to support the company, the 1MM call to action chastises Zales for “using public airwaves to subject families to the decay of morals and values, and belittle the sanctity of marriage in an attempt to redefine marriage.” They call homosexuality “unnatural” and say the ad is “pushing the LGBTQ agenda”

The 1MM call to action continues, “An even greater concern is that the commercial is airing when children are likely watching television. To make matters worse, this ad has aired during family viewing time such as football games and primetime shows. Zales crossed a line that should have never been crossed. Even if 1MM didn’t disagree morally with the decision to air this ad, it is not a retailer’s job to introduce so called ‘social issues’ such as this to our children. That is a parent’s decision, not theirs. Zales is glorifying sin, and no sin should be placed in the spotlight and honored. This goes for homosexuality as well.”

1MM urges its minions to contact Zales through the company’s website to urge them to stop airing the ad, and also urges followers to go into Zales stores while they are out shopping to let the store managers know how they feel about the ad and “urging them to remain neutral in the culture wars.”

So, I’m urging all of you out there who support equality and justice to contact Zales through the website or give them a call at 800-311-5393 and let them know how much you appreciate the company for being inclusive and non-bigoted and for supporting love in all its forms. And be sure to stop by the Zales store while you’re out shopping and tell them how much you appreciate them. While you’re there, if you can, buy something for good measure. Because that’s not just talking the talk of support, it’s walking the walk.

Don’t let fear and hatred and bigotry win the day. Show Zales a little “Diamond Kind of Love” of your own.