OBIT: Kevin Graham

Posted on 21 Apr 2017 at 3:05pm

While obituaries are not normally included in our InstanTEA blog, we are including this here by request, because services are Sunday, April 23, before the next print edition of Dallas Voice hits the street:

Kevin Graham

Kevin Graham, 53, of Pharr and Dallas, passed away peacefully April 20, 2017.

Kevin lived an active life of service and philanthropy. After retiring from software consulting, he built a successful real estate development business and served on many boards of directors for community centers, museums, even a bird sanctuary, while volunteering with numerous non-profits and the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District.

Kevin was a friend to everyone, a fitness enthusiast, a world-traveler, and an avid lover of architecture, art, design, historical preservation, and automobiles. A proud Texas A&M graduate he mentored many; his interest in technology and robotics became a passion he shared with many through youth programs in the Rio Grande Valley. He is loved and will be missed by thousands.

A celebration of Kevin’s life will be held on Sunday, April 23, at Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Home, from 1-3 p.m.m with shared remembrances beginning at 2 p.m.

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Texas removes junk science from curriculum

Posted on 21 Apr 2017 at 2:22pm

My editor, as she edits my article

No really.

For the first time in 30 years, the science curriculum in Texas contains no junk science, according to the National Center for Science Education.

“The politicians on the state board have finally listened to scientists and classroom professionals who know what students need to get a 21st-century education,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. On Twitter, her organization gave Texas “an opposable two thumbs up.”

The new standards removed language that encouraged discussion of creationism, a euphemism for study of the Biblical stories of creation.

While junk science is out of the curriculum in Texas public schools, churches are still free to teach the Bible however they choose.

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STAGE REVIEWS: ‘Discord,’ ‘Straight White Men’

Posted on 21 Apr 2017 at 12:23pm

Ian Ferguson, Jeremy Schwartz, and John-Michael Marrs in DISCORD at WaterTower Theatre. Photo by Karen Almond.

There’s a lot of interesting things going on theatrically lately, even if it’s mostly coming from middle-aged, white, heterosexual Christian males — a terribly under-represented societal segment, I know, but stick with me.

There are three such men at the center of WaterTower Theatre‘s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord, an unwieldy title for a heady comic discourse about ego and religion. In a strange mirrored room outside the space-time continuum, three historic figures with a penchant for writing — Jefferson (Ian Ferguson), Dickens (John-Michael Marrs) and Tolstoy (Jeremy Schwartz) — are thrown together by an unknown being… but for what purpose? They eventually realize their common bond is that they each have a different concept of Christian scripture, from fundamentalism (Dickens) to humanism (TJ) to some kind of synthesis (Leo). But which is “right”?

Employing historical figures as avatars to stand in for ideas isn’t new, and neither is segregating them in a crucible for conflict (No Exit), but writer Scott Carter doesn’t do so with pomposity, but with great human and insight. He’s a writer for Real Time with Bill Maher, so there’s already a baseline of religious skepticism you can expect, but Carter doesn’t tip his hand too much. Though Dickens (a flamboyantly self-interested caricature, wonderfully captured by Marrs) seems to be the object of most criticism, the point of the play is that, when it comes to spirituality, or even principles, we are all hypocrites. Because we just don’t know.

It may be early to say this, but I sincerely feel that Emily Scott Banks, who directed Discord, may herself be the spiritual successor to Rene Moreno. Like him, she has a fluid yet mysterious grasp both theatrical presentation and humanity. There’s rarely a false note in any of the shows I’ve seen her direct. She and Moreno share an eye for good casting, but are also able to bring out the best in their actors. In addition to Marrs, Ferguson and Schwartz are perfectly suited, and never become rigid archetypes, but remain genuine people. Over 80 fast-paced minutes, we get a lesson not only of giants of the 19th century, but insights into ourselves.

Ward, Wall, Potter and Campbell — men’s men. Photo by Karen Almond.

The lessons, and the people involved, are far less upfront in Straight White Men from Second Thought Theatre. It’s Christmastime, and a family of men — a dad (Bradley Campbell) and his three sons (Thomas Ward, Drew Wall, Brandon Potter) — have gathered to celebrate the holidays and needle each other mercilessly. The holidays often bring out negative feelings among family, although this doesn’t come across as one of those turning point melodramatic dramedies. Dad is jovial but tends to keep his head in the sand about his oldest son (Ward), an Ivy Leaguer who has moved back home to a menial job while one brother (Potter) is a successful if cutthroat banker and the other (Wall) a college prof and acclaimed novelist. Why hasn’t the older brother, who had more promise than the other, met with success? Is he not enough of a shark? Or is he not drowning himself in psychiatry to unravel his tortured soul? And why should any of them try to be their brother’s keeper?

The title, and the cast (well, most of it), would seem to suggest that these characters should be the unrepentant masters of their universe — they even play a Monopoly-esque board game their late mom invented called Privilege, to remind themselves of their advantages … but was the game meant to chasten them, or reassure them? They each seem to experience it differently. But in fact, there are other people onstage during these scenes of domesticity: Two Persons-in-Charge (Christine Sanders and Zo Pryor), who, between scenes, pose the men and occasionally eve direct their actions, like disinterested puppetmasters, forcing the men to play out their scenes are the P-in-Cs — or even, society — mandates. Maybe the privileges of masculine dominance … weigh on them? Perhaps all their homoerotic fraternal horseplay is a coping mechanism for human meaningful interaction.

The ultimate message of SWM — like Discord, directed by a woman, Christina Vela — isn’t how obnoxious these stand-ins for the mainstream are, but how that obnoxiousness may disguise many doubts and weaknesses. Maybe we’re supposed to have sympathy for the devil — not because he needs it, but because we need to give it to him.

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Early voting begins Monday, April 24

Posted on 21 Apr 2017 at 10:21am

Early voting in local elections begins Monday, April 24.

Times and dates:

Monday, April 24 through Saturday, April 29 polls are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Sunday, April 30 polls are open 1-6 p.m.

Monday, May 1 through Tuesday, May 2 polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

Election Day is May 6. On that day, you must vote in your precinct.

Reverchon Recreation Center, 3505 Maple Ave. is an early voting location in municipal elections. To find your precinct, other early voting locations and more information in Dallas County, go here.

For details on voting in Tarrant County, go here. If you live in Collin County and need info on voting, check here.

Here are Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats endorsements in the Dallas City Council races. Dallas Voice does not make endorsements.

District

DGLA endorsement

Stonewall endorsement

1

Scott Griggs

Scott Griggs

2

Adam Medrano

Adam Medrano

3

No endorsement

No endorsement

4

Dwaine Caraway

Dwaine Caraway

5

No endorsement

Dominique Torres-Jeter

6

Omar Narvaez

Omar Narvaez

7

Tammy Johnston

Tammy Johnston

8

Gail Terrell

No endorsement

9

Mark Clayton

Mark Clayton

10

Adam McGough

No endorsement

11

Lee Kleinman

No endorsement

12

Sandy Greyson

No endorsement

13

Jennifer Staubach Gates

No endorsement

14

Phillip Kingston

Phillip Kingston

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It’s hard to hate up close

Posted on 21 Apr 2017 at 7:50am

Survivor hopefully holds a lesson for Texas legislators

CommunitTEA-Art-04-21-17

 

Leslie McMurrayMy heart broke recently when Jeff Varner, a gay man, outed Zeke Smith as a transgender man on Survivor. As has been often stated, outing a trans person is an act of violence. Doing so can put our jobs and even our lives in jeopardy. It’s the ultimate betrayal and unless you are the transgender person in question, that information is not yours to share.
Not ever.

Varner of all people should have known better. And apparently he did, since he quickly recognized that he screwed up. He has apologized and has been gracefully forgiven by Zeke.

But this column isn’t about that; there is so much to think about.

When Zeke was outed during the TV show’s Tribal Council, it created one of the more awkward moments on television in recent memory. There was just silence, then the remaining contestants turned on Varner, scolding him for outing Zeke and saying it was Zeke’s story to tell.

Varner was then voted off.

Here’s the bright spot in this latest attack on trans identities: Zeke is well liked by the other competitors on the show. Not “even though he is trans.” He is well liked as Zeke, as a guy!

I’m fond of hugging people I meet for the first time. I also remind people that it’s hard to hate someone you’ve held in your arms. Or as Dr. Oz put it, “It’s hard to hate up close.”

I’ve been out speaking to several groups lately. I usually ask how many in the room have met or personally know someone who is transgender. The numbers vary, and often it’s skewed by age: 20-somethings are much more likely to know a trans person than are Boomers. But still, the percentage is low. We are still a mystery to many.

That’s why this incident on Survivor is so important.

It wasn’t just that the other people in the game grew to like Zeke. It was that millions of viewers of the show did, too. This wasn’t Zeke’s first season on the show. He was invited back because he was a good player, he was likable and he was interesting — as a person, not a controversy.

‘This is also why, regardless of the risk to my safety or health, I live my life as a transgender woman in a very public way. But I still reserve the right to tell my own story when and where I see fit. Sometimes I just want to be another woman in the room.
Having people get to know and hopefully like me is important, because that changes people’s hearts and minds. Everyone who meets me or hears me speak can no longer say they’ve never met someone who’s transgender before.

Now, because of Zeke, millions of Survivor fans will have to toss out ideas they have had.

This makes it harder for politicians in Austin and Washington, D.C. to lie about us and have those lies believed.

I really hope there are some Survivor fans in Austin, because the House has cooked up a North Carolina-style bill that would prevent cities like Dallas from offering equal protection to transgender people as they do now.

On Wednesday, April 19, the House State Affairs Committee held a public hearing on the committee substitute for HB 2889, a bill hailed as a replacement to SB 6. HB 2899 amended by the author to be CSHB 2899, and would ban municipalities and school districts from enforcing ordinances, orders, or other measures that protect transgender Texans from discrimination when using restrooms or changing facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

If the people who author these bills would only take the time to meet and get to know us — or even just look at the example of Survivor. The other tribe members turned on Varner — not Zeke. Comments from the general public have been positive and supportive towards Zeke.

Once people understand the issue, once people get to know us, the light goes on. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but please — please! — don’t deny me basic human rights or put me in harms way because of who I am, because of something I can’t help and didn’t ask for but is surely as much a part of me as your gender is to you.

“Reality” shows take a rap for often being far from real reality. But this past week, Survivor offered a dose of truth and a positive example of how people will defend a friend, a tribe mate, because of who they are — not what’s between his legs.

How nice it would be to have our state leaders take a page from Survivor. The lesson? Be nice, or we may just vote you off the island.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 21, 2017.

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Alas, poor Roy! Alabama Supreme Court upholds his removal from the bench

Posted on 20 Apr 2017 at 2:29pm
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore

Alabama’s former Supreme Court Homophobe in Chief Roy Moore.

Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore got a big diss from seven retired Alabama Supreme Court justices this week when they upheld a decision by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission removing him from the bench. The seven were chosen to form a special Supreme Court to hear Moore’s appeal of the commission’s ruling.

The retired justices wrote in their decision, “We have previously determined that the charges were proven by clear and convincing evidence … we shall not disturb the sanction imposed.” The decision was issued Wednesday, April 19.

The commission removed Moore from office last year after he instructed the state’s probate judges — the officeholders tasked with issuing marriage licenses in that state — to ignore the June 26, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned bans on same-sex marriage nationwide. Despite federal court rulings, Moore insisted that the SCOTUS ruling didn’t count in Alabama, and that his state’s marriage equality ban still ruled supreme there.

The Judicial Inquiry Commission was neither amused nor convinced and charged Moore with having “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority.” Moore continued to argue, but he was still removed from the bench.

This special supreme court decision effectively ends Moore’s career as a judge. He was suspended from his current term, which would not have expired until 2019, and because of his age — 69 — running for re-election then is not possible. And as the Alabama Media Group reported, “Moore can’t appeal the ruling to the federal courts because there are no federal issues.”

In a press conference after the ruling was announced, Moore insisted that he has “done my duty under the laws of this state to stand for the undeniable truth that God ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” He also said that his prosecution, based on an ethics complaint filed by Southern Poverty Law Center, was politically motivated and insisted that he remains Chief Justice despite the suspension.

Richard Cohen, president of SPLC (which is based in Alabama), told Alabama Media Group that Moore “got what he deserved. We’ll all be better off without the Ayatollah of Alabama as our chief justice.”

Moore has threatened — I mean, suggested — that he might run for the U.S. Senate now.

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Not all Republicans are supporting the House’s bathroom bill

Posted on 20 Apr 2017 at 12:15pm

State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, has come out against the House version of the bathroom room, which had a hearing yesterday, (Wednesday, April 19). From the sound of his tweet, he’s not in favor of any version of the bill.

“End this tonight. Texans are NOT in favor of bigotry. We are bigger than this. I am a NO on . ,” he tweeted.

The House Witness Viewer shows how many people were registered to speak for and against the bill. A total of 389 people registered to speak. Of those 18 supported the bill, 369 were against and two were neutral.

Villalba represents a portion of north and east Dallas.

 

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This week in queerstory

Posted on 20 Apr 2017 at 10:23am

Ru and Gaga are both in the news this week.

Time magazine’s May 1 edition comes out tomorrow (I know — what’s that about?), and in it they name the 100 most influential people in the world. Among them: RuPaul. That’s not a bad thing for the Emmy Award-winning drag queen, supermodel, recording artist, TV host and shady lady. Other queer icons on the list include actress Sarah Paulson, Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Congrats, all!

Shannon Purser, who played the awkward teen Barb on last summer’s hit show Stranger Things, has come out as bisexual. She expressed anxiety about it, saying she had just come out to close friends and family, so someone needs to send that girl a toaster!

Will & Grace star and gay ally Debra Messing will be the featured honoree at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York. The ceremony will take place May 6 at the Hilton Midtown. Don Lemon, Ross Mathews and Whoopi Goldberg are among the others in attendance at the 28th annual event.

Lady Gaga announced the world tour in support of her awesome album Joanne right after the Super Bowl, and it all but sold out immediately. Now, the tour has released more tickets for the North American arena events, including her performance in Dallas in December. Act fast!

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Oak Lawn Band on the search for new artistic director

Posted on 19 Apr 2017 at 11:40pm

The Oak Lawn Community Band is in search of a new leader.

Founded in 1980, the nonprofit organization has maintained a slate of approximately five concerts every year, playing symphonic, marching, chamber and “pep” events at festivals and concerts. It’s all-volunteer and members are from all walks of life, but the mission is to serve those who support the LGBTQA communities of North Texas.

 Interested candidates can go to the band’s website, or send inquiries to tony.daniel@oaklawnband.org. Applications will be accepted until May 19, with auditions for the top candidates held in June.

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Court orders state to pay attorneys’ fees for marriage equality plaintiffs

Posted on 19 Apr 2017 at 3:07pm

Nicole Dimetman, from left, her wife Cleo De Leon, Vic Holmes and his husband, Mark Phariss, outside the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans following that court’s January 2015 hearing on their lawsuit.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the state of Texas to pay more than $600,000 in attorneys’ fees and other costs to the attorneys of Texas marriage equality plaintiffs Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, and Cleo De Leon and Nicole Dimetman. The court awarded $585,470.30 in fees and $20,202.90 in other costs to the law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, which has pledged to use the funds for future pro bono work, according to Dallas Morning News.

Phariss and Holmes and De Leon and Dimetman filed suit in November 2013 in federal court challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, which had been passed by voters in 2005. Judge Orlando Garcia issued his ruling striking down the marriage equality ban on Feb. 26, 2014 — a ruling Texas officials quickly appealed to the 5th Circuit Court. The 5th Circuit held a hearing in January 2015, but did not issue a ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26, 2015 ruling declaring all anti-marriage equality laws unconstitutional.

Judge Garcia’s ruling came during the reign of Rick Perry as Texas governor and Greg Abbott as Texas attorney general. Abbott then replaced Perry as governor, and Ken Paxton replaced Abbott as AG, but Paxton has been most diligent in his attempts to continue to deny marriage equality in Texas. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling, Paxton claimed that county clerks could refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on “religious objections.” That didn’t work, but Paxton’s cronies in the state Legislature are hard at work right now trying to pass bills that would limit marriage equality and boost the right to “religious refusals.”

Marc Rylander, a spokesman for Paxton, said the AG is “disappointed in the ruling” and is still considering next steps. But as Phariss told the Morning News, “It’s kind of a little bit sad that it was a waste of taxpayer dollars that could have gone to other things than to keep two people who love each other from getting married.”

Let’s hope Paxton — who, by the way, faces trial in September on criminal charges of securities fraud — will finally sit down and shut up and not cost Texas taxpayers any more money in his own private right-wing crusade.

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