Don’t undervalue our bars

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 4:15pm

The closing of BJ’s NXS! highlights the reasons we need our LGBT bars

chad-mantoothLast week we learned that BJ’S NXS! on Fitzhugh is closing its doors because they have lost the lease on their space. I’ve only lived in Dallas for six years but have been told this property was a gay bar for more than 40 years. I know I have spent many a weekend night there and have undoubtedly funded a few dancer college educations.

So, it hurts to see this place go.

Some friends and I were talking about the bar closing recently, and while most of them felt the way I do, others didn’t feel the same at all. One said he never went to the club because it was “gross,” and another opined, “Why go out at all when I can find guys online?”

Now, I can respect differing opinions. But I still feel the closure of ANY gay bar as a bad thing for the community overall.

When we lose any LGBT-owned establishment, the whole LGBT community loses. We should look to the bar owners as leaders in the LGBT community and see their bars/nightclubs as building blocks in the community.

In the early years of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, bars became the home base for fundraising events, community building and awareness. And LGBT Americans have always turned to bars and nightlife to provide an escape from persistent prejudice and to carve out safe spaces of their own.

I remember the first time I walked into my first gay bar; the feeling was overwhelming! Just to be in the presence of other people like me gave me such a feeling of power and inclusion — a feeling I’ve never gotten from any of the dating apps I use.

And regarding apps — Let’s be real! Online dating apps have changed the nightclub business. I feel Grindr is effective, for the most part, for hooking up and mindless chatter (We’ve all done it). But looking at 100 online profiles, I can count on one hand how many are looking for actual relationships.

It’s not uncommon for gay men to see romantic storylines in the media or online and think they should be living that “perfect” life. Trust me it is easy to get sucked into that narrative. I know I’ve stared at more than one person online, thinking, “Why can’t that be me?!”

But the bars have a distinct advantage over these apps: Every guy you meet at a bar COULD be “The One”’ or “Mr. Right.” Sure, that may be unlikely, but you can keep going.

Real connections only sound nice and fairytale-like when people leave out the bad drunk hook-ups and all the compromises they go through before they decide they’ve really met the right one. But when you go out to bars, you are getting that “real connection” with another person that you just can’t get online.

Something else to consider in thinking about the bar business is the redevelopment of cities. In the past, I’ve noticed that gay bars were often hidden away in low-rent, seedy and disadvantaged areas of cities where industry and residences were in decline. The bars located in those areas, and then LGBT people would move in to be closer to activities and opportunities that were more open, welcoming or hospitable to them.

Then these new LGBT residents improve the neighborhoods, making them the trendy place to be. That attracts other open-minded people that want to be on the cutting edge of rising values and appeal. Young, upwardly-mobile heterosexual couples start flocking in and, when the families start popping up all over, suddenly there’s a clear change in the wind. And the very building blocks that caused such a revitalization — the LGBT bars and nightclubs and the LGBT residents — are pushed out.

It starts with steeply rising rents then comes a shift in attitude by those that want to eliminate what they see as unsavory or inappropriate or unsuitable to a child-friendly environment, and suddenly the gayborhood isn’t all that gay anymore.

Hell, most every night I go out I can count on seeing at least two bachelorette parties and TONS of straight people at the bars. And once the condos with families start taking over, that’s pretty much the end of the cycle.

I expect to see condos or an office building in the BJ’S location within a year.

As with any safe haven in a tough world, nightclubs had to develop strong exteriors to protect the valuable community inside; they’ve always bravely battled harassment, bounced back and rebuilt or relocated — despite overwhelming odds.

I hope that we as a community realize how much bars are the glue that holds our community together. We need to embrace them and support them as much as we can.

So get off that phone and go out and actually meet someone in real life; Mr. Right could be at the end of the next bar you belly up to!

Chad Mantooth is advertising director for Dallas Voice and Out North Texas.



Dallas Stars condemn bathroom bill

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 2:48pm

The Dallas Stars on Wednesday, Aug. 9, put out a statement opposing the bathroom bill and became the first professional sports team to do so.

“We’ve been working closely with the Dallas Sports Commission and with Visit Dallas,” said Dallas Stars spokesman Ben Fromstein, explaining why the team issued the statement against the bills.

The NHL isn’t in favor of the bill that would discriminate against some of its fans, either. When the league announced Dallas would host the NHL draft next year, they also warned, “We strongly oppose the bill in its original form,” and said if the bill passed, “We would have to reassess if that happens.”

The Dallas Stars President and CEO James R. Lites issued the statement on behalf of the team.

“Jim speaks for all of us,” Fromstein said.

He said the reaction has been “overwhelmingly positive” with minor pushback on Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s the team’s statement:

When the Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 we were fortunate to encounter success early on, and we’ve cultivated what we consider to be the best fan base in the National Hockey League. Dallas was warm and welcoming when we came to this great city 25 years ago, and it remains so today. The Dallas Stars stands strongly opposed to any legislation perceived as discriminatory, including proposed bathroom legislation. We welcome fans from all over the globe, and our roster boasts players from half a dozen countries. Dallas welcomes all, and we welcome all.

We’re thrilled that Dallas will host the NHL Draft next year, and we’re grateful that the NHL sees the true Dallas that we know and love, a Dallas that is friendly and vibrant. Dallas will be a wonderful host city and we’re grateful for the NHL’s business. We are proud of our home and want every visitor to feel at home here, too, and that’ s why we oppose this discriminatory bathroom legislation.

For tickets to Dallas Stars games, call 214-467-8277 or buy them online. Pre-season begins Sept. 19. 


SCREEN REVIEW: ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 12:55pm

Callum Tucker and Kate Beckinsale

Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is the nerd-handsome, post-college scion of a wealthy Upper West Side couple who wears his scruffy mop of hair, bee-stung lips and mopey, bespectacled eyes like a uniform of overprivileged angst. He’s in love with a girl — he’s even slept with her, once (he remembers the exact date, too) — but she’s little more than an unattainable statue of hetero-hormonal lust; she likes him “as a friend,” and doesn’t see why he wants to muddle things up. Oh, and she has a boyfriend, how can he expect her to be available?

Young love. So stupid. So real.

Thomas eventually seeks counsel from a mysterious downstairs neighbor played by Jeff Bridges, whose elliptical advice recalls The Dude without the halo of pot smoke and with a nicer wardrobe. When Thomas catches his father (Pierce Brosnan) cheating on his mom (Cynthia Nixon) with Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), he refocusses his obsession on her — putatively to protect his prickly, bipolar mother, but ultimately because she’s a woman who gives him the attention he craves. And Johanna’s fucking daddy, so he gets the bonus of Oedipal revenge.

The Only Living Boy in New York is directed Marc Webb, who helmed both of the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies (Amazing 1 and 2). But before he sold out to Hollywood’s voracious comic-book-adaptation leviathan, Webb directed the delightful (500) Days of Summer, another wistful romance about a sad-sack doomed because he “feels too much.” It’s a much tighter fit for his skill-set — an NYC populated by laconic hipsters instead of mutant lizards and superconducting humanoids. (Although, to be fair, UWS denizens are their own form of mutant.)

Cynthia Nixon and Pierce Brosnan

Screenwriter Allen Loeb (Collateral Beauty, The Space Between Us) has mastered the kind of arch but lovely dialogue that Whit Stillman has a patent-pending on — smart and erudite, but not overtly comedic. (The Coens and Woody Allen do the same thing, but there’s usually a punchline lurking in the back somewhere.) Its detached modernism evokes the city-lit of the 1980s and ’90s; the presence of Wallace Shawn even completes the circle of its My Dinner with Andre intellectualism. None of these are criticism. Indeed, it’s refreshing to experience such smart, omniscient narration from a newfound source.

The poignant voice-overs that slyly comment on a montage of assorted characters bearing out the ideas (another Woody speciality) are wonderful, as are the performances that undergird them. Turner recalls Eddie Redmayne with sex appeal, and Bridges inquisitive squints betray an earned wisdom. (“Congratulations Thomas — your world is becoming contextual,” he imparts.) Even in the smallish role of the fragile mom, Nixon bristles with lived-in pain.

Loeb does too-happily imbue Thomas with a faux moral rectitude, and the plot complications are less complications the tropes of the genre (including a closeted gay billionaire who uses Johanna as a beard and a tearful lovers’ confrontation in a rainy alley at night). But who really cares? Romantic comedies — or dramadies, which Only Living Boy is — rely on expectations and how we deal with them. The wandering hopelessness of hearts coming together and eventually breaking is universal.

The template for this kind of savvy storytelling dates back to at least The Graduate; there’s even a Paul Simon song on the soundtrack. This doesn’t detract from the film’s originality, but ties it to a greater community of sophisticated, urbane relationship movies. The Only Living Boy in New York deserves its spot inside that pantheon.

Four stars. Opens Friday at the Angelika Mockingbird Station and Cinemark Plano.


BREAKING: Lambda Legal sues Houston over spousal benefits

Posted on 10 Aug 2017 at 12:21pm

Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Kenneth Upton

Lambda Legal and co-counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP filed a federal lawsuit today (Thursday, Aug. 10) against Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city of Houston, on behalf of three married couples, to preserve health coverage and other benefits for the same-sex spouses of city employees.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling declaring marriage equality to be law nationwide, these benefits were put at risk after two taxpayers convinced the Texas Supreme Court that Texas cities could deny married same-sex couples the rights of marriage, according to a press release issued this morning by Lambda Legal.

The Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling in the other case, Pidgeon v. Parker, in late June.

Kenneth Upton, senior counsel in Lambda Legal’s Dallas-based South Central Regional Office, said, “Our clients are angered by the notion that in 2017 their marriages would be deemed inferior to other marriages. Today we are standing up for lesbian, gay, and bisexual Houston city workers and their same-sex spouses against those who seek to demean and diminish them.”

In Freeman v. Turner and City of Houston, Lambda Legal and Morgan Lewis are representing Noel Freeman, Yadira Estrada and Ron Reeser.

Freeman is division manager with the city of Houston Public Works & Engineering Office and a 13-year employee of the city. He married his husband, Brad Pritchett, in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

Estrada has been a city of Houston police officer for 10 years. She married her partner, Jennifer Flores, in Maine in June 2013, after they had been together for seven years.

Reeser is a systems administrator for the city and 12-year city employee. He married his husband, Vince Olivier, after they had been together for three years.

The lawsuit also asks the federal district court to prevent the city of Houston from compelling repayment of employee benefits already provided.

Upton said that Freeman v. Turner is similar to a lawsuit Lambda Legal filed four years ago against Houston and then-Mayor Annise Parker in response to Pidgeon, which blocked Mayor Parker from extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees. At that time, city officials had determined that an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling, U.S. v. Windsor, striking down part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, required that benefits be equally available to the legal different-sex or same-sex spouses of city employees.

A Texas state district judge ruled in favor of the taxpayers, but the Texas Court of Appeals overturned that decision in the wake of the Obergefell ruling. Also after Obergefell, Lambda Legal settled and dismissed its original Freeman lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in Pidgeon, however, petitioned the Texas Supreme Court for review. Although the Texas Supreme Court initially declined to hear the case, in the fall of 2016, the court reversed itself following a concerted lobbying effort that included amicus briefs from Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, and reinstated the taxpayers’ lawsuit.



STAGE REVIEW: ‘Hit the Wall’

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 3:11pm

Walter Lee and Garret Storms. Photo by Jason Anderson.

June 27, 1969, was a swelteringly hot day in New York City, but in many ways, it was just like any other day. Word had just hit that Judy Garland had died in London, and there was a pall cast over the “Friends of Dorothy” making their ways through life in Greenwich Village — a tough life already, at that. It was less than 50 years before same-sex marriage was recognized as a federal constitution right, and yet New York City law forbade men from wearing more than three articles of “women’s clothing” (and vice versa) or risk arrest. People were upfront with their homophobia, and in the clear majority. Gay culture was trying to assert itself in the only ways it knew how — bitchy shade-throwing catcalls from flouncy, defiant Latinos; dignified trans women cowed into subservience so as not to draw the attention of the cops, but still going out in public in pumps and a smart A-line; tense dykes hoping their “tom-boy” demeanor might make them palatable to dashiki-wearing activists. There was a code, and there were codes (penal, social). And it just so happened this night was not the night to be enforcing any of them.

The smack heard round the world. Photo by Jason Anderson.

Of course, we mostly all know what happened after midnight that night, as a raid on the Stonewall Inn triggered four nights of rioting … and sparked the modern gay rights movement. The history of the movement, and even the factual details of that night, are not really the subject of Hit the Wall, receiving its regional debut now at WaterTower Theatre. Playwright Ike Holter leaves the facts to the historians (he even makes a refrain of the claim “I was there,” which, if all such assertions were accurate, would make the Stonewall Inn roughly the side of Yankee Stadium). Holter is aiming for something more important than reality — he’s aiming for truth.

Because the truth is, all of us were there, in spirit if not body. We owe a lot to those outsiders (whoever they really were) who took a stand. The scenes that play out in Hit the Wall register because they are so familiar, or at least feel so possible, as much in 2017 as in 1969. So far away, and yet so close.

The play itself has some structural issues; I’m not a huge fan of the “multiple narrator” technique of having virtually every cast member break the fourth wall and address the audience in the serious tone of an sex-ed film strip, or the use of repetition to lend an air of poetic motif. But most of those concerns drift away once the production — a dazzling, uninterrupted 85 minutes — gets rolling.

The cast is small but efficiently used; you get a sense for the tumult and anger from just a handful of actors (only one, Gregory Lush, plays a cop — a vastly disproportionate ratio, to be sure). But Joanie Schultz — WaterTower’s new artistic director, making her North Texas debut — has assembled a crackerjack ensemble of some of the best theater artists around: Walter Lee as the cross-dressing Carson; Garret Storms as the good-natured vagabond; Kelsey Leigh Ervi as the lesbian as buttoned-up emotional as her flannel shirt; and Lush, whose utility at moving from playing gay to gay-bashing makes him one of our most protean actors.

Hit the Wall is a big-shouldered play to make your local premiere with, and Schultz proves herself accomplished at both challenging audiences and delivering the goods.

Through Aug. 20.


Marriage equality around the world

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 1:26pm

Charlot Jeudy

Charlot Jeudy with Kouraj, an LGBT rights group in Haiti, said on Monday, Aug. 7, that his organization is fighting to head off a proposed law that would ban same-sex marriage in that island nation, along with an pro-LGBT demonstrations.

A bill passed by the Haitian Senate last week provides for up to three years in prison and a fine of about $8,000 for either party to a marriage not between a man and a woman. The bill also would prohibit any public support or advocacy for LGBTQ rights.

Haitian law already specifically defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Jeudy said the legislation would violate Haiti’s constitution and his group will try to persuade members of the Chamber of Deputies to reject it. “We have the right to protest and we have the right to be who we are and we have the right to be free” he said.

Last September, a cultural festival celebrating the LGBT community in Port-au-Prince was canceled the after organizers received threats and a local government official said he would prohibit the event he said violates the country’s moral values.



Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, speaking Saturday, Aug. 5, at a gay Pride event in Belfast, said it is “only a matter of time” before same-sex marriage is legalized in Northern Ireland, the only part of the United Kingdom where it still is banned.

A 2015 voter referendum legalized marriage equality in the republic of Ireland.

The issue has been one of the sticking points preventing the restoration of the Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionists, Northern Ireland’s biggest British Protestant party and a key partner to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, has opposed same-sex marriage. The Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein supports it.



Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Tuesday, Aug. 8 that the Parliament in his country could legalize gay marriage this year if the nation’s voters endorse it in a rare nonbinding poll in November.

Turnbull said he expected the public would support marriage equality in the so-called plebiscite, and that he would personally campaign for a “yes” vote. It would be only the fourth time in Australian history, and first time in 43 years, that the government puts a legally nonbinding question to the electorate.

The conservative Liberal Party-led coalition was narrowly re-elected in July 2016 with a promise to let voters decide whether Australia should recognize same-sex marriage through a popular vote. But the Senate in November blocked the plebiscite, which would cost $135 million (in U.S. dollars) and promote a divisive public debate.

The Liberal Party held a crisis meeting late Monday to resolve infighting and rejected a push to allow lawmakers to decide the issue now. The government on Tuesday endorsed the party decision to ask the Senate this week to reconsider allowing the plebiscite, which would be held Nov. 25. Voting would be compulsory and failure to vote would be punishable by a fine, though a voluntary vote would be held if the Senate again rejects the measure.

If most Australians want gay marriage, the Parliament would vote on legislation before the last two-week session of Parliament of the year ends on Dec. 7.

Gay-rights advocates say enough lawmakers already back marriage equality to make same-sex marriage legal in Australia now. For the first time in Australian history, both the prime minister and opposition leader back the reform.



A religious response to Pastor Jeffress’ warmongering

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 1:13pm

While the so-called religious leader of First Baptist Church of Dallas is kissing Donald Trump’s ass, other churches are responding with a more religious message. The response above reflects the views of Midway Hills Christian Church and its pastor, the Rev. Arthur Stewart.

The good pastor Jeffress said, “In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”

Midway Hills’ response is, “No, Bob Jeffress, Jesus is not cool with nukes!”

Midway Hills was the first integrated congregation in North Dallas when it was founded in the 1950s. In the 1970s, Midway Hills was a leader in the anti-war movement in Dallas and in the 1990s, PFLAG Dallas was founded at the church.

All those things would probably offend the good Pastor Jeffress terribly.


BREAKING: GLAD, NCLR file suit to stop Trump’s military trans ban

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 12:44pm

Intended policy, announced on Twitter, “created a tidal wave of harms,’ Minter says

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service


Donald Trump

Two national LGBT legal groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Aug. 9, in federal district court in Washington, D.C., seeking a preliminary injunction to stop President Trump from implementing his proposed ban on transgender service members.

It also seeks a declaration from the court that the proposed ban is unconstitutional.

The Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the lawsuit, with the assistance of two major national law firms — Wilmer Cutler and Foley Hoag.

Shannon Minter, legal director for NCLR, issued a statement saying that President Trump’s transgender ban directive “has created a tidal wave of harms that have already been felt throughout our armed services.”

“Transgender service members have been blindsided by this shift,” said Minter, “and are scrambling to deal with what it means for their futures and their families.”

Jennifer Levi, GLAD’s transgender rights project director, said the policy affects more than 15,000 servicemembers.

President Trump issued Twitter posts on July 26, saying that the U.S. military would no longer permit transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity.”

The lawsuit, Jane Doe v. Trump, asks the court to prevent the Trump administration from enforcing the ban, saying a reinstatement of the ban against transgender people violates the U.S. Constitutional guarantees of equal protection of the law and due process.

“The categorical exclusion of transgender people from the military service lacks a rational basis, is arbitrary, and cannot be justified by sufficient federal interests,” states the lawsuit.

Although no general was ever identified as having been consulted, Trump’s series of tweets claimed, “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a statements to military personnel shortly after the tweets, saying, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president’s direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”

And 56 former generals and admirals issued a statement opposing the proposed new policy.

According to the lawsuit, the White House counsel’s office subsequently communicated President Trump’s decision “into official guidance” to the Department of Defense, along with a plan outline for implementing it.

The lawsuit represents five service members, identified as Jane Doe 1-5. One has served in the Coast Guard for 10 years, three are serving in the U.S. Army, and one in the Air Force.

NCLR’s Minter explained that the attorneys expect to add plaintiffs but had to file the lawsuit quickly after learning, on Friday, Aug. 4, that President Trump had conveyed his directive to the Department of Defense in a formal way.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to stop any attempt to reinstate the ban,” said Minter.

Under President Obama, the Department of Defense issued a regulation in June 2016 to explicitly allow transgender persons to serve openly in the military.

© 2017 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.




Onstage in Bedford gets a reprieve

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 12:09pm

ONSTAGE_Disaster-by-JAMIE-JAMISONWhen you hear about arts organizations get into battles with city budget hawks, you usually think Dallas and the Arts District. But for a few weeks, the roiling issues have been up in Bedford, where for 30-plus years the community theater group Onstage in Bedford has scrappily produced theater; it’s most recent production, the campy Disaster!, pictured, closed last month. Since 1985, its home has been in a venue called the Bedford Boys Ranch.

But last month, the Bedford city council was planning to raze the ranch, leaving Onstage without a home very quickly … and no prospects for a new one. In true activist fashion, the nonprofit organized its supporters to come out in favor of saving the lively arts in Bedford.

Last night came word that Onstage in Bedford is safe … for now.

The city council approved a $70 million bond package to be put up for a vote in November,” Mike Hathaway, president of Onstage, wrote. Many on the council supported the plan to earmark $10 million to expand the Old Bedford School into a performing arts center, which could then house Onstage. “Details will be hammered out on Aug. 15,” Hathaway wrote, “[but] for now, it looks like Onstage will be moving in a couples of years to a brand new home with no interruption in service.”

It’s always nice when the arts have champions among the bean counters.

Read more about the arts in North Texas this Friday with our annual Applause Issue.


BREAKING: Dallas City Council kills zombie toll road

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 at 10:37am

Council vote on zombie toll road (Photo courtesy Councilman Omar Narvaez)

The Dallas City Council voted 13-2 to kill the “zombie toll road” that’s been threatened to be built in the Trinity River bottoms for the past decade.

Only Council members Rickey Callahan and Casey Thomas voted for the boondoggle.

Council members Adam Medrano, Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs have been steadily fighting paving the river as long as they’ve been on the council. But even the road’s biggest proponent, Mayor Mike Rawlings, threw in the towel and voted to move forward with turning the area between the levees into one of the largest urban parks in the country and not try to divert car traffic through a corridor that regularly floods.