Future Pioneers

Posted on 21 May 2009 at 4:48pm

Jenna Skyy (aka Joe Hoselton), artistic director of Something Fabulous, GayBingo’s volunteer performance troupe.

By tapping into the glitzy world of number calling, Skyy transcends her Vanna White duties: She donates rhinestones, impeccable lip-synching and high-concept choreography — all to raise piles of moolah that go right back to Dallas’ LGBT community. Her ball-busting army rehearses, creates costumes and builds props all, on a budget of zilch. But GayBingo’s sell-out audiences never know how much hard work goes into Something Fabulous’ show-stopping monthly performances — because the troupe makes everything look incredibly snazzy and effortlessly easy.

— Daniel A. Kusner­

Mark Niermann and Enrique MacGregor, co-founders of Gay & Lesbian Fund for Dallas.

When partners team up, the effort can produce exponential results. Twelve years ago, Niermann, (a lawyer for Dean Foods) and MacGregor (a consultant for Ceteris) relocated from Colorado to Big D. In 2000, they began the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Fund — raising more than $500,000 for agencies that have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation. The money — and visible recognition for the Gay & Lesbian Fund Dallas — has gone to The Latino Cultural Center, The Dallas Museum of Art, Parkland Hospital, Dallas Children’s Theater, The Next Thing theater inside The Women’s Museum, a statue in a Deep Ellum dog park and a gleaming dog-friendly water fountain on the Katy Trail.

— Daniel A. Kusner­­­

Tracy Nanthavongsa, PopWired.com blogger.

Like a lovechild of Andy Towle and Perez Hilton, Nanthavongsa launched TreyCruz.com in June 2007 and tirelessly started posting images of shirtless hunks and keeping tabs on Madonna’s cougar prowling. In ­2009, the University of Texas at Arlington student re-branded his laptop enterprise, launching PopWired.com. The new blog still aims for the "queers under 40" crowd but with more Lone Star flava — like students at Stephen F. Austin State University having to endure a Christian dude screaming at students, "Homosexuals are an abomination and will burn for it!" Nanthavongsa’s opinionated readers can chime in, too, saying the campus’ gay-hater "looks like a closet case."

— Daniel A. Kusner­­­

Malcolm Gage, Lux auto representative.

In Dallas, the car you drive can say a lot about the owner. And luxury auto seller Gage steers his job back to the gay community. Now with Park Place Dealerships, Gage is also a member of HRC and GLAAD and works with Immigration Equality — especially after trying to import a romance that started in the U.K.  ­When you see the Benz sponsorship logo at a queer-interest event in North Texas — LifeWalk, Fashion Cited and the Purple Party — it’s usually because Gage brought the motor company to the gay table. At the Black Tie Dinner, look for the 2010 Merecedes GLK 350 that will go to some lucky ticket holder.

— Daniel A. K­usner­­­

Israel Luna, Dallas’ gayest multimedia darling.

In 2001, Luna launched his La Luna Films production company. And with titles like "Str8 Up" and "R U Invited," Luna showcased homegrown talent while focusing on the raunchy side of North Texas’ male-on-male culture. With more than five feature films under his IMDB belt, Luna’s horror titles —  "Is Anybody There?" and "Fright Flick" — have fared the best. But he seems unstoppably versatile: For years, Luna was Dallas Voice’s got-to videographer for our DVtv web video product, and on Dallas’ iMedia network, Luna hosts "The 10%," which is pretty much Dallas’ gay version of "The View."

­­­­­­­­— Daniel A. Kusner­­­

Cordey Lash , International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association board of directors, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation national board of directors, Youth First Texas board.

A gallant socialite, Lash could also write a book about queer networking. North Carolina-raised and Philadelphia-educated, Lash migrated to Big D in 1998, and realized his life wasn’t complete without getting active in the community. He was the driving force behind the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts earning a 100 percent rating on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. Along with joining the Federal Club and the Lambda Legal South Central Leadership Council, Lash recently co-launched The Jordey Group, a promotions firm that plans philanthropic events for equality-based and health-crisis organizations — like bringing Erasure singer Andy Bell to Dallas Pride in 2008.

— Daniel A. Kusner­­­

John Lawrimore, Black Tie Dinner board member.

Lawrimore is in his third year as a volunteer with the Black Tie Dinner, and in his first year as a BTD board member. He sits on the Revenue Development, Business Operations and Web/IT committees. He says his primary function is in IT, bringing many of BTD’s technology initiatives to life. He is also on the Governing Committee of HRC’s DFW Federal Club, serving on the communications committee for the last two years. Lawrimore volunteers with other organizations as well, and says he enjoys political activism as much as charitable work. Professionally, he works as a software developer for a small company in Las Colinas, and he is a second-year MBA student at the University of Texas at Dallas. Lawrimore and his partner of seven years have two children, ages 9 and 10.

— TAMMYE NASH

Jonathan Palant, artistic director, Turtle Creek Chorale.

Taking over the reins of the South’s largest gay men’s chorus after its first 20 years under the leadership of Timothy Seelig, Palant has proven to be a go-getter in Dallas’ artistic community, establishing a LGBT youth choir (Dallas PUMP), rebuilding the chorale’s membership with diverse singers and bidding for the prestigious GALA Choruses quadrennial summit to come to Dallas.

— ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

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Craig Lynch and Jeff Rane, founders and co-producers, Uptown Players.

Launched in 2001 with the purpose of producing gay-themed plays and musicals, Uptown Players quickly became the standard-bearer for small theater companies, mixing commercial hits ("The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode," "Die, Mommie! Die!") with brave, edgy productions (including regional and world premieres like "Valley of the Dolls") — all while building a sizeable audience and winning every imagininable accolade in the process.

— ARNOLD WAYNE JONES


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Kelli Busey, founder of Dallas Transgender Advocates and Allies.

Busey has been the most visible trans political activist in Dallas over the last few years. In 2008, she arranged a meeting between gay Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson and the local transgender community, and earlier this year, she successfully lobbied officials at Dallas’ city-owned homeless shelter, the Bridge, to put in writing a policy for dealing with transgender clients. But Busey said her biggest accomplishment has been finding loving churches for LGBT people and writing for the Reconciling Ministries Network, a group that advocates for full LGBT inclusion in the United Methodist Church. 

 — JOHN WRIGHT

George Carrancho, sales and marketing manager responsible for the LGBT community for American Airlines.

Carrancho has become the face of the Fort Worth-based carrier for much of the gay community, promoting the airline’s "Rainbow" initiatives. Through Carrancho, gay travel has gone from an incidental market to one targeted by American — and by extension, the tourism industry generally.

— ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

Rob Schlein, president of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.

Schlein, also a national board member for Log Cabin, is the man local gay Democrats love to hate. And part of the reason is that Schlein has earned Log Cabin unprecedented inclusion in the local GOP while also significantly raising the group’s profile in the LGBT community. The Dallas chapter was named National Log Cabin’s Chapter of the Year in 2008, and speakers at the group’s events recently have included Texas State Rep. Dan Branch, U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. In his spare time, Schlein works as the owner of Dan’s Big & Tall men’s apparel.

— JOHN WRIGHT

Chris Heinbaugh, chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

Heinbaugh, who spent 18 years piling up Emmys as a broadcast journalist, came out while working for WFAA-TV in 2002. In 2007, he became chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, a political conservative whose support for the LGBT community was questionable at the time. In the absence of an openly gay councilmember, Heinbaugh is now the de facto point person for LGBT issues at City Hall. He serves on the advisory board for Youth First Texas, and he said his biggest accomplishment for the community was helping to push through a smoking ban in bars earlier this year, which addressed a major health concern for employees and customers with HIV. 

— JOHN WRIGHT

Kevin Moriarty, artistic director, Dallas Theater Center.

Chosen to lead the DTC as it stakes its claim on national legitimacy with the opening this fall of the newly revamped Arts District, Moriarty dazzled Big D with his daring first production, "The Who’s Tommy," and has continued to take risks by producing new works from emerging authors, and reviving the DTC’s first resident acting company of Dallas-based performers in two decades.

— ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

Matt Goodman, executive director, DFW Bi Net.

Last year, following a bitter divorce and undergoing "a lot of horrendous stuff no one should have to go through" owing to his coming out as bisexual, Goodman sought out a support group. He ended up re-establishing DFW Bi Net, which was founded in Dallas in 1990 but had languished in recent years as a support system for issues unique to bisexuals.

— ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

Craig Parsons and Jonathan Speerly, founders of Guerilla Gay Bar/Dallas.

The idea behind Guerilla Gay Bar — gays "invade" a different "straight" bar for a sudden party once each month — didn’t begin in Dallas, but its launch here by Parsons and Speerly just a year ago has already made it a craze, growing from five to more than 500 participants. The potential for it to continue is only constrained by the number of heterosexual watering holes one city can generate.

— ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

Jesse Garcia, political activist with LULAC and Stonewall Democrats.

Garcia has arguably been the most prominent Dallas LGBT activist of the last two years. He’s served as president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, a board member for National Stonewall Democrats, president of LULAC-The Dallas Rainbow Council, a board member for Valiente, co-chair of Obama Pride National, a member of Hillary Clinton’s LGBT advisory committee, and a board member for AIDS Arms Inc. Garcia said he’s helped register 1,000 LGBT voters since moving to Dallas in 1999, but even more impressive has been his ability to bridge the LGBT and Latino communities. Garcia was recently elected deputy director for LULAC’s District III, which covers 35 counties in North and East Texas. He works as a public affairs specialist for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

— JOHN WRIGHT

Angela Amos, president of Women of Distinction.

Amos is co-founder and president of Women of Distinction, a social organization for African-American same-gender-loving women. Amos has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Prairie View A&M and has worked the last 15 years as a software development/QA manager. She stays active in the LGBT community by participating on several steering committees, including AIDS Arm’s LifeWalk, Lambda Legal’s Women’s Brunch, HRC’s Fairway to Equality golf tournament and the Black Tie Dinner. She said her personal goal for 2009 is to continue building a stronger empowerment and education component in Women of Distinction.

—TAMMYE NASH

Blake Wilkinson, founding member of Queer Liberaction.

Wilkinson is a founding member and the driving force behind Queer Liberaction, the local LGBT direct action group that launched shortly after the November 2008 elections. Wilkinson, who cut his teeth in LGBT activism while living in Chicago, has helped bring in-the-streets protesting back to Dallas in a manner not seen since the 1980s. Wilkinson notes that direct action has been a key component of every major civil rights movement. Queer Liberaction events have not only kept gay rights in the mainstream media, they’ve also helped attract countless new people to the cause.

— JOHN WRIGHT

Elizabeth Pax, activist and organizer with Queer Liberaction and Join the Impact.

A graduate student studying English and the lead singer for local band Tea for Twenty, Pax serves as Dallas organizer for Join the Impact, the national grassroots organization that staged the City Hall protests last November in response to California’s Proposition 8. Pax has also been involved with Queer Liberaction, a newly formed LGBT direct action group in Dallas. Pax said she’s especially proud of a recent Freedom to Marry rally that included an elaborate same-sex wedding ceremony in Founders Plaza followed by a procession into the Dallas County Records Building to request a marriage license.

— JOHN WRIGHT


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 22, 2009.

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