Deaths

Marion A. Weger, 61, died at his Dallas residence on March 7.

Born Nov. 28, 1949, Weger was a native of Paradise, Texas, and had lived in the Dallas area for the last 20 years. He co-owned Gratitude Vintage Clothing store with his late partner, Don Dent, for 19 years, and was very proud of the fact that the Oak Lawn shop was named top vintage clothing store in Dallas by Dallas Observer in 2010.

Weger and Dent had been a couple for more than 20 years when Dent died last June. They were both loved and will be deeply missed by family and their many friends.

Services for Weger were held Wednesday, March 16 at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. Memorial donations in his name can be made to that church or to the American Cancer Society.

—  John Wright

Introducing the new United Way

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is reaching out to the LGBT community. We must reach back and answer the agency’s call to action if we want to make our community the best that it can be

 

ANDY SMITH  |  Special Contributor

Many of us in the LGBT community are familiar with United Way. However, if you’ve not followed them closely recently, you might not realize they’re changing the way they do business.

They’ve gone from being an organization that collects funds in the workplace and distributes money to charities to one that is focused on making a lasting impact in our community.

Additionally, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is actively seeking to reflect the face of our community in its leadership, staff, volunteers, donors and service providers. They want everyone, including the LGBT community, to join with them to enact positive, measured change.

To borrow from a car commercial, “This is not your father’s United Way.”

United Way isn’t just talking, they are actively working to be a true partner to the LGBT community. For example, they have added gender identity and expression to their EEO statement, which already included sexual orientation. They also walked in the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, participated in the 2010 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, recruited openly LGBT persons to serve on the grant allocations panels and are actively looking for openly LGBT candidates for their board and campaign cabinet.

Also, many people may not know that AIDS Arms has been a United Way partner agency for 19 years and the Resource Center of Dallas for 10 years.

After months of engagement with a wide variety of local civic and community leaders, our local United Way has launched a bold new venture called United2020. The plan is centered on three key areas:  Education, Income and Health. Over the next decade they hope to accomplish the following:

• Education: Ensuring that 50 percent more students are prepared to succeed beyond high school graduation.

• Income: Lifting 250,000 individuals out of poverty, and keeping them out.

• Health: Improving our region’s health through expanded access to care, promoting healthy behaviors and preventative programs.

In a historic departure from the traditional model of a closed group of “partner” agencies, United Way has opened its funding application process to all nonprofit agencies that can make substantial strides toward achieving the 2020 goals. This change has resulted in grant applications from more than 70 new organizations, many specifically serving the LGBT community.

This new open process and increased competition for dollars is critical — yielding stronger programs with better outcomes.

The plan’s success will require support from every sector of our community. This is why United Way is specifically reaching out to Dallas’ LGBT community and inviting us to engage with them in the United 2020 work by giving, advocating and volunteering.

United Way’s work will get done through active and meaningful partnerships, collaborations and programs that are squarely pointed at changing conditions that impact our daily lives. If you think about the three focus areas, they will directly affect the LGBT community.

Without a quality education, it is virtually impossible for a gay or lesbian youth to find a job. Improving our region’s health means supporting the health and medical services of the Resource Center Dallas, a United Way agency that’s a leader in HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment.

In short, the “Live United” call to action gives us the best chance at building a community that truly is a great place for all to live and prosper. If executed properly, this plan will provide a roadmap for our community’s future.

The new United Way is also busy removing roadblocks and obstacles to educational opportunities, job training and expanded access to healthcare. They’re advocating change to unnecessary, unfair or discriminatory laws that impede the ability of someone to make a good life in our region, while championing legislation critical to the success of United 2020.

For example, United Way is actively lending support to the anti-bullying bill now before the Texas Legislature, an LGBT advocacy effort closely connected to our Education goal.

To help ensure that they are on the right track with these new approaches, United Way has contracted with the Center for Urban Policy Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas to provide ongoing independent evaluation of their efforts. They will publish an annual community scorecard, which will detail progress and challenges.

This will hold them more accountable and inclusively engage others to in their work.

Do we simply stand by? Or do we accept this call to action, and rally to address these serious issues our community faces?

As an active United Way volunteer, I can tell you that we have an excellent chance to make this work with the right support. None of this happens without you. None of this happens without widespread commitment and focus to make the North Texas area one of the best places to live and thrive in our country.

Andy Smith, LGBT community activist, is the director of Corporate Philanthropy for Texas Instruments Incorporated and leads United Way of Metropolitan Dallas’ LGBT Partnership Committee.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Lambda Legal DOMA case heard in California

After the “don’t ask, don’t tell” win this week, mainstream media immediately looked for what we’d be after next. An ABC affiliate in California picked up on partner benefits.

A Lambda Legal case, Golinski v. US Office of Personnel Management, was heard before a district court judge in Northern California on Dec. 17.

“Here it’s very difficult for the government to justify giving unequal health insurance to employees that are doing equal work,” said Lambda Legal Marriage Project Director Jennifer Pizer.

The government’s case is based on the Defense of Marriage Act, which they claim is the basis for denying an employee’s partner health benefits.

In this case, Karen Golinski is an attorney who worked for the San Francisco Federal Appeals Court. She has been a federal employee for 19 years. In 2008, she married her partner. They have a 7-year-old son. Denying her wife benefits given other employees is discriminatory, she claims.

As in other recent cases, this one puts the Obama administration in the position of saying it supports the repeal of DOMA, then sending an attorney to defend the law. If Golinski wins, the ruling probably will apply only to her case.

—  David Taffet

Boy-on-girl action

Two of Sundance Channel’s stars of a new queer reality show open up about girl-boy friendships — and how they hate the term ‘fag hag’

STEVEN LINDSEY  | stevencraiglindsey@me.com

tube
A REAL WILL & GRACE | Sarah Rose, a straight woman, and Joel Derfner, her gay best friend, are two of the stars of Sundance’s new reality series ‘Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys.’

No matter what your opinion is on unscripted television, anyone opening up his or her life for a camera crew — and potentially millions of viewers — has some balls: Maybe that comment will be taken out of context, or unflattering moments will be exaggerated or distorted, or a “character” will be created in the editing room to fill any number of pre-determined role: hero, villain, diva, token gay.

Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner knew this going into Sundance Channel’s new reality series Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, which premiered this week, focusing on the lives of four couples (each consisting of one straight woman and one gay man). Luckily for them, the experience was positive, with only minor exaggerations implied in the final edits — so far.

Still, Rose insists she is not nearly as jealous of Derfner’s pending nuptials as the show makes it seem.

“They were hammering hard on how jealous I am and I’m not, for the record,” she says, having seen the first two episodes. “But I think one thing the show really does get right with us and the other three couples is the way we relate to each other. The sort of kind of friendship we have, the kind of bond there is.”

Their particular connection has certainly stood the test of time.

“We met in the dining hall at Harvard where we both shared a love for fried things and chocolate things. They supplied us amply with both and we’ve been the best of friends for the past 18 or 19 years,” Rose says.

“Oh my God, has it been 18 or 19 years?” Derfner exclaims with a laugh.

Derfner became involved when one of the producers, who knew him from musical theater writing circles, suggested he audition for the show; Rose was his natural partner in prime time. What attracted them to the premise is that for once, the relationship of gay men and straight women would be presented a little differently than is typical for Hollywood.

“The gay best friend is typically framed as a kind of sidekick. When Stanford Blanch is off-screen, he doesn’t seem to have a life on Sex and the City — he exists only in order to be Carrie’s friend. And my relationship with Joel isn’t a sidekick situation at all. He’s primary,” Rose says.

Before the show even aired, the duo were still getting used to glimpses of fame, like seeing their faces everywhere in Manhattan.

“We’re being chased by our own buses and I’m in this really unflattering wedding dress,” Rose says. “I have this idea that the entire Metro Transportation Authority is making fun of me.”

Perhaps that’s a downside of being associated with these shows, but there are plenty of positives even if the ratings aren’t huge. Both Rose and Derfner are writers and hope that any exposure from the show will widen the audience for their books. But it’s their friendship, and Derfner’s marriage, that ultimately benefited the most.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but Sarah and I have ended up spending more time together than we often do or are often unable to,” Derfner says.

“Joel works in his underwear. I’ve seen it,” adds Rose. “What I’ve discovered is the joy of collaborating with Joel. It’s a whole element to our friendship that wasn’t really present. We were sort of each other’s cheerleaders, but we weren’t each other partners in a business venture the way this feels. And it’s extraordinary. I’m falling for him all over again. It’s like being 18.”

A series of family tragedies and other obstacles had prolonged Derfner’s engagement to Michael Combs, but the reality show actually changed things for the better.

“The reality show was really the kick in the pants they needed to actually get that done,” says Rose, who was the official witness at both the legal and ceremonial weddings.

“We were on the verge of becoming the perpetually engaged couple,” Derfner says.

Instead, they now have a very detailed record of every challenging moment, every triumph, every smile and tear. Derfner hopes in some small way, his role in all of this will be to further the argument to legalize gay marriage.

They both also expect that people better understand the relationships at the focus of this show — and that the term “fag hag” be retired for good; “friend” is descriptive enough.

“From my perspective gay men and straight women often see the world the same way and we want the same things: chocolates, boys, to be thin. She wants boys and I want boys, but not the same boys,” Derfner says. “We understand each other and we recognize how we’re in sync, but there’s no competition so we can be completely 100 percent supportive of each other without worrying that somebody’s going to encroach on somebody’s territory.”

“I get all that, plus technical support,” Rose says. “I have somebody with the same plumbing and wiring and I can ask detailed technical questions [to help understand men].”

It’s a win-win for both of them — and a lot of fun to watch for us.

Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Sundance Channel.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Harnessing the power of Green energy for LifeWalk

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Marvin Green
GOING GREEN | Marvin Green founded the LifeWalk Green Team 19 years ago. The team will participate in the 20th annual fundraiser for AIDS Arms next month. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Nineteen years is a long time — especially in the world of HIV/AIDS activism and fundraising, where burnout is common.

But landscape designer Marvin Green and his Green Team this year mark their 19th year as participants in LifeWalk, the annual fundraiser that this year is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

“The Green Team is 19 years old this year, just one year behind LifeWalk. We are the oldest team participating,” Green said this week. “Other teams have come and gone, but the Green Team has managed to keep it together for 19 years.”

The first LifeWalk was held in 1991, presented then by Oak Lawn Community Services. When OLCS closed down, the responsibility for continuing LifeWalk fell to AIDS Arms Inc.

Green said he first heard about LifeWalk in 1992 through an advertisement, and he knew immediately that he wanted to participate. So he recruited two friends, dubbed the small group the Green Team, and showed up that October Sunday afternoon at Lee Park.

Between the three of them, they raised $75, Green recalled.

“I read about the walk and just thought I’d like to do something to help out,” Green said. “I mean, I know I was no angel, and I really dodged a bullet when it came to AIDS. I didn’t have AIDS, but a lot of my friends did. And I wanted to do something to help. I wanted to give back to the community.

“That first year was very sad,” he added. “I cried a lot that day, remembering my friends who had died and thinking about friends who were sick. But there was also joy, the joy of knowing that we were doing something to make a difference.”

Of the two people who walked with him that first time as the Green Team, one has since died and the other has moved away.

In 1993, the Green Team returned to LifeWalk, this time four members: Green, Rob Stewart, Darin Colby and Brian Wolter. Stewart and Colby, Green said, are still on the team today.

In 1996, the Green Team sported its first official T-shirts: White shirts emblazoned with a green lawnmower — riffing on Green’s status as owner of GreenScapes landscaping company — the handle of which was formed by a red ribbon. In later incarnations, the lawnmower/red ribbon logo became smaller, and even later it was replaced by a new logo, a white tennis shoe and a red ribbon on a green shirt, with the slogan, “It’s all in the soul.”

In those early years, Green and his team just collected some money, showed up and walked. But each year, the team grew and became more active, turning their efforts from a one-day-a-year thing to a nearly year-round effort.

So team’s donation continued to rise as the years passed. The Green Team broke the $1,000 mark — $1,670 — by 1995; the very next year, Green Team donated nearly $5,000. Last year, 2009, saw the team’s largest total yet: $19,181. This year, as LifeWalk celebrates its 20th anniversary, Green said the team has set a goal of reaching $20,000.

Now, instead of just showing up on the day of the event and donating, the Green Team works year-round, holding thank-you parties and fundraising events. This year, since LifeWalk will be held on 10-10-2010, Green said his team adopted the plan of holding 10 events in 10 months, starting in January with the WinterGreen Party at The Brick.

“We were the first team this year to start bringing in money. We raised $1,600 at that party. The Brick was very nice and helped us out a lot; all the girls in the show let us have the tips that made that night. There were 10 performers, so that was a nice amount,” Green said.

The team has also continued to grow in size. After starting with just three people that first year, the Green Team for 2010 has 37 members.

“We’ve got big things planned for next year, too, when we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Green Team,” Green added. “We will have the WinterGreen Party again, and performing arts shows, car washes, garage sales, a wine tasting, pageants. And we do an event at the parade each year. Caven gives us space to set up a booth on Cedar Springs, and we take donations for bottled water, sodas and other things. And all that money goes to LifeWalk.”

Green admits that burnout did become a factor at one point in the history of the Green Team.

“About 10 years ago, I was starting to get really burned out. But then, I had a meeting with Jay Nolan of the Guys and Dolls Team. We went out to dinner, and he was giving me a lot of advice, telling me things like designate tasks to other team members instead of trying to do it all myself. He said we should get co-captains each year.

“So I started doing some of those things, and it really relieved a lot of the stress,” Green said.

In addition to being captain of the Green Team, Green has also become more involved with the inner workings of LifeWalk and is now on the steering committee that plans and executes the event each year.

But he is quick to spread around the credit for the ongoing success of the Green Team.

“Even though I started the team, I couldn’t keep doing it without the help of my whole team. We have a great group of team members who do so much to get us to our goal each year,” he said. “And I have to give a special thanks to my partner, John Castro, too, for putting up with all the long hours I spend on LifeWalk each year. Thank you John, for all your patience.”

What really keeps him going, though, is his memories of the friends he has lost and thinking about all the people who continue to live a daily battle against HIV/AIDS.
“My whole group of friends I was with in the ’80s and early ’90s are gone now,” Green said. “I have lost 25 friends to AIDS. I have held people’s hands as they died.

“People today don’t seem to know about all that, about how it was. They think you just take a drug cocktail and everything’s okay. They need to know how it really is,” Green continued. “I thought we’d have a cure by now, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Not any time soon. So these funds are still desperately needed. Organizations like AIDS Arms need the money to be able to take care of those who are already sick, and to educate people to stop the spread of AIDS.

“There’s still such a desperate need for it, so I can’t stop. I won’t stop.”

AIDS Arms LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in Lee Park. People can register to participate up until the time the walk begins for LifeWalk and for LifeBark, the part of the event that lets people participate with their pets. For more information, go online to LifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens