Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

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Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

BREAKING: Piazza leaving Dallas for Atlanta

The Rev. Michael Piazza

The Rev. Michael Piazza, who since 1987 has been a force in the gay faith community in North Texas, has accepted a position as pastor of Virginia-Highland Church in Atlanta.

Accompanying Piazza will be his longtime executive assistant, David Plunkett.

“This all happened literally yesterday,” Plunkett said. “We got back from Atlanta at 2 this morning.”

Piazza stepped down as senior pastor at the Cathedral of Hope several years ago and transitioned into the role of dean of the church. That affiliation ended last March, although Plunkett said many people still do not realize it (in part because Piazza and Plunkett still office at the Cathedral COH, where they work with the Center for Progressive Renewal and Hope for Peace and Justice).

“Last year was the first year in Rev. Piazza’s adult life when he was not pastoring a church,” Plunkett said. “He is very, very good at what he does now [teaching other clergy], but at heart, as anyone who has heard him on a Sunday in the pulpit, he’s a prophetic preacher.”

Plunkett described the Virginia-Highland Church as “a once-vibrant church in desperate need of revitalization.” Although not currently a predominantly gay church, Plunkett said it has a history of inclusiveness.

“It was Southern Baptist, but [got] kicked out of the denomination because they refused to dismiss a gay pastor” some years back, Plunkett said. Virginia-Highland is currently dual-affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the United Church of Christ (the same denomination as COH).

At first, Piazza will not be full time, but will continue his work with the CPR, which is based in Atlanta. Plunkett will be largely full time at the church. He has worked with Piazza for the past nine years, and will aid in the transition. The start date for the team will be March 1.

Plunkett, who has been active in the theater community, said leaving will be bittersweet for him as well. He grew up in Plano.

Plunkett said Piazza likely would not have an opportunity to deliver a farewell sermon in Dallas, even if asked.

More to come ….

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Remembering a friend and helping others

Friends of woman who committed suicide holding 2nd benefit for Foundation for Prevention of Suicide


Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

HAPPIER TIMES  |  Shauna Greaham seemed like ‘the perfect person’ to her friends, but in reality, she struggled throughout her adult life with depression. This weekend, her friends are holding an event in her memory to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
HAPPIER TIMES | Shauna Greaham seemed like ‘the perfect person’ to her friends, but in reality, she struggled throughout her adult life with depression. This weekend, her friends are holding an event in her memory to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Kinita Albertson first met Shauna Greaham in high school, when the two played softball for opposing teams. Then the two women met again, this time as teammates, when they both played college softball for Texas Weslyan University.

Greaham was, Albertson said, “the perfect person, so amazing.”

But it only seemed that way.

Greaham committed suicide on Oct. 13, 2008.

Albertson said Greaham struggled with periodic bouts of depression throughout her adult life. Although Albertson said she never knew of her friend being bullied or harassed over being gay, Greaham wasn’t comfortable with her sexual orientation, either.

“When we were in college, she was embarrassed to be gay. She never talked about it or admitted it,” Albertson said. “Even after college, I would see her at the games [for the lesbian softball league], and she would say, ‘Oh, I’m just playing for the gay league because they needed more players.’”

Still, Greaham’s friends never expected her to take her own life.

“She had a girlfriend, but they were breaking up,” Albertson said, recalling the days leading up to her friend’s death. “We knew Shauna was upset and depressed, so we went over that weekend to spend some time with her. She seemed to be okay. Yes, she was upset, but by the time we left, she seemed okay. She was laughing and having a good time with everybody.

“And then, she was just gone,” Albertson continued. “Nobody really knows what happened. Something just snapped, and she was gone.”
And her friends were left with grief and questions.

“I had all the questions and nowhere to find answers. Even on the Internet, I had trouble finding any information. I had to dig. I was just grasping at straws as to why this happened,” Albertson said.

And then she found the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and finally found some of the answers she was seeking.

“I found AFSP online, and I called and asked for information. They really did help,” Albertson said.

One of the things she learned, Albertson said, was not to give in to some of the common misperceptions about suicide.

“A lot of times, when someone commits suicide, people say that they just gave up, that they quit trying. It’s a lot more complicated than that. There aren’t such easy answers,” Albertson said. “That’s one thing I don’t want people to think about Shauna. She was an amazing person, and I don’t want anybody to think of her as a quitter.”

AFSP is a nonprofit organization “exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide,” according to its website.

The agency works to meet its goals by funding scientific research, offering education programs for mental health professionals, working to educate the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention, promoting policies and legislation aimed at preventing suicide and offering programs and resources for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and those who are themselves at risk for suicide.

The organization also has a specific LGBTQ Initiative and in 2007 helped sponsor, in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, a conference on LGBTQ suicide. AFSP has since funded several grants related to the issue of LGBTQ teen suicide and is currently working to complete a review of research and recommendations on LGBTQ suicide and suicide risk, according to the website.

The organization is also actively involved in studying and publicizing the link between anti-LGBT bullying and suicide.

But all those efforts take money. That’s why Albertson and her friends this weekend will hold their second annual “Strides for Shauna” benefit show and date auction.

Casey Cohea, who is helping organize the benefit, said eight people have already committed to being “auctioned off” for dates, and she expects others to join the list by the time the event starts Saturday night, Oct. 16.

The event will also feature a performance by Nikki McKibben who was the third place finisher in the debut season of American Idol.

McKibben isn’t one the dates who will be auctioned, Cohea noted, “she will just be there to sing. We told her what we were doing, and she wanted to help.”

The show and auction starts at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Best Friends Club, 2620 E. Lancaster Ave. in Fort Worth. And anyone interested in volunteering for the auction can contact Cohea at pinkertc15@yahoo.com or Albertson at Kinita.albertson@gmail.com.

But even those who can’t attend can still contribute by going online to OutOfTheDar-kness.com and donating to Team Strides for Shauna.

“I didn’t know Shauna. I’m doing this because people that I know and love knew and loved Shauna and this is important to them,” Cohea said.

“But I am also doing it because this is something that affects so many people in our community. We are losing so many people to suicide, and we have to do something to help.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas