Know your rights; make your vote count

U.S. Rep Eddie Bernice Johnson

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Special Contributor

 

Unlike any other time in American history, it is important for all eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 4.

Recently, there has been significant dialogue regarding which party will control the House and the Senate in Washington. These conversations highlight a very real point: This election is critical to the future of minorities and middle-class Americans.

Voter engagement is crucial.

In minority communities, there is a common misconception that voter turnout is only important during presidential elections. But adhering to this school of thought could result in more than a decade of financial and political oppression.

It is not enough to see massive voter turnout in 2016; the same level of voter turnout must occur on Nov. 4.

Since the election of President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, the Republican Party has become the “Obstructionist” Party. During the current Congress, the GOP has done everything in its power to ensure the ineffective operation of our federal government. For example, in 2013 the Republican Party caused a government shutdown.

Now, with the help of the U.S.  Supreme Court, the Obstructionist Party has shifted its efforts to implementing new voter ID laws and unconstitutional “poll taxes” that block the votes of approximately 600,000 eligible voters in Texas.

The new Texas voter ID law lists state driver’s licenses, voter identification certificates, state ID cards, concealed gun permits, military IDs, citizenship certificates and passports as the only forms of permissible voter identification.

Student ID cards, issued by the state’s colleges and universities, and other forms of government identification, including a voter registration card, are not acceptable forms of ID under the law.

The ability to utilize concealed gun licenses as a form of acceptable voter identification highlights the reality that these new laws were created to favor a specific demographic, while disenfranchising others. Why would a state deliberately violate the civil rights of millions of its residents?

Research shows that if African-Americans and Latinos successfully turned out to vote, many so-called red states would become blue.

A Congress controlled by Democrats would guarantee a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. This would occur during the first 100 days of a new Congress.

Additionally, increased access to early childhood education would become a reality, and the Equal Pay Act, which ensures that women earn the same wages as their male counterparts, would go into effect.

But none of these vital changes will occur without proper voter education and participation.

To be prepared for the Nov. 4 election, I encourage all voters to prepare themselves by visiting www.sos.state.tx.us to confirm their registration status. Voters can also visit www.votetexasgov to learn their correct polling places, and know their rights.

Do not allow yourself to be denied your right to vote based on technicalities. Educate yourself and vote on Nov. 4 to strengthen our democracy.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson represents Texas’ 30th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She is a longtime ally of the LGBT community.

—  Tammye Nash

What’s Shakin’ – People Empowering People happy hour, Chaz Bono takes on the National Enquirer

1. People Empowering People is a collaboration between The Men’s Group, a social group for African-American gay, bisexual, and same gender loving men, and TMG One Voice, The Men’s Group’s co-ed counterpart.  PEP’s monthly happy hour tonight at F Bar (202 Tuam) provides a casual social setting open to all regardless of ethnic background, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression and an opportunity to mix and mingle with the fabulous men and women of both organizations.  The festivities kick off at 6 pm.

2. Joe My God has a copy of the Cease and Desist letter sent by lawyers for Chaz Bono to the National Enquirer. Seems the tabloid ran a story in this week’s issue claiming that Bono’s gender transition has shortened his life expectancy to 4 years.  The Enquirer article quotes the opinion of Dr. Patrick Wanis, identified as a medical doctor specializing in transgender health issues.  The problem?  According to Bono’s lawyers not only is Wanis not an expert on trans health issues, he’s not a medical doctor.

3. Today is the last day to early vote in the Houston Municipal election, but if you miss this opportunity you can still cast your ballot at your precinct voting location on Nov 8. A list of all early voting locations and sample ballots  are available at harrisvotes.org.

—  admin

LOCAL BRIEFS: AIN poker tourney at the Brick; Bates set for Dallas Black Pride

AIN poker tourney set at the Brick

A charity poker tournament is set for Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Brick, 2525 Wycliff, to benefit AIDS Interfaith Network.

The Dallas Bears and the LGBT poker league Pocket Rockets will co-host the event with the Brick. Miller Lite is the sponsor and play begins at 3 p.m.

It’s free to play but AIN will benefit in a number of ways. The agency will receive a portion of the drink specials sold. Players may buy additional chips, and the Bears will hold a 50/50 raffle.

A cash prize pool of $500 will be awarded and all levels of players are welcome.

Bates set for Dallas Black Pride

Christopher H. Bates will speak at the Dallas Black LGBT Community Summit on Friday, Sept. 30 at the Dallas Marriott City Center Hotel. He is the director of Health and Human Service’s Office of HIV/AIDS Policy.

Bates will discuss the federal government’s response to the high infection rate among young gay African-American men. He has 20 years experience in public health policy and has been with OHAP for more than a decade.

Bates administers funds for the Minority AIDS Initiative and advises the Undersecretary of Health on education, prevention, testing, research, care and treatment strategies. Information is available at DFWPrideMovement.org.

Martin offers program for couples

Randy Martin, LPC, will facilitate an eight-session program for couples, Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. throughout September and October.

The program is based on the theory and practice of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). The first session focuses on the new science of love and what it teaches us. The next seven sessions focus on helping couples shape and use the seven conversations laid out in the book Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, the developer of EFT.

Couples interested in participating should contact Martin at 214-520-7575. The cost of the program is $500 per couple and includes a copy of the book Hold Me Tight and other necessary materials.

NGPA seeks donations

The National Gay Pilots Association recently awarded $22,000 in scholarships and is seeking donations for future awards to aspiring LGBT aviators.

Since its founding in 1998, the NGPA Education Fund has given 46 awards totaling $139,000. Donations can be made on the group’s website, NGPA.org.

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Black, trans, man

Carter Brown

Carter Brown knew from personal experience that African-American transmen are among the most invisible and most under-served people in the LGBT community. So he founded a new organization in hopes of filling in the gaps

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Transitioning is never an easy process for anyone, but African-American female-to-male trans people face some special challenges, according to transman Carter Brown.

“Our lives, the path we feel we have to take is a challenge. We are voluntarily accepting the role of Public Enemy No. 1: The black man is the most feared man in America,” Brown said. “When we transition from female to male, we are accepting all the challenges that black men in this country face, from society, from our families and from ourselves. It’s a lot to bear.”

And Brown noticed early on in his own transition process that black transmen, in many instances, had to face those challenges alone. That’s why he decided to launch an organization focusing primarily on helping others like himself.

That’s when Black Transmen was born.

Brown said that, having been born biologically female, he knew from a young age that he was different. As a teenager, he came out as a lesbian and “found a place in the community as a butch lesbian.”

But still, something was missing: “I still didn’t feel complete,” he said.

Then one day, when he was 24, Brown was watching TV and saw a talk show that included a transman as a guest.

“It just turned a light on for me,” he said. “Finally the pieces started to fall into place.”

So he started going to the library, using the computers there to look for information and resources that could help in his quest to transition. He found some resources and made connections with other transmen in Yahoo groups. But few of those resources addressed the special challenges of black transmen, and few of those new friends were transmen of color. They couldn’t relate, Brown said, to the special challenges black transmen face.

“I couldn’t find people who were like me. That’s why I decided to start this organization, to reach people like me and move us forward.”

Brown said he started out by creating a page on Facebook, and he was amazed at how many people were drawn to it. The more comprehensive organization grew out of that Facebook page, and today, Brown said, Black Transmen has about 300 members nationwide and is led by a three-member board consisting of Brown and two other transmen that he chose not to name out of respect for their privacy.

Brown said he and the organization’s other leaders have worked to create a structure with programs and outreach designed to address the needs of transmen in general as well as the specific challenges that transmen of color face.

One of the greatest challenges for black transmen, Brown said, is financial, adding that “a majority of black transmen fall into the lower financial class,” and finding money for a therapist and for medications is difficult. So one of the organization’s first goals was to find a way to address that need.

So Brown and the other group leaders began compiling a list of therapists to whom they could refer newcomers, and they established the FTM Fund. Through this program, he said, transmen can earn financial assistance to help pay for medications and other costs by putting in volunteer hours.

Careers

Black Transmen also works to help transmen pull themselves out of that lower end of the financial spectrum with a program offering advice on developing their careers.

“A lot of guys feel that they are male, but they haven’t actually walked in the world as a man,” Brown said. “We have to be socialized as men, to learn how to speak as men, wear professional clothing, even how to shake hands.”

Looking again to his own experience, Brown said that when he was first beginning his transition, he communicated online with a group of other transmen, all of whom were caucasion. He said those men, as they transitioned, often found themselves with new opportunities for advancement in their careers.

“But for me, it was the opposite. As a black man, I saw my opportunities decrease,” he said.

The group also offers advice on if, when and how to come out as a transman on the job, something that Brown knows from personal experience can be problematic.

He said when he began his transition, he was fired from his job. And at another job, when he came out as a transman, he was “harassed until I finally had to quit.”

Now, he said, he stays quiet about his trans status at work.

“What I found was that I was back in the closet,” Brown said. “The people at work see me as the man I am. But I can only get so close to someone without them knowing that I am trans. And being in the closet is a hard way to live. You have to find a balance.”

Health

Providing resources to help transmen stay healthy is another primary goal for Black Transmen as an organization, Brown said. The organization works to provide resources to help transmen find the doctors, therapists and surgeons they need, and is looking now for outside funding that will allow the group to help individuals with the costs of those services.

But Black Transmen is also actively involved in HIV/AIDS and STD education and awareness, he continued, and in August will participate in the Hip Hop Summit for HIV.

“A lot of transmen are not being tested for HIV and AIDS,” Brown said. “A lot of them are not educated on how the disease is contracted and how to avoid being infected.

“A lot of guys still sleep with cis-gendered men and have unprotected sex. But they are ashamed of that, and because they are ashamed they don’t protect themselves,” he continued. “One of the things we try to do is get guys to understand there is no reason to be ashamed of who you sleep with. We try to give them a place to go where they can be comfortable talking about these things.”

And there are other health concerns that black transmen face that their white counterparts don’t, Brown added.

“For instance, African-Americans in general are more prone to have high blood pressure. We want to address those issues as well,” he said.

Black Transmen also works to help transmen balance their mental health needs as well, offering peer menoring, either online or through a 24-hour telephone hotline.

“Our goal is to provide an overall support system that will help transmen have a healthy transition and a healthy life,” Brown said.

Culture

Perhaps the most difficult challenges for black transmen, Brown said, is dealing with some of the “culturally specific issues we face not as transmen but as black men in general.

“In the African-American community, because I am a man, they expect certain things of me. They expect me to be very aggressive, to not care about getting an education, to not care about the arts,” Brown said. “Too often, we feed into those negative stereotypes people have of black men, things like sagging your pants, being a womanizer. If you don’t do these things, then you’re seen as weak.”

And then there is the opposite end of the spectrum, where black men are expected to be heavily involved in the churches that play such a big role in the African-American community — something that can be problematic for transmen who are often shunned by religious communities.

“And the African-American community depends on men to care not just for themselves and their immediate family, but for their extended families, too,” Brown said. “That can be a very heavy burden, and some of the [transmen] just are not prepared to carry that burden. We are here to help them with that.”

Although his journey has not always been an easy one, and there are still challenges he has to overcome, Brown said it has been worth the trip.

“I feel free,” he said. “I feel like now that I am no longer consumed with my transition, now I can focus on being who I am, on being a comfortable and confident man. And I want to help others like me reach that same place.

“That’s what this organization is about, helping black transmen be free within themselves, letting them see other guys who have been where they are and who can say, ‘I understand. I’m here to help,’” Brown continued. “This is a safe space, where guys can come and find encouragement, where they can find family that understands and has no judgment.”

Around the edges of the circular logo for Black Transman are the words, “One is not born a man, he becomes one.”

And that, Brown said, is the organization’s goal: to help transmen become the best men they can be.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We are men. We are unique, exceptional men. And we are there for each other.”

—  John Wright

Dallas could elect 1st gay judge

Judicial candidates John Loza, Tonya Parker among 4 LGBTs running in local races in 2010

By John Wright | News Editor wright@dallasvoice.com
IN THE RUNNING | Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, clockwise from top left, County Judge Jim Foster, attorney Tonya Parker and former Councilman John Loza are LGBT candidates who plan to run in Dallas County elections in 2010. The filing period ends Jan. 4.

Dallas County has had its share of openly gay elected officials, from Sheriff Lupe Valdez to District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons to County Judge Jim Foster.
But while Foster, who chairs the Commissioners Court, is called a “judge,” he’s not a member of the judiciary, to which the county’s voters have never elected an out LGBT person.

Two Democrats running in 2010 — John Loza and Tonya Parker — are hoping to change that.

“This is the first election cycle that I can remember where we’ve had openly gay candidates for the judiciary,” said Loza, a former Dallas City Councilman who’s been involved in local LGBT politics for decades. “It’s probably long overdue, to be honest with you.”

Dallas County’s Jerry Birdwell became the first openly gay judge in Texas when he was appointed by Gov. Ann Richards in 1992. But after coming under attack for his sexual orientation by the local Republican Party, Birdwell, a Democrat, lost his bid for re-election later that year.

Also in the November 1992 election, Democrat Barbara Rosenberg defeated anti-gay Republican Judge Jack Hampton.

But Rosenberg, who’s a lesbian, wasn’t out at the time and didn’t run as an openly LGBT candidate.

Loza, who’s been practicing criminal law in Dallas for the last 20 years, is running for the County Criminal Court No. 5 seat. Incumbent Tom Fuller is retiring. Loza said he expects to face three other Democrats in the March primary, meaning a runoff is likely. In addition to groups like Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, he said he’ll seek an endorsement from the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial backing to LGBT candidates nationwide.

Parker, who’s running for the 116th Civil District Court seat, declined to be interviewed for this story. Incumbent Bruce Priddy isn’t expected to seek re-election, and Parker appears to be the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

If she wins in November, Parker would become the first LGBT African-American elected official in Dallas County.

Loza and Parker are among four known local LGBT candidates in 2010.
They join fellow Democrats Fitzsimmons and Foster, who are each seeking a second four-year term.

While Foster is vulnerable and faces two strong challengers in the primary, Fitzsimmons is extremely popular and said he’s confident he’ll be re-elected.

“I think pretty much everybody knows that the District Clerk’s Office is probably the best-run office in Dallas County government,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think this county is a Democratic County, and I think I’ve proved myself to be an outstanding county administrator, and I think the people will see that.”

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, said this week he wasn’t aware of any openly LGBT candidates who’ve filed to run in state races in 2010.

Although Texas made headlines recently for electing the nation’s first gay big-city mayor, the state remains one of 20 that lack an out legislator.

Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Victory Fund, said he’s hoping Annise Parker’s victory in Houston last week will inspire more qualified LGBT people to run for office.

“It gives other people permission really to think of themselves as leaders,” Dison said.

The filing period for March primaries ends Jan. 4.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.

—  admin

The Group marks 3rd anniversary

The Group, a support group for HIV-positive African-American gay men, celebrates its third anniversary with a presentation by Kevin D. Willliams on Thursday at 7 p.m. at 2900 Live Oak St.

Williams, who works for the Veterans Administration in Temple, will tell his personal story of being an African-American gay man living with AIDS. The theme for the program is “Loving Your Pozitivity.”

—  admin