White House launches LGBT video contest

The White House announced a new video contest Monday for LGBT Pride Month.

Along the lines of the White House Champions of Change series that spotlights Americans doing great things to create change and a positive impact in their community, the LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge will visually explore the efforts many Americans are making on behalf of equality.

Videos should be no longer than three minutes and cover issues like coming out stories, struggles with culture and identity, heroes that haven’t been recognized for their work, artwork that inspires acceptance, innovative solutions to challenging situations, and accounts of allies and families who fight for equality.

Various video forms such as music videos, PSAs, short films, video blogs and interviews will be accepted.

Essays of no longer than 750 words will also be accepted. Video and essay entries are due May 4.

Submissions will then be reviewed by a panel that will select semi-finalists. The public will then help select finalists in June to attend a Champions of Change event at the White House.

View the full press release after the jump.

—  Dallasvoice

Holiday greeting card activism

If you’re like me and you still haven’t yet sent out those holiday greeting cards — or if you just have a few left over — consider this idea from Equality Texas:

Holiday cards are inherently personal — they are a meaningful way to share a part of your life with other people. When you are thinking about who you want to send cards to this year, consider adding your State Senator and State Representative to your list. For those who do not have lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people in their lives, it can be easy to label us as an “other.” As long as LGBT people remain only an idea to our representatives, they are unlikely to fight for us. When they receive your card, your family will become real and personal to them. When they consider legislation affecting LGBT people, they will no longer see something intangible and distant — they will see you and your family. This simple action can be extremely powerful. If we show more people what we are really like, we stand to gain many more allies. Use your holiday card to put a face to LGBT equality.

To find your representative and their contact information, go here.

—  John Wright

Friends ,Teachers, Parents, Queers & Allies at Transgender Center

Abe Louise Young

Abe Louise Young

The Houston Transgender Center (604 Pacific) hosts author Abe Louise Young this Saturday, November 12, from 1 to 3 pm. Last fall, after the epidemic of LGBT youth suicides garnered national attention, Young was commissioned by nonprofit organization What Kids Can Do to interview youth around the country about their school experiences, and their visions of concrete ways that schools can change in order to protect them.  The result is the guide Queer Youth Advice for Educators: How to Respect and Protect Your Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students.

This guide tells the poignant stories of the discrimination faced by the children interviewed by Young, and highlights solutions to the bullying crisis that the youth themselves envision. Youth from around the U.S. detail in this moving short book how they are treated in the classroom and the schoolyard, and describe the strategies educators can use to help them stay safe. It’s not being LGBT that causes the problems, these young people say. The problems are the outcome of intolerant actions and speech by peers, parents, teachers, clergy, and strangers. Bullying is a symptom of the culture.

In addition to a reading from the book, attendees will be taught practical tools for defeating bullying in their own communities and schools.

—  admin

Youth group opens in Denton

Wat.-Rev-Pam

Rev. Pamela Wat

The LGBTQ youth program in Denton met for the first time on Friday, Oct. 21 at Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The Rev. Pamela Wat reported a good turnout of teens, young adults and adult volunteers.

Beginning Nov. 4, the church will be open every Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for OUTreach Denton. All LGBTQ youth and allies are welcome. Once that meeting becomes established, a Wednesday night gathering once a month may be added.

Wat said that they went through a list of activities that Youth First Texas has done successfully.

“The thing they wanted to do is hear adult coming out stories,” she said.

“For some, that night was the first time they had met an out LGBT person.”

Before the meeting, Wat was worried that the youth who attended would be afraid to talk.

“But they were open, sharing, talking,” she said. “They let their guard down and the healing started immediately.”

The initial group included mostly teens ages 14 through 17. Older students in Denton have GLAD, the college group at University of North Texas.

Wat said she thought most of the teens that attended came from safe environments. She said that some drove themselves, but most were dropped off by parents.

“We need to do more outreach to spread the word without spreading where we might get negative attention,” she said. “We haven’t broken into the school system yet.”

At its first regular meeting, the group will work on fliers and a website.

“At some point, we expect to affiliate with Youth First Texas,” Wat said, “but at this point we’re continuing under the name OUTreach Denton but following the same policies and procedures that YFT sets out.”

Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1111 Cordell St., Denton. Fridays at 7 p.m.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FFW, Fort Worth HRC win IAOHRA President’s Award

Anable, Tucker say honor is recognition of Fort Worth’s ongoing efforts to improve city’s position, policies on human rights issues

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

AUSTIN — The International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies this week presented its President’s Award jointly to Fairness Fort Worth and the city of Fort Worth’s Human Relations Commission.

The award presentation occurred during the IAOHRA’s annual conference held the first part of this week in Austin.

“It was totally unexpected, at least from our standpoint,” said Tom Anable, Fairness Fort Worth president. “I had no idea that this was happening.

“They lured me down here [to Austin] by asking me to speak as part of a panel on Tuesday. When the panel was done and I was getting ready to leave, they asked me to stay for the dinner that night” when the award was presented.

Anable said that he believes the award will help the city of Fort Worth in terms of economic development and in being recognized as a city that cares about its citizens.
He added that he hopes it will encourage “other agencies in stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Anable also said he “couldn’t be more pleased” that the IAOHRA gave the award to the FFW and the city Human Relations Commission jointly.

“It shows that they recognize how well we work together to solve our problems in Fort Worth,” he said. “And this is a huge coup for the city. They have done a great job in addressing the problems.”

Human Relations Commission Chair Estrus Tucker said his agency is “deeply honored” to have received the IAOHRA President’s Award.

“This award is a testament to the invaluable role of organizational allies and friendships beyond identity politics in advancing civil and human rights,” Tucker said.

“Together, our efforts, in collaboration with others, demonstrate the importance of championing our common human well being, despite the socio-political identity labels that too often divide and confuse us.”

Anable and Tucker said FFW and the Human Relations Commission received the award in recognition of their efforts in the wake of the June, 2009 raid on the gay bar Rainbow Lounge by Fort Worth Police officers and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Within a week of the raid, Fairness Fort Worth was formed, initially to help organize efforts by FWPD and TABC investigators to interview witnesses to the raid.

By the beginning of 2010, FFW had incorporated and has gone on to become an umbrella organization of sorts that helps coordinate LGBT rights efforts and events among other organizations and governmental agencies.

The Human Relations Commission took an early leadership role in prompting FWPD and TABC to investigate the actions of those officers and agents involved in the role, and in prompting the city government to respond quickly and appropriately.

The City Council quickly established a Diversity Task Force — which included several members of Fairness Fort Worth and the Human Relations Commission — to examine areas in which the city could improve its relationship with the Fort Worth LGBT community. The council eventually approved all of the task force’s recommendations except one involving expanding health benefits for transgender employees.

That one item has been tabled pending ongoing investigation into possible costs. But the council did quickly approve changes to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression, and the council approved domestic partner benefits.

The council also agreed to expanding diversity training to cover more LGBT issues, and to have every city employee take the training.

“By Sept. 15 this year, we should be at the 50 percent mark in terms of the number of city employees who have been through the diversity training,” Anable said this week. “I think that shows the city’s continuing commitment to this issue.”

Tucker agreed, saying, “Our continued efforts and this award, in part, transform the pain and injustices of the Rainbow Lounge incident.”

Tucker, chair of the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission for about 10 years, has also been an IOHRA member for about 10 years. He was elected to the board last year to serve the remainder of the unexpired term of Vanessa Ruiz Bolling, former executive director of Fort Worth’s Community Relations Department.

This week, Tucker was re-elected to a full term on the board.

IAOHRA is a private, non-profit corporation founded in 1949 and headquartered in Washington, D.C. With a membership of about 160 human rights agencies in the U.S. and Canada, the organization’sprimary focus is to promote civil and human rights around the world.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Son of a beach

A family vacation proves unexpectedly gay as Myrtle Beach, S.C., gets Pride

RAINBOW TOUR | Nearly 200 beachcombers — including the author (dark green, just right of center) — stepped away from the surf and gathered in a field to form a human rainbow flag.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

The trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., had more to do with a family reunion than finding a good destination for gay travelers. After all, Myrtle Beach is a pretty lazy, conservative town in the perennial Red State, one where teenaged spring breakers and families gather to enjoy the warm surf and the resort-town appeal of seafood and beachcombing and overpriced cocktails. Queer travelers can hit one of the three gay bars, all within blocks of each other — Club Traxx, Time Out! and the Rainbow House (a lesbian club).

But the weekend I arrived , just by coincidence, it turned out to be Gay Pride.

Keep in mind, the gay community in Myrtle Beach is small, so “Gay Days,” plural, felt more like Gay Day, singular: One major event and then life as usual in Coastal Carolina.

The major event, though, was an ambitious one: Gathering members of the LGBT community and their allies to form a “human rainbow flag:” People signed up to wear a pastel-colored T-shirt and arrange themselves in the traditional configuration. A few others wore black, forming the flagpole.

The entire event was threatened by showers late Friday and early Saturday, but despite a slightly muddy field, nearly 200 people turned out, huddled closely on a muggy afternoon, while a photographer flew above in a helicopter.

Numbers weren’t uniform; there were too many reds and too few purples; but the effect was one of a flag waving in the breeze.

In order to do the shoot, members faced each other before bending forward to allow the broad field of their shirts to form the colors. Directly across from me stood Elke Kennedy, a resident of Greenville in the Upstate. Elke and her husband established SeansLastWish.org, raising awareness of anti-gay violence, after their gay son was beaten to death and his killer spent less than a year in jail.

Elke spoke at a rally following the photoshoot, and dozens in attendance listened to her recount her  son’s harrowing attack and death before two drag queens performed and a DJ spun dance hits. People started to file out after a while, off to the beach, or the clubs, or even the boardwalk, where the Texas Star-like Skywheel gives great views of the beach … and sits next door to the campily named souvenir shop the Gay Dolphin.

The latter was always may favorite place when I was growing up; you’d think my parents would have caught on sooner.

Click here for additional photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Cowboys legend Michael Irvin talks with Out magazine about gay brother, being an LGBT ally

Former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin tells all to Out magazine in their sports issue profiling athletes who are also allies to the LGBT community. Cyd Zeigler provides an insightful look at Irvin as he came to learn that his brother was gay and the effect it had on his life and career. Irvin, being the huge persona that he is, is surprisingly poignant and reflective about his brother who passed in 2006, as well as about standing up for LGBT equality.

The issue also includes athletes Ben Cohen, Hudson Taylor, Mike Chabala and Nick Youngquest.

—  Rich Lopez

Dealing with the ‘A’-word

We appreciate allies, but we also want to preserve LGBT-only space

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

As most of my friends and readers know, I am an active member of the leather community. What you might not know is that there is currently a brouhaha raging in that community about who really belongs or doesn’t belong.

It reminds me of the debates about how many letters to append to LGBT. Right now it’s up to eight with a tongue-twisting “LGBTQQAI” as the latest permutation (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Allies, Intersex).

The letter that has caused so much discussion among leather folk is the “A,” which stands for “allies” in the alphabet soup that is political correctness.

I have a great affinity for allies, and most of them would fall into the category of “straight.”

Straight people, or the “heterosexuals” as some call them, are not a bad group for the most part. Some of my best friends are straight, and to their credit they often march with us in the local Pride parade.

The problem in the leather world with straight people is that not all of them are allies. Many of them fall into the category of what I could call “sexual tourists,” free-thinking (or at least thrill-seeking) heterosexuals who poke about in the world of leather to spice up their love lives.

Now, I am not opposed to people having rich and exciting sex lives. I think that is one of the great gifts our creator endowed us with.

Sex can be fun, if you do it right, and so I have no problem sharing advice and venues with my straight fellows.

Where I do have a problem is when they take over space that was previously the venue of queer leatherfolk or, more often, state their resentment at queer leatherfolk wanting their own spaces.

In the vanilla world this is happening as well. Just look at the gentrification of gayborhoods across the country.

When the San Francisco Eagle Tavern, a landmark of leather history in that city, closed to be remodeled as a straight bar the issue became even clearer.

Right here in Dallas, the Oak Lawn/Cedar Springs gayborhood is in flux as well. New businesses and developments are springing up everywhere.

That in itself is not a bad thing, but when folks move into what is essentially an “entertainment district” they have to expect the kind of lifestyle that goes with the territory.

I have heard complaints about parking on the street — not surprising since parking is at a premium. But for those who are miffed about it, try finding a parking space in Greenwich Village in New York.

Recently, new metrosexual residents of San Francisco’s Castro District have been bemoaning the open display of affection between same-sex couples on the street. Well, when you move into the most famous gay neighborhood in the world, you are going to see that!

Same thing here in Dallas; it comes with the territory.

As in the leather community, there are spaces that have been staked out through years of struggle as “leather-space,” and though we have made our straight friends welcome, they cannot expect us to surrender the space completely.

In our LGBT community as well, we can welcome our allies, but not surrender our identity or our “queer space’ to them.

It is not a matter of hospitality, it is a matter of preserving hard-earned turf.

I understand that many LGBT folks want to fully assimilate into society, and I believe that is not a bad thing when it comes to rights and duties of citizenship in our country.

But I also do not want to blend in so completely that I disappear.

Like many ethnic minorities, I still value the culture I grew up with as a gay man, and I don’t want to see all of it surrendered to make straight allies feel welcome. They are welcome as long as they understand the importance of our space.

It is true in the LGBT community and the leather community, and it is something our allies would be better off understanding.

As a child I used to complain to my mother about Mother’s Day. “When is kids day?” I’d ask her.

And she would smile and answer: “Every day is kids day.”

Now I understand her logic.

In our society, everywhere is “straight space,” so neither we nor our allies should find it unusual at all that we want our own “queer space.”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

Maryland House sends marriage bill back to committee; no word on what happens next

After three hours of debate on a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, Maryland House of Delegates Chairman Del. Joseph Vallario today sent the Civil Marriage Protection Act back to the House’s Judiciary Committee.

The move came during the final reading of the bill. Delegates were expected to vote on the measure today. Supporters were sure of getting only 69 ot 70 of the 71 votes the bill needed to pass in the House. It has already passed in the Senate, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he will sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Immediately after the bill was sent back to committee, the LGBT rights organization Equality Maryland sent out a press release containing statements attributed to “the staff and board of Equality Maryland; Morgan Meneses-Sheets, executive director, and Charles Butler, board president,” saying that while they are disappointed the House did not pass the measure today, “we are confident we will win in the future.

“With so much at stake today for thousands of Maryland families, we are thankful that our legislative allies have taken such care with this vote. It is best to delay this historic vote until we are absolutely sure we have the votes to win. We look forward to working strategically with our amazing allies in the legislature, and our supporters across the state, to continue to build support for, and win, marriage equality in the Free State,” the Equality Maryland statement said.

I have seen no explanation yet of what happens now with the bill.

 

—  admin

YFT plans new lobby effort

YFT
SPEAKING UP | Members of Youth First Texas gather in Sen. Florence Shapiro’s office on Monday, March 7, as part of Equality Texas’ Lobby Day efforts. The teens visited lawmakers to tell their personal stories of bullying and harassment in order to get support of anti-bullying measures now being considered by the Legislature. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Teens tell lawmakers personal stories of bullying, suicide attempts

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Ten teens from Youth First Texas went to Austin to talk to legislators about anti-bullying legislation on March 7. They joined about 350 LGBT activists and allies from around the state who came for Equality Texas lobby day.

Equality Texas executive director Dennis Coleman talked to the group about coming back to Austin later in the session to testify before committees that will hear testimony about the proposed laws.

As they rehearsed their stories, trying to pare them down to one minute each, the teens realized that they wouldn’t be able to speak to every representative and senator personally. But because they believed their personal stories could make a difference in the way lawmakers vote, the teens began brainstorming on how to get their stories out.

They came up with the idea of recording their stories to DVD to send to each senator and representative. The teens planned to start the project as soon as they returned to Dallas.

The group’s first stop in the Capitol on Monday was the office of Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, who represents the district in which three of the teens live.

YFT member Giancarlo Mossi, one of the three living in Shapiro’s district, began telling the group’s story to two legislative aides. He said he was regularly called a faggot at Plano Senior High School, and other students threw things at him on the bus.

Reporting it didn’t make a difference and the harassment continued through graduation, Mossi said.

Pierce Magnus is still in school. He walks with a cane and said he has always been treated differently. At best, other students give him the coldshoulder, something that’s been going on since middle school. At one point, he tried to kill himself.

After his suicide attempt failed, Magnus said, he was put in an institution and is now on medication. He blames the suicide attempt on bullying and harassment by other students and the indifference with which the school staff reacted.

“That’s a terrible way to go through high school,” Magnus said.

Alice Nightingale said that her high school teachers know how she’s treated and don’t do anything about it.

“I stood up for myself once and got suspended,” she said. “It seems like we try and just do more harm.”

Magnus and Nightingale also live in Shapiro’s district.

The students were lobbying lawmakers to vote for Asher’s Law, Rep. Garnet Coleman’s anti-bullying bill that he renamed this week and reintroduced into the Texas House of Representatives. Sen.

Wendy Davis of Fort Worth introduced anti-bullying legislation in the Senate that will be heard in Shapiro’s education committee.

Mossi said that passing Asher’s Law was crucial.

“I try to let people know they’re not alone,” he said. “But I’m not in high school anymore.”

Magnus said that YFT is a safe space, but “Passing this law will make schools a safe space, too.”

Sen. John Carona’s office was the group’s next stop. Carona represents Richardson, the Park Cities, parts of Garland and most of North Dallas. Other YFT members explained their experiences to Carona’s staff.

Elliott Puckett said that when he was attacked in the bathroom at his high school, the principal told him he brought it on himself.

“I’ve been through so much bullying,” said YFT member William Morvant, “I almost became one of those statistics.”

He tried killing himself three times, he said.

“I’ll be graduating from school soon,” Morvant said. “But I don’t want others going through this.”

Morvant was among those who had also spoken at a Dallas Independent School District meeting before their new anti-bullying policy was adopted.

After their morning lobbying session, the group walked across the Capitol lawn toward First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street, where Equality Texas provided lunch.

They returned to speak to more legislators in the afternoon and stayed through Tuesday for a second day of lobbying.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas