YFT plans new lobby effort

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

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

Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t ever forget the anti-gay bigots who voted against repealing DADT

The impending end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” doesn’t change the fact that Texas’ two anti-gay senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted against repealing the policy. The beauty of the standalone bill to repeal DADT, aside from the fact it had enough votes, was that it forced lawmakers to take a position on the policy itself. On Saturday, Cornyn, Hutchison and 29 others went on record as supporting injustice, dishonesty and discrimination.

It’s truly sad that both our senators would vote to harm our national security during a time of war by continuing to discharge valuable servicemembers for no good reason. Indeed, those who voted against DADT repeal will go down in history as being on the wrong side of it, and we should never, ever forget that.

Which is apparently why GetEQUAL Texas is moving forward with plans for protests/celebrations outside Hutchison’s offices around Texas on Tuesday. From Facebook:

GetEQUAL Texas will go forward with their planned protest of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison scheduled for Tuesday, December 22 at noon in front of the Senator’s offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The group is celebrating Saturday’s repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, but recognizes the importance of highlighting the oppressive vote of Ms. Hutchison on a measure which had the support of over 70% of Americans in several major polls.

Please join GetEQUAL Texas and other community members and allies to celebrate this victory by telling Kay Bailey Hutchison that “Enough is Enough.”

“We will no longer sit by and allow votes like that of Sen. Hutchison on the repeal measure to go unnoticed. Although the repeal measure passed the Senate with a filibuster proof majority, Senator Hutchison attempted to silence those willing to defend the rights and freedoms of the United States with their lives by voting against the repeal. We will not be silenced. The freedom of speech is guaranteed to all Americans, not just those who the Senator prefers.” stated Michael Diviesti an Army veteran and state coordinator for GetEQUAL Texas.

Both Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn voted against repeal, which passed with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

—  John Wright

‘OPERATION RENEWED ENGAGEMENT’: Gay vets and allies are on the Hill pushing for DADT vote

Servicemembers United is conducting “OPERATION RENEWED ENGAGEMENT” on Capitol Hill. The lobbying effort, which started yesterday and will continue through tomorrow, will hit 71 Senate offices. Via press release, we got this update:

“Despite the ongoing snow storm in Washington, DC right now, gay veterans and allies are storming the Hill for a second day in a row to demand that the Senate finish the job on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ before leaving for the holidays,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and the Servicemembers United Action Fund. “The fact that these advocates are braving the snow to fight for what they believe in should demonstrate that we will not accept any excuses from lawmakers for failing to get this done, including bad weather or time running out.”

I just talked to Alex who reports that Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) have joined as cosponsors of the DADT bill, which brings the total to 50. We’ll get more updates from him later today.

Alex is right: There are no excuses. And, while time is running out, there is time for the Senate to vote for the DADT bill.

As noted below, earlier today, Robert Gibbs said we have the votes to pass the DADT bill, adding “there’s an effort to get his done if we have time to do it.”

The message from SU and its allies is pretty clear: Make the time to do it.


—  admin

HRC and Our Allies Rally in Oregon

The following is from HRC volunteer Gregg Moreland:

Yesterday, HRC joined with Basic Rights Oregon and Organizing for America for a ‘Day of Action’ rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland.  We assembled with signs and banners in front of the KGW News Studio on the square during their noon newscast and also spoke with passersby to give exposure of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal efforts to Oregonians.

In Oregon, we have two very supportive Senators, so it is easy to sit back and do nothing on issues like this.  This week, as we wait to see what action the Senate might take, there is not time to sit back.

After we wrapped up everything in the square, several of the participants headed over to the Portland OFA headquarters where they will be on the phone to encourage people to call their Senators. We hope that you will do the same. Call the Capitol switchboard NOW at 202.224.3121 and ask them to connect you with your senator’s office.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

Mobilizing with Allies in Maine for DADT repeal

It’s been an incredibly busy week in Maine, with HRC staff on the ground working with our partners and allies across the state to make sure that Senators Collins and Snowe vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In the spirit of sixties-era college student activism, HRC met this week with the University of Southern Maine’s student organization, the Queer Straight Alliance. Located in Gorham, Maine, students were more than eager to contact their Senators about repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was pleased to meet such an enthusiastic and large group of students who are active on their campus and in their community. They all signed the petition and phoned their Senators. They wrote letters describing how discrimination is never okay and urged the repeal of this heinous, un-American law. In fact, as some of Americas’ brightest and most committed young activists, many signed up to volunteer for HRC’s collaborative phone banks, hosted in coordination with Organizing for America and Equality Maine.

Last night was our most successful phone bank yet in Portland.  With eleven volunteers we made over 400 calls, many of which resulted in constituents all over Maine leaving voicemails for Senators Snowe and Collins. And we successfully kept the ball rolling by garnering more volunteers for our next phone bank in Portland. Please join us this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at the Equality Maine headquarters; 550 Forest Avenue, Suite 101, Portland, ME 04101.

The Pentagon report is in, and its conclusions are unequivocal:  This discriminatory law has to go. Please join us in telling your Senators to do the right thing.

Even if you have already called, emailed or visited your Senators about repealing DADT, please do it again. We are so close to victory.  We are in a state of emergency now and we need all hands on deck.  Contact your friends, your family, and your neighbors and ask them to call their Senators and urge them to vote for repeal.  To call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge your Senators to support the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If you’d like to volunteer with us in Maine, please contact Jessica Osborn at Jessica.osborn@hrc.org.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

NCTE offers tips for transgender travelers on dealing with new TSA procedures

With the holiday travel season upon us, the National Center for Transgender Equailty issued guidance today on how transgender people should deal with new equipment and procedures being used by the Transportation Security Administration.

NCTE says it opposes the new procedures but has been working with TSA to ensure that transgender travelers are treated respectfully.

“The new policy presents transgender travelers with a difficult choice between invasive touching and a scan that reveals the intimate contours of the body,” NCTE says. “Unless and until NCTE and our allies can get these unreasonable policies fixed, NCTE encourages transgender travelers to think through the available options and make their own decisions about which procedure feels least uncomfortable and less unsafe.”

Read the full report from NCTE by going here.

—  John Wright

A note on gay Pride — in and out of the community

I had an annoying conversation this morning.

A publicist for a troupe we (let’s put it this way) “recently profiled” called to ask for a change online to the story: Seems like we referred in the headline to the person we interviewed as “gay.” She wanted it removed.

“I’m sorry — is that not true?” I asked.

“No, it’s true. He’s gay.  He would just prefer you not mention it.”

The conversation continued like this for a long time.

Now, I’m happy to correct errors, especially ones caused by us. But this person was pitched to me as the “gay head of this troupe,” and I assigned the story accordingly. If he had not been gay … well, let’s just say the troupe was not on my radar enough such that I would have been all that interested in the story without a hook, an angle. That was his.

Part of the mission of this newspaper is to draw our readers (many of whom are straight) to what’s going on in and by the gay community. Sometimes it’s homophobes attacking us and our rights. Sometimes it’s our allies who embrace us for who we are and treat up as equals. Sometimes it’s just celebrities who have an interesting perspective on their gay fans. Sometimes it’s openly gay people who are victimized by bigots, or leaders who step up to improve the lot of the community.

But a lot of the time, it’s just ordinary gay folks doing something out in the world we think people might want to know about. A trans woman who continues to be a personal trainer. A musician who wants to save the Great American Songbook. An auto mechanic who runs a garage and offers his gay clientele a friendly environment. An actor who steals the show in a national tour of a terrible musical. A museum curator who brings his unique perspective to a major art museum. Maybe being gay doesn’t directly affect what they do too much. But maybe it does. And it’s good to have a sense of pride knowing the vast landscape of opportunities out there — and that being openly gay, bi or trans is not a hindrance to success.

So when someone who is gay — and claims to be out — asks me to hide that fact … well, it angers me. You don’t need to do an interview with me. You don’t need to discuss your sexuality if you do agree to the interview. You don’t even need to be gay for me to write about you. But don’t come to me with the pitch that our readers might be interested in reading about you and then leap back in the closet. Because there are a lot of people out there proud to be called gay. I’m one of them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Out in Little Rock with Allies for DADT Repeal

This week, I was out in Little Rock, Arkansas at Lip Sync, an event benefiting the American Cancer Society and Camp Hope. I connected with plenty of pro-equality attendees who were happy and eager to sign our petition and to make dozens of calls to the offices of Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln to tell them to vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” One woman, an Army veteran, told me her story about how difficult it was to stay in the closet while serving her country. Another man, a Navy veteran, said he was proud to serve next to his comrades, no matter their sexual orientation. Every veteran that I spoke to thanked HRC for the work we do and expressed how deeply they feel about repealing a law that is so damaging to military cohesion.

It felt great to help these veterans use their voice to tell their senators how important repeal is. It would have been very hard to reach so many people at this event without the help of the Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR), the statewide LGBT civil rights organization in Arkansas, who was there helping me encouraging attendees to make calls that evening.

I also met with the Pulaski County Young Democrats. They are very supportive of repeal and helped out by making calls, signing the petition and writing letters. They invited me to come to their Executive and State Committee meetings where they assured me there would be even more support from their members.

We turned in dozens of letters and petitions to each Senator this week on the first day that Congress returned for session in Washington D.C. Have you written your letter yet? Have you called your senators? Share your story.

If you want to volunteer or need more information please contact me today at Jessica.Osborn@hrc.org.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

When allies zero in on the cozy relationship between the WH and HRC, it’s game over

Over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher is saying what we uncouth LGBT bloggers of dissent have been saying all along — the cozy relationship between the HRC and the Obama administration serves to primarily to boost Democratic party interests ahead of policy advances for the LGBT community.

Michael Petrelis made this observation about the Valerie Jarrett “lifestyle choice flap:

On Wednesday when Jarrett’s comments roiled the gay community and progressive bloggers, thousands of words were spilled from all sides about her remarks, but America’s largest gay Democratic advocacy org, the HRC, had not a peep to say about it all. Of course, no sane person would expect HRC, after slavishly avoiding even the mildest and meekest bit of criticism against the Obama administration’s screwing of the gay community without a rubber or any lube, to issue a rebuke to Jarrett. She is after all, a Democrat and HRC executives would rather walk barefoot on glass than slam a Democrat.

Jane echoed the same sentiment below.

The much greater problem is that the comments do reveal Jarrett to be unfamiliar with the discourse in the LGBT community for the past 40 years. Which doesn’t make her a leper either – it’s hard to be up on the crosscurrents of every community all the time. The problem is that Jarrett is ultimately in charge of LGTB relations at the White House. Brian Bond, the LGBT liaison and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, reports directly to her.

Josh Gerstein writes today that Rahm Emanuel was the one in the White House who “sought to avoid a showdown with the military over the issue.” As Obama was making critical decisions on Iraq and Afghanistan, he “didn’t want the process derailed by the culturally freighted gays-in-the-military fight.”

So when White House senior staff were discussing how to proceed on DADT, who was the one tasked with representing the concerns of the LGTB community? Who answered Rahm on their behalf? Ultimately in the White House food chain, that was Jarrett.

And once again, this brings us back to the problem of the veal pen. The White House chooses “friendly” groups who won’t force them into uncomfortable positions to represent the concerns of various constituencies. The Center for Biological Diversity isn’t invited to the Tuesday Common Purpose meetings, the Sierra Club is. If choice groups want to express their concerns to the White House, they have to go through NARAL’s Nancy Keenan. And when the White House wants to interact with LGBT groups, they communicate with (and through) the HRC.

Which is why it’s extremely troubling that the HRC goes after Republican Joe Buck for his comments on “lifestyle choice,” but doesn’t speak up when Jarrett does the same. I agree that Buck uses the words with the same intent as Tony Perkins – to demean gay people and justify his support for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s much, much worse than anything Jarrett did. But Joe Buck isn’t in charge of anything.

HRC covers Obama’s left flank. They are the principal communicators with the White House, and they’re not communicating. They use their clout and resources to marginalize LGTB activists who criticize the White House, branding them as “extreme” and “irrational” within the community. They clearly see their roles as Democratic operatives who insulate the White House from the heat being applied at the grassroots level, and use LGBT issues to advance the Democratic Party’s agenda.

When the progressive allies of our community (who are dealing with the failures of this administration to properly address myriad issues) are blogging about how rank and blatant the LGBT shell game is that is going on, it really is game over. Joe and Co. at HRC have pulled the wool over the eyes of no one (save the die-hard Obama supporters) during these last two years.

And this is why we have written criticism about this WH and Gay Inc. on the Blend at length and in detail for quite some time. What is extremely trying is having to deal with apologists who want to, in advance, blame the messenger for reduced turnout at the polls or suppressing voter interest.

Ahem — it’s the actions of those purportedly working on our behalf in the WH and lobbying the Hill that have let us down. Discussing those shortcomings on this blog has always been accompanied by calls to vote, to go out and support pro-equality officials running for office — and to keep the gAyTM closed for organizations that aren’t doing their jobs and holding feet to the fire of those in the White House who are obstructionists. You’d think that for all of the millions HRC pulls in each year it would at least educate Jarrett and other people of influence who are woefully out of touch with the problems we face out here.

HRC continues to churn out nice press releases and e-blasts, and focus on NOM and other non-legislative matters, hoping to distract from the very fact that its DADT repeal strategy has failed; we’re left with only the courts moving the ball forward, and a Senate that has no chance of passing the weakened measure in the Def Auth bill that doesn’t even stop the discharges. ENDA is dead for this year, DOMA’s going nowhere (other than becoming an issue because of DADT).

What we’ve pointed out is that the system is broken – not that we don’t need a HRC, but that the leadership has failed, and when that happens in the real world, heads roll, there’s a shakeup within, and those who are working at the ground level have to have their morale restored by seeing assertive leadership that will challenge the White House. The question I always think about is this clear ambivalence we see – does HRC believe the LGBT community has clout or not– which is it? Going by what we’ve learned, through leaks and reporting by the LGBT media, it’s not clear.

The WH certainly wouldn’t know that we’re anything other than we’re an ATM; no threats are made. We don’t even know if HRC believes it could marshal a serious threat that the WH would take seriously. So it’s back to the niceties said at the annual dinner, the invites to the next social function that takes precedence. We’re left with the goose egg on the big ticket items and some appreciated, but almost all non-permanent Cinderella Crumbs as a consolation prize.

Does the HRC board believe in accountability and performance? This year presents a challenge — if they’ve been paying attention at all. There are really “no excuses” left, to use a phrase appropriated by HRC for its campaign from The Dallas Principles to sell more T-Shirts. It’s always about smoke and mirrors to make it look like something politically fierce is going on. Of course there’s nothing wrong if something is actually going on, but watching the back-patting, for instance, regarding the back-channel compromising on DADT to save it from complete death is the symptom of the problem. No fear, no gain. Ask the NRA.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Dallas BiNet marking ‘Celebrate Bisexuality Day’ with mixer at Bronx

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The local chapter of BiNet will mark Celebrate Bisexuality Day on Thursday, Sept. 23, with a mixer at 6 p.m. in the back patio area of The Bronx on Cedar Springs Road.

Nationally, this is the 19th annual event according to BiNet USA.

“We’re getting together to bring visibility to bisexuals in North Texas during Pride,” said Latisha McDaniel. “We’re trying to make the B not silent anymore.”

She said bisexuals often just blend.

“They just lump the B’s,” she said. “We’re either in a same-sex relationship or we’re in a straight relationship,” so bisexuals are often seen as either gay or straight.

McDaniel said that coming out as bisexual is often risky in any relationship. In the gay and lesbian community, she said that bisexuality is often treated as a transitional phase.
“We’re treated as 2 percent milk, kind of lukewarm,” she said.

McDaniel said she has even been asked why she cares about marriage equality.

“It’s as if bis come to the gayborhood for their kicks and then go home,” she said.

Morgan O’Donnell said she has been with DFW BiNet since April.

“I had been in a job that was fairly supportive,” she said. “I left that job and didn’t have support. When I went to BiNet, they went all out to welcome me.”

She said DFW BiNet’s support group meets the first Saturday of each month at Resource Center Dallas to discuss issues of particular concern to people coming out and living as bisexual.

“We’re considered to be sitting on the fence,” O’Donnell said, adding that is the number one issue bisexuals regularly address to straights as well as to gays and lesbians.
“It helps to be with a group of people who share similar experiences,” she said.

O’Donnell said that the event at The Bronx is for allies and supporters as well as bisexuals and those who are questioning.

“The evening will give people an opportunity to celebrate their bisexuality,” O’Donnell said, adding that she hopes the event brings more visibility to DFW BiNet.

A $5 donation at the door is suggested. Reservations are not required but are suggested since seating is limited. Reservations can be made on the group’s Facebook page found under DFW BiNet.

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

—  Michael Stephens