Donovan says trans equality is a priority, not an issue

HUD secretary becomes first cabinet member to address transgender event with his speech at NCTE anniversary celebration

Donovan.Shaun

Shaun Donovan

Dana Rudolph  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@mac.com

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan became the first United States cabinet secretary to address a transgender event when he gave the keynote speech Nov. 15 at the eighth anniversary celebration of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Mara Keisling, executive director of NCTE, told Keen News Service, “Having Secretary Donovan keynote our event is an important symbolic and historic advance for transgender Americans.”

Keisling said that having a cabinet member address the group “really shows tremendous societal movement.” She attributes this progress to “all the great education that transgender people and allies are doing all over the country.

“It’s added up to a lot more visibility and understanding,” said Keisling.

Prior to Donovan’s appearance, the highest federal official to address NCTE was Kathy Greenlee, assistant secretary for aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Greenlee spoke at the organization’s policy conference in March.

And Lynn Rosenthal, the White House advisor on violence against women, met with NCTE staff and other transgender advocates Nov. 16 to discuss violence against transgender people.

But Donovan’s speech, at the historic Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., garnered almost no attention in the mainstream press.

HUD included a copy of his speech on its Web site. And, following his speech, Donovan spoke to a reporter from the Washington, D.C., gay newspaper Metro Weekly.

When asked whether he supports marriage equality, Donovan replied “absolutely.” He also agreed with the reporter’s suggestion that marriage equality should be the subject of “more work” in a second Obama administration.

But at NCTE’s annual event, Donovan spoke of the Obama administration’s accomplishments towards equality for transgender people. He said the administration is the first to view the fight for transgender equality “not as an issue — but as a priority.”

Quoting figures from a February 2011 study by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Donovan said an estimated 1-in-5 transgender Americans have been refused a home or apartment, and more than 1-in-10 have been evicted because of their gender identity or expression.

There are currently no explicit federal protections that ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Only 15 states plus the District of Columbia have protections specific to gender identity.

Massachusetts will become the 16th when Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, signs a bill just passed by its legislature, as he is expected to do.

Approximately 150 cities, towns, and counties have LGBT protections as well, according to HUD.

Such protections are needed, Donovan said, because of experiences such as that of Mitch and Michelle DeShane. When Michelle wanted to add her partner Mitch, a transgender man, to her housing voucher, the local housing authority refused because the couple did not meet its definition of “family.” It referred them to a neighboring housing authority, which, they said, “accepts everyone — even Martians.”

“That’s just wrong,” Donovan said.

Donovan said “the most significant step” HUD has taken to address this type of discrimination has been proposing new regulations to “ensure transgender individuals and couples can be eligible for our public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs that collectively serve 5.5 million people.”

The proposed rule would prohibit owners and operators of HUD-assisted or -financed housing from inquiring about applicants’ sexual orientation or gender identity, and prevent them from excluding otherwise eligible families if one or more members is or is perceived to be LGBT.

It would also prevent lenders from using the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant as a basis to determine eligibility for Federal Housing Administration mortgages, which represent one-third of all new mortgages in the country.

Donovan said that HUD is still reviewing comments before final publication of the rule.

A HUD spokesperson said that the agency can’t say exactly when the final rule will be published, since it must also be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.

Donovan noted that HUD has provided its staff with guidance that they can pursue cases of housing discrimination when a person’s identity or expression doesn’t conform with gender stereotypes, because such discrimination violates the Fair Housing Act’s ban on sex-based discrimination.

The act is a pivotal civil rights act that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status — but does not specifically cover sexual orientation- or gender identity-based discrimination.

Since that guidance was issued in July 2010, Donovan said, the number of complaints from LGBT individuals to HUD about housing discrimination has increased 15 times compared to the same date range the previous year, according to HUD.

Donovan also said that HUD is working to better understand the challenges that transgender people face. It included a session on gender identity- and sexual orientation-based housing discrimination in its annual National Fair Housing Policy Conference this year, and launched the first-ever national study of LGBT housing discrimination.

A HUD spokesperson said the target date for publication of the study is late 2012.

Donovan also spoke of accomplishments by the broader Obama administration, where, he said, “the LGBT community has had a seat at the table since day one.”

He cited the administration’s “record number of LGBT appointments,” including openly transgender appointees; the Office of Personnel Management’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender identity in federal employment; the Veterans Administration’s directive for non-discriminatory care for transgender veterans; the State Department’s efforts “to ensure greater dignity and privacy” for transgender passport applicants; and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention law.

NCTE’s Keisling said, “Secretary Donovan’s presence echoes what we at NCTE have long known about HUD and the rest of the Obama administration, and that is that transgender people matter. We are a priority for the administration, and it shows in the policies that we are winning.”

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Concert Notice: Moby to DJ at Lizard Lounge

As posted on the Lizard Lounge’s website, techno maestro Moby is headed this way in December to perform a DJ set at the club’s 20th anniversary celebration. According the site, he was one of the clubs first major acts to play there back in 1992, so it’s like a full circle thing for the queer musician. From LizardLounge.com.

Lizard Lounge opened on Dec. 19, 1991. With existing locations in Houston and Austin, Lizard Lounge quickly become a Dallas nightlife institution. The Lizard Lounge remains one of Dallas’ premier venues for live and electronic music. Past performers include Moby, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk, Fat Boy Slim, Benny Benassi, Skrillex, Afrojack & Deadmau5. The Lizard Lounge also presents live acts. Previous live performers include The Prodigy, 311, Barenaked Ladies and Nitzer Ebb.

Today, Lizard Lounge remains one of Dallas’ most versatile live music venues, with a capacity of over 1000 guests.

The event goes down Dec. 17. Tickets are $50 and $75 for VIP and on sale now.

—  Rich Lopez

Game time!

RCD puts a twist on  themes for its 10th season of Gay Bingo

David Taffet  | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The 10th anniversary season of Resource Center Dallas’ monthly Gay Bingo fundraiser begins Jan. 15 with a celebration of the Super Bowl and gets more fabulous with each coming month.

Gay Bingo Football XLV is just the first of the monthly themed games, which in 2011 — Dallas’ 10th season of the event — plays like a list of greatest hits from previous years.

“For our 10th anniversary, we decided to revisit some of the best themes over the past decade, and put a new spin on them for 2011,” said Henry Ramirez III, center programs manager for Resource Center Dallas and coordinator of Gay Bingo, which has released a new logo.

Jenna Skyy and Patti Le Plae Safe will continue to co-host Gay Bingo in Station 4’s Rose Room, along with celebrity guests and M.C.s. Asia O’Hara has officially joined the cast as well.

Proceeds from the campy game support RCD programs and initiatives, but partnerships with more organizations in the new year will also help with fundraising for Black Tie Dinner, Home for the Holidays and other charitable events.

“I think what’s important is that people understand Gay Bingo is a part of RCD and know more where their money is going to,” he says.

For 2011, the themes are:

Feb. 19: Gay Bingo Carnival will celebrate Mardi Gras madness.

Mar. 19: It’s Spectacular! Spectacular Gay Bingo at the Moulin Rouge.

Apr. 16: DIVA of Gay Bingo wants you to bring out that inner diva.

May 21: Tribes of Gay Bingo will test players’ survival skills.

June 8: Gay Bingo Studio 70 will bring back the bellbottoms and flared collars.

July 16: Gay Bingo Live! will be the official 10th anniversary celebration.

Aug. 20: Gay Bingo Cinema will ask what your favorite black and white film is.

Sept. 17: Hope your hair wins at Wigstock Gay Bingo.

Oct. 15: The Gay Bingo Daily Planet will pit superheroes against villains.

Nov. 19: Do ask, do tell at Gay Bingo Platoon.

For more information and to pre-order tickets, visit RCDallas.org.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Hey, Judy

For the 40th anniversary of the Cathedral of Hope, wacky comedienne
Judy Tenuta will perform a human sacrifice. Hey! It could happen

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

COH 40TH ANNIVERSARY
Infomart, 1950 Stemmons
Freeway.  July 24 at 7 p.m.
$40.  CathedralofHope.com.

Earlier this month, Judy Tenuta judged a celebrity chef challenge at the Giant Orange Festival in California. The comedian likely had some A-list nibbles that day, but that won’t compare to what she expects to put her mouth on when she comes to Dallas. Tenuta, in fact, has some big expectations:

“I’m coming out there to punish you pigs and I want to strap a saddle around a beefy burrito of manhood!”

A clearer picture couldn’t be painted. The accordion-playing comedian/actress isn’t heading this way for a night at the Improv. No, she and her love slaves will partake in the Cathedral of Hope’s 40th anniversary celebration — which clearly notes this isn’t your mother’s church event. And despite her sexually charged act, Tenuta might be right at home playing for the church crowd.

“I’m the Love Goddess,” she proclaims. “I bless my gay men and women. Oh, and this isn’t gonna be boring like church, it’s gonna be a sassy, fun sermon.”

Tenuta may seem a product of the ’80s, where you expect her to pop on any VH1 special about the decade or as an answer in Trivial Pursuit’s Totally ’80s edition. But the funny lady famous for her bevy of musclestuds and her signature slogan “It could happen!” hasn’t disappeared. Instead, she’s figuring out her place in today’s entertainment world dominated by the likes of her comic successors like Sarah Silverman and Kathy Griffin.

“Celebrity is about scandal,” she says. “You have to be on TV shows. I need to get on America’s Most Wanted, but I’m not like Charlie Sheen — I’m a law-abiding citizen. Who are these housewives of so-and-so getting these shows? If you throw tables at each other and start fights, you get a show. I was supposed to be on Dancing with the Stars but it seems like a beating. But if Clitoris Leachman can do it…”

Judy Tenuta
THE MANY FACES OF THE LOVE GODDESS | Whether she’s dissing on Sarah Palin or looking like a housewife of Orange County, Tenuta is still a goddess with ‘beefy burritos of manhood’ never far off.

Tenuta is still in the game even without a reality show. She’s been on the road with her Full Frontal Tenudity tour and played a nun in the indie film Sister Mary last year with gay pal Bruce Villanch. (She calls the movie “campy fun for the gays.”) If the comic career path doesn’t work out for her though, she does have a fall-back perfect for her Dallas gig: Tenuta is an ordained minister.

“In my religion, Judyism, gays have the right to be married,” she says. “I’m an ordained minister and the Goddess performs same-sex marriages. I wanna know why the gays are only allowed to be married in the most rustic places like Vermont. What’s there other than syrup and moose? Or Iowa? That’s nice if you need sheep.”

She was shocked that California, the most liberal state — and her home — passed Prop 8. With that, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and other headlines, she wanted to return the favor to her gay fans that stood by her through even the lean years.

“I want to stand up for them for their rights and give them joy and fun,” she says. “They do the same for me. There is this great sense of fun and love in the community. It’s so much larger than life — like me!”

She hasn’t made plans to preside over nuptials in Dallas, but she is on the hunt. She’ll be recruiting her beefy burritos from the audience at the Saturday celebration. After collecting her hunky entourage, she’ll take on the likes of BP, Lindsay Lohan and border patrol.

“We’ve been talking for years about keeping out illegals — they should send those bitches back to England! That oil is so nasty,” she says. “What’s the point of that ankle SCRAM on Lohan? She just uses it to hold her liquor. Do not let her out in the open.”

Tenuta will be happy to know that Lohan is behind bars. But two celebrities she’s curious about are Dallas residents. When she found out the Bushes lived in Big D, she was fascinated.

You could almost hear the jokes working themselves out. Tenuta took particular interest in the Facebook page campaigning for Laura Bush to be part of this year’s Pride parade after she came out in support of same-sex marriage.

“No kidding! I have to give her a lot of credit,” she says. “Laura Bush, the ex-First Lady. I’d hope she’d stop by, but she strikes me more as going to a Julie Andrews concert. She should do the parade but she’d certainly do it without George Bush. We hate that pig.”

Hmm — that can’t be Judyo orthodoxy.

“Well, the religion is mostly there to forget about your problems by thinking about mine for a change.”

Sounds like religion we could get behind.

………………………….

COH Celebration continues with Sam Harris

Sam Harris
Sam Harris

Don’t underestimate the church’s ability to throw a party. While Judy Tenuta headlines Cathedral of Hope’s Saturday celebration, the festivities don’t end there. The night will also include dancing, live music, cocktails and food.

Sunday worship service won’t be anything to balk at, either. Accompanying the Rev. Jo Hudson’s sermon will be members of the Turtle Creek Chorale, Resounding Harmony, the Women’s Chorus of Dallas and special guest Sam Harris, pictured.

Yes, that Sam Harris. Winning the first Star Search in 1983 during the show’s first season, Harris has grown from reality show celeb to a major player in music, television and stage.  (Think of him as the Adam Lambert of the ’80s.) His signature song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” is a favorite, but Harris has continued recording — his last album came was released in 2008. He’s also developing both a television show and a play about Al Jolson that’s not The Jazz Singer.

“This is so near and dear to my heart, but this is a psychological investigation of this incredibly powerful entertainer,” Harris says. “He was this megalomaniac, but also incredibly giving.”

Harris relates to that last virtue, mostly because he’s now a family man. He married his partner Danny Jacobsen in November 2008, months after adopting their son Cooper Atticus Harris-Jacobson, now 2. The family life hasn’t necessarily slowed Harris down, but it is a juggling act.

“When you have a kid, the day starts out at 100 miles per hour,” he says. “It is a bit of juggling but it’s such a huge blessing and my family is the core of my reason.”

Harris will be performing two songs at both worship services at the Meyerson, but he’ll also sit in during each as a guest. The church’s philosophies coincide with his own and he hopes he’s a good fit for the congregation.

“It’s a place of action and calls us to be our best selves,” he says. “Those are elements I try to make of my life. I recognize when I’m most fulfilled is that when I’m of service. The whole point is human connection; that’s why were here — to connect to find similarities and leave it better than when we found it.”

He should feel reassured he’s the perfect fit for the celebration.
— R.L.
Cathedral of Hope 40th Anniversary Worship at the Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 9 and 11 a.m. Free. CathedralofHope.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas