Top 10: Suicides led to anti-bullying law

Anti-bullying-Press-conference-at-Texas-Capitol-March-7,-2011-0-02-25-07

PARENTAL RESPONSE | David and Amy Truong, the parents of 13-year-old gay suicide victim Asher Brown, became tireless advocates for anti-bullying legislation this year. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

No. 4

In the fall of 2010, a number of high-profile suicides brought attention to the problem of bullying in schools. This year, the LGBT community worked to change laws and save lives.

After helping to push through policies in the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts, as well as a few others around the state, the LGBT community focused on passing statewide anti-bullying legislation in the 2011 session of the Legislature.

Equality Texas made the legislation a priority and a number of bills were introduced.

In February, Equality Texas hosted a Lobby Day. Several hundred people from around the state participated.

Among them were Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, suicide victim Asher Brown’s parents — Amy and David Truong — and a group of 10 students from Youth First Texas.

Burns and the Truongs met with key legislators including members of the committees that would  hear the bills.

The students from YFT spoke to their senators and representatives telling their own stories of being bullied.

Legislators not usually considered allies were visibly moved by stories of violence in schools in their hometowns.

Equality Texas board chair Anne Wynn, Executive Director Dennis Coleman and Deputy Director Chuck Smith spent the spring lobbying on behalf of the bills.

The organization arranged for the Truongs as well as the parents of Montana Lance and Jon Carmichael, two other Texas suicide victims, to testify at committee hearings.

As originally crafted, the bills specified categories that would be covered. National studies have shown that the more specific the law, the more effective it is in protecting LGBT students. When sexual orientation and gender identity are not specified, school staff often ignore anti-gay bullying. But to increase the chances that anti-bullying legislation would pass, several bills were combined and all references to specific groups, including sexual orientation and gender identity, were deleted.

The new anti-bullying “super bill” passed unanimously in the Senate and by a wide margin in the House — and was eventually signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry.

Under the new law, for the first time, the bully rather than the victim can be transferred to another classroom or school. Parental notification rules were strengthened and protections added for the person reporting the bullying. The definition of bullying now includes electronic means, or cyberbullying. And every school district must adopt an anti-bullying policy, including any necessary procedures to address the prevention, investigation and reporting of incidents.

A second bill also passed that provides money for counseling services, which includes services for both the bully and the victim. School staff already receive training to recognize potential suicide risks. That training will be expanded to include victims of bullying.

Meanwhile, although the Dallas Independent School District approved an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy last year, Resource Center Dallas and Lambda Legal accused some DISD officials of blocking its implementation.

RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox along with Lambda Legal community educator Omar Narvaez addressed the DISD board about the problem in December.

Cox said she had gotten word from frustrated school district employees that principals were being instructed not to use the electronic reporting system that the board mandated. She said she would continue to track the district’s compliance with the policy in 2012.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

COVER STORY: The aftermath of tragedy

STANDING UP TO BULLIES | David and Amy Truong address members of the LGBT community who came from around Texas to lobby for anti-bullying laws on March 7. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Amy and David Truong honor the memory of their son, Asher Brown, by working to get anti-bullying legislation passed

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Amy and David Truong joined about 350 people at the state Capitol in Austin on March 7 to talk to legislators about Asher’s Law. For the Truongs, passing the bill is personal. Asher Brown, who committed suicide in September after being bullied, was their son.

A number of people from around the state who had come to lobby thanked the Truongs for their support. Some shook hands. There were lots of hugs.

The couple shrugged off the thanks.

“We’re all in this together,” David told those he met.

Asher, 13, was a gay eighth-grader at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in the northwest corner of Houston. He was, his parents say, a target of constant bullying.

On Sept. 23 last year, Asher went into his father’s closet, retrieved the 9-mm Beretta David kept there, and shot himself. David found his son’s body lying in the closet when he got home from work.

Since then, life for the Truongs has been tough, to say the least.

The Cy-Fair school district blames Asher’s death on problems at home and denied that the family had contacted the school about bullying, and the Truongs have been victims of “a constant stream of harassment” ever since, David said.

EMOTIONAL MEETING | State Sen. Wendy Davis, who authored anti-bullying legislation that was heard in the State Education Committee this week, meets with Amy and David Truong on March 7. (Courtesy Equality Texas)

Every morning, David has to go out to pick up trash neighbors have dumped on the lawn and the beer bottles that have been thrown at the house.

Their house attracts gawkers and hecklers.

“People screaming and yelling from their windows as they drive by,” he said, and some rev their engines when passing the Truong house.

“Some even slow down, stare out their car windows and take several U-turns to gawk and stare at us if we are outside on the front lawn,” he said.

David rarely answers his phone anymore because most of the calls are harassing.

David took a few weeks off from work after Asher’s funeral but was having a hard time. Soon after returning, he was fired.

To avoid harassment in the neighborhood and school, they sent their other son to live with relatives.

But the most telling sign of how Asher’s death has affected this couple is that every time David or Amy mention Asher’s name, their eyes fill with tears.

A group from Youth First Texas was at the Capitol lobbying for anti-bullying legislation the same day as the Truongs. When Amy heard some of the stories of those teens, some of whom also attempted suicide, her shoulders slumped. She looked helpless.

Asher

While the school district blamed Asher’s suicide on problems at home, his mother described a loving son.

“My son was a warm and wonderful child,” said Amy. “He was smart and funny. He loved all of his pets and animals in general. He was well read. By the people who knew him most and accepted him for who he was, he would be your best friend.”

But Asher was bullied in school for two years.

He complained about it the first week of school in August 2008.

“They picked on him for being the new kid, not dressed in Abercrombie & Fitch, having a big head and big ears, his lisp, his chosen religion of Buddhism and their perception of him being gay because of his gentle demeanor and his love of choir,” his father said.

Bullies made jokes about anal sex when Asher would bend over to tie his shoe or ran slower than the rest of the class in gym, his father said.

David told Asher to report the abuse to his teachers, coaches and the school administrators, which he did.

“Amy and I would follow up with phone calls, visits, emails and our own handwritten notes when he would come back to us saying it hadn’t stopped,” he said.
Some of Asher’s classmates told the Truongs that they documented the harassment and bullying they witnessed Asher endure. They filled out their own “incident reports.”

David said that at home they always reinforced that they loved him unconditionally. When Asher came out to them, they told him they loved him no matter what.

Every night the family ate dinner together and talked. Asher seemed relieved just to have the chance to talk about what happened and seemed satisfied with his parents’ attempts to notify the school, David said.

Despite their denial after Asher’s death that the Truongs had ever contacted the school, David said administrators sounded concerned when they got through to someone.

“They told us, ‘We know about what happened to Asher,’” he said.

They always got the same message — when and if the school bothered to respond to their calls, he said.

School administrators told them, “We will do everything to take care of it and we assure you, everything is going to be okay.”

“They did not offer any suggestions,” David said, “But did continue to praise our efforts in working with them to help Asher.”

One even told them, “I wish other parents were as involved as you two are!”

The day before Asher killed himself was particularly bad.

“We did not see bruises on him the day before he died, but his behavior was out of the ordinary in that he did not join us in the family room as he would usually do,” David said. “Instead he chose to read quietly and keep to himself.”

But David said that Asher told him he had a terrible day without going into detail.

According to Asher’s classmates and their parents, bullies tripped him and he fell down a flight of stairs. When he got up and had barely regained his balance, they tripped him again and he fell down a second flight.

None of the assailants were charged with assault or disciplined by the school.

After his death, the school claimed that Asher, his parents, classmates, teachers nor anyone else ever made any reports of him being harassed, taunted or tormented by bullies.

David called these callous attempts to cover up and said it added to their grief and heartache.

The morning he died, Amy said she told Asher she loved him and to have a good day before she left for work. He said, “I love you, too.”

“I went to work and my son was fine,” Amy said. “I came home and he was dead. No one should ever have to come home to police tape around their house. And my son shouldn’t feel like it was the only thing he had left to do.”

“He died because he couldn’t take it anymore,” David said. “People harassed, persecuted, bullied him and no one gave a damn.”

But as much as they talked at home, David said Asher never spoke about suicide.

The school district

The school district continues to deny any blame.

David called administrators banding together to deny any knowledge of the bullying part of the “good old boy network” in the area.

And this isn’t the first time Cy-Fair has been in the news for bullying.

In October 2009, Jayron Martin, 16, was chased and attacked by a group of classmates who wanted to “beat the gay out” of him.

A group of eight boys surrounded him while a ninth attacked him with a metal pipe and beat him with his fists. Jayron was left with a concussion and numerous cuts.

A neighbor with a shotgun scared the boys away. Had he not intervened, Jayron may have been killed.

Jayron said he told the principal, an assistant principal and his bus driver that a group planned to attack him after school.

Students and others claiming to be from the school blamed Jayron for the attack. A number of comments with a variety of different stories were left on the Dallas Voice website under the story of the attack.

In that case, the main attacker was the only one arrested in the incident. He was charged with assault. Because it was handled in juvenile court, the records are sealed.

The school district denied liability since the attack happened off school property, but because of the national publicity, the school district had to do something. So they fired the bus driver. They investigated one assistant principal but did not discipline him or any school administrative staff.

But no one has been disciplined relating to the bullying incidents and ignored reports regarding Asher’s death.

David said, “No one has spoken to us and no further press releases have come from the school since it was revealed by the Houston Chronicle that the district spokeswoman, Kelly Durham, was the wife of Asher’s seventh-grade assistant principal, Alan Durham.”

The future

This week, the Truongs were back in Austin to testify for Sen. Wendy Davis’ anti-bullying bill before Senate Education Committee.

On their earlier visit to Austin, Amy said, “Children shouldn’t have to be tolerating this on any level. My son didn’t deserve it. None of the other children who go through this deserve it. It’s not a right of passage. It’s not boys being boys. This has gone way beyond that and people need to realize it.”

Amy works as an executive assistant and uses her time off from work to lobby for anti-bullying legislation. While not looking for a job, David devotes his time to that same goal.

He said they’d like to move but home prices have taken a much steeper dive in Houston than they have in Dallas. Their house is worth $40,000 less than when they bought it and they cannot afford to move.

And, David said, the suicide makes it much less sellable. Real estate agents would rather not touch a house that was the scene of a shooting.

“Maybe we can rent it out,” he said.

David said they’ve gotten very little sustained support beyond the LGBT community, families of Asher’s friends and their “wonderful and supportive family.”

“We received cards, emails and flowers from all over the country during the first week of the tragedy,” he said, adding that the family appreciated every prayer and every bit of support.

Now, the Truongs are focused on putting their lives back together with counseling and therapy and on keeping Asher’s memory alive with their commitment to help other LGBT youth by passing Asher’s Law and other anti-bullying legislation.

Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, said that legislators must hear from their constituents as anti-bullying bills work their way through committee and onto the House and Senate floors. He said a phone call to a representative and senator was a good way to remember Asher.

The Truongs have been working closely with Equality Texas on the pending legislation and understand that despite the publicity about the suicides last fall, passing anti-bullying laws is an uphill battle.

But David repeated several times, “Together we will move mountains.”

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

—  John Wright

Anti-bullying bill to be heard by Senate panel

Sen. Wendy Davis

The Senate Educate Committee will hold hearings on Tuesday, March 22 at 8:30 a.m. on several anti-bullying bills, including a measure authored by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, that’s backed by Equality Texas.

Davis’ bill is the Senate companion to a bill by Rep. Mark Strama’s that was heard in committee a few weeks ago.

Chuck Smith, deputy director of Equality Texas, said the group is focusing on Davis’ and Strama’s bills because they’re the most comprehensive and have been carefully crafted over two years.

Testifying in support of Davis’ bill Tuesday will be David and Amy Truong, the parents of gay suicide victim Asher Brown. Also attending the committee hearing will be the parents of Montana Lance, who hung himself in the school nurse’s office in his elementary school in the Colony, and the parents of Jon Carmichael from Joshua. Jon was 13 when he committed suicide at home after school bullying. Montana was 9.

Senate committee hearings can be watched online here.

Friday’s Dallas Voice will feature a story about David and Amy Truong and how Asher’s suicide has changed their lives.

—  David Taffet

Coleman introduces ‘Asher’s Law’

Asher Brown, left, and Rep. Garnet Coleman

Today as LGBT citizens from around the state converged on Austin to lobby lawmakers on LGBT issues, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat from Houston, introduced “Asher’s Law,” a bill that would “help protect our children before they are terrorized and traumatized both physically and mentally,” according to a press release from Coleman’s office.

Before this session of the Texas Legislature even began, Coleman had prefiled HB 1386. Asher’s Law — HB 2343 — is identical to that earlier legislation except that Coleman renamed it in honor of Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old from Houston who committed suicide last year after enduring relentless bullying from his classmates and peers.

Coleman said that he renamed the legislation with the permission of Asher’s parents, Amy and David Truong. Coleman said, “The Truongs are acting with grace and courage. They are allowing a tremendous personal tragedy be a catalyst for change in state statute. We should honor them.”

Coleman said that Asher’s Law, if passed, would direct the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Education Agency to implement a program to recognize students at risk of emtoional trauma or committing suicide, intervene effectively and refer students to mental health services if necessary. The bill would require school districts to report incidents of harassment and bullying to the TEA annually and to train district employees on preventing bullying and harassment. It also addresses harassment and discrimination by school district employees toward students and other employees.

In addition, Asher’s Law gives school districts the option of transferring a bully, instead of current practice which is to transfer the student being bullied.

Coleman has filed similar bills in every legislative session since 2003. Prior to that year, he supported similar bills filed in each session by then state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt, a Dallas Democrat.

—  admin

Equality Texas sets LGBT lobby day for March 7

Equality Texas hoping for more than 400 to participate in lobbying effort; Stonewall Democrats, TENT planning weekend gatherings

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Equality Texas is calling on the LGBT community and its allies to converge on Austin on March 7 to lobby the Texas Legislature on a slate of already-filed bills.

Bills filed include anti-bullying legislation; a bill to prohibit of insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; a bill allowing both same-sex parents to be listed on an adopted child’s birth certificate; a bill banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression; and a bill to repeal Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code, the sodomy statute that has been ruled unconstitutional.

In addition, Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston has filed a joint resolution to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Coleman has filed a similar resolution in each legislative session and, as is past sessions, the resolution is not expected to pass.

Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, asked that people planning to attend the lobby day pre-register on his organization’s website.

Those who do register in advance and indicate an interest in a particular bill will be sent to offices of legislators who will hear those bills in committee.

The day begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. followed by a press conference at 9 a.m. Rep. Garnet Coleman and the parents of suicide victim Asher Brown are expected to speak.

Dennis Coleman

Dennis Coleman said that an hour of orientation is meant to put people at ease, teach them to simply tell their own stories and put together small groups of people that pair first-timers with more experienced lobbyists.

“Lobbying is about telling your own story,” Dennis Coleman said. “You never know who you’ll meet.”

Legislators are lobbied daily, Dennis Coleman said. Sometimes the lawmakers are in their offices and receive constituents. Other times those constituents meet with the lawmaker’s legisltive director. He said that senators and representatives who are allies need to hear support from their districts, but opponents need to hear from the LGBT community as well.

He said Equality Texas is working with legislators on bills that would benefit the LGBT community and hasn’t had to spend much time this session fending off discriminatory legislation.

Local representatives have taken the lead in proposing much of the positive legislation.

Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth submitted a bill prohibiting bullying in public schools. That law would also address cyberbullying.
Rep. Mark Strama of Austin filed similar legislation in the House.

Rep. Roberto Alonzo of Dallas wrote HB 208 that would prevent insurance discrimination. The bill would keep insurance companies from refusing to insure, charging a different rate or limiting coverage in amount, extent or kind because of bias or prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia authored HB 415, the bill that would repeal language that states that only a mother and father may be listed on the birth certificate of an adopted child.

Lobbying will begin at 11 a.m.

“That should give people a chance to visit about three offices before lunch,” Coleman said.

Equality Texas is providing a continental breakfast in the morning as well as lunch. After lunch, constituents will visit offices until 3 p.m. followed by a one-hour debriefing session.

Coleman said more than 200 people are already registered but he’s hoping for 400. Among those participating are members of Stonewall Democrats who will be in Austin for a weekend conference.

Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is openly bisexual, will be the opening keynote speaker for the Texas Stonewall Democrats Caucus statewide conference on March 5.

The conference takes place at the Hilton Garden Inn on 5th Street. Among the weekend’s other highlights, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, will lead a roundtable discussion on transgender issues on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon, the Transgender Education Network of Texas will hold its second Transgender Caucus, also at the Hilton Garden Inn.

To register for Lobby Day, visit EqualityTexasLobbyDay.com.

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

—  John Wright

Asher Brown’s suicide inspires ‘Bring Your Gay Teen to Church’ event in Houston

LGBT-affirming churches in the Houston area are participating in “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church” on Sunday, which aims to counter negative messages gay youth often receive from religion. The Houston Chronicle reports:

“We think it’s important for families to know there’s a safe place to go to worship,” said Jim Bankston, senior minister at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. “Families who have gay members want to make sure they feel welcome in church and aren’t bashed in any way.”

Joanna Crawford, a seminary student at the Houston Graduate School of Theology, said the idea came up after the suicide last fall of Asher Brown, a Cypress-area eighth-grader who killed himself after what his parents said were years of bullying and taunts that he was gay.

It is a project of the Houston Clergy Council, formed last year to allow churches to work together on shared concerns.

“None of us knew Asher, but we felt if we could get families into our churches, where they have support, where they feel loved for who they are, not in spite of it, something good could come of that,” Crawford said.

Organized religion has had a complicated relationship with homosexuality.

To see a full list of churches participating and learn more about the event, go here.

—  John Wright

Garnet Coleman files suicide prevention bill that would ban anti-LGBT bullying, discrimination

Rep. Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a bill that he says is designed to prevent future tragedies like the suicide of Asher Brown, a gay 13-year-old who took his own life last year in response to bullying at school.

Coleman’s HB 1386, filed today, calls on the state to develop a comprehensive suicide prevention program for middle, junior and high schools. The bill would also ban anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in public schools.

“This is a heartbreaking public health threat which we need to address,” Coleman said in a press release. “I’m sick of nothing happening. We need to protect our children before they are driven to suicide or become severely and emotionally ill.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that a school is a safe learning environment for all children,” Coleman added. “Our children should focus on their studies, not worry about verbal and physical threats from their peers.

“Too many young lives are being taken because of intimidation and countless more are at risk,” he said. “This tragic loss of life is completely preventable.

“Current policy unjustly continues to punish the victim. We need to change that.”

The bill is similar to one Coleman has filed in every legislative session since 2003.

To read the full text of HB 1386, go here. We’ve posted Coleman’s press release after the jump.

—  John Wright

Project one-gay

Dallas hairstylist and fashionista Gregg Asher has an unforgettable look. But he’s turning his eye on the rest of Dallas with a new fashion blog

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

FASHION FORWARD  | If you had Gregg Asher’s closet, you might not come out of it either. Although as a man who wears gold Bottega Veneta high-heeled boots, it’s hard to stay in. (Photo by Steven Lindsey)

T­here are people who, when they walk into a crowded room, turn heads.

And then there’s Gregg Asher, who’s probably responsible for more cases of socialite whiplash than anyone else in Dallas.

Along with partner David Martin, Asher infuses the see-and-be-party-scenes with a heavy dose of high glamour through attention-grabbing personal style. Laden with designer brands from toe to head (he builds his outfits from the shoes up), it’s not just who he’s wearing, but what he’s wearing. If there are two signature items in a Gregg Asher ensemble, it’s gorgeous high-heel shoes and amazing handbags.

But, he stresses, he’s not doing drag. Or cross-dressing. His is a style that transcends traditional labels — while piling on plenty of couture ones.

Perhaps surprisingly, his fashion fierceness partly stemmed from pure necessity. He wears a size 5½ men’s shoe and weighs less than most female supermodels. Shopping off-the-rack in the men’s department was not an option. The boys’ section, maybe. But Asher in Garanimals? Just. Not. Right.

“My waist size — they don’t even make pants my size. So I need to either go to Asia to go shopping — and I don’t have time for that — or it’s easier for me to go buy something for women at Barneys or Neiman’s or J. Crew. Whatever it is that suits me.”

It all comes down to what he thinks is beautiful, no matter where it’s found in-store.

“I don’t wear dresses. I don’t want to be a woman. I have more of a beard than straight burly men in the sticks could ever grow,” he says. “But when you find something that you enjoy wearing, or doing, it makes you feel better about yourself. It doesn’t have to be a dollar-and-cents thing; it just has to make you happy.”

Asher’s soothing, soft voice is in stark contrast to his outward extravagance and sharp humor. When a man walks into a room wearing Burberry Prorsum platform buckle boots and a Jean-Paul Gaultier scoop-neck sweater, chances are most people would expect some obnoxious queen with an affected attitude matched with a horsey cackle. But nothing could be further from the truth for Asher. At any Dallas party, he’s probably the kindest, most approachable person in the room. It’s just his wardrobe that’s intimidating.

When we meet at his swanky Turtle Creek high-rise, he answers the door in a green cashmere turtleneck and flared tan corduroys by Balenciaga, a green-blue-yellow tree-print jacket from Tuleh and burgundy suede Fendi platforms. You know: typical Sunday afternoon casual. At least in the Asher manse.

Italian couture is a far cry from Jonesboro, Ark., where Asher grew up. But he learned early on to embrace his individuality, ultimately turning it into a successful career as hairstylist to some of Dallas’ highest profile citizen (among his clients: the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders), as well as a trendsetter and fashion icon in his own right.

His enthusiasm for style led Asher into his latest venture, a blog called FashionBaggage.com. As a regular at New York Fashion Week and runway shows all over the world, the fashion part comes easy. It’s the technology that was a little iffy for him.

“I didn’t even have a computer until, like, two months,” he says. “Even in high school when they offered computer class my senior year, I was like, ‘Oh no, I’d rather take home ec.’” He laughs, knowing that’s even funnier since neither he nor Martin cook.

ONLINE IN STYLE | Asher barely knew how to turn on a computer until he started the blog FashionBaggage.com

Asher posts entries at least every other day, offering up witty commentary on current trends, revealing his latest purchases, playing dress-up with Martin and snapping candid pictures of the fashion dos-and-don’ts he encounters around town; he says spotting an Hermes Kelly bag on someone at the State Fair of Texas restored his fashion faith in humanity.

“We can all read Vogue, and sometimes it’s over your head. I always felt like I was a laughed-at personality in the community, so why not write all that down and let others be entertained by it,” he says. Then he reveals his more strategic side: “Ultimately I’m working and branding myself into the TV market, so it’s just one more step in the process and adding more variety to the things that I already can do.”

Asher is currently working with three different production companies on a variety of ideas, though he admits his appeal is more niche, making it easier to work a story around him than fit him into some reality-show mold. Although that’s not to say that he wouldn’t consider a role on Logo’s The A-List: Dallas.

“I’m not hunky enough and I definitely won’t be taking off my shirt for any of that, but I have enough drama and excitement in my life to add something to that show,” he says.

“I think there’s a stereotypical version of what a gay man is and I don’t fall under that. I almost embody what a lot of people find that they’re embarrassed about the gay community or what they think the gay community gets a bad rap for,” Asher says. “And I think I elevate the community just as much as anybody else does, I just do it in a different way.”

…………………………..

ASHER’S TRENDS: DOS AND DON’TS

You don’t need to read up on back issues of Vogue to have insight into where style is headed — just listen to Gregg Asher’s recommendations about what you can do to spruce up your wardrobe:

I love heels (obviously) and think women should definitely wear them — they elongate the silhouette and make anyone’s legs look better. I love Fendi shoes because their heel heights are almost teetering on too high (though a heel can never be too high). One of my favorite shoes for guys for this fall/winter is the entire collection from Rick Owens who shows platform wedges. Yes, it’s probably way too avant-garde for most men, but it’s super sexy and totally masculine when worn with the right clothing. And there’s nothing greater in fashion than someone who is totally confident — and these boots demand that!

Trends that I’m seeing for guys for spring are lots of denim. In fact, when I was at Fashion Week, it seems denim is everywhere (for guys and girls), but this is not your everyday, regular old pair of jeans — it’s been treated and cut into modern silhouettes and shapes, and the denim is used for all pieces and has great details (even laser cut lace pieces of this fabric look new and fresh).

Another trend would be for men to definitely retire the super skinny pants that show off your stuff. For spring, show off a new change in trousers. What I’m seeing in high fashion that will eventually trickle down to more mainstream venues is wider leg pants and pleats. One of my favorite collections showing this for spring is Raf Simons who presented a beautiful super wide leg, extremely long pant in crisp white or black. It has so much drape and pleating, it almost looked gathered and wrapped around the body and waist. He even showed it with sleeveless shirts and vests to almost give a summer suit effect.

Overly styled hair is a don’t for me. We’re not living in a pageant, no one is perfect, and sometimes minor imperfections are your best strengths.

Buy clean underwear. Union Jack is a great place for a large selection in any cut and color. Women change their bras continuously, so men should change their underpants regularly in terms of styles — make sure the style goes with your outfit by not giving you panty lines. That means sometimes you have to change the style of the underwear to go with the style and cut of the pants you’re wearing. There’s nothing worse than a man in ill-fitting undies. My mother always told me, to make sure you always have on clean underwear before you go out just in case there was an accident and you have to go to the hospital. Words to live by!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

H4PJ calls on Dallas City Council to support LGBT-inclusive bullying policy for DISD

The Rev. Michael Piazza

The Rev. Michael Piazza, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, is slated to address the Dallas City Council this morning and ask the council to pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District “to do everything in their power to prevent bullying,” according to David Plunkett, a spokesman for H4PJ.

In the wake of last month’s gay teen suicide crisis, H4PJ has been circulating a petition, which has more than 1,000 signatures, calling for DISD to adopt fully inclusive anti-bullying guidelines that provide specific protections for LGBT students. DISD’s board of trustees is  considering a new anti-bullying policy, but as currently written, the proposed policy doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity. DISD trustee Lew Blackburn told Dallas Voice this week he plans to introduce a substitute policy that does include sexual orientation and gender identity. Blackburn, along with LGBT advocates, have urged people in the community to contact the other trustees and urge them to support Blackburn’s proposal. DISD’s new anti-bullying policy could be up for a final vote as early as next week.

Courtesy of Plunkett, here’s the text of Piazza’s remarks:

I am here to present a petition signed by 1,000 people requesting that the Dallas City Council pass a resolution encouraging the Dallas Independent School District to do everything in their power to prevent the bullying that has led to far too many suicides of young people. Just down I-45, 13-year-old Asher Brown took his life in September. Then, earlier this month, just north on I-35 in Norman, Oklahoma, 19-year-old Zach Herrington took his life following a toxic debate at a city council meeting.  We are asking you to encourage DISD to ensure the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.

I could speak to you today as someone who was a pastor in this city for 22 years at the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender church. I could speak to you as the President of Hope for Peace & Justice whose petitions I present. However, I’d like to use my two minutes to appeal to you as a parent. I have two teenage girls. One is a junior at the School for the Talented and Gifted, and the other is a senior at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

My partner and I might have sent our daughters to private schools, but it was very important to us that they attend public schools where most of the children in this city receive their education. It hasn’t always been easy for them.

My oldest daughter was in Harry Stone Middle School when the state of Texas passed a constitutional amendment that denied marriage equality to her parents. Next month my partner and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary. So, you can imagine my daughter’s surprise when her language arts teacher told her students, during class, to be sure their parents voted in favor of the constitutional amendment because, and I quote, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Fortunately, my daughter was secure enough to raise her hand and ask, “Excuse me Mrs. Smith, but then who did create Adam and Steve?”

Her teacher said, “I guess you must know some of those people,” to which Jerica replied, “Only just about everyone in my life who loves me.”

Jerica knew how to handle herself, but imagine for just a moment if you had been a small boy struggling with your sexuality and heard that teacher’s words. Imagine if you had been a child who had been abused at home and so filled with rage that you were looking for someone to bully. That DISD teacher, at one of our best magnet schools, just gave you all the justification you needed.

As a father, I beg you. Make a statement that this is not who we are in Dallas and that we know our children are not our own, but they are ALL — gay, lesbian, transgender or heterosexual — children of God. Thank you .

—  John Wright

WATCH: Rally, vigil for Asher Brown


A rally and vigil were held Tuesday in honor of 13-year-old gay suicide victim Asher Brown outside the middle school he attended near Houston. From organizer Barry Ouellette of the Foundation for Family and Marriage Equality:

“It was a great event, very touching. We had about 30 people for the demonstration and about 70 for the candlelight vigil where there were some touching stories and kind and inspiring words from many teenagers as well as concerned parents, clergy and Houstonians.”

However, KTRK-TV reports that other parents weren’t happy about the demonstrations and are defending the school against allegations that it failed to do anything about bullying complaints from Asher’s parents:

“I think it’s terrible because it has frightened all of our children too. For this reason, I am here to pick up my daughter today. Because it has scared my daughter,” said Shay Phillips.

“I don’t worry about bullying in this school or any other school. But I do worry about it in general,” said Sheila McGraw-Hall. “I think the school is being wrongfully blamed in this case. Or at least to the magnitude that it is being put out there right now in the media,” said another parent.

Below is a report from MyFoxHouston.com, and Channel 2 has a report here.

—  John Wright